Acumen at the bottom of the pyramid

BusinessWeek’s most recent article on the Acumen Fund and the work they’re doing at the bottom of the pyramid, IDEO and all, is a must read. Here are some snippets,

Acumen uses classic consumer-focused design methods to solve the problems of poverty. Just as the Procter & Gambles (PG) and Motorolas (MOT)
of the corporate world conduct extensive ethnographic research, working
alongside their customers to create new products and services, Acumen’s
portfolio companies create from the bottom up.

Instead of shoppers at a
Los Angeles mall, however, they begin with people in villages like
Tanzania’s Usa River area. "Start with the individual," says Novogratz.
"Build systems from their perspective. Really pay attention, and then
see if they can scale."
[…]
It’s a new solution to a complicated problem made more difficult by the
complex government and business systems of India. But that’s the
benefit of design thinking. Rather than beginning with the structures
at hand and making assumptions about what is possible, Acumen begins
with the needs of the truly poor.

Very timely, in light of the needs highlighted by the recently released Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Here’s hoping that more and more companies get involved in this area.

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