Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Building Livelihoods

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Thursday 12 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are some of the most innovative models that are having a real impact on the livelihoods of people at the BoP?
  2. What are the some of the key challenges facing innovators when designing products, services and business models for the rural and urban poor?
  3. How important is gender in the success or otherwise of some of the marketing and distribution models?

Panelists include: Stephanie Hanson, One Acre Fund; Sampath Selvan, MKrishi; Keith Teichmann, Xylem; KC Mishra, eKutir; Alexa Roscoe, CARE International; Deborah Tien, AISE; Morgane Danielou, Farming First; Vincent Gainey, DFID.

Editor's Note:

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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Dear colleagues, 

You may visit a BoP business model at and could be replicate any rural area.


Hi Zahid, great question!  In many ways, we’ve adopted a philosophy of “designing” for rural communities, based upon small-holder farmer intimacy, needs identification and “pain point” mitigation.  However, engagement extends beyond good design and encompasses “serviceability.”  Noting the complex rural logistics associated with a sustainable business model, a service proposition must be built into the product design.

In addition, there's a lot of talk on models to sell to the BOP, but much less on how best to source from them.  This is a huge gap.    But it’s also very challenging to do because BOP producers tend to be quite small and often quite inefficient.  A lot of capacity building is needed before these models can work.  One example of how CARE has done this is in through “Living Blue”, a cooperative of indigo harvesters and artisans in r... These landless farmers use indigo which has been grown on the sides of the roads to make some truly beautiful products that are sold on the high streets of France, Canada and Australia. 

Some of the key challenges are:

1) Building a inclusive model (serving end to end need of rural & urban poor)

2) Defining long term benefits and scalability (Plan global and act local)

3) Last mile reach in technology (IVR, Mobile & web)

4) Integrating the model with various stakeholders at mutual benefit

In case of our PRIDE model:

Some of the challenges are Securing funding for PRIDE™,  Farmers’ willingness to change, Backlash from existing dealers,  Government policy changes and Social issues

How do you avoid corporate capture of farmers in that case? Also how do you ensure that the most poor farmers are able to participate rather than the better educated and 'market ready'?  These are the most difficult but the most in need of stepping up out of the bottom layer.

Sorry to take you back Alexa but what are some of your strategies to include women more into the major job/ employment market or production cycles?

For the rural poor, one of the biggest challenges is distribution. Once you develop an amazing product or service for the BoP, how do you actually get it within walking distance of where they live? There are some amazing low-cost solar lights that have been designed in the last few years, but all solar companies face the challenge of how to distribute their lights. In agriculture, there are excellent high-yield seeds and high-quality fertilizers available, but it's a huge logistics challenge to get that seed and fertilizer deep out into the rural areas where farmers need it most. One Acre Fund has developed a rural distribution network to serve 180,000 smallholder farmers, and we receive tons of inquiries from people who have developed energy and health products who want to know if they can use our distribution network! This shows us how challenging it is to develop a rural distribution network that is scalable.

Stephanie, PRIDE is provide in our online showcase here:


Vincent, we have found that farmers are willing to pay for extension services if they are bundled with credit. However, if extension services are delivered alone, farmers do not seem willing to pay.

Thanks Alexa for raising the issue of involving women. I'd like your thoughts on the UK Government supported New Alliance for food security in Africa which is trying to link corporate heavyweights with smallholder farmers in Africa and in particular trying to build far stronger models of female economic empowerment addressing both the role and potential of women in workforces and supply chains.

Thanks for great conversation!  Let's move on to what I think is a critical issue - that cuts across much of what we've been talking about this week: gender.

Q3: How important is gender in the success or otherwise of some of the marketing and distribution models?

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