Product Design for Social Good

Picture by Wonderlane

I came across this article on the Ashoka Tech page highlighting the 6 common pitfalls in product design for social good. Yep, good intentions don’t always lead to a successful outcome. The one that stuck out to me most?

“Pitfall #3: Failing to understand the user context. According to a study conducted by Duke University, up to 98% of donated medical equipment in developing countries is broken within five years. One major culprit? Power surges. Most donated equipment is designed for developed countries, where constant, reliable electricity supply is the norm. But in developing countries (particularly in rural areas), hospitals frequently face blackouts or brownouts, which end up frying their medical devices. While touring Pathan Hospital in Nepal, Tim’s design team discovered a cheap and simple solution; adding surge protectors to medical devices could prevent breakdowns and allow rural hospitals to save money on equipment. From this experience, Tim learned that context is king. Understanding situational nuances (especially in base-of-pyramid markets) allows entrepreneurs to better tailor their products and solve specific problems.”

Click here for the full list.

No one understands a challenge better than the locals. Seeing ourselves as the all-knowing being coming to “save” the poor and implementing blanket solutions to a situations we have not lived with or fully understood may lead to more harm than good.

Imagine this. You send a team of experts to a developing country to build wells for the locals. The completed wells is successfully bringing them fresh, clean water. Your work is done and you move on. 5 years later, a part of the mechanism in the well breaks. None of the locals have the knowledge or the needed materials to repair it, leaving them no choice but to abandon it. Not quite the solution you imagined, is it?

What might have worked better? Collaborating with the local craftsmen and engineers to fuse your knowledge with theirs, and construct the well with materials available locally. Train the locals on how each well works, so they’ll have the knowledge to keep the wells running long after you’re gone.

They brought up a great example of technology that’s been designed and implemented successfully… the Kinkajou Projector. Though it’ll take me a little more research to understand how they worked with the locals to develop the product, this video gives a great overview of a low-cost, low-powered device that is changing lives.


Subscribe in a reader

Bookmark and Share

Top Viral Videos of 2009

You’ve watched, you’ve laughed, you’ve forwarded them to your friends. These are the top 10 brand-driven videos of the year according to Visible Measures.

Standing at the number one spot with a reach of over 50 million? Those adorable roller-skating babies on the Evian ad.


Two things that’re almost sure winners in vids – animals and kids. Although I have to admit that watching those babies perform stunts I know they’re physically incapable of at that age irked me a little. The debate in my head on whether it was entirely motion-graphics or whether they filmed actual baby heads and stuck them on animated bodies took away from the cuteness factor.

Ranked at number two with over 26 million in reach is the T-Mobile Dance video.


Very fun. Makes me wish I were a part of it. Very fun to watch the prep too. Took place on Jan 15th 2009. Felt sad at the realization that the HTC Dance in Singapore actually came 10 months after. Not as original as I thought, especially since they’re both mobile phone companies. Still can’t beat the one at Oprah’s show though… Huge scale surprise right on the streets of Chicago… the best one in my opinion!

Microsoft Xbox’s Project Natal video takes the number three spot with a reach of over 22 million.


Only two videos in the top ten list gave me the urge to show them to my friends. This was one of them (the other was by Volkswagen). I love how it cuts right to the chase. No babies, no dancing, no outrageous stunts. Just a demonstration of the product and people using it. Very cool.

Check out the full list and stats on Advertising Age here. Thanks to @geekonomics for the tweet.

Subscribe in a reader

Bookmark and Share

Gripping reality of mental illnesses.

Watching this video made me cry. Probably because it’s a stark reminder of how my parents are quickly aging and the pain I don’t want them to face. I’ve already seen milder examples take place whilst I’ve been home, though they were probably more cases of absent-mindedness than a medical condition. These experiences have served as a reminder for me to be extra patient with them and to keep a lookout for their well-being. I hope my brother, who isn’t a thousand miles away from home like me, will do the same.

Produced for the Alzheimer’s Disease International Conference earlier this year, Going Home gives an incredibly moving account of what it’s like for an individual living with Dementia and how it affects his/her family.

Another simple storyline that’s incredibly effective. Physical and mental disability among people is more real and present than you think. I hope this encourages you to take a moment out of your hectic daily schedule to think about those at home. I hope you’ll make a more conscious effort to look around you. They might not ask for it, but some people close to you could really use a hand.

This video is property of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA). Thanks to the Health Promotion Board for helping to get the word out. And thanks mum, for e-mailing this to me.

Subscribe in a reader

Bookmark and Share

Take shots where previously too dangerous or inaccessible.

I remember when I was in the midst of filming for Beyond The Drive last year, I wanted to get a high angle shot of traffic, but wasn’t able to because of the lack of high-rise buildings in Evanston.

Well, such barriers could become a thing of the past. Draganfly will launch the Draganflyer X8 next year. Dang, i REALLY want one of those.

With its eight main horizontal rotor blades, it has the ability to carry DSLR and video cameras of about 1kg (2.2lb) to let you get beautiful and stable shots from up in the air.

For portability, it folds up and fits into a case! And if you’re like me – someone who’s never flown a remote controlled aircraft before – and you accidentally lead your device right into a mid-air collision and cause a motor to fail, your camera’s still safe. The remaining 7 motors will still keep it up.

Though its pricetag isn’t openly available right now, we can get a rough estimate from when they launched the previous model, the X6, at $14,000. Kinda out of my budget right now, but I look forward to seeing where it stands in a couple of years. :)

*rubs hands with glee*

I haven’t been able to find videos of it in action outside of the Draganfly site, but here’s one of the X6 in action.

Subscribe in a reader

Bookmark and Share