Zero-Based Design

The Last 500 Feet

Developing practical and profitable new ways to cross the last 500 feet to the remote rural places where poor families now live and work is the first step towards creating vibrant new markets that serve poor customers. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to transport 100 kitchen drip kits from Kathmandu to Pokhara on the roof… Read More »

End Poverty or Bust

Creating a Runway for Profitable New Multinational Businesses to Transform Poverty By Paul Polak Five years ago, Steve Bachar and I decided to create a venture capital fund that would only invest in companies capable of achieving three goals: Transforming the livelihoods of at least 100 million customers living on $2 a day or less;… Read More »

The SunWater Project – Advanced Solar Technology for Poor Farmers

In my last article, you heard about SunWater, a project to build a radically affordable solar water pump for $2-a-day farmers that will transform small plot agriculture, create new water markets, and significantly increase incomes that will raise bottom-of-the-pyramid families out of poverty. Our target customers are small-plot farmers in India and Africa. These farmers… Read More »

Building A Better Mousetrap is Only the Beginning

Paul Polak Responds to Acumen Fund’s Lesson #6 – “Great Technology Alone is not the Answer”   Question: If you build a better mousetrap will the world beat a path to your door? Answer: Without superb marketing and distribution nobody beats a path to your door. In my work with a multitude of affordable technologies… Read More »

From Concept to Market: How to Design for Impact

This week, we’re happy to introduce a new Question-and-Answer blog format – where Paul Polak will post video answers to questions submitted on social media, for others to reference. If you have a question you’d like Paul to answer please tweet us at @OutofPoverty or e-mail Paul at Responding to Martin Herrndorf’s (@Herrndorf) blog post titled… Read More »

Affordable Design Comes to Denver – “Design for the Other 90%” – RedLine Gallery

by Kali Friedmann The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt “Design for the Other 90%” exhibit has arrived at RedLine Gallery in downtown Denver, showcasing products designed explicitly to fit the needs and circumstances of the world’s poorest customers – the “other 90%” who are bypassed by current design processes. The exhibit, organized in part by International Development Enterprises… Read More »

Death of Appropriate Technology II : How to Design for the Market

by Paul Polak The single biggest reason that the appropriate technology movement died and most technologies for developing countries never reach scale is that nobody seems to know how to design for the market. Over the past 30 years, I’ve looked at hundreds of technologies for developing countries. Some provided elegant solutions for challenging technical… Read More »

The Death of Appropriate Technology I : If you can’t sell it don’t do it

by Paul Polak The appropriate technology movement died peacefully in its sleep ten years ago. Launched in 1973 by Fritz Schumacher and his lovely book, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered in 1973, it inspired politicians as different as Pat Brown in California and Jawarhal Nehru in India, thousands of middle-aged dreamers like… Read More »

Design for the Other 90% and Wild Blueberries

by Paul Polak Many people see design as creating new mechanical tools – better widgets for controlling space, flight, or grinding corn. For me, design is creative problem solving. Designing new mechanical tools is often a critical first step, but far from sufficient for creative problem solving. On our quest to help poor smallholders improve… Read More »


by Paul Polak Replicating the Functions of the Aswan Dam on Two Acre Farms: Like all big dams, the High Aswan dam traps monsoon rainwater and stores it in the 550 km long Nasser Lake behind it, and distributes it by canal to farmers’ fields during dry season, when irrigation water is desperately needed to… Read More »