We start with a challenge--design a tool that will generate income. Then, to make the task even harder, we have developed a list of design criteria. Every tool has to meet every criterion if it is to go into production.
Why do we make things so hard on ourselves? Because our mission is to get people out of poverty. Our tools (and everything else we do) are a means to that end. It is not enough to come up with a clever invention. It must be useful, productive, safe and durable.
Most technology trickles down to the poor. Things like cell phones have been revolutionary for poor people. But this technology was developed for the wealthiest consumers on earth and only became accessible to the poor thanks to economies of scale.
KickStart, on the other hand, is designing specifically for the poor. We know that our tools represent a significant investment for a family. We honor the commitment our entrepreneurs make by producing tools of “first world” quality.
Sometimes “Appropriate” Technology Isn’t
In designing technologies for the world’s poor, there is too often a focus on developing things that "we" think "they" need. Or worse, we develop a technology to address a problem that we have defined, without fully understanding local culture.
For instance, we purchase technology that promises to save us time and effort. But in the developing world, time and effort are two assets that people have in abundance. A tool that saves time or effort, actually devalues that asset, making a person poorer.
Our approach is different. We look for tools that will allow a person to turn their time and labor into cash.
Local Design for Local Solutions
The vast majority of KickStart’s design work is done in Nairobi, Kenya, at our Technology Development Centre. Our team of engineers, designers, and technicians develop and test prototypes to ensure performance, cultural acceptability and durability. It takes many months to invent, design and produce each new technology.
As challenging as the design phase is, this is the easiest part of the process.
150,000 new businesses started to date.