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.

20090410-social-design-awardsNominations for The Tech Awards 2009 close today! Build Change represented the United States among the 2008 Laureates.

Awards programs like these are crucial to world-changing designers. The recognition from a university, nonprofit, or corporate award program can give a design startup the endorsement they need to win grant funding or justify government aid that helps distribute the new design to folks who cannot afford it.

Here’s a quick summary of development-related awards programs:

Program Tagline Dates Past winners
The Tech Awards Technology Benefitting Humanity Nominations due 4/10 Build Change
Google 10 to the 100th May those who help the most win Voting period coming soon; request reminder First annual, but Hippo Roller is featured in the YouTube animated video!
Microsoft Imagine Cup The world’s premier student technology competition Round 1 winners announced 4/20 to advance to Round 2. Team SOAK achieving sustainable agriculture with software and hardware.
$100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability Improving Lives through Sustainable Invention Submit nominations by October for the January 2010 award. Amy Smith was the first female winner of the Student prize in 2000
MIT IDEAS Competition Develop and implement projects that make a positive change in the world Final submissions due 4/15; Judging session at MIT 4/27.

If you know of others, please comment and let us know!

This post dedicated to Marc, who has encouraged me every day for the past six weeks to make time for blogging!