20081227-the-goals6Every 30 seconds, a child dies of malaria – a totally preventable disease – and more than 80 percent of malaria infections occur in Africa. Each kid gets malaria 2-5 times a year!

We’ve had a hard time finding design objects for MDG #6, the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria. As it turns out, the solution is extremely straightforward: every home in a developing country needs to have an insecticide-treated net (ITN) for mosquito-free sleep.

20090109-practice-safe-sleep1Bednets are the most effective way to prevent malaria, but millions of families in malaria-plagued countries do not have them. These nets, however, are not without room for improvement. Nets can be treated with insecticide, killing mosquitoes on contact and making it less likely that they can penetrate the nets. But the insecticide on traditional nets fades after 3-5 months, and most families won’t deal with the cost or hassle of getting their nets re-treated.

A to Z Textile Mills in Tanzania and Sumitomo Chemical in Japan teamed up to manufacture the Olyset Net, which retains its insecticide for 5 years, guaranteed – helping us make forward progress in slowing down malaria. They have also reduced the cost of a bednet from $7 to $5 and made them tear-proof by improving the weaving technique (pdf). Props especially for local production in Africa, thus reducing shipping costs to distribute the nets in the region that most needs them.

The Tanzania factory has created 3,200 jobs. Each net can safely sleep up to 3 people under it, and distribution is prioritized for children under 5 years old and pregnant women. Most of the nets are provided free of charge, as recommended by the World Health Organization, through aid programmes like Roll Back Malaria and UNICEF.


George W. Bush visited the A to Z Textile Mills factory last year as part of his $1.2 billion, five-year program to reduce malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

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20081227-the-goals3Access 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.

20090107-roller-girlsFor 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.

via Springwise

20081227-the-goals7Here’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.

20090106-playground-power-3PlayPumps 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).

20081227-the-goals7We just saw Benjamin Button which reminded us of 2 things close to our hearts…Brad Pitt and New Orleans.

20090102-built-to-last1150 homeowners in a still-devastated district of New Orleans get to choose from 13 customizable design models for new homes built for LEED Platinum certification and for withstanding storms. With a cradle-to-cradle lens guiding materials selection, the materials are not only to be made from sustainable resources but also intended to biodegrade if the houses ever do need to be intentionally destroyed. The first six houses were tested this August by Hurricane Gustav in the final stages of construction, and not a window was lost.

The model designs and pricing subsidies are funded by the Make It Right foundation, jumpstarted by a $5 million personal donation matching pledge by Brad. All models feature open porches – a nod to Southern culture and community – and five-foot elevations – to guard against inevitable floods. The house prices are $150,000 or less, and subsidized if this exceeds 30% of the deed owner’s income.

20090102-built-to-last2This is an example of how celebrities can use their clout to super-boost world-changing efforts. So far, 88 of the 150 homes have been fully sponsored. You can donate as little as $5 to help the 88th house get from $2,939 funded to $150,000 funded. The donation site is cool – you can virtually tour the house and see how much is needed to sponsor each feature, like solar panels or compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Brad fell in love with the city during the filming of Interview with a Vampire (1994), was devastated to see its destruction in Hurricane Katrina (2005), campaigned to film Benjamin Button there in 2006 to boost its economy, launched the Make it Right campaign in 2007 to support its rebuilding, and bought his own home there with Angelina Jolie in January 2008.

20081227-the-goals2The 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.

20081231-playground-power-2The 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.

What change do you hope for the world in the next year?

In May, my newly-formed team at work had an offsite to organize ourselves and set priorities. Our leader kicked off the day with this question to help us get to know each other and provoke thought. My answer was, “I am a big fan of design, and I want to create a website that celebrates how design is applied to world problems like the Millennium Development Goals.”

That day, my coworker sent me Guy Kawasaki’s blog post on playground power, which pointed me to 5 social design solutions!

I learned from that day that simply talking about your commitment to something can win you support and resources to get started. If you want to commit to effecting world change, decide what your action will be and then be vocal about it! You’ll find that that action is a lot easier.

Small people talk about OTHER PEOPLE. Average people talk about THINGS. Great people talk about IDEAS.

— sentences in reverse order from an Unknown quote

See, some good things can come out of those corporate offsites 🙂

20081227-the-goals2A 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.

20081229-playground-power
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”.

In fact, it made 8 goals to accomplish by 2015. They call this the UN Millennium Project with eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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These goals were set in September 2000. It’s now December 2008 – over halfway to the deadline. Are we halfway there?

I’m glad the UN was able to agree on a unified set of goals, for a start. The documentation seems like a very thorough quantification of how to measure progress against these goals – using all the best tools I see in Corporate America for achieving business goals.  But who is really acting to make these changes?

I’ll organize this blog by these 8 goals. You can click on the Categories to the right to find all the posts related to each goal. If you have any other suggestions, let me know!