My Week’s Discoveries: Healthcare & Design

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the healthcare world for obvious reasons, and have been immersing myself with knowledge from all angles. One of the more fascinating angles is the cross section of healthcare and design. Here’s a couple of my favourite findings:

1) Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

It’s been a while since I’ve read a work of fiction and I was highly recommended this book by my Acumen Fund colleagues. I finished this book over the weekend and was so captured by the story, outraged on behalf of the protagonist, delighted by the intensity, and overall overwhelmed at how beautifully written this book was. It’s a story that takes place from Ethiopia to New York, about love, medicine and the intertwining of fate.

We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We’ll leave much unfinished for the next generation

– Cutting for Stone, A. Verghese

2) Butaro Hospital in Rwanda 

When you look at East Africa’s healthcare landscape, Rwanda stands out as a medical success. Health indicators have improved on all counts since the genocide, all primarily due to the success of a universal health insurance, where the poorest 25% of Rwandans get free medical care. One of my favourite things about the Rwandan healthcare landscape is a hospital, Butaro hospital that was designed by MASS Design Group The hospital has no hallways, so patients can’t gather in close spaces, and the air in the wards are changed more than 12 times per hour to prevent patients from being infected by other patients – particularly, with multi-drug-resistant TB.

Image taken from: ArchDaily by Iwan Baan

3) Future of healthcare is Social – Fast Company 

I recently was in Tanzania attending and speaking at a mobile health conference organized by USAID and the MInistry of Health of Tanzania. The theme at hand was the increasing technology and mobile penetration that is changing the health landscape in Africa. There are over 500 mhealth projects deployed around the world with the majority of projects (over 30%) being in Africa. I really enjoyed this article by Fast Company on the increasing social nature that comes along with the increased technology presence in healthcare. Also worth reading is another article by Fast Company, on 5 steps to designing a better healthcare system.

4)  Design for trust – UX Magazine 

Good design isn’t beautiful. Good design builds trust. As an investor, when I evaluate healthcare interventions, I look to see how the service accounts for factors that matter to a person’s dignity: they way they are being treated, training of healthcare staff and accessibility of information. This is especially important when dealing with the poor, who are used to being marginalized, and not receiving proper service. The article is more web-based trust, but relevant nevertheless, when thinking about how you interact with a patient. At the end of the day, when receiving medical news, everyone wants information that is “correct, complete and unbiased.”

7) Designing Handwashing – Core77

An older article, but a goodie in addressing one the most fundamental issues in healthcare: Handwashing. A great read in exploring: Movement Design, Muscle memory, movement scripts and fluidity.

Invest2Innovate: Addressing the Disconnect in the Social Enterprise Space

*The post below was orig­i­nally pub­lished on on Nov 25, 2011

In the social enterprise world, one key issue that constantly resurfaces, as it would in any growing sector, is one of funding and identifying a proper investment pipeline. The accessibility and  availability of start-up funding is crucial to startups, and in the case of social enterprises, a largely untapped market. Here’s whereInvest2Innovate (i2i) comes into the picture. They are a social enterprise intermediary that supports the growth of social entrepreneurship in new markets, helping funders and early stage entrepreneurs see eye to eye.

I had the opportunity to connect with Kalsoom Lakhani the founder and CEO of i2i to interview her about her recently launched social enterprise. A trailblazer and native to Pakistan, Lakhani launched i2i’s pilot in Pakistan in September 2011 with plans to expand operations to other countries post 2012. Here’s what she has to say about her startup and the space:

1) What is most interesting to you right now in the social enterprise space? 
There are many interesting innovations taking place right now – from groundbreaking SMS crowd-mapping tools to agriculture-based innovations for small farmers. Innovative tools & approaches of engaging and empowering low-income communities are coming up constantly. But I’m also extremely interested in the growth of the impact investment space, and where we are right now in terms of the community as an emerging asset class, whether or not this type of investment breeds better social impact metrics, and whether the capital is flowing to the right places. There are still a lot of spaces we need to fill when it comes to connecting capital to social enterprises, particularly at the early-stage, and it’s interesting to see how crowd-funding and other innovative ways of raising capital are becoming potential solutions to help fill that gap.

2) Why start up i2i? Why is this the time to enter into the market? 
i2i was launched in order to help address some of the disconnects in the social entrepreneurship space. Prior to launching the company, I worked in venture philanthropy for over three years, providing seed funding and support to early-stage social enterprises mainly in Pakistan. I was first exposed to the “space” then, and quickly immersed myself in all things social entrepreneurship & innovation. It has been fascinating and motivating to see growing ecosystems in markets like India, Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Chile are good examples), and East Africa. Beyond higher access to capital (a lot of impact investors operate in these countries), we’ve seen the growth of other players that further support social enterprise – incubators, accelerators, government policies (in some cases), intermediaries, etc.

i2i was founded to take a similar ecosystem approach in the “untapped” markets – that’s a lot of jargon I know, but essentially we provide tailored services to early-stage social enterprises to grow their businesses and connect them to capital. Pakistan, our pilot market, is a great example of a country where there is a significant need for more innovative and market-based approaches to development – 66% of the population live on under $2 a day – but where the environment for social entrepreneurship is relatively new. Entrepreneurs often lack the tools & services to maximize the potential of their models and attract capital, especially in markets like Pakistan, where the volatile political and security situation hurt the investor environment. There is a lot opportunity for i2i, as an intermediary, along with other partner organizations, to be the architects of the ecosystem, fostering the social entrepreneurship space both from the top-down and the bottom-up.

3) What is the biggest misconception you see in the world of social enterprise and where do you stand on the issue? 
I think the biggest misconception in social enterprise is that it’s ok to stop at the “warm & fuzzy” and throw the term around irresponsibly. It drives me crazy. Social enterprise ultimately combines the best of the business and the charity world – it begs the question, “Could we magnify social impact if we take a business approach to development?” Social entrepreneurship is not the solution to everything, but in some cases, it can be really effective. For instance, if rural low-income communities that are off the electricity grid use kerosene as their light and heat source, not only is it a costly product, but it poses terrible health and environmental ramifications. Displacing this demand for kerosene with clean energy solutions provides these low-income communities with better alternatives at comparable prices, ultimately contributing to poverty alleviation. Social enterprises need to demonstrate social and/or environmental impact – that is what tends to qualify the “social” in the equation, but at the end of the day, they are businesses that need to have strong models and be sustainable in the long-term. Sometimes that gets lost in the “warm & fuzzy” stories we hear in the space, which are great in communicating an organization’s vision and building a community of supporters, but there needs to be substance behind that story.

4) What is one action would like people to take once they know if i2i? 
If you are a social enterprise, especially in Pakistan (since that is our pilot), get in touch with us to get an assessment of your business and how i2i can provide services (from business development to communications/marketing) to help your organization grow. If you are a potential investor (both for i2i and/or interested in early-stage enterprises in new markets), we’d love to talk to you! And finally, if you are just a supporter, we are always excited to hear your feedback and make our model better.

Kalsoom is a the founder of invest2innovate based in Washington, D.C. She is a co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30, and is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers.  She has written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, and Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper. Get in touch:

Design at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Segmenting the Base

I currently work in the financial sector, specifically asset management – and although the nature of my work doesn’t really focus on the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), I’ve made it my personal mission apart from work to be absorbing, learning, writing, designing, discussing, reading, and (insert other synonyms of previously listed adjectives here) issues at the BoP… and somewhere in that discovery have found a sweet spot in social enterprises and impact investing.

What I have been drawing on my current position and my research on the side is an interesting perspective from both ends of the specturm: capitalist vs. social. I did want to share today (coming from this double ended perspective) is my practical idealism and thoughts on answering the question of: How can I design/frame/create solution(s) that would help the BoP improve their standard of living. (I was also inspired by this post on OpenIDEO on designing for low-income communities)

This question has been one that has been asked over and over again and I would like to throw my thoughts into the stirring pot particularly in the area of segmenting the BoP.  This would be Part 1 of X and I would like to preface my thoughts by stating that the most important piece in this design is designing the solution around the terms of the BoP – taking into account culture, resources, country mentality/beliefs, business environment and politics. Anything that we design or create to help this segment has to be very very good and on their terms in order to be sustainable ( although now I wonder whether this is even possible – after all capitalism is a broken structure in itself. But I digress!).

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jametiks

I have narrowed it down into three ways to segment the BoP:

1) Living Standard:

Those living at the BoP can be sliced into three main categories: Low Income – $3-$5 a day; Subsistence – $1 – $3 a day; and Extreme poverty – Under $1 a day. Often, this ecosystem is overlooked and are lumped into one. Most aid, social enterprises and businesses only affect the Low Income portion of the segment as they provide affordable services and products that require a financial exchange. If some businesses are really lucky, they get to skim on the surface of the subsistence group with enough scale and good management. Some social or local enterprises manage to hit this second group indirectly through local community or supply chain engagement. As for those in extreme poverty, lack of nutrition, finances and limited education make them the most vulnerable. This is where governmental relief programs and non-profits step in. So how can we design social businesses that target all three groups?

I know some businesses hope to achieve this by scale, but perhaps another way to look at it would be to design into the business structure from the start a waterfall effect of each group helping to elevate the next as they are being given a hand up.

2) Value-Creation

Another way of segmenting the BoP is through value creation: consumers, producers and co-producers. By understanding the roles we play in the pyramid, we can then understand the incentives that drive each group. Income, basic needs, material wants. The first two groups are self-explanatory. However, the third requires more than just business structure. It requires a shift in our perspective and approach and considering the poor as equals in our shared humanity. We are co-producers and the BoP are no longer receivers of what we give them. This third value-creation group is perhaps the most important as numerous businesses have stumbled by failing to understand their role as a co-creator of value. All too often, they see their responsibilities end with the provision of a service or product but really, their role is so much more.

When I was working on the ground with an orphanage in Soweto, South Africa one of the key lessons I took away was to always know where you are creating value and to never try to be everything to everyone. You often find in brainstorm sessions that everyone always has a vision to be the hub, to offer everything – which is what I saw in this orphanage. They wanted to help kids with nutrition, provide money for education, counselling and often you’ll find in development sectors, there will always be something to do and to help in. Before you know it, you’ll be running around trying to catching all the falling pieces and wonder how you even got there in the first place. The key is knowing where we can design value. It might only be in one area – and that’s ok!

3) Need – Classification

The final segmentation is by need, and really draws on the first two to set a base of what is required. Needs classification breaks down into more macro pieces like: education, nutrition, housing, health, technology. Because the BoP’s needs are many, a business who is segmenting by this sector should enter a community by providing outstanding understanding of value…and that value should be a hand up for sustainability and empowerment.

Segmenting by need also means that the business’s ability to design the intersection of social and comercial value matters even more. This is because designing needs, means partnerships with other organizations, governments or businesses who might not have the same vision as we do.


What’s exciting is that at the end of the day, a new future is slowly being designed and sculpted in both developing and industrialized countries exploring the Base of the Pyramid. Now it’s really up to us to make sure we’re designing it right with all the right pieces in mind.

Dambisa Moyo: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa

I am so so unbelievably stockedexcitedhappybreathlessinanticipation for this event. Seriously.

I read her book, Dead Aid, when it first came out and it opened my eyes to a very different perspective of aid, development and the financial world. Her views are a challenge and a strong vision on how to address the global poverty issue. Spread the word (and read the book!)

Image from

The History of this Generation

“Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation.” – J F kennedy

(Fwd to 17:15) Jacqueline Novogratz Opening Speech at SoCap10

Watch live streaming video from socap10 at