Five powerful ideas for global impact from social entrepreneurs Part 3: Design Is important, distribution Is key


Photo: World Economic Forum

21st January 2016

D-Rev is a non-profit social enterprise that designs and develops medical devices for poor people such as prosthetic knees for amputees and phototherapy units to treat jaundiced babies. d.light is a for-profit social enterprise that has distributed more than 50 million solar lights and power solutions to off-grid households. Both organizations are widely respected as market leaders in human-centered design, and both Krista Donaldson, a mechanical engineer and CEO of D-Rev, and Ned Tozun, a co-founder of d.light, offer surprising insights about the design process.
Given both social enterprises are so famous for their product design, it is telling both Ned Tozun and Krista Donaldson emphasize distribution as the toughest nut to crack. “We thought if you have a great product at a great value for money, it’s just going to sell,” said Ned Tozun. “But distribution, marking, and branding required even more innovation than on the product side.”
“We realized early on we can’t do everything, so we work with partners – NGOs, faith-based groups, and for-profits – to achieve our mission, which means getting our products to our target users,” says Krista Donaldson. “Once the product hits the market, it needs to be entirely economically self-sustaining with profit margins built-in so that if D-Rev disappears tomorrow, the product will continue to be sold.”

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