Social Innovation Fellow spotlight: Krista Donaldson & Paul Needham

The Social Innovation Fellows have always been crowd favorites at PopTech. As Andrew Zolli said when introducing the program, it's impossible to be cynical around these people who are working so hard to better the world.

This morning we met two entrepreneurs who are both working to improve the lives of people living under $4 (and in some cases much less) a day. 

Jaiphur knee illustration

First to take the stage was Krista Donaldson, who is bringing high design to the base of the pyramid. Her company D-Rev identifies high-impact opportunities and builds products that address issues such as jaundice, amputeeism and disease-detection. The organization's extensive user research and post-implementation follow-up ensures its designs have a significant and measurable impact on the people served.

"There are three things we believe in," Donaldson says, "That these products can be world-class, that they can be affordable, and that they should be user-driven." She showed a quick video demonstrating the improved mobility of a leg amputee using one of D-Rev's products called JaiphurKnee. "Our hope is that these products will catalyze industries so that anyone anywhere can go to a hospital and get the best care possible."  

Solar device from Simpa Networks

Next up was Paul Needham, who's company Simpa Networks is working to make solar energy available to underserved consumers by using a pay-as-you go pricing model. Living without electricity, explains Needham, has enormous impact.

Yet most of the "unelectrified" tend to be the poorest, with irregular and uncertain income. His company models its payment structure similar to that of pay-as-you-go mobile phones: a low initial cost for the hardware required and purchasing credits. Once the cost of the hardware is paid back, the device becomes the consumers' and the electricity generated going forward is free. 

"This device provides clean, reliable energy that leads to ownership," says Needham. "Consider the power that gives people and imagine what they could do."

Images: Perrin Ireland, 

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