Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE $300 HOUSE-for-the-POOR


The $300 House was first described in a Harvard Business Review blog post by Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar. Initially, we just wanted to put the idea out there, but now, due to the tremendous response, we've decided to see how far we can go toward making this idea a reality.
$300 House for the Poor

We started with five simple questions:
  • How can organic, self-built slums be turned into livable housing?
  • What might a house-for-the-poor look like?
  • How can world-class engineering and design capabilities be utilized to solve the problem?
  • What reverse-innovation lessons might be learned by the participants in such a project?
  • How could the poor afford to buy this house?
The goal is to design, build, and deploy a simple dwelling which keeps a family safe from the weather, allows them to sleep at night, and gives them a little bit of dignity. If we can give the poor a chance to live safely and build an inclusive ecosystem of services around them which includes, clean water, sanitation, health services, family planning, education, and micro enterprise, maybe we can start reducing the disease of poverty. By helping create this ecosystem, we believe companies can make money while providing services needed by the poor at an affordable cost. The poor deserve a chance, a real chance, to make it out of poverty.

To do this, we'll bring together people, institutions, and businesses in a "creation space" to:
1) turn this idea a reality, and
2) test it out in the field.
In terms of progress, we've just begun:



We're bringing together three sets of players - the residents of the $300 House, the designers of the house, and the implementers - the organizations (private and public) who will build the "change we want to see."

The residents of the $300 House can be in any part of the world. We're planning to start with a house designed for three specific countries - India, Haiti, and Indonesia.

Dartmouth (through VG) is sending teams of students to India and Haiti to work with groups on the ground to evaluate the prospects, challenges, ecosystem opportunities, community strengths, etc.

The designers will be you and your friends - amateurs, students, and professional designers. We're going to ask you to submit your concepts and ideas in a simple but usable format. Stay tuned for the announcement! We'll choose one or more models or combinations to create the first prototypes for a pilot project in the field. We also invite professional architectural and design firms to step up in this collaborative effort.

The organizations will include non-profits (NGOs), for profit vendors, and of course public organizations - both regional and national governmental agencies. As execution becomes our priority, we'll work with existing, trustworthy organizations to construct/assemble the $300 House in the locations selected. We're also thinking about the building skillsets required and training community members to become a part of this ecosystem - as a way to build a sustainable economic structure.

Once we learn how to do this, the organizations we work with will be able to scale the solution. At that point, we will be prepared to expand to help other countries around the world.

Finally, the lessons we learn from this building process should be applied (we hope) to building the next generation of green housing in the US and the developed world. We see this as a clear reverse innovation opportunity as well.

Let us know if you want to join the project!

Thanks for your interest and support,

Vijay Govindarajan and 
Christian Sarkar
suggestions? contact us: info@300house.com

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