Today in D-Lab: Design, we have enjoyed a down-to-earth and intimate conversation with two very special guest speakers and long-time friends of D-Lab: Paul Polak, founder of non-profit International Development Enterprises (IDE) and D-Rev, and author of Out of Poverty, the course book we are usingin class; and Shawn Frayne, D-Lab alumni and founder of Humdinger Wind Energy, a company that manufactures a revolutionary new device for energy generation, the WindBelt.
Paul has very strong opinions about foreign aid and development work, backed by more than 25 years working with thousands of farmers around the world. After reading his book, D-Lab students had a wide array of questions to know more about or challenge his controversial opinions. The dialogue today revolved around redefining current approaches to alleviate poverty, where the amount of money is not the issue, but the donation model. Paul is a great defendant of the fact that one cannot donate people out of poverty; instead one should pursue a market-driven approach where people take the initiative to lift themselves out of poverty.There is a big potential for big businesses to have a positive impact in this world, but they should too redesign their approach to marketing for poor people: donwsizing or price-shifting is not the answer; products have to be specifically designed and marketed for these untapped markets. Paul is currently leading the efforts to create such a company to provide clean water for people who need it, starting in the state of Orissa in East India.