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April 13, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

BOP Design Principles: Product Design for Developing Countries

Principles of Design and Product Strategy for the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) Products

Individuals and businesses which want to create successful products for the base of the pyramid market are well served to look at proven models and paradigms for creating successful humanitarian products. Which product design model or method to choose? There seem to be six distinct front runners for product design for developing countries (specifically aimed at the bottom of the pyramid customer or what is now called humanitarian design):

Bottom of the Pyramid Model developed by CK Prahalad
Paul Polack Model (Design for the Other 90 Percent/International Development Enterprises) (see video below for the 12 principles)
Project H model created by Emily Pilloton (Humanitarian Design Manifesto)
Amy Smith of the MIT Design Lab and writer for the Design for the Other 90 Percent book.
Ethan Zukerman digital journalist from the Berkman Center at Harvard and chief editor of My Hearts in Accra
BOP Protocol 2.0

When attempting to create products which best meet the needs and concerns of base of the pyramid customers these core principles and models should shape the product development cycle and the customer acquisition cycle. For more on BOP innovation principles and tips check out this post by Dave Tait where you can find an overview of four of the above sets of BOP innovation principles explained (Dave’s diagram of Design for Social Wellbeing is also worth checking out–it provides a rubric for strategic thinking and education in the area of innovation and design for the developing world).

Paul Polak’s 12 principles can help drive humanitarian design for the developing world customer:
(or design for the other 90 percent, BOP design, humanitarian design, or design for well being depending on your jargon of choice)

Do you have other suggestions for principles for design for the developing world market? What will drive the future of humanitarian design?



Leave a Comment
  1. compassioninpolitics / Apr 14 2010 7:02 pm

    Additionally, Design that Matters (which was founded at MIT and is a nonprofit in Mass which helps creates products for the developing world) has a brief explanation of their product design process:

    Kick Starts process is instructive–but I think lacks the specificity to help drive an implementation process.

    Further, there is open courseware at Caltech, which includes powerpoint presentations (just click on the lecture numbers):

    Online resources including case studies:

  2. compassioninpolitics / Apr 14 2010 7:09 pm

    The work in “Design for the Other 90 Percent” as well as “Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People” are both great investments for those looking to create or market products in the developing world.
    Both are available on Amazon. I believe you can pick them up for under $20 each.

    For those taking designs to the next step: here is a business model case study from Harvard’s HBS (its $7):

  3. compassioninpolitics / Apr 14 2010 7:23 pm

    Design that Matters CEO Timothy Prestero on Design Principles for the developing world:

    1) There is no substitute for observation
    (what are the standards of care in the US? comparative observations here and in the country.)
    What people say and do are often very different.

    2) Motivation/Buy In
    (nurses in India–you have to get buy in)

    3) Fail as fast as possible. Early prototypes. No substitute for testing.

    4) What gets fixed?
    (DVD players get fixed in the developing world–as do mobiles and cars. DVDs are just bought in the states)
    Incubators are broken after 4 years. Their staff and tools are limited. Also, no training on the repair technology. Unfortunately, only used till it breaks. (Indonesia vs. Cambodia)
    Indigenous Ingenuity!!!
    Lead user innovation.

    4) Small travels further faster. (Cell phones are everywhere)

    5) You want to fail for the right reasons.

  4. Nathan Ketsdever / Jul 3 2010 9:00 pm

    Here is an interview with Paul Polak of IDE, which fleshes out his model.

    The Unreasonable Institute is another fantastic place to investigate for social enterprise (its a summer incubator-like event during the summer with experienced and successful mentors in the social innovation sector).

  5. compassioninpolitics / Nov 24 2010 8:08 pm

    Here are some of Catapult Design’s principles on Next Billion:

  6. Nathan Ketsdever / Nov 27 2010 9:21 pm

    At 4:50 Emily Pilton points to the 6 principles of design of Project H–she explains it in the context of design challenges of rural poverty and education in the US:

    Later it includes “design systems–not stuff”


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