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SOCAP13 Session Recap: Going Deeply Local to Build for the Long Term

SOCAP Global September 5, 2013
Going Deeply Local to Build for the Long Term

Wednesday’s final “Meaning Tent” panel sparked an exciting discussion of how we can use a combination of technology and anthropology to construct “human-centered” business designs that support local communities.  Panelists discussed their experiences constructing community level solutions such as Playa Viva, a luxury ecological resort in Mexico and Farmerline, a platform to increase information access for small hold farmers in Ghana.
Key Takeaways:
1. Building any business or product, survey the “whole ecosystem” in front you:

  • Using “human-centered design,” determine what could be built that is essential and innovative to support the community.


  • When you take your passion and create a “burning fire” in a culture or landscape you have not surveyed, you may do more damage than good. Rather, observe the way the community functions, like a constant river flowing at its background; integrate your ideas into this river, so that they might mesh seamlessly to the benefit of the community.

2. Start with input from those at the local level:

  • Community level effectiveness requires listening, carefully.  In creating Playa Viva, David Leventhal asked town elders to share what kind of change in the community they’d seen and what hopes, dreams, aspirations they had for its future.


  • Mark Beam stated that many people at local levels of developing countries are well-intentioned, but do not implement their intent successfully. An example: local government deciding to implement a new solar technology at a town school, but it becomes a “decoration”—is never used, its function not explained, its benefits lost.

3. Abby Sarmac from The Lemelson Foundation outlines: “in developing countries the most successful companies follow a specific blueprint with these guidelines”:

  • Use of strong robust technology.
  • Objective based on a very well defined human need.
  • Driven by an innovative, business model.
  • Employ constant innovation across all 3 of those elements, and typically do so across a human-centered design process – never stop innovating.
Impact Investing / Social Entrepreneurship / Sustainable Development
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