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.
Here’s a new idea for exploiting hyperactive children: use the merry-go-round to pump clean drinking water to the surrounding community.
A few facts:
- More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water.
- Water-related diseases kill 6,000 people a day, and are responsible for 80 percent of all sickness in the world.
- 40 billion hours are lost annually to hauling water, a chore primarily undertaken by women and girls.
PlayPumps hook merry-go-rounds up to underground water sources, using the action to pump water to a tank that stands 20 feet above ground. The PlayPump is capable of producing up to 1,400 liters of water per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40 meters, it is effective up to a depth of 100 meters. (For Americans, that means 400 gallons from 100-300 feet)
The PlayPump System is the most sophisticated business of all three playground power designs DFT has covered so far. I like them because they document how they address all 8 of the Millennium Development Goals! All PlayPumps are donated free to sub-Saharan African communities and over 1,000 pumps have been installed. They have a goal of donating 4,000 pumps by 2010. That’s one year from now!
You can help by donating $24 (water for 4 kids for 10 years) to $14,000 (a whole system for 2500 people for 10 years).
The electric generator playground is expanding…next to a see-saw, schools can add a merry-go-round.
There are over 10,000 public schools in Ghana with no power source. Missionaries found that in Ghana, kids were so excited about playground equipment that fences had to keep them out while school was not in session.
The Empower Playgrounds merry-go-round is designed to produce 300 to 350 watts of electricity, enough to light three or four rooms from the same power that 60-pound children would expel climbing 10 feet of stairs in 35 seconds. Portable LED lights can be taken home after classes to relieve their families’ reliance on fuel and flame for light.
Empower Playgrounds installed their first six merry-go-rounds in Ghana this year, starting in June. This was built as a BYU engineering project involving five multi-disciplinary team members. Unrelated discovery from this press release: residents of Utah are called “Utahns”.
We will be watching closely for their next project slated for 2009: swings as electrical generators.
A few designs have come forth that harness the seemingly boundless energy of children for community benefit. The first of this series is the Energee-Saw by PlayMade Energy, a company formed by Daniel Sheridan out of his awards-winning university research.
The see-saw arrives as a DIY kit (low carbon footprint for delivery + community-building experience to set it up) and can power a classroom’s low-drain devices like LED lighting, radios, mobile phones, and low-power laptops for an entire evening after just 5-10 minutes of play.
Energee-Saw has a working prototype in Uganda and has been redesigned after receiving recognition and funding this year. The idea has gotten notice from India, where renewable energy could also be used. Daniel volunteered with schools in Kenya in 2007 and came up with the design based on “the positive aspects of the African community”.