Through a Babson-Olin class, Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE), I got the opportunity to work for a social cause – improving the health and income levels of cassava producing women in Ghana. By helping with developing and distributing a cassava grater for these women, we were able to increase their grating speed, and reduce their physical burden. We also saw the existing village grater which was not only at a longer distance from these women’s farms and homes but also was left unmaintained and in unhygienic conditions.
Before taking ADE as a class, my idea of social impact creation largely circled around businesses and organizations that revolved around donations, charities or even uplifting communities through education, making food and water affordable and clean, or creating jobs in those communities. With ADE, I learnt that uplifting communities could be done using engineering solutions and machines.
As the team from Olin College worked on perfecting the design for the grater, the business team worked on creating and completing the value chain for the machine, interviewing distributors, suppliers and fabricators. But it was not until we visited the village to meet the customers that I realized the actual impact that ADE had created for these women.
Through the class, I also got introduced to other design solutions for social impact causes. Other teams in class worked on energy production, reducing the burden of Rickshaw pullers in India, increasing growth in a farm in Massachusetts and finding solutions to empower youth in areas with high unemployment and high-school drop-out rates. Having a class with all students, mentors and professors focused on different ideas achieving a common goal, displayed such a variety of ideas, interests, problems, solutions, and most importantly, the progress and hindrances faced by each team.