On the evening of November 8, the Falling Walls conference hosted a festive dinner for over 400 guests. As guests arrived to sit down for dinner, they found a surprise gift at each of their places at the table, sponsored by Trumpf: a little yellow solar lamp called a Little Sun. Many guests were curious as to the story behind the little lamps and why they were there, sitting mysteriously on their tables.
Following welcome remarks from Joachim Rogall, artist and Little Sun founder Olafur Eliasson gave an inspiring message that addressed this curiosity about the lamps. He spoke on the power of collective creativity for creating impactful change: “with the Falling Walls we are such a muscle” he said before leading the guests in a group experiment with their Little Suns. A hush fell over the room as he asked guests to switch on their lamps, then hold them down against their tables. Then on the count of three, the artist asked the guests to raise their Little Suns up in a synchronised ‘Little Sunrise”. The charming effect of this prompted a resounding “ooooh” from the guests as they watched each other wave their lamps together in the room in a dance of light. “This is your rising sun,” said Olafur, “your Little Sun for the COP21 in Paris and the Falling Walls in Berlin.”
Falling Wall fellow Olafur Eliasson launched the Little Sun project in 2012 at the Tate Modern, London, to bring clean, affordable light to the 1.1 billion people living in the world without reliable access to electricity. A social business rather than a charity, Little Sun’s business model means that profits from the sales of the lamp in on-grid areas contribute to keeping prices locally affordable in off-grid areas. Olafur designed the Little Sun solar lamp along with his friend the engineer Frederik Ottesen using a flower design inspired by the Meskal flower of Ethiopia – a symbol of happiness – and is soon to release the second in the Little Sun family of solar products, a solar phone charger called Little Sun Charge. Little Sun is so far operating in 12 African countries where it is breaking down the wall of energy poverty to provide energy access for all.
During his address, Olafur also spoke on the importance of Little Sun’s presence at COP21 and at Olafur’s Ice Watch in Paris. Little Sun aimed to open a dialogue in Paris around how little solutions to climate change, like a small solar lamp, can make big changes in our world. This action began with a street photography campaign called Little Solutions, asking members of the public in Paris to share their own “little solutions“ to combat climate change. Following this, Little Sun formed a chain of light around Ice Watch at the Place du Panthéon, Paris – a physical wake-up call to climate change. This was followed by a second chain of Little Sun light, this time created by the children of the École Massillon who also highlighted the role of each of us as little solutions for a sustainable future.
After experiencing their collective Little Sunrise, guests were encouraged to pass on their good energy by supporting local entrepreneurs in Burkino Faso to set up their own Little Sun business by sponsoring a business box. Business Boxes contain an initial stock of 72 lamps, supporting materials, and enrollment in sales training, for the price of €1200. By sponsoring a complete box, local businesses get the kickstart they need to start becoming self-sufficient.
All contributions to Little Sun’s Business Boxes are a valuable investment that spreads light and creates livelihoods in off-grid areas. Little Sun works with and trains local entrepreneurs to build profitable local businesses that distribute Little Sun light. For Little Sun, it’s not just about delivering light to people – it matters how it gets there. Little Sun is not a charity accepting donations, but a social business that believes in the power of young African entrepreneurs to shape the future of Africa.