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.
Two thirds of the world’s 3.3 billion mobile phones are owned in developing countries. Social changemakers recognize this opportunity to reach those in need with information, tips, and resources that would otherwise be inaccessible at large scale. Here, we profile three innovative uses of mobile technology to combat developing world challenges.
A Twitter tip informed me of Project Masiluleke in South Africa. Due to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, individuals avoid getting tested and 90% of those infected are not getting treatment. In the KwaZulu Natal province, >40% of the population are infected. The project takes advantage of the fact that nearly 90% of individuals use a mobile phone, and their use of “Please Call Me” messages creates an SMS advertising opportunity of over 1 million messages per day. Frog Design provides great insight into the use of new mobile media, consideration of the mostly-male target audience’s cultural attitudes, and the initial success promoting the national AIDS hotline and private HIV self-testing.
Yesterday, Google Africa launched Google SMS in Uganda. In addition to the familiar Search functionality, the Uganda edition starts with two other channels developed specifically for the needs of the poor. One channel provides health and farming tips. The other hosts a marketplace, something of a Craigslist browseable entirely via SMS. These are just two starter examples of mobile apps that can be supported by the Grameen Foundation’s AppLab.
Perhaps the newest organization, FrontlineSMS:Medic helps medical centers provide support to doctors in rural areas through mobile connectivity. The central clinic receives and responds to field messages from a laptop while medical workers visiting patients use mobile phones to send informational messages and requests. Since community health workers may leave the clinic for up to a month to serve large remote communities, this communication link with the clinic can accelerate and widen care coverage. Springwise reports that FrontlineSMS:Medic has even modified camera phones to become diagnostic devices for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. In the Stanford + Portland spirit of its founding team, this is a free, open-source software program. The Discovery Channel has a nice interview with Josh Nesbit from their pilot program, “Mobiles in Malawi“.
This week, Ashton Kutcher triumphed over CNN in a race to amass one million followers on Twitter, winning the privilege to donate 10,000 anti-mosquito bed nets to combat malaria. The choice of prize may sound bizarre, but it is perfectly timed for the upcoming World Malaria Day on Friday, April 25. Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, and more than 80 percent of infections occur in Africa. At $10 per net, the 10,000-net pledge amounted to a $100,000 donation from Ashton to charity Malaria No More, headquartered in New York City. In addition, Ashton has garnered similar pledges from other celebs including Oprah and Ryan Seacrest, reporting a total of $1 million to buy 100,000 nets at last count.
The news is actually better than most know. Many, if not all, of the donated nets will be Olyset Nets, profiled in a January post here on CbD. They are:
the best-designed nets currently available, which can kill mosquitoes on contact and last up to 5 years instead of only 5 months
produced by A to Z Textile Mills in Tanzania, creating thousands of jobs and stimulating the country’s economy.
reclamation of 25% of a family’s income usually devoted to malaria treatment
reclamation of 40% of Africa’s health expenditure that can be redirected from malaria to other high-priority issues like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and water safety.
Other celebrities to lend their support to the fight against malaria include Kiefer Sutherland, who appeared in a somber message during this season’s 24: Redemption on Fox calling upon viewers to donate nets. Malaria No More has rallied many other famous names – American Idol contestants, UK’s Gordon Brown, Dave Chappelle, Bono – to the goal of distributing bed nets to 100% of those who need them by December 31, 2010.
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!
Every 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.
Bednets 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.
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).
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”.