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.
In 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.
- 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.
Presentation of concepts using current water containers for transport
The most viable options progressed to 3-D modeling with design features called out.
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.
The Hippo Roller team has just shared great news about their redesign project. With the Hippo Water Roller, an individual can transport 24 gallons (200 pounds) of water as if pushing a 22-pound weight. This is enough to provide water for a family of five people for a day, with a single trip. However, the biggest obstacle to distributing these life-changing devices broadly was its $100 price tag, including shipping the cumbersome Hippos.
Hippo Roller brought the challenge to Project H Design and Engineers Without Borders, resulting in a two-part, nesting, stackable version of the Hippo which cuts the required shipping volume to 1/3 the original space. Ikea would be proud!
The next challenge is to cast the mold that will enable the manufacture of the Hippo 2.0s. To raise the $5000 needed to create this mold, Hippo has launched a $25×200 campaign. For a $25 donation, 200 supporters can sponsor the original mold and bring more Hippos to more people in need of safe water globally.
Here’s a beautifully captured video of their most recent Hippo Drop delivering 90 Hippos in South Africa. Great chance to see the Hippos in motion – looks like they’re fairly easy to push!
Stanford’s d.school design institute has just published the winners of their quarterly d.prize competition, recognizing the top 4 student projects of the term. The best aspect of the submission process is that teams must write their entries in haiku form.
capture a monsoon,
don’t only collect water,
build an “extreme” team.
A project called “The Deathstar” won this year’s monsoon challenge from the Design for Extreme Affordability class. This challenge gives teams 48 hours and $20 to design and build a device to maximize the capture of rainwater from a simulated monsoon.
Team Deathstar took advantage of the fact that the “monsoon” comes from a set of sprinklers mounted on a ladder; their solution surrounded the sprinklers and captured water from all 360 degrees, draining through a gutter system to a collection receptacle. Not exactly an option in a real monsoon, but the team did demonstrate innovative thinking. The video proves that they accomplished the third requirement of the competition: have fun!
Access to clean water is the key to many of the MDG’s, but we believe the primary impact of the Hippo Water Roller is its liberation of women from the daily struggle of transporting water.
A few facts:
- Currently, women in rural Africa transport water in 5-gallon buckets on their heads.
- It is common to walk five to ten miles every day transporting water.
- The buckets are often re-used gasoline and paint containers, risking toxic residue if not properly cleaned.
- After years of carrying water on their heads, women’s spines become severely damaged.
For comparison: I complain even when it’s my turn to take the garbage out to the dumpster. I have never been known to travel more than one mile by foot – and that was only when PE teachers could force me to. My last encounter with a 5-gallon bucket was when we went cherry picking this fall, and it was too heavy for me when it was only 1/4 full.
With the Hippo Roller, an individual can transport 24 gallons (200 pounds) as if pushing a 22-pound weight. This is enough to provide water for a family of five people for a day, with a single trip. If there are less than five people or if more than one person has a Hippo Roller, excess water can be used to irrigate a home’s vegetable garden.
It also appears that the male fascination with gadgets is universal. Some men have taken over water fetching duties from their wives because they are proud to be seen using the Hippo Roller.
One major design flaw is the price point: $75, which puts it out of reach of those who need it. Hippo Roller has engaged Catapult Design to redesign the water roller to bring down its price point and even add water filtration capabilities so that nearby pathogen-filled streams can be used as water sources as well.
So far, over 30,000 Hippo Rollers have been distributed free of charge to sub-Saharan Africa, made possible by donations from people like you and support from programs like Google’s Project 10^100.
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).