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Potential Energy was recently recognized as the winner of Tech Awards 2013 in the Economic Empowerment category for innovatively tackling a combination of social issues. In this interview with executive director Michelle Kreger, we learn more about Potential Energy’s journey as a nonprofit venture. Through this podcast, Michelle describes the lives of many inhabitants of IDP or Refugee Camps through the lens of cooking-related chores. Not only do these residents suffer the effects of toxic emissions from fire-related activities in their homes, but they often are burdened with physical and sexual violence associated with collecting firewood (women especially). Michelle discusses how her venture’s product – an energy and cost efficient cook stove – minimizes these issues. She also speaks to her goals for the scaling and impact of her nonprofit in the future, and the evolution of Potential Energy’s mission and focus. Finally, Michelle talks about her personal experience as an entrepreneur, including lessons she has learned and advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Michelle Kreger became Potential Energy’s Executive Director after 7 years at Kiva, a nonprofit organization connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. At Kiva, Michelle spent 5 years building their network of microfinance partners across Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, and 2 years as Senior Director of Kiva’s Strategic Initiatives group, where she was responsible for overseeing their expansion into new impact areas including clean energy, water and sanitation, innovative agriculture and higher education. In 2012, Michelle served as a Rainer Arnhold Fellow, a prestigious program for social entrepreneurs with particularly promising solutions to the big problems in health, poverty, and conservation in developing countries. Prior to joining Kiva, Michelle founded a nonprofit organization in Costa Rica, NatureKids, which focuses on English literacy and environmental sustainability in burgeoning tourist hubs. She also worked at various organizations dedicated to financial inclusion, including ACCION International. Michelle graduated magna cum laude from Boston University with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Economics.

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