Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit
By Christine Larson
This article is particularly interesting to me because it provides an example of a form of a “social business” (Muhammad Yunus’ type 1 organization that focuses on maximizing social benefit). As a nonprofit organization, D-REV‘s mission is to, “improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4 per day.” It seems like a broad mission, but they do so by designing and implementing various products that will provide high impact opportunities to those most in need. First, D-REV identifies a project that will improve the lives of 1 million +. The NPO then designs and delivers the product, tailoring scaling, and adapting to local needs. Serious studies of both the users and local context plays a big role. The products range from light therapy, as mentioned int he NYT article, to solar panels, to the pasteurization of milk.
So, after seven years of operations, what are the obstacles of this “social business?”
“D-Rev has had to become far more involved than it expected in financial models, licensing deals, consulting services and manufacturing arrangements. In essence, it is redesigning not only high-tech products but also supply chains and procurement systems.”
“To make sure that end prices remain low, D-Rev has needed to find manufacturing and distribution partners willing to cap prices and forgo substantial markups.”
“While the organization has learned much about [one product] in developing countries, specific experience with one condition may not apply to another.”
Regardless of persistent, complex problems, D-Rev is making serious strides in the nonprofit/social business sector. It has provided current donors with the education necessary to make the products successful; influenced and encouraged other NPO/social businesses; and emphasized collaboration between NPOs. Much will need to be done, but it appears that D-Rev is asking the right questions in the right context. I look forward to following D-Rev’s impact.
Larson, Christine. “Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/business/international/light-bulb-moments-for-a-nonprofit.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140112&_r=0>.