Making suboptimal markets more efficient for societal change

In Theory of Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship, we took a critical look at how innovation and social entrepreneurship is described through a series of articles and discussions.

A Social Entrepreneurship Overview

In Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, Roger Martin describes social enterprise as the progression of both society and economy, Social entrepreneurship, we believe, is as vital to the progress of societies as is entrepreneurship to the progress of economies, and it merits more rigorous, serious attention than it has attracted so far.

A Suboptimal Equilibrium as Context

Martin further describes the characteristic of an entrepreneur as a person who sees suboptimal equilibrium as an opportunity to provide new solutions.  And to give you a bit more context, the map below illustrates an example of a state of suboptimal equilibrium, where over 50% of a country is facing chronic poverty.

A Social Entrepreneur

So by Martin’s definition, Muhammad Yunus is a social entrepreneur.  And in Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience, Yunus introduces us to his first lesson by challenging conventional wisdom … Grameen Bank’s business model therefore challenges several standard banking assumptions, including the beliefs that loans cannot be granted without collateral and that ‘entrepreneurship’ is a rare quality among the poor. 

He is also explicit about the need for social profit objectives to be clear especially when creating business models for social change.  Without this understanding and transparency – it’s easy to claim that even micro-financing in a way, throws money at a social problem or even worse takes advantage of the already compromised.

The Progress of Economies and Societies

In Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage, Aneel Karnani describes a balance of society and economy progression that makes sense … private sectors can help alleviate poverty by focusing on the poor as producers.

Make Suboptimal Markets More Efficient for Societal Change

So after a year at Austin Center for Design I’ve come to the conclusion – design with and for people to make suboptimal markets more efficient for societies to change and progress.  It’s not brilliant, fancy or even provocative but it’s given me the confidence to move forward in these wicked problems we’ve been in over the past year.  It’s also the same lens I see our own Social Enterprise called Stitch in.

Stitch as a Social Enterprise

Stitch focuses on the suboptimal equilibrium of healthcare. Below are concept models of the current and proposed systems around care management specific to a surgical recovery process.

It challenges our mental models for creating and distributing medical knowledge. For example, in the idea that health knowledge should only come from medical experts or we can only receive medical information in the form of paperwork as we leave care.

So we created a platform to help individuals define their own recovery and share medical knowledge. Stitch alleviates poor adherence and readmission rates by providing a new way to support both medical professionals and patients.

So again, to help economies and societies change and progress, make suboptimal markets more efficient for people.