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    Low-Tech Defeat of the Guinea Worm

    There is no technological breakthrough. No new medicine. No new therapy. Guinea worm infection has been beaten almost entirely through behavioral change, at a shockingly low cost.

    So far this year, there have been 17 cases of guinea worm disease worldwide, down from 3.5 million in 1986.  Guinea worm is likely to become the second known disease eradicated in human history, after smallpox. 

    How?  First, people learned to filter their drinking water, with something as simple as a cloth.  Second, people learned to stay away from sources of drinking water once they were infected with the disease. 

    Keep community water clean.  Practice hygiene. Quarantine the infected. The ideas sound simple. What is not simple is human beings changing their behavior. It has taken decades of commitment for communities to learn, adopt new practices, and overcome habit, culture and tradition, including sacred beliefs. The Carter Center has had staying power in this endeavor. 

    Click image for Upshot article

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    Frugal Innovation at Birth


    BRAC Birthing Kit

    A frugal Innovation for poor women in poor countries:

    • Essentials only
    • Affordable 
    • Cost effective 
    • Culturally appropriate
    • Solves a problem
    • Distributed with knowledge and training
    • Designed for context constraints
    • Less than perfect 

    Innovation Within Reach

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    The Power and Process of a Simple Solution


    Learning to Make Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) to Treat Diarrhea 

    Mix with much care,

    Good water, half a litre,

    A pinch of salt with a fistful of gur

    Remove the menace for good.

                                                            (Translated from Bengali) 

    The story of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) begins with a technical discovery.  A mixture of water, salt and sugar in proportions is an effective treatment for diarrhea. Severe dehydration from diarrhea is a leading cause of child mortality.  

    In Bangladesh, BRAC brought the medical discovery to rural households through process innovations focused on teaching 12 million poor and uneducated women to make ORS at home. 

    BRAC system process, accountability, continuous learning and adaptive change are a model of public health education and frugal innovation at scale. 

    Bangladesh is one of only eight countries to reduce mortality rates of children under five by at least two-thirds since 1990. 

    Click for Fixes, Opinion Pages, New York Times

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    The Rise of Gender Capitalism

    (SSIR) Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2014 

    Investing with a gender lens can create financial and social impact by increasing women’s access to capital, promoting workplace equity, and creating products and services that improve the lives of women and girls.

    Sarah Kaplan & Jackis Vanderbrug

    Illustration by Kaley McKean

    Click illustration to access article

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    Calling for Light: Innovations in Mobile and Solar Technology



    How it Works:  MPesa Pay-as-You-Go energy connects a portable solar device to a mobile phone for light.   

    CGAP has released an overview and analysis of solar solutions for off-grid energy, including mobile phone connections.

    Click to access PDF

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    Digital Finance and Solar Energy  

    Over 1.3 billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. Modern, small-scale solar solutions are now on the market, and digital finance is going a long way toward making these more affordable and accessible in poor communities.

    Pay-as-you-go via mobile phone is becoming a viable way to access energy for people who live off grid.  In Kenya, where MPesa is ubiquitous,  customers can access energy for light on their mobile phones.

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    Digital Finance:  Enabling Energy Access for the Poor

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    "bKash Me"

    The rapid uptake and velocity of bKash mobile financial transactions in Bangladesh has led to bKash becoming a vernacular verb, as in bKash meSend me the cash via bKash. 

    Registered mobile financial services accounts in Bangladesh grew faster than in any other country in 2013. More than 80 percent of transactions are through a single company—bKash Limited. 

    Unlike large mobile money businesses in other countries, bKash is not a mobile network operator (MNO), and did not have an existing customer base to target for mobile financial services. 

    Three factors combined to drive bKash’s fast start:

    1.  Purpose driven model focused on delivering mobile financial services as its core business

    2.  Vision for scale shared by a diverse investor group

    3.  Enabling and flexible regulatory environment

    As stand-alone drivers of growth, these factors are not uncommon in other markets.  In the case of bKash in Bangladesh, all three conditions combined to enable rapid uptake.  

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    Tobacco Tale

    Rangpur, Bangladesh

    Photographer: Asif Mahmud

    Women, children, and men work inside tobacco factories in Bangladesh to produce bidi, hand-rolled cigarettes with low grade tobacco. Workers have little or no protection against toxic chemicals and dust from the tobacco. 

    They have signs outside the factories that say we don’t have child labor, but inside it’s a different thing. Children usually roll the papers at home and fill them in the factories, then tie them that night and submit them the next day.”


This blog began as a hub for an undergraduate seminar in economics on global poverty and social entrepreneurship. It has become a dynamic space for students to access assignments, review syllabus, post work, and contribute to building a shared resource center for learning about social entrepreneurship. The blog has evolved to serve a larger audience who are interested in social entrepreneurship education, models for social change, social enterprises, and frugal innovation.