Peter Durand

PopTech SI Fellows: Design for Impact

In Design, Innovation, Pop!Tech on October 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Kevin Starr, Director of the Rainer Arnhold Fellows ProgramThe Mulago Foundation makes philanthropic investments in scalable solutions in health, development, and conservation in the Third World. As Director of the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program, Kevin Starr helps the brightest social entrepreneurs maximize the impact of their ventures in the developing world.

Kevin works in the “Two-Dollar-a-Day Crowd” coaching entrepreneurs through the process of conceiving, developing and testing products and services that address the real-world needs of the vast markets in developing and emerging markets. As an investor, the ultimate goal is positive impact.

Defining Impact

“We measure impact because it’s the only way to know whether our money is doing any good. In fact, we don’t invest in organizations that don’t measure impact – they’re flying blind and we would be too. Those organizations that do measure impact perform better and evolve faster, and discussions around measuring impact almost always lead to new ideas about effectiveness and efficiency.

“Everyone’s got their own definition of impact and here’s ours: Impact is a change in the state of the world brought about by an intervention. It’s the final result of behaviors (outcomes) that are generated by activities (outputs) that are driven by resources (inputs).”

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

Kevin’s organization invests in the work of emerging social entrepreneurs and run the Rainer Arnhold Fellow Program to help those young entrepreneurs design for maximum impact at scale.

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

As a very small operation, Mulago had to find a simple and systematic way to evaluate for scalability.

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

The Approach

Mulago’s investment approach is built around their friend Martin Fisher’s idea that scalable solutions have four critical characteristics: they have 1) real impact and are 2) cost-effective, 3) sustainable, and 4) replicable.

Martin used this idea to build an iconic organization, KickStart, which has gotten thousands of African farmers out of poverty.

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

Kevin believes that we’re long past the time when philanthropy can afford to ignore or get it wrong about what is scalable, and our experience is that while scalable stuff can be hard to find, it isn’t that hard to screen for.

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

The Process

Through a process of tracing the behaviors required for a new product or service to be viable–and useful–in a given context, we need to trace everything that would need to happen along the chain.

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

The better we get at channeling money to those who really know how to create change at scale, the more we’ll hasten the day when philanthropy starts to operate as an efficient market.

Kevin Starr, Designing for Impact

For more, check out:

“Go Big or Go Home: Investing in scalable solutions” by Kevin Starr, MD from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2008 download pdf


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