Social Enterprise Symposium: Transforming Business for
the Global Good
5 – 9 p.m. Thursday, March 25
Frank Auditorium, 1524 Van Munching Hall
Global Patent: Designs for the Developing World
The Base of the Pyramid, a term that describes the poorest segment of the
world’s population, provides a wealth of entrepreneurial opportunities as well
as a chance to better the world. The panel discussed the design, marketing and
delivery of products and services to the developing world. Moderated by David
Lovell, Associate Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at the A.
James Clark School of Engineering, and Director of the local chapter of
Engineers without Borders at the University of Maryland, the diverse panel
consisted of three social entrepreneurs.
Greg Van Kirk, Co-Founder of The New Development Solutions Group, an umbrella
organization creating access to essential products and services in rural areas
around the world, presented an overview of the micro-consignment organization of
the company. It’s an efficient and cost effective model, in which local
entrepreneurs market and deliver the products and services to consumers. A key
point with regard to marketing was addressed when Van Kirk pointed out that it
is important to price products and services just right because there is a
difference in what is perceived as cheap rather than inexpensive. Value creation
is the key to success.
Rajan Patel, Product Manager at Embrace, a development company specializing
in the design of low cost products, discussed the challenges in the design
process of a product targeted for the developing world. Embrace is in the design
and testing process of a non-electric $25 incubator designed for rural
mothers-to-be in India. Patel discussed the challenges of this process, from the
reluctance of local women to give critical feedback for the product because of
cultural norms to bureaucratic gridlock in working with government authorities.
The key point of Patel’s presentation was that the designer does not have the
answers; it is the consumer who does and that is why clear communication is so
Tony Ciochetti, Thomas G. Eastman Chair & Director of the Center for Real
Estate at MIT, described the design process of a $1,000 house from the initial
student competition of a winning design, to building a prototype. The MIT’s “liveable,
sustainable, affordable” $1,000 shelter would be adapted to different environs
and cultures around the developing world. Ciochetti warned against imposing U.S.
or western ideas when designing for the developing world; rather, we should
The session concluded with a question and answer session for the audience and
moderator Lovell’s remark that social entrepreneurship is not easy but with hard
work and willingness to make and learn from one’s failures, one can achieve
success. (Jake Bies, Class of 2012)