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Entrepreneurs: are Elegant Solutions Best?

Entrepreneurs: are Elegant Solutions Best?

Post from: MAPpingCompanySuccess

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bjornmeansbear/5010984974/

Globally, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet.

1 in 6 people don’t have running water.

Problems like these cry out for innovative solutions, but innovative doesn’t necessarily mean technically sophisticated.

A few years ago Cynthia Koenig saw the water problem first hand in South Africa.

Koenig launched a nonprofit organization to help distribute a locally available water transportation tool. In order to address the issues of poor quality control, corruption, and limited geographic distribution, she soon found herself at the helm of Wello. The social venture manufactures and distributes the WaterWheel, a 20-gallon drum that moves four to five times the amount of water possible using traditional methods of collection and carrying.

Simple, inexpensive and can even become a micro-business for an owner.

In contrast, five years ago the Gates Foundation issued a toilet challenge, with daunting parameters.

Make sure it takes in the bodily waste of an entire family and outputs drinkable water and condiments, like salt. And while you’re at it, make sure that the toilet is microprocessor-supervised and converts feces into energy. And all this has to cost just pennies per person per day.

That description is akin to a silver bullet, not a toilet.

The results, to date, are sophisticated, costly and unsustainable ideas, with prices north of $1000 per toilet.

How different from an available solution that, while it doesn’t do everything, does solves the basic problem and is amazingly cheap.

The Peepoo bag, which inexpensively (less than 2 cents per bag) sanitizes waste before turning it into fertilizer, are huge improvements. They can also be critical in saving lives after natural disasters.

Just think what a few thousand cases of these would mean right now in the Philippines—or in Illinois, for that matter.

Too often, sexy and elegant ends up being complex and expensive, whereas plebian and boring equates to simple and affordable.

Flickr image credit: bjornmeansbear

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