When 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 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:
Identify a business that their impoverished customer can start with an affordable upfront investment and achieve profitability within months.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes, 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.
A 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.
Yesterday, 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.
Perhaps 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“.