Watch the replay >>
Sometimes I wonder why we have forgotten these principles from the late Paul Polak. When I chatted with him about the $300 House, he wanted me to reconsider and make it a $100 House. His point was simple: affordability drives design.
Now, as part of the research agenda of the Regenerative Marketing Institute, I’m thinking about how these BoP principles and Stuart Hart‘s BoP protocol apply to the developed world — to communities trying to find a way back from the COVID-crash.
Here are Polak’s principles:
1) Go to where the action is. You can’t solve poverty from a World Bank office.
2) Talk to the people and listen to what they have to say.
3) Learn everything about the context of the problem and the people.
4) Think and act big. No reason to be modest. Small solutions applied thousands of thousands of times.
5) Think like a child to find the obvious solution people have missed in the past. (Irony of thinking big and like a child)
6) See and do the obvious. Emersing yourself in the problem helps.
7) If someone has invented it–you don’t have to. Find existing solutions
8} Make sure your approach can be scaled up.
9) Design for the poor. Affordability rules the design process with poor customers.
10) Follow practical 3 year plans. Must transform into effective work plan for 3 years.
11) Continue to learn from your customers. (Interviewed more than 3000 farm families, $12 solar lantern)
12) Don’t be distracted by what other people say (Almost every project I’ve done has had sceptics)
Let’s add another principle for impact innovation:
13) Design for justice. (The design schools don’t)
If you missed it, you may want to check it >>
It’s time to put aside our toys – our ideologies and guns – and look at this time in history as our final exam. This is a test, as Buckminster Fuller said, to see if we, the human species, deserve to carry on. COVID has shown us that we cannot find consensus on how to deal with the virus.
Time’s running out. Philip Kotler, Karthiga Ratnam, and I think it’s time for a movement of movements.
Learn more on the Wicked7 Project site >>
What are we going to do now? The #forkintheroad which Buckminster Fuller warned us about is here now >> “Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment… Humanity is in a final exam as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe.”
What will it take to leap across the chasm and undo the destruction we’ve caused? Why can’t the UN fix it?
We’re hurtling into a state of climate emergency whilst we simultaneously face the convergence of the Wicked7.
What are the Wicked7? The world’s most urgent problems.
We’ve distilled over 200 problems into the Wicked7:
- The Death of Nature
- Hate & Conflict
- Power & Corruption
- Work and Technology
- Health and Livelihood
- Population & Migration
You can’t solve wicked problems. That’s what we’ve been led to believe. And for years, we haven’t. Solve them, that is.
Well, if not now, then when?
Wicked problems must have virtuous solutions. If any lesson has emerged from this COVID-19 pandemic, it is this: we must address the urgent problems of the world now, or perish. Why? Because COVID-19 is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg… the ecosystem of wicked problems will not wait.
After working on this idea for over a year, Philip Kotler and I kicked off the Wicked7 Challenge on April Fool’s Day, 2021.
Our first challenge? The Death of Nature.
Join us >>
P.S. – Bucky Fuller was wrong. Thanks to Sonmoy, one of our W7 advisors, we now see that there’s a triple fork in the road, and utopia is simply no longer an option. What we must fight for is survival.
Once again, it is useful to study the past to learn what applies here to our ecosystematic journeys. Of particular interest is the work of Donella Meadows, who taught us how to focus on having the most impact on a system (Bill Gates, listen up!) >>
Where to intervene:
12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.
Read all about it >>
A special thanks to the Business Ecosystem Alliance and Dr. Annika Streiber for hosting me on the topic of “Ecosystematic” – the forthcoming book co-authored with Philip Kotler:
Join Philip Kotler and myself as we kickoff this project to “save humanity from itself.”
WEBINAR >> April 1, 2021 >> 4 pm EASTERN / 10 PM EU
REPLAY available here >>
I still think of Larry Keeley‘s 10 types of innovation – and think about how the model can be applied to social innovation – to meet the “unmet needs” of society.
The 11th type of innovation is purpose – to what ends are your capabilities and talents being deployed? Are you inclusive or is your company supporting new forms of apartheid? That is what Brand Activism, and by extension – the Wicked7 Project – are about.
So how do we determine society’s Jobs to be Done?
Find out on March 31st (2:00 PM -2:45 PM ET) when I chat with Strategyn’s Tony Ulwick about this and more . Register here for the free webinar.
One of the points of the Wicked7 Project is to demonstrate how we have a shared responsibility — business, government, and social institutions — to work together for the future of the planet.
By definition, solving society’s most urgent problems is a balancing act between the various requirements and needs of the different stakeholders across all sectors. Our policy-making must be driven by this idea of balance if it is to create a sustainable and resilient society.
Read >> The Unmet Needs of Society: Introducing Multi-stakeholder Jobs to be Done by Christian Sarkar, Anthony Ulwick, and Philip Kotler.
In 2015, the late architect and teacher Abhijit De and I wrote an article for Thinkers called The Ecosystem of Poverty: Lessons Learned from the $300 House.
In it we popped in a chart that was constructed after days and months of debate with students, surveys and discussions with villagers in rural India, and the “experts”:
Soon after, we were working on the concept of a “smart village” – with the sobering realization that the problems of the poor are not going to be solved without solving other wicked problems. A few days before his untimely passing, we discussed expanding this chart.
This “ecosystem of wicked problems“ is not going to magically vanish. It needs our attention, now more than ever.
And that’s the point of The Wicked 7 Project.
Join us >>
Professor Philip Kotler – the “father of modern marketing” – and I have co-authored a book: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action.
Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It’s what a good citizen does.
available in the following countries
The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator – for customers, for employees, and for society at large. We also examine the role of the CEO.
Here’s a look at the table of contents:
The book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.
The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:
- Scott Galloway
- John Elkington
- Raj Sisodia
- John Ehrenreich
- Christopher Davis
- Stephen M. R. Covey
- Hennie Botes
- Stuart L. Hart
- David “Dread” Hinds
- Clark Fox
Finally, we’ve launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more – www.activistbrands.com. We hope you find it useful.
The Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporate personhood, or Citizen’s United.
In fact, I wonder what they’d think about capitalism as an enemy of democracy and a grave threat to the very survival of life on Earth.
Is democracy doomed?
What must we do to save capitalism from itself?
Enter Phil Kotler. The legendary marketing guru is marketing a new sort of product these days. He is trying to fix Capitalism, a system he believes has helped create more wealth for more people than any other economic model.
Says the esteemed Professor Kotler (he’s taught at Northwestern for 50 years!) >>
“Capitalism must evolve to serve the needs of all citizens, not just the very affluent. Our goal is to discuss the 14 Shortcomings of Capitalism and systematically analyze the problems and potential solutions. We want to gather opinions and recommendations from everyone – and begin the process of saving capitalism from itself.”
It’s great to see one of the greatest capitalist minds working on reforming capitalism with a capital C.
According to Kotler, the current state of capitalism is falling short because it:
1. Proposes little or no solution to persistent poverty
2. Generates a growing level of income inequality
3. Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers
4. Doesn’t create enough human jobs in the face of growing automation
5. Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities
6. Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation
7. Creates business cycles and economic instability
8. Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons
9. Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy
10. Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens
11. Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning
12. Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anti-competitive behavior
13. Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth
14. Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.
So that’s my latest project – helping Kotler and friends get the word out and make a difference.
Like the $300 House Project, I’m helping build an “ecosystem of concerned folks” to face the challenge.
We began by enlisting the Huffington Post as our media partner.
We now have a FIXCapitalism channel; we’re slowly beginning to get some attention with these articles:
The future is too important to leave in the hands of the corporations and their paid stooges – the politricksters in D.C.!
Can you help? Connect us to others who are interested – who may have a point of view they want to share – and can help move the conversation forward. Join us!
Help spread the word!
In McKinsey‘s latest survey on business technology, few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT’s ability to support growth and other business goals is waning. Furthermore, “executives’ current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative.”
This sort of criticism of IT is not new.
In fact, it goes all the way back to Nick Carr‘s 2003 IT Doesn’t Matter article in Harvard Business Review. At the time, Carr managed to infuriate the CEOs of numerous IT companies, including Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO, along with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.
“My point, however, is that it (IT) is no longer a source of advantage at the firm level – it doesn’t enable individual companies to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. Essential to competitiveness but inconsequential to strategic advantage: that’s why IT is best viewed (and managed) as a commodity.”
– Nicholas Carr
At the time, there were numerous rebuttals to Carr’s view, but none more powerful than the one from John Hagel and John Seely Brown. They argued:
- Extracting business value from IT requires innovations in business practices. In many respects, we believe Carr attacks a red herring – few people would argue that IT alone provides any significant business value or strategic advantage.
- The economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations, rather than “big bang” initiatives. A process of rapid incrementalism enhances learning potential and creates opportunities for further innovations.
- The strategic impact of IT investment comes from the cumulative effect of sustained initiatives to innovate business practices in the near-term. The strategic differentiation emerges over time, based less on any one specific innovation in business practice and much more on the capability to continuously innovate around the evolving capabilities of IT.
According to JH3 and JSB: far from believing that the potential for strategic differentiation through IT is diminishing, we would maintain that the potential is increasing, given the growing gap between IT potential and realized business value.
So how does IT become more strategic?
The Wall Street Journal‘s Rachael King recommends:
CIOs also need to bring some transparency to their operations by sitting down with business leaders and going over the budget and setting priorities together. The CIO needs to also actively market how the IT department is driving value in terms that business can understand. For example, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson recently published an annual IT report where she detailed how her department implemented advanced data analytics that helped drive $351 million in revenue for the company.
The ability for Ms. Stevenson to demonstrate the value of her organization’s work in dollars and cents is changing how IT is perceived in the company. It changes the relationship from that of a service provider, a department that helps people set up servers or configure PCs, to one that uses technology to solve business problems.
CIOs must demonstrate and quantify the business value of IT.
What does this mean for the sales people of IT company’s trying to sell to CIOs? It means that the role of the CIO is often supplanted by business executives. (In my discussions with our clients, I often emphasize this point.)
IT is so strategic, one could argue, that it is no longer left to IT. Often it is CMOs and other non-IT business executives who are actively pursuing the mobile, social, and analytics strategies that are creating the organizational pull for new approaches to rapid application development, and as a by-product, the cloud services offerings needed to enable those strategies.
The new generation of IT will support new business strategies. This means that any vendor selling IT solutions will have to speak the language of business strategy. And most importantly, the vendor will have to show the client how to achieve the “promised” benefits of IT.
So here’s the takeaway: CIOs must work on getting a place at the strategy table. When they do, they are viewed as effective business partners. What must the CIO do to be viewed as a strategic partner?
– Does your company have a clear view of how advances in IT (Big Data, AI, IoT, Cloud Computing) is likely to reshape your relevant markets over the next five years?
– What areas of business growth can IT contribute to?
– Does your company have an equally clear view of the implications for the changes you will need to make to continue to create value?
– Are these views shared effectively among your senior managers across the organization?
– Does senior management recognize the risks and uncertainties as part of the decision-making process?
– Has your company been sufficiently aggressive in using IT to improve strategic areas of your operations?
– Are there opportunities to use IT to improve operations around existing products and services?
– Are their opportunities to use IT to significantly reduce costs and cycle time in existing work processes?
– What are the data sources? How will you monitor them? How do you trigger events based on the intelligence gathered from the data? Is there a profit or cost-savings optimization opportunity?
Why CIOs should be business-strategy partners Feb 2015, McKinsey
Most CIOs are Not Seen as Influencing Corporate Strategy: Report, Feb 2015, Wall Street Journal
Public Cloud a first choice for minority of projects: Gartner CIO survey, March 2015, ARN
How does innovation happen? Most company’s struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today’s tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:
- new ways of thinking,
- new business models,
- new processes,
- new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
- and new products (offerings including services)
- Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
- Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
- Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
- Wandering minds are more creative.
- Studying a field “too much” doesn’t limit creativity — it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
- The “accept everything” mantra of brainstorming doesn’t work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
- ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you’re drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
- Even with teams, it’s better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
Here’s an interesting classification or segmentation of change makers (from Deloitte) along with some advice on how to make a difference via collaboration >>
Steady Supplier: Combine your contextual knowledge with the Public Value Innovators to create new value
Multirational Multinational: Engage with Citizen Changemakers to gain local insights and ideas
Investors: Connect Wavemakers to amplify impact
Public Value Innovator: Leverage the reach of the Multinationals to reach more communities
Citizen Changemaker: provide feedback to all in order to get to root issues
The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>
The 2008 video version is here >>
I know what some of you are thinking – “Well, did America have a soul to begin with?” I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is “We, the people…”
Furthermore, I’m quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)
But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan’s Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?
BUY now >>
- How can companies take better care of their employees–and thrive?
- Why don’t they see the opportunities in creating social value?
- Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
- What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
- How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
- How can public education prepare all students for the future?
- How can better health care be made available without doctors?
- How can communities do something about global warming?
- How can you make a difference?
- Why should you care?
Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people–starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.
The very idea of the “United” States is based on the principles of inclusivity–all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.
What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other – finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.
The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.
This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won’t have one without the other.
The book includes the following sections:
- What Is INCLUSIVITY?
- Inclusive World
- Inclusive Entrepreneur
- Inclusive Economy
- Inclusive Cities
- Inclusive Education
- Inclusive Health
- Inclusive Leadership
- Inclusive Future
Let us know what you think!
P.S. – We don’t want this, do we?
I go to my local bookstore, drink a coffee and browse the shelves. When I get home, I rush to the computer and buy the books I fancied – online! If it’s a business book, I download a copy on my digital reader, and if it’s a literary work, I buy the physical book at a discounted price.
As a way to assuage my guilt, I’ve thought of some ways to help my local bookstore survive – because, like so many of us, I love the physical bookstore experience – nothing beats the Zen practice of disinterested info-grazing – and I’d like to continue to enjoy it.
However, I notice at my local Barnes & Noble that they’re busy selling Nook ereaders in every cranny. [Do they really think they can compete with the iPad or even Kindle?] Is this really going to save the physical store? Nope.
Most likely, it’s an idea dreamt up by the financial types at headquarters who’ve been “missioned” to tap into the digital value-stream. After all, why should B&N just stand there and watch their profits drift lazily down a South American river? It’s important to note that despite B&N saying the Nook is a “success,” they still rely on brick and mortar stores (retail and college bookstores) for over 75% of their revenue and the competition is going to become even more intense with dozens of new tablet and reader devices being introduced this year.
And how does B&N take a trip down the Nile? Apparently, the secret sauce is that they allow Nook owners to take their devices into any B&N physical store and read any e-book for free. Nooktalk tells us that in reality, it’s not exactly a seamless reading experience.
And now that Amazon allows Kindle owners to “lend” books to each other, the Nook may find itself in the, ahem, corner.
So what can your local bookstore do to take advantage of its strengths?
Here are three suggestions to shake up the physical bookstore business model:
Daily Book Rental
Why can’t the bookstore become a pay-as-you-read library? As a kid growing up in India, I remember borrowing books (alright, some these were Asterix and Tintin comics) from the bookstore for a daily fee. This business model shows some reverse innovation promise. Can you imagine “tiered pricing” linked to free coffee rewards? Sign up for the all-you-can-read buffet. And of course, we get to pay fines if we return our books late.
Publish and Distribute Local Books
What if a physical copy of your book gets published in-store and sold in your town’s bookstore?
Can you visualize a “Newbie Authors” section where one copy of your book gets to sit on the shelf for a week? If it doesn’t sell in a week, you can either pay for shelf space or you can buy your books back. The minute you or your mother buys your Great American Novel, a new one is printed and placed on the shelf. The top 5 bestsellers in each town get national distribution and placement for a week. Book fest!
Nurture Communities of Interest
- Healthy Living
- Food + Wine
- Art History
How does a bookstore do this? If you’re Barnes and Noble, you could hire retired teachers to do this; pick people who are enthusiastic and spread their love of the subject. If you’re a small bookstore, you can still find enthusiastic community leaders to do the same – in fact you can specialize, and create a niche around the main clientele in your store.
Does all of this sound a bit off the wall? Good, then it’s worth a try. The Nook, I’m sorry to say, isn’t going to save Barnes & Noble.
P.S. Over at HBR, Sarah Green gives us another suggestion: Amazon should partner with Independent Bookstores!
Michael Gordon‘s book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers – the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world.
The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:
1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?
2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?
The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…
Are you a changemaker? Go find out >>
P.S. – you can download the PDF version here >>
No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. That’s the power of ecosystem disruption. The power of the Voice of the Planet (VoP).
I first met Bob Freling at a board meeting of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in San Francisco several years ago. At the time, I felt that here was an NGO doing innovative things but not getting enough visibility for their work. They were solar way before solar was cool.
What struck me is how informal and close the board members were. One of the board members – Larry Hagman (good ol’ J.R. Ewing) – did a brilliant set of solar commercials which I think says a lot about his character and wanting to make the world a better place (quite the opposite of his TV character!). But I digress.
The story here is that SELF pioneered the use of solar power to fight “energy poverty” across a spectrum of applications with their “solar integrated development model” – from clean water, to drip irrigation to improve food security, to electricity for health clinics, schools, and micro-enterprise.
In his blog post about the $300 House Energy Challenge, Bob explains:
“It’s simple really. First, solar energy powers pumps and filters for clean water. This also enables drip irrigation for critical crops. Once people have those necessities, the solar energy is used to power health care facilities which can power equipment and refrigerate vaccines, for example. This increasingly healthy population can then open schools which are powered by solar to provide computer and Internet-based learning. Finally, these well-fed, well-cared for, well-educated villagers can begin community and entrepreneurial activities to grow their economy.”
Bob’s optimism is tempered with reality. The Millennium Development Goals won’t be achieved without energy access, he explains in another blog post. In case you forgot what the MDGs are (as I often do) they’re listed as:
1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
2) achieving universal primary education;
3) promoting gender equality and empowering women;
4) reducing child mortality;
5) improving maternal health;
6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and
8) building a global partnership for development.
Note that they are interrelated, ecosystemic problems – and that from Bob’s perspective, energy is the key factor which makes all of them feasible.
With the $300 House project, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the approaches for dealing with the poor are often not very constructive, and sometimes end up doing more damage than good. That’s what $300 House adviser Stuart L. Hart is talking about when he says we need to create smaller problems. It is also a concern of our critics on the $300 House. When I spoke to Matias Echanove recently, he was concerned that mass produced housing could in fact disrupt the local economy – the small businesses that are based in informal slums around the country. I hear him.
Our $300 House project is exploring ways to integrate services and jobs into the ecosystem as well, and we’re reaching out to talk to the leaders in the communities that are interested in this approach. In India, we’ve just completed a survey – with the help of THL – that covers 15 villages in three of the poorest states in India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. I’ll go into more detail in a later post.
For me the question is quite simple – we see an explosion of interest in developing integrated townships for the middle class in India, but why is there nothing comparable for the poor? To borrow a phrase from the US, why can’t we build “master-planned communities” for the poor?
Is it too much to ask that governments, NGOs and development institutions, and businesses work together with the communities involved to build integrated solutions?
Unfortunately, there are far too few examples of collaborative development. This is something we all need to look at urgently. There is also a problem of ownership. The development community, NGOs, and most governments think they “own” the problem. Unfortunately, without a business mindset to make solutions scale, their is so little real progress.
The poor remain poor.
And that’s why the work Paul Polak is doing is so important. He’s looking at making small changes at the bottom of the pyramid; small changes that make a big difference in the earnings of the poor. This is also the approach advocated by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee in Poor Economics.
At a much larger scale, we see an example in the Gates Foundation‘s approach – which is all about examining the ecosystems of poverty. A common criticism of the Gates Foundation goes along these lines: “How can people like Gates, living in a different universe, help people at the bottom of the pyramid?” This is a false and damaging argument, but answered quite well by Sam Dryden:
“Some people may ask how my team and I–working at the world’s largest foundation located in a prosperous corner of a rich nation–can relate to a subsistence farming family in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. This is a very reasonable question to ask. The farmer has a direct connection to the land and we are considerably removed, both by distance and culture. We begin by realizing these differences and humbly listening to farmers and their families, learning and respecting their cultures, ways of living, and knowledge of place and home. The solutions we seek are those appropriate and welcomed in this context, not those imposed by distant values or interests.”
And finally, perhaps there is an alternative to the giant top-down programs, and incremental bottom-up “Let the Poor Do It Themselves” approaches we’ve encountered.
With the $300 House, we’re thinking micro-development – is it possible to build integrated micro-solutions at the village level? And in cities, at the neighborhood level?
When I first started working on classifying online ecosystems, I had no idea that my thinking there would influence my thoughts on the $300 House. But now it seems like the systems approach to understanding wicked problems is pretty much the only way to go. None of this is new, of course, but I’m still impressed at the power of ecosystem thinking.
Here’s how Nobel prize laureate Gunnar Myrdal was thinking about the problems of race and poverty:
The “vicious circle” has not yet made its way into our political thinking though, if we judge the policy makers of today’s Congress. Heck, they can’t even bring themselves to accept the effects of global warming – in no small part thanks to our lobbyist friends.
The idea of poverty as the outcome of a dysfunctional ecosystem is explained here as well:
Note that this applies to poverty in the US as well, not just the emerging world.
So, part of tackling the issue of affordable housing for the poor is to try to understand the interconnected nature of these problems. I tried to draw causal arrows between the various problems, but gave up. In essence, we have a problem of insecurity, in which all of these factors must be addressed simultaneously if we are to change the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, and suffering. Here’s what I ended up with:
The poor live in an insecure, unbalanced universe.
I’m calling it the “ecosystems of poverty.”
Next we’ll look at the idea of integrated development (another old idea) which fell out of favor, but must be re-evaluated in today’s light if we are serious about poverty alleviation.
Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.
Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:
The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.
Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?
Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course – VG, my partner in crime.
This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:
Then it hit me. This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities. If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.
Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He’s talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:
When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.
Read all about it >>
The Solar Electric Light Fund‘s Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.
Here’s Bob waxing eloquent:
Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care,
educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House
completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and
their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and
Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>
The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.
But Umair Haque asks the right questions:
- Do designers have a seat in the boardroom — or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
- Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
- Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to “real” business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
- Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow’s big ideas?
- How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?
We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn’t going to work anymore.
Cracking the challenge of slums is the world’s biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.
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We’re building a “creationspace” (JSB’s word) for the $300 House-for-the-Poor at 300house.com >>
Please sign up, and tell your friends!
Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).
The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation” (inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.
What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.
This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered – without the traditional assumptions.
Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe – from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.
So what are we waiting for? It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!