Category Archives: international development

Registration Opens for ForSE 2008-Forum for Social Entrepreneurs

In 2007, I helped found an annual conference on Social Entrepreneurship in partnership with Boston University and the Deshpande Foundation called the Forum for Social Entrepreneurship or ForSE for short. ForSE brings together social innovators with leading business professionals, investors, donors, government officials, academics, and students to facilitate the sharing of new technology and business ideas along with hard-earned management learnings to foster informed discussion and action on new social venture concepts. Continue reading

India’s Poor Get Health Care in a Card

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “India’s Poor Get Health Care in a Card”, outlines a program being launched in India to provide affordable healthcare to the masses.  The key component of the program, which is targeted at those earning less than $100 per year, is the use of a secure smart card to store the beneficiary’s personal data and fingerprints.

By bringing together insurance companies and hospitals to address this segment, it hopes to providing healthcare to a target population that has seldom been able to afford it. The government is going to underwrite part of the costs while hospitals and insurance companies see it as an opportunity for them to extend their customer base. Continue reading

Paul Polak’s Twelve Steps to Practical Problem Solving

Paul Polak is a physiatrist by training but has spent the past 25 years working to alleviate poverty in the developing world. His non-profit, International Development Enterprises, has come up with innovative low cost technologies that have improved the local livelihood of people at the bottom of the pyramid. For example the simply designed bamboo treadle pump has sold over 1.7 million copies and generated over $1.4 billion in farmer revenue in Bangladesh.

Paul has encapsulated his learnings in a book Out of Poverty that describes a number of these technologies. More recently, Paul has posted an interesting video on You tube that summarizes his Twelve Steps to Practical Problem Solving.

Some of the observations are commonsense ones but it is remarkable how often people forget them in their eagerness to push technology.

7 Rules of Low Cost Design

I came across this article that summarizes Amy Smith’s philosophy of design for low cost solutions

Here are her 7 key points. You can read the entire article on Popular Mechanics.

  1. Try living for a week on $2 a day.
  2. Listen to the right people.
  3. Do the hard work needed to find a simple solution.
  4. Create “transparent” technologies
  5. Make it inexpensive.
  6. If you want to make something 10 times cheaper, remove 90 percent of the material
  7. Provide skills, not just finished technologies.

Some of Amy’s inventions and designs are also described with diagrams in another article Small, Low-Tech Inventions for Big, World-Changing Problems on their website. Amy is an editorial advisor for Popular Mechanics.

International Development Design Summit

Yesterday I attended the final presentation of the International Development Design Summit at MIT – the brainchild of Amy Smith, MacArthur Fellow and lecturer in MIT’s Mechanical Engineering department. This, now yearly, event brought together nearly 60 students from 20 countries around the world to work together with a team of mentors and staff to tackle a number of design problems facing NGOs and non-profits in developing countries. Continue reading