Friday, 18 May 2012

A Passing Thought On "Social" Networking..

So today we learn that the shares Facebook is selling today are valued at $18 Billion? That puts the company at what, around $100 Billion? I can't help, in passing, despair a little at this.

For a little perspective, some UNDP estimated costs:

Global cost of providing water = 9 Billion
Universal education = 6 Billion
Basic health & nutrition = 13 Billion
Maternal care = 12 Billion

When we look at what we value, and how highly; what we interact with day to day, sometimes the phrase "Social Network" seems like a dreadful irony.

If you want to, today might be a good day to tell a friend about us:
Get Involved

Friday, 4 May 2012

Red Button Design's CEO Addresses the MDG Summit.

This afternoon I was given the opportunity to address the Summit audience under Goal 7: "Environmental Sustainability"
(water, agriculture and energy).

My address was entitled "Water Solutions: Designing Against Dependency" as I used our Midomo water purifier as the case study to outline Red Button Design’s theory of change.

It is, however, equally applicable to any product or service geared towards affecting grassroots social change. It covers 15 basic points grouped into three stages (design, develop, deploy) which comprise best practise when generating base of the pyramid solutions.

The principles were extremely well received and provided the jumping off point for a great deal of theoretical and academic discussion. Of particular interest was the way we view possible alignments between commercially intelligent decisions and urgent social problems, with ethical business and social enterprises such as ours being front runners in the argument 'pro-profit'.

Midomo itself was met with its usual instant understanding and unanimous approval. We hope that the feedback from the audience this afternoon, towards both the product and the method of thinking that gave rise to it, is indicative of wider reaction. As we seek to roll (literally!) Midomo out to additional African countries and agencies, and release "Design Against Dependency" as an e-book for other BOP designers, this summer..

"Watch this space" - as they say!

MDG Summit, reflections on Day 1. (James)

The MDG Summit sees representatives from the private sector, governments, the UN and NGOs coming together to discuss how business can contribute to solving the challenges set out in the MDGs.

One of the key themes is the importance of partnerships; success, it is being argued, relies upon all implementing actors working together to achieve sustainable outcomes.

But with all this talk of donors, philanthropists, governments, businesses, charities and the UN all working together, one important stakeholder has been somewhat sidelined.

It is indicative, perhaps, of the distancing effect of working towards a set of global, all-encompassing development goals that throughout the first day of the conference very little mention has been made of the communities, families and individuals whose lives we are trying to improve.  One presentation in particular stood out in this regard, explaining a project which used the sale of carbon credits from reductions in emissions from boiling water to fund the provision of water filters to 900,000 households. Although innovative in its use of new funding models this project, as it was presented, seemed to totally avoid any kind of community engagement to understand the needs of those communities.  Although it could be argued that the provision of water filters to families in need is a no-brainer, I worry that without a deep understanding of the issues faced at a local level projects like this will not achieve the long-term outcomes they were designed to.

We must not let funding models, or even the MDGs become any more than the tools, else we risk losing sight of the very point of development work – to improve lives.