20081227-the-goals3The 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.

hippo-roller-25x200-fundraiser2Here’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!

20090410-stanford-monsoon-capture1Stanford’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.

20090410-stanford-monsoon-capture2A 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!

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!

20081227-the-goals4MIT senior lecturer Amy Smith’s TED talk begins with the best thing a design presentation can share: failures along the path to successful solutions.

Smith wanted to design a locally producible fuel that would eliminate Haitian preference for wood-based fires. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, is 97% deforested but families continue to rely on wood fires in the home for cooking. Smith saw that these families would eventually have to buy imported fuels, which would likely be unaffordable. In addition, wood-burning produces smoke inhalation in the home, which Smith discovered is the #1 cause of death among children under five years old in the developing world.

She reveals that the first version of locally producible charcoal briquettes did not actually burn, nor were they produced from locally available materials!

When you compare her 2006 TED talk to the 2004 DIY charcoal production manual, it’s clear that Smith has also learned to change how she presents the problem she solves. Rather than focus on the environmental issue (deforestation), which local families don’t have the luxury to consider, she opens her talk with the impact on childhood mortality – a much more compelling reason to switch to her fuel.

This is a great example of design-for-DIY: rather than create an invention that you intend to manufacture then sell to the developing world, create a way to teach the local communities to make and possibly sell the solution themselves. Design-for-DIY solves two needs: the original problem, and the economic challenge. Smith’s instruction manual is written such that anybody with access to agricultural waste and an empty oil drum can become an entrepreneur, producing and selling home-safe charcoal to the local community.

Imagine how powerful this could be if someone from the MIT Sloan School of Management teamed up with her?

20090219-museumReason #3,472 to live in New York: the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Cooper-Hewitt created the traveling exhibition Design for the Other 90%, which arrives in Atlanta this week. This exhibition is basically a physical version of this blog…or rather, this blog is a poor man’s version of this exhibition.

From the exhibition website:

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”
—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

20090219-museumThe exhibition is organized by six developing world needs and searchable by continent, much like this blog. It provides an up-close experience of many solutions that we will cover in upcoming posts: KickStart’s MoneyMaker pumps, LifeStraw, sugarcane charcoal, and One Laptop per Child. Given that most of these devices are intended for countries far off the grid, this could be your only chance to see these designs in person.

Catch the exhibition through May 29 at the CDC’s Global Health Odyssey Museum. For those who can’t finagle a flight to Georgia, a quick browse around the well-made website will still give you hope and inspiration.

We’re excited to see that Microsoft has chosen to focus its 2009 Imagine Cup theme around the Millennium Development Goals. The Imagine Cup challenges students around the world to solve world challenges in nine technology categories:

Design // Short Film // Photography

Robotics // IT Challenge // Mash Up

20090216-imagine-cup8 20090216-imagine-cup9 20090216-imagine-cup10
Software // Embedded // Game

This year’s worldwide finals will be held in Cairo, Egypt in July. Last year’s winners, chosen from over 200,000 contestants, seemed mostly to focus on technogadgets to raise awareness of personal consumption patterns in the developed world, so we’re glad to see Microsoft encouraging all this brainpower to consider the bottom-of-pyramid developing world population. Winning 2008 teams will receive business and technology training as part of the Imagine Cup Innovation Accelerator program, to be held in Mountain View, CA in early April this year.

CbD will be watching the Design Invitational category most closely; entries to Round 1 are due March 1.

20081227-the-goals8You may remember the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs: when threatened by the big bad wolf, each chose to build a shelter to shield himself from the wolf’s huffing and puffing. The house of straw and the house of sticks fell away, but the house of bricks stood strong.

These days, the global “big bad wolf” is earthquakes. Unfortunately, most homes built on fault lines continue to be rebuilt with the same materials and the same construction techniques that crumbled with some seismic huffing and puffing.

20090204-modern-day-fairytaleBuild Change, a nonprofit from San Francisco (quite familiar with earthquakes), is working to change that. The amazing thing is, they impact the developing world without providing funding or materials – only consultation and training. Founder Dr. Elisabeth Hausler (pictured at left) realized after one earthquake with 20,000 casualties: “it’s not the earthquake that kills people, it’s the building collapsing.”

Build Change works with international agencies and local experts to help each region identify best practices that meet its needs, source locally available materials, and test low-cost construction methods. Once they have developed a model, Build Change conducts training and distributes construction manuals so the region can permanently change how it constructs buildings. From project to project, Build Change collects and disseminates a repository of earthquake-resistant building techniques.

Why do some buildings crumble and some buildings remain standing?

Sichuan earthquake: Unconfined precast concrete buildings crumble, while confined masonry buildings remain standing.

The Indonesian island of Sumatra has suffered three of the world’s top 10 largest earthquakes since 1900, and all three of those earthquakes have occurred in the past five years. For perspective, SF’s two famous earthquakes don’t even make the list. Build Change works in Northern (Aceh) and Western Sumatra, and is seeking support to rebuild the area damaged by the May 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province of China.

Build Change’s methods remind us of another adage which should be remembered in all developing world projects.

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime. — Author unknown

20090203-beware-this-blogWe’ve hit the mother lode with Stanford’s d.school design institute. Especially with their class on Design for Extreme Affordability, we could fill this blog with just the products of this class and the school’s alumni.

The most interesting thing to come out of our furious d.school link-clicking, though, has been Ambidextrous Magazine, staffed largely by the d.school community. Not so much the magazine as an article from its Spring ’08 “Developing” themed issue. Krista Donaldson’s article, written by a product developer who works in third-world countries, warns us of the futility of “design for developing countries”.

We sat up. “Design for the developing world” is one of the potential taglines for this blog. Is this a collection of useless inventions, with no hope of making a positive impact on the world? The article opens with a yawn at the cliche recipe for news coverage about design for the developing world:


“…nice young (usually white, usually male) Westerner visits (or reads about) poor country, is appalled by something he sees/reads, goes home and designs a solution, starts an NGO, and brings his solution to the poor country.”*


“The accompanying picture shows a clearly impoverished – but happier – user with product in a dark hut or on a sunburned scrubby dirt road.”


“The article…ends with a hopeful conclusion outlining the details of the product’s large-scale rollout plan in several countries.”


The point of this article is that design needs to be in developing countries. “Remote design” fails to address the whole problem: a community unable to save itself. Donaldson believes remote designers fail to seek methods of local production using local resources and the local workforce; fail to evaluate whether their users actually continue to use the products after initial adoption; fail to tailor the solution according to the local culture, priorities, or values.

As a marketer, I can appreciate this perspective. Many social designers could stand to do a bit more market research before pushing a new technology to their target market. But I don’t think it is a requirement to live there in order to produce a great design.

There is one product featured here on CbD that is produced in local factories, saves money for its users without complex adoption, and has enjoyed global distribution support at the highest levels. This is the Olyset mosquito net for malaria prevention which, interestingly, was made possible by a large Japanese conglomerate, not a university design group.

*NGO = non-governmental organization. Kind of like a nonprofit. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a nonprofit. Oxfam is an NGO.

20081227-the-goals4In third-world countries, rural mothers will try almost anything to keep their babies warm. This is because warmth, typically found in incubators, is critical for low-birth-weight (LBW) babies to reserve their limited energy for healthy organ development rather than just trying to maintain body temperature. Problem is, incubators cost $20,000, depend on electricity, and even broken hand-me-downs can only be found in metropolitan health centers. So mothers risk scalding their babies by wrapping them with hot water bottles, boxing them in with light bulbs, or placing them in ovens(!).

20090125-out-of-the-ovenA team of graduate students traveled to Nepal and India to conduct research, and came up with a modified sleeping bag instead of a cheaped out incubator box. Embrace Global‘s incubator alternative features:

  • 1% of the cost of a typical incubator
  • No electricity required (maintains constant comfortable temperature with a refresh-able phase-change material much like hand-warmer packets used by skiiers and campers
  • Washable nylon and vinyl materials for maintenance and ability to pass on to multiple babies
  • Easy repair of button closures rather than zippers or velcro
  • “Kangaroo care”-style portability with straps so mothers can be productive and mobile (often returning to field work soon after giving birth) while bonding with baby

The idea and business grew out of a Stanford class on Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability, a part of Stanford’s d.school design school. Since completing their class project, the team has won several design competitions, including being featured in the Top 25 of the American Express Members Project.

via STANFORD Magazine

20081227-the-goals7Here’s proof that design will, in fact, save the world. Nothing has done more to spur the world to action than Al Gore’s presentation-turned-movie, An Inconvenient Truth. And what made that presentation so impactful? Duarte Design’s makeover of his presentation slides.

20090112-presentation-heard-round-the-world1I’d like to experiment with this type of format – instead of wordy blog posts, present mini pecha-kucha-style visual stories about world-changing designs. It will be a lot easier for you to digest, but a lot more work for me. I’m hoping that the extra work I put in makes this blog more unique, useful, and interesting to you.

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