A new brand of soap lands at Whole Foods Market, ready to fill the shelves. Its arrival may not seem revolutionary, but the very existence of fair-trade Paruva Kaalam soap represents the culmination of a unique journey, one that illustrates how broad-minded corporations can bridge the gap between big industry’s ability to leverage resources and the need for socially responsible change.
And it’s a journey that can result in shared value for both communities and clients.
At Kaleidoscope, one of our core values is partnership. We partnered with Design Impact, a nonprofit organization that works with resource-poor communities to drive innovation where it’s needed most.
Through an ongoing fellowship, Design Impact selects seasoned designers for 10-month, embedded engagements in India. By living and working with their community partners, the fellows gain deep familiarity with the area’s most pressing problems and the resources available to create solutions.
Supported by Kaleidoscope’s researchers, designers, engineers and other specialists, the first Design Impact fellows developed clean-burning charcoal briquettes that replace pollution-emitting cooking fires. In addition, they created the Paruva Kaalam soap business that uses the glycerin byproduct of local biodiesel production.
The benefits of these two products are easy to see: cleaner air, maximized natural resources, new understanding of scalable business models and a revenue stream for an impoverished community.
The benefits to Kaleidoscope are clear, too. We have enabled design fellows to learn through doing and can scale that experience, apply it elsewhere, and repeat. Kaleidoscope’s in-depth knowledge of these emerging societies and the changes occurring in those regions can be shared with our clients. This expertise gives us a competitive edge.
Is your company ready to empower global change and benefit from shared value? Consider taking these steps:
Evaluate your company’s mission. Our first step was to make sure our mission aligned with the goals of the potential non-profit partner. This alignment ensured that the partnership would be compliant with both our staff and clients.
Create a realistic plan. Design Impact worked with our legal and accounting firms to develop a business plan that we could support with both financial and in-kind resource support. With these benchmarks in place, we agreed to fund the pilot project for two years. This allowed Design Impact the time and experience to develop its model before reaching out to other corporate funders.
Choose a cause that inspires your staff. Our relationship with Design Impact has grown from a small idea to a close collaboration that has energized our team and increased our capabilities. Our employees realized they could make an impact by participating. Because they understand our company’s business plan and how our organization works, they are able to manage their time in terms of company business goals and their involvement with the non-profit.
Leverage the benefits for all. The ideal outcome is to create positive social change, help clients better understand opportunity spaces, and provide an engaging outlet for employees to develop new skills. Through this partnership, we’ve created shared value between Design Impact, our clients and the Kaleidoscope team.
Big Business’ belief that emerging economies represent a ready market for Western packaged goods may prove to be a false hope. However, with global economies in flux, we may be able to catalyze opportunities for once-disconnected areas to one day fully participate in open, worldwide markets.
Until then, corporations can move socially responsible change forward using their resources of personnel, expertise and funding. Helping to teach someone how to fish is the way to go. I hope you’ll join me in finding innovative ways for your company to do the same.
Matt Kornau is CEO and co-owner of Kaleidoscope, a 23-year-old product development and design consultancy. By leveraging expertise in design, research, engineering, and brand engagement at its locations in North America and China, the company provides a spectrum of services from product inception through to manufacturing. You can reach Kornau at (513) 766-1056 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, visit www.kascope.com or www.d-impact.org.