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  • My Week's Discoveries: Healthcare & Design

    10:47 am on November 20, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , BottomOfPyramid, ,

    I’ve been spend­ing a lot of time in the health­care world for obvi­ous rea­sons, and have been immers­ing myself with knowl­edge from all angles. One of the more fas­ci­nat­ing angles is the cross sec­tion of health­care and design. Here’s a cou­ple of my favourite findings:

    1) Cut­ting for Stone by Abra­ham Verghese

    It’s been a while since I’ve read a work of fic­tion and I was highly rec­om­mended this book by my Acu­men Fund col­leagues. I fin­ished this book over the week­end and was so cap­tured by the story, out­raged on behalf of the pro­tag­o­nist, delighted by the inten­sity, and over­all over­whelmed at how beau­ti­fully writ­ten this book was. It’s a story that takes place from Ethiopia to New York, about love, med­i­cine and the inter­twin­ing of fate.

    We are all fix­ing what is bro­ken. It is the task of a life­time. We’ll leave much unfin­ished for the next generation

    - Cut­ting for Stone, A. Verghese

    2) Butaro Hos­pi­tal in Rwanda 

    When you look at East Africa’s health­care land­scape, Rwanda stands out as a med­ical suc­cess. Health indi­ca­tors have improved on all counts since the geno­cide, all pri­mar­ily due to the suc­cess of a uni­ver­sal health insur­ance, where the poor­est 25% of Rwan­dans get free med­ical care. One of my favourite things about the Rwan­dan health­care land­scape is a hos­pi­tal, Butaro hos­pi­tal that was designed by MASS Design Group The hos­pi­tal has no hall­ways, so patients can’t gather in close spaces, and the air in the wards are changed more than 12 times per hour to pre­vent patients from being infected by other patients — par­tic­u­larly, with multi-drug-resistant TB.

    Image taken from: Arch­Daily by Iwan Baan

    3) Future of health­care is Social - Fast Company 

    I recently was in Tan­za­nia attend­ing and speak­ing at a mobile health con­fer­ence orga­nized by USAID and the MIn­istry of Health of Tan­za­nia. The theme at hand was the increas­ing tech­nol­ogy and mobile pen­e­tra­tion that is chang­ing the health land­scape in Africa. There are over 500 mhealth projects deployed around the world with the major­ity of projects (over 30%) being in Africa. I really enjoyed this arti­cle by Fast Com­pany on the increas­ing social nature that comes along with the increased tech­nol­ogy pres­ence in health­care. Also worth read­ing is another arti­cle by Fast Com­pany, on 5 steps to design­ing a bet­ter health­care sys­tem.

    4)  Design for trust - UX Magazine 

    Good design isn’t beau­ti­ful. Good design builds trust. As an investor, when I eval­u­ate health­care inter­ven­tions, I look to see how the ser­vice accounts for fac­tors that mat­ter to a person’s dig­nity: they way they are being treated, train­ing of health­care staff and acces­si­bil­ity of infor­ma­tion. This is espe­cially impor­tant when deal­ing with the poor, who are used to being mar­gin­al­ized, and not receiv­ing proper ser­vice. The arti­cle is more web-based trust, but rel­e­vant nev­er­the­less, when think­ing about how you inter­act with a patient. At the end of the day, when receiv­ing med­ical news, every­one wants infor­ma­tion that is “cor­rect, com­plete and unbiased.”

    7) Design­ing Hand­wash­ing — Core77

    An older arti­cle, but a goodie in address­ing one the most fun­da­men­tal issues in health­care: Hand­wash­ing. A great read in explor­ing: Move­ment Design, Mus­cle mem­ory, move­ment scripts and fluidity.

  • Invest2Innovate: Addressing the Disconnect in the Social Enterprise Space

    1:06 pm on November 26, 2011 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: BottomOfPyramid, , , ,

    *The post below was orig­i­nally pub­lished on on Nov 25, 2011

    In the social enter­prise world, one key issue that con­stantly resur­faces, as it would in any grow­ing sec­tor, is one of fund­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing a proper invest­ment pipeline. The acces­si­bil­ity and  avail­abil­ity of start-up fund­ing is cru­cial to star­tups, and in the case of social enter­prises, a largely untapped mar­ket. Here’s whereInvest2Innovate (i2i) comes into the pic­ture. They are a social enter­prise inter­me­di­ary that sup­ports the growth of social entre­pre­neur­ship in new mar­kets, help­ing fun­ders and early stage entre­pre­neurs see eye to eye.

    I had the oppor­tu­nity to con­nect with Kalsoom Lakhani the founder and CEO of i2i to inter­view her about her recently launched social enter­prise. A trail­blazer and native to Pak­istan, Lakhani launched i2i’s pilot in Pak­istan in Sep­tem­ber 2011 with plans to expand oper­a­tions to other coun­tries post 2012. Here’s what she has to say about her startup and the space:

    1) What is most inter­est­ing to you right now in the social enter­prise space? 
    There are many inter­est­ing inno­va­tions tak­ing place right now – from ground­break­ing SMS crowd-mapping tools to agriculture-based inno­va­tions for small farm­ers. Inno­v­a­tive tools & approaches of engag­ing and empow­er­ing low-income com­mu­ni­ties are com­ing up con­stantly. But I’m also extremely inter­ested in the growth of the impact invest­ment space, and where we are right now in terms of the com­mu­nity as an emerg­ing asset class, whether or not this type of invest­ment breeds bet­ter social impact met­rics, and whether the cap­i­tal is flow­ing to the right places. There are still a lot of spaces we need to fill when it comes to con­nect­ing cap­i­tal to social enter­prises, par­tic­u­larly at the early-stage, and it’s inter­est­ing to see how crowd-funding and other inno­v­a­tive ways of rais­ing cap­i­tal are becom­ing poten­tial solu­tions to help fill that gap.

    2) Why start up i2i? Why is this the time to enter into the mar­ket? 
    i2i was launched in order to help address some of the dis­con­nects in the social entre­pre­neur­ship space. Prior to launch­ing the com­pany, I worked in ven­ture phil­an­thropy for over three years, pro­vid­ing seed fund­ing and sup­port to early-stage social enter­prises mainly in Pak­istan. I was first exposed to the “space” then, and quickly immersed myself in all things social entre­pre­neur­ship & inno­va­tion. It has been fas­ci­nat­ing and moti­vat­ing to see grow­ing ecosys­tems in mar­kets like India, Latin Amer­ica (Mex­ico, Brazil, Chile are good exam­ples), and East Africa. Beyond higher access to cap­i­tal (a lot of impact investors oper­ate in these coun­tries), we’ve seen the growth of other play­ers that fur­ther sup­port social enter­prise – incu­ba­tors, accel­er­a­tors, gov­ern­ment poli­cies (in some cases), inter­me­di­aries, etc.

    i2i was founded to take a sim­i­lar ecosys­tem approach in the “untapped” mar­kets – that’s a lot of jar­gon I know, but essen­tially we pro­vide tai­lored ser­vices to early-stage social enter­prises to grow their busi­nesses and con­nect them to cap­i­tal. Pak­istan, our pilot mar­ket, is a great exam­ple of a coun­try where there is a sig­nif­i­cant need for more inno­v­a­tive and market-based approaches to devel­op­ment – 66% of the pop­u­la­tion live on under $2 a day – but where the envi­ron­ment for social entre­pre­neur­ship is rel­a­tively new. Entre­pre­neurs often lack the tools & ser­vices to max­i­mize the poten­tial of their mod­els and attract cap­i­tal, espe­cially in mar­kets like Pak­istan, where the volatile polit­i­cal and secu­rity sit­u­a­tion hurt the investor envi­ron­ment. There is a lot oppor­tu­nity for i2i, as an inter­me­di­ary, along with other part­ner orga­ni­za­tions, to be the archi­tects of the ecosys­tem, fos­ter­ing the social entre­pre­neur­ship space both from the top-down and the bottom-up.

    3) What is the biggest mis­con­cep­tion you see in the world of social enter­prise and where do you stand on the issue? 
    I think the biggest mis­con­cep­tion in social enter­prise is that it’s ok to stop at the “warm & fuzzy” and throw the term around irre­spon­si­bly. It dri­ves me crazy. Social enter­prise ulti­mately com­bines the best of the busi­ness and the char­ity world – it begs the ques­tion, “Could we mag­nify social impact if we take a busi­ness approach to devel­op­ment?” Social entre­pre­neur­ship is not the solu­tion to every­thing, but in some cases, it can be really effec­tive. For instance, if rural low-income com­mu­ni­ties that are off the elec­tric­ity grid use kerosene as their light and heat source, not only is it a costly prod­uct, but it poses ter­ri­ble health and envi­ron­men­tal ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Dis­plac­ing this demand for kerosene with clean energy solu­tions pro­vides these low-income com­mu­ni­ties with bet­ter alter­na­tives at com­pa­ra­ble prices, ulti­mately con­tribut­ing to poverty alle­vi­a­tion. Social enter­prises need to demon­strate social and/or envi­ron­men­tal impact – that is what tends to qual­ify the “social” in the equa­tion, but at the end of the day, they are busi­nesses that need to have strong mod­els and be sus­tain­able in the long-term. Some­times that gets lost in the “warm & fuzzy” sto­ries we hear in the space, which are great in com­mu­ni­cat­ing an organization’s vision and build­ing a com­mu­nity of sup­port­ers, but there needs to be sub­stance behind that story.

    4) What is one action would like peo­ple to take once they know if i2i? 
    If you are a social enter­prise, espe­cially in Pak­istan (since that is our pilot), get in touch with us to get an assess­ment of your busi­ness and how i2i can pro­vide ser­vices (from busi­ness devel­op­ment to communications/marketing) to help your orga­ni­za­tion grow. If you are a poten­tial investor (both for i2i and/or inter­ested in early-stage enter­prises in new mar­kets), we’d love to talk to you! And finally, if you are just a sup­porter, we are always excited to hear your feed­back and make our model better.

    Kalsoom is a the founder of invest2innovate based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. She is a co-ambassador for Sand­box, a global net­work of inno­va­tors under 30, and is also a mem­ber of the World Eco­nomic Forum’s Global Shapers.  She has writ­ten for the Wash­ing­ton Post, the Huff­in­g­ton Post, For­eign Pol­icy, and Pakistan’s Dawn News­pa­per. Get in touch:
  • Design at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Segmenting the Base

    11:08 pm on July 18, 2011 | 6 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: BottomOfPyramid, , , , , ,

    I cur­rently work in the finan­cial sec­tor, specif­i­cally asset man­age­ment — and although the nature of my work doesn’t really focus on the Bot­tom of the Pyra­mid (BoP), I’ve made it my per­sonal mis­sion apart from work to be absorb­ing, learn­ing, writ­ing, design­ing, dis­cussing, read­ing, and (insert other syn­onyms of pre­vi­ously listed adjec­tives here) issues at the BoP… and some­where in that dis­cov­ery have found a sweet spot in social enter­prises and impact investing.

    What I have been draw­ing on my cur­rent posi­tion and my research on the side is an inter­est­ing per­spec­tive from both ends of the spec­turm: cap­i­tal­ist vs. social. I did want to share today (com­ing from this dou­ble ended per­spec­tive) is my prac­ti­cal ide­al­ism and thoughts on answer­ing the ques­tion of: How can I design/frame/create solution(s) that would help the BoP improve their stan­dard of liv­ing. (I was also inspired by this post on OpenIDEO on design­ing for low-income communities)

    This ques­tion has been one that has been asked over and over again and I would like to throw my thoughts into the stir­ring pot par­tic­u­larly in the area of seg­ment­ing the BoP.  This would be Part 1 of X and I would like to pref­ace my thoughts by stat­ing that the most impor­tant piece in this design is design­ing the solu­tion around the terms of the BoP — tak­ing into account cul­ture, resources, coun­try mentality/beliefs, busi­ness envi­ron­ment and pol­i­tics. Any­thing that we design or cre­ate to help this seg­ment has to be very very good and on their terms in order to be sus­tain­able ( although now I won­der whether this is even pos­si­ble — after all cap­i­tal­ism is a bro­ken struc­ture in itself. But I digress!).

    Creative Commons License photo credit: Jametiks

    I have nar­rowed it down into three ways to seg­ment the BoP:

    1) Liv­ing Standard:

    Those liv­ing at the BoP can be sliced into three main cat­e­gories: Low Income — $3-$5 a day; Sub­sis­tence — $1 — $3 a day; and Extreme poverty — Under $1 a day. Often, this ecosys­tem is over­looked and are lumped into one. Most aid, social enter­prises and busi­nesses only affect the Low Income por­tion of the seg­ment as they pro­vide afford­able ser­vices and prod­ucts that require a finan­cial exchange. If some busi­nesses are really lucky, they get to skim on the sur­face of the sub­sis­tence group with enough scale and good man­age­ment. Some social or local enter­prises man­age to hit this sec­ond group indi­rectly through local com­mu­nity or sup­ply chain engage­ment. As for those in extreme poverty, lack of nutri­tion, finances and lim­ited edu­ca­tion make them the most vul­ner­a­ble. This is where gov­ern­men­tal relief pro­grams and non-profits step in. So how can we design social busi­nesses that tar­get all three groups?

    I know some busi­nesses hope to achieve this by scale, but per­haps another way to look at it would be to design into the busi­ness struc­ture from the start a water­fall effect of each group help­ing to ele­vate the next as they are being given a hand up.

    2) Value-Creation

    Another way of seg­ment­ing the BoP is through value cre­ation: con­sumers, pro­duc­ers and co-producers. By under­stand­ing the roles we play in the pyra­mid, we can then under­stand the incen­tives that drive each group. Income, basic needs, mate­r­ial wants. The first two groups are self-explanatory. How­ever, the third requires more than just busi­ness struc­ture. It requires a shift in our per­spec­tive and approach and con­sid­er­ing the poor as equals in our shared human­ity. We are co-producers and the BoP are no longer receivers of what we give them. This third value-creation group is per­haps the most impor­tant as numer­ous busi­nesses have stum­bled by fail­ing to under­stand their role as a co-creator of value. All too often, they see their respon­si­bil­i­ties end with the pro­vi­sion of a ser­vice or prod­uct but really, their role is so much more.

    When I was work­ing on the ground with an orphan­age in Soweto, South Africa one of the key lessons I took away was to always know where you are cre­at­ing value and to never try to be every­thing to every­one. You often find in brain­storm ses­sions that every­one always has a vision to be the hub, to offer every­thing — which is what I saw in this orphan­age. They wanted to help kids with nutri­tion, pro­vide money for edu­ca­tion, coun­selling and often you’ll find in devel­op­ment sec­tors, there will always be some­thing to do and to help in. Before you know it, you’ll be run­ning around try­ing to catch­ing all the falling pieces and won­der how you even got there in the first place. The key is know­ing where we can design value. It might only be in one area — and that’s ok!

    3) Need — Classification

    The final seg­men­ta­tion is by need, and really draws on the first two to set a base of what is required. Needs clas­si­fi­ca­tion breaks down into more macro pieces like: edu­ca­tion, nutri­tion, hous­ing, health, tech­nol­ogy. Because the BoP’s needs are many, a busi­ness who is seg­ment­ing by this sec­tor should enter a com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing out­stand­ing under­stand­ing of value…and that value should be a hand up for sus­tain­abil­ity and empowerment.

    Seg­ment­ing by need also means that the business’s abil­ity to design the inter­sec­tion of social and com­er­cial value mat­ters even more. This is because design­ing needs, means part­ner­ships with other orga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­ments or busi­nesses who might not have the same vision as we do.


    What’s excit­ing is that at the end of the day, a new future is slowly being designed and sculpted in both devel­op­ing and indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries explor­ing the Base of the Pyra­mid. Now it’s really up to us to make sure we’re design­ing it right with all the right pieces in mind.

  • Dambisa Moyo: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa

    9:27 pm on October 18, 2010 | 4 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , BottomOfPyramid, , , , , ,

    I am so so unbe­liev­ably stockedex­cit­ed­hap­py­breath­lessi­nan­tic­i­pa­tion for this event. Seriously.

    I read her book, Dead Aid, when it first came out and it opened my eyes to a very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of aid, devel­op­ment and the finan­cial world. Her views are a chal­lenge and a strong vision on how to address the global poverty issue. Spread the word (and read the book!)

  • The History of this Generation

    3:28 pm on October 17, 2010 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: BottomOfPyramid, , , ,

    Few will have the great­ness to bend his­tory; but each of us can work to change a small por­tion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be writ­ten the his­tory of this gen­er­a­tion.” — J F kennedy

    (Fwd to 17:15) Jacque­line Novo­gratz Open­ing Speech at SoCap10

    Watch live stream­ing video from socap10 at

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