The session facilitated by Jim Koch began with short presentations by presenters Naganand (Embrace), Shona (Shonaquip) , Marc (Lifesaver / The SafePoint Trust), Yusuf (Awethu Project), and Lesley (Angaza Design) followed by a lively question and discussion session. The discussion revolved around how the work of each of the innovators could be construed as frugal innovation. The claims moved back and forth between product innovation and business model focus.

Key themes were access to resources for both innovators and the end-users, competencies in product and service design, design process incorporating constant feedback, issue of scaling up, and use of hybrid organizational models.

Interesting key lessons from the session included:
Naganand: None of the steps in design process are as important as the loops that link the individual steps. The job of us designers is to put something out and get feedback. We are agents that incorporate feedback making the customers, doctors, and users the real innovators.

Shona: I started this social enterprise long before social enterprise emerged as a recognized field. And got into the field due to challenges my daughter was facing. I don’t focus on just the product, although product is a tool for the ends. Additionally for me the design of distribution and long term sustainability for scale using reinvention, resuse, recycling are important. When I look at frugal, I see real, relevant, appropriate, in touch, and constantly and organically changing. There is no logic on having built in lifespans in products other than for profit making. We want many people to benefit from the same product… and that is frugal to me.

Marc: Resuse of syringes causes 6000 deaths a day which is twice the death rate of malaria. The result of my innovation to counter this issue was the most used product syringe but not necessarily the best product. There is no point in striving for perfection when half as good would do the job. We make compromises everyday. Eventually though, all innovators reach a glass ceiling for further scale which results from competition or regulatory hurdles or inattention.

Yusuf: Ours is an incubator for identifying people and developing them. We innovate WITH rather than FOR the people. My moment of empathy was during my own high school graduation on opportunities available for world-class entrepreneurship. Empathy is a cornerstone our business model.

Lesley: In our effort to solve low power energy access to rural areas in Africa, we found the real problem was upfront financing for a $50 device. But product is only a tool to solve those problems but shouldn’t be the only focus of the business. So we focussed not on product innovation to reduce cost, but instead focussed on making it more affordable through pay as you go model to overcome the capital intensive barrier to access. In our human centred design, we use a verb to define the need which helps not limit the possible solutions.
Questions from the audience included issues around how to achieve desired price-points, scaling, theft and misuse, and hybrid organizations.

The interactive questions from the audience included issues around how to achieve desired price-points, scaling, theft and misuse, and use of hybrid organizations.