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Ewa Wojkowska

Co-founder and COO, Kopernik

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Ewa Wojkowska is determined to improve the life of rural and isolated communities in developing countries. Her devotion to the task has found expression in Indonesia in the form of Kopernik, an organisation that delivers simple but enormously useful technologies – solar lights, water filters – to the people that need them most. 

How did you start? What made you choose this career path?

I grew up in an activist household. My dad was a Solidarity leader in Poland, and social justice and human rights always drove me. In my early-20s I started working with Amnesty International in Australia, focusing on human rights and refugee related issues. In 2000, hoping to gain more international exposure and practical experience outside of Australia, I went to East Timor through the Australian Volunteer program and subsequently joined the United Nations (UN). Together with Toshi, my partner, we were excited by a new wave of emerging simple technology that we believed could be an important part of the solution to address the needs of people living in the last-mile. ‘Last mile’ is a term we use to refer to the unserved or underserved parts of the world with very limited access to basic services. The emerging technologies included affordable solar lights, easy-to-use water filters and promising health products such as low cost eye-glasses and clean birthing kits. … Although these technologies were becoming increasingly available – they were not reaching the people in the last mile. In 2010, we decided to leave our roles at the UN to start Kopernik – an organisation that would connect simple but very useful technologies to the people who needed them. 

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What made you take the leap overseas and why Indonesia?

I connected with Indonesia, and have established strong networks and roots here. On the one hand there is a lot of work to be done here, but at the same time there are incredibly progressive things that are happening here that create the space for innovation and doing things differently. I am inspired by the opportunities I see in Indonesia. 

What do you think is the single most influential factor in your business success?

We have an amazing team, and we set very high standards for all of the work we do. In addition to the technology distribution network we have built through Kopernik we also work with some of the world’s biggest corporations and international organisations to develop products and services that can address the needs of people living in the last mile. These types of partnerships present a remarkable opportunity for more experimentation to identify interventions that really work for poverty reduction. 

"I am inspired by the opportunities I see in Indonesia"– Ewa Wojkowska

Is there something particular about the Australian character/culture that drives people to search out international experiences?

The Australians I meet overseas tend to be open, curious and interested in other people and cultures.  

What’s one of your most favourite things about living and working in Indonesia?

I love the natural beauty, and the diversity one sees across the country. You can go from island to island and have a completely different experience. I’m also excited about the future of Indonesia. There are lots of challenges, but the potential and the emerging talent that I see in Indonesia, if nurtured, means that Indonesia could have an incredible future. 

What do you know today that you wished you had known when you first started?

In the context of running Kopernik – I now know that there is always a drama, some crisis going on – and that it will pass. To not ever let standards slip. That I will recover from my failures and mistakes.  

What makes you proud to be Australian? 

I’m proud of the Australia I grew up in...one that celebrates multiculturalism, and recognises diversity as a strength. 

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More on Kopernik: Kopernik brings life-changing, low cost technologies such as solar lanterns, fuel-efficient stoves and water purifiers to developing communities, and connects technology providers to these communities. Kopernik partners with socially conscious organisations and corporations, world class universities and research centres, and technology producers and distributors. In 2016, Kopernik won the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize, while its Ibu Inspirasi/Wonder Women initiative, which empowers Indonesian women to become clean energy micro-social-entrepreneurs, was awarded the United Nation's Momentum for Change 2014 Lighthouse Activity award.

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