20081227-the-goals4Since our coverage of the Embrace incubator alternative in 2009, the Embrace Infant Warmer has seen a complete redesign, organized with a new business structure, made some new alliances, and won a few more awards. Here, we’ll focus on the redesign and the business alliance with GE Healthcare.

Adapting to user needs
The original Embrace bag was electricity-independent and used button closures to ensure easy repair for extended lifespan. Today, we see a three-part system with strap closures, new materials and construction, a clear window, an electric heating unit, and a higher-tech wax pouch.

Three iterations of the Embrace Infant Warmer design. Shortly after the originating Stanford class; during refinement; the market-ready final product.


In market, the infant warmer is branded the Embrace Thermpod. The sleeping bag-like portion, called BabyWrap, incorporates the most input from user interviews. The team selected adjustable straps for closure to enable caregivers to improve fit for a variety of infants and prevent the babies from slipping around. Since many of the intended babies wouldn’t be wearing diapers, the material for the wrap needed to be waterproof, bacteria-resistant, and easy to clean. The hood portion of the bag was revised for a better fit around the infant’s face to avoid the risk of suffocation. During the critical period of care for these infants, caregivers need a way to monitor the baby’s breath and skin color, so adding a window and openings for IV tubes increased the probability that the infant would be kept inside the warmer rather than removed and left out for constant observation.
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Gone are the days when a thank you letter or annual report would suffice for communicating with your supporters. Today’s donors want to know exactly whose lives they are impacting, and they want transparency of how their dollars are being used. Whether you are seeking impact investors or philanthropic donations, the key is to demonstrate the ROI your organization provides to the investor as a combination of financial and social returns. See Part 1 of this series to understand how potential investors and donors are evaluating your company against other charitable investments.

This post provides four steps and examples for attracting support through better reporting of donor-funded impact:

  1. Measure impact in terms that your audience cares about. The simplest approach leverages the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) described in Part 1, Quantifying Social ROI.
    Proof of impact

    Jolkona provides 1:1 proof of impact for each donation it receives.

    However, your cause can lend itself to creative ways to measure impact beyond cold statistics. This can also help you name specific amounts that a donor or investor can provide, matched with a known impact that you can measure. For example, rather than simply asking for $25, $50, and $100-tier donations, frame your fundraising in terms of $30 to provide a fuel-efficient stove to a family or $260 to build and install a sanitary toilet in a family’s home. Jolkona Foundation works with NGOs to design feedback loops that provide proof of impact to donors. For example, a donor sponsoring a child’s education might receive Continue reading

20081227-the-goals1When starting this blog, I quickly realized that most social enterprises based on designed products fell short of their potential for actually solving the problem. Industrial designers and product designers get caught up in the physical object that will solve the physical problem. Without an understanding of the economics involved, their solutions face challenges in production, distribution and adoption.

KickStart MoneyMaker pump expands crop output
KickStart brings well-designed inventions to Africa, and they have successfully helped over half a million people because they have built a complete solution based on solving the fundamental problem of poverty. The product that they distribute is only one fraction of the solution. Their five-step process includes:

  1. Identify a business that their impoverished customer can start with an affordable upfront investment and achieve profitability within months.
  2. Design a product that meets all of KickStart’s 10 design criteria, #1 of which is that the product must be part of a profitable business model (see Step 1 above).
  3. Establish a supply chain based on private sector participants which will amplify the economic impact to the geography they are helping. KickStart believes in local businesses, starting with conducting most of their design in Kenya and selling through local shops.
  4. Develop the market with sales and marketing. The first step to this was to name their product – MoneyMaker – to instantly communicate its value proposition to their target market. Although it would be tempting to name their products after what they do, which is pump water for irrigation of farmland, it would be much harder to convince a farmer to part with his money for a SuperDuperWaterPump than to show him that he will get his money back quickly by expanding his crop output with a MoneyMaker.
  5. Measure and move along to solve another problem. KickStart has a quality that is extremely rare among social enterprises: an exit strategy. Although they have high sales and marketing costs today to develop the market (this is where most donated dollars go), they have designed their business model such that it will be a permanent, self-sustaining solution. Once their irrigation pumps are as ubiquitous as bicycles, the supply chain they have set up can continue producing and selling MoneyMakers without KickStart’s help and the profits that KickStart receives can be redirected to building the next business solution.

As of January, KickStart counts 614,600 people it has moved out of poverty and estimates MoneyMaker to reach its tipping point in Kenya in 2014.
KickStart MoneyMaker helps families out of poverty
What problem are you trying to solve? If you have designed a new invention for the base of the pyramid (BoP), have you considered the full business model around it? Is your business model a permanent solution or will your target market always be dependent on your company’s involvement to produce, distribute, and discover the invention? Consider studying the KickStart model for your social enterprise.

All too often, great design solutions for the developing world fall victim to dependency on charitable giving to achieve their goals. Few social enterprises have a truly sustainable business plan, so it is no surprise that there is no flood of wealth coming from traditional investors to fund these enterprises. This post focuses on understanding the investor’s two bottom lines, which will yield a Part 2 post advising social enterprises on how to attract more funding.

A recent Harvard Business Review article on “Funding Social Enterprises” opened my eyes with a new perspective on how I manage my own little “investments” in social enterprise.

Charitable Giving as an Investment

If you were to think of your annual charitable giving as an investment fund, how would you rate the fund’s performance? Traditional investors look at Return on Investment (ROI) in a pure financial sense. They only put money in if they expect to get more money out in the end. On the other end of the spectrum, HBR looks at charitable donors as another kind of investor. Charitable “investors” seek ROI in terms of pure social impact. They put money in expecting to make a difference in the problem that the organization addresses. It’s nice to get free money, but charitable funding is hard to forecast and competition is steep to win donors’ dollars.

When seeking traditional investment funding, social enterprises face insurmountable challenges when trying to compete against other enterprises, since their ability to promise financial returns is hampered by selling to the poor or increasing costs in order to benefit the cause (environment, health, education). With financial restructuring, new approaches offer a mixture of financial and impact-based ROI to help social enterprises appeal to traditional investors. For a nice summary of those blended financial investment models, I point you to the HBR article, which delves into the financial offerings much more rigorously.

Demand Evidence of ROI

Charitable investors are willing to take a -100% ROI (completely ludicrous for a traditional investment) in order to see social ROI. However, social ROI varies wildly from donation to donation, and it is only by the grace of donors’ emotion-induced investment blindness that most charities continue to receive funding.

To make smarter charitable investments, donors should seek organizations that demonstrate visible accountability for the aid they receive. The more granularly the organization can demonstrate ROI, the better.
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We were delighted to see Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H Design and author of Design Revolution, appear as a guest on the Colbert Report last night. The highlight of the interview was the rousing response from Pilloton’s call for a new measure of success according to “the triple bottom line: Planet, People and Profit”.

Pilloton chose excellent visual aids to show Colbert how design can improve lives. Selected from her book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, Colbert walked to the interview table wearing Spider Boots, donned a pair of Adaptive Eyewear, and marveled at Pilloton’s ability to move 200 pounds of water with the ease of a “very, very suspicious flight attendant” using the beloved Hippo Water Roller.

The full episode is below. Sorry for the off-color freeze frame! We didn’t choose it, we promise.
Or to watch just the exact 6 minutes of Pilloton’s interview, view this clip directly on Hulu.

Here is Josh Silver’s 5-minute presentation of the optometrist-free glasses at TEDGlobal 2009 in July. In it, he explains that he is 30,000 on the way to putting glasses in the hands of one billion people by 2020. As with many humanitarian designs, the foremost obstacle he faces is bringing down the $19 cost of each pair. He is an atomic physicist by day, which just goes to show anyone can be a humanitarian designer.

20081227-the-goals3In a recent interview with Hippo Water founder Cynthia Koenig, we learned a bit more about the recent re-design of the Hippo Roller. It was a dream experience for this blog.


The challenge

Traditional water transport

  • In third-world countries, women and children must haul water over long distances in order to supply their communities with clean, safe water.
  • Alternative sources like wells are only functional 6-8 months of the year, and well pumps are unreliable or fuel to power them can be difficult to obtain
  • The first version of the Hippo Roller multiplied the hauling capacity of a single person but the cost of manufacturing and shipping them limits the number of people they can impact.
  • Hippos are currently manufactured in South Africa but are needed in other countries such as India and Siberia.

Enter Project H Design and Engineers Without Borders
Emily Pilloton took interest in the Hippo challenge and began with fundraising for a “Hippo drop” – the term for a distribution of Hippos to a community – as the founding project for Project H. During the Hippo drop the designers visited the Johannesburg manufacturing facility and identified an opportunity for design improvements.

Project H partnered with Engineers Without Borders’s Appropriate Technologies’ Design Team and split into two teams: one focused on reducing cost in any way, and one focused on playing with the inherent design of the device. We find the Flickr photos of the design process to be fascinating. Here are a few of our favorites:


One meeting asks, "What do men do?", considering the social cause for women and children needing to do the hauling.
One meeting asks, “What do men do?”, considering the social cause for women and children needing to do the hauling.

Presentation of concepts using current water containers for transport
Presentation of concepts using current water containers for transport

The most viable options progressed to 3-D modeling with design features called out.
The most viable options progressed to 3-D modeling with design features called out.

The compact nesting size of the final designThe final solution was to break the hippo in 2 for nesting.final hippo
The final design

The next step: India
These redesigned hippos need a new passport stamp! See below to learn how one click – your vote – can send Hippo Water to India. Today is the last day to vote!

We’ve had the fortune of interviewing Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International, to learn more about their recent re-design and their latest plans to spread Hippo technology to more communities outside South Africa.

Before we dig in, Hippo most urgently needs your vote for a much-needed scouting trip in India to exchange ideas and advice with other social entrepreneurs and establish critical distribution partners. The contest is hosted by JustMeans, offering an India Social Entrepreneurship Journey with Journeys for Change, for which Hippo Water is currently in the Top 5 contenders. There are only a few more days left to vote, so please vote today!

More about the designs behind the new Hippo coming soon. For now, you can read about their founding principles in our original post about Hippo Rollers.

20081227-the-goals1Sometimes, a well-told story can do just as much good for a problem as a well-designed solution. This principle attracted me to switch careers from engineering to advertising years ago…I’m still so far from becoming like the storytellers I so admire. This short film makes Ferdinand Dimadura one such storyteller. I won’t spoil it by telling you what’s in it, but I will say that people have been inspired to share this video so much that it has been viewed nearly 10 million times. In fact, I found this from my aunt who forwarded it to my entire extended family!

Two thirds of the world’s 3.3 billion mobile phones are owned in developing countries. Social changemakers recognize this opportunity to reach those in need with information, tips, and resources that would otherwise be inaccessible at large scale. Here, we profile three innovative uses of mobile technology to combat developing world challenges.

20081227-the-goals6A Twitter tip informed me of Project Masiluleke in South Africa. Due to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, individuals avoid getting tested and 90% of those infected are not getting treatment. In the KwaZulu Natal province, >40% of the population are infected. The project takes advantage of the fact that nearly 90% of individuals use a mobile phone, and their use of “Please Call Me” messages creates an SMS advertising opportunity of over 1 million messages per day. Frog Design provides great insight into the use of new mobile media, consideration of the mostly-male target audience’s cultural attitudes, and the initial success promoting the national AIDS hotline and private HIV self-testing.

20081227-the-goals1Yesterday, Google Africa launched Google SMS in Uganda. In addition to the familiar Search functionality, the Uganda edition starts with two other channels developed specifically for the needs of the poor. One channel provides health and farming tips. The other hosts a marketplace, something of a Craigslist browseable entirely via SMS. These are just two starter examples of mobile apps that can be supported by the Grameen Foundation’s AppLab.
20090630-mobile-roundup1

20090630-mobile-roundup2Perhaps the newest organization, FrontlineSMS:Medic helps medical centers provide support to doctors in rural areas through mobile connectivity. The central clinic receives and responds to field messages from a laptop while medical workers visiting patients use mobile phones to send informational messages and requests. Since community health workers may leave the clinic for up to a month to serve large remote communities, this communication link with the clinic can accelerate and widen care coverage. Springwise reports that FrontlineSMS:Medic has even modified camera phones to become diagnostic devices for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. In the Stanford + Portland spirit of its founding team, this is a free, open-source software program. The Discovery Channel has a nice interview with Josh Nesbit from their pilot program, “Mobiles in Malawi“.

Discuss these and other mobile innovations by social entrepreneurs July 1, 4-6pm ET in the Social Entrepreneur Chat on Twitter (#SocEntChat), hosted by Ashoka. (via Cooper-Hewitt Design Blog)

20081227-the-goals7The Acumen Fund blog this week posted a call for solutions to the energy challenges posed by wood-burning stoves responsible for much of the black carbon causing 18 percent of global warming, according to the New York Times. Much of the third world uses wood as fuel because it is widely available and free, but the stoves they use to burn the wood are inefficient and produce large amounts of smoke and soot, causing major health and pollution problems.

Acumen Fund’s main criticisms of alternative stoves like rocket stoves and solar cookers are as follows:

There are lots of stove technologies…out there that can do the job better and use cleaner fuels, but the capital costs are higher and the distribution models are complex. Incentives from the carbon markets…have not provided enough benefit to drive the adoption of clean cooking products…getting certified through the Kyoto Protocol is a long and complicated process, a real barrier for start-ups interested in attacking the stove problem.

20090501_great-darfur-smoke-outCould the Berkeley Darfur Stove be a solution?

  • They certainly are not the cheapest solution, placing the stove at $20 on a stove comparison chart that cites their main competition – stoves made of three stones or mud/dung over burning wood – as $1, and the only two more expensive – solar cookers and the Saves 80 Stove – as $20-57. They claim that the cost is offset by a savings of $240/year due to a 75 percent reduction in wood consumption with this stove.
  • The stove design is indeed well-thought out, citing a wind collar to protect against Darfur’s windy environment, a variety of cooking surfaces for various types of Darfuri cuisine, and a small firebox opening to discourage over-feeding the fire with excess wood.
  • But they may have the edge when it comes to distribution model. By manufacturing the parts in India then flat-packing them for shipping to Sudan for assembly (a la Ikea), the Darfur Stoves project has been able to increase production seven-fold, to 100 stoves per day.

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