Impact Fighter: Who Will be World Savior?
“Humans have an instinctive, natural desire to make life better for their fellows if they can.”
– Muhammad Yunus, Bertrand Moingeon, and Laurence Lehmann-Ortega
I really want to believe this is true — and most days, I do.
As we’ve been diving deep into globalism, poverty, and social business, I’ve been asking myself: what’s the right way to “make like better for our fellows?”
After reading essays like Michael Hobbes’ “Stop Trying to Save The World” and Prahalad’s “Selling to the Poor”, I don’t have one clear answer, but I do have a more informed opinion on effective ways to solve wicked problems.
To help illustrate the many differing opinions, I created Impact Fighter: the game that seeks to find the World Savior. In this comic about the game, I am the main character trying to “Choose My Fighter” and hopefully be crowned World Savior. Keep in mind: this is a game — so the stakes are high and the rewards are unrealistic. I don’t believe any one person can be the world’s savior, but we can try.
Choose Your Fighter
Before I can battle it out, I have to choose my fighter. What writer’s powers and methods will I adopt?
Will it be Emily Pilloton and Michael Hobbes: the Go Local Gang? They suggest dreaming smaller and focusing on one community to make an impact, rather than scaling untested ideas to maximize results. I do agree that all too often businesses and celebrities try and help broadly (likely to maximize PR coverage). Ultimately, my character doesn’t choose them as my fighter because after all, I’m trying to gain the title of World Savior.
Next, I evaluate Sally Osberg and Victor Margolin: the Definition Duo. Osberg and Margolin fight for a clear definition of entrepreneurship and world models, respectively. While I agree it’s important we have a unified vocabulary when discussing design and globalism, I don’t feel their perspective was actionable enough.
Then I come across Dean Spears aka the Depleter. Spears is an economist who determined through handgrip squeeze tests that “poverty, by making economic decision-making more difficult for the poor, appears to have depleted cognitive control.” While I think this is interesting distinction to make: people are not poor because they are bad decision-makers; again, it lacked a call-to-action that I am looking for.
Finally, my character comes across Muhammad Yunus aka the Redefiner. Using the Grameen Bank as a primary example, Yunus argues that a social business model could empower capitalism to address global concerns. This resonated with me because he provided clear examples and a sustainable business model that features not only financial but social profit.
With this combination of skills, I choose him as my fighter. To win, I have to fight C.K. Prahalad aka the Profiteer. Prahalad argues that the poor are the largest untapped market in the world and you can empower them by including them in the market. While I think it’s important we empower marginalized populations, I don’t think that the sole reason should be to profit.
The Redefiner vs The Profiteer
In this fight, the Profiteer throws the first punch by tossing his money bags at The Redefiner in hopes of knocking him down. The Redefiner, however, has the power to funnel money for good and instead absorbs all of the cash into his social business that provides water to undeveloped countries.
He continues to reinvest his profits into his business and grows even BIGGER — allowing him to knock out the Profiteer with his high-pressure water supply and be crowned World Savior.
Crowned World Savior
His model has prevailed, he’s provided water to undeveloped communities, and now he’s mastered the game of Impact Fighter. But before the crown can fall on his head, Jeff Bezos sweeps in and steals it.
Bezos undercuts the Redefiner’s business model with ultra-cheap water bottles and buries the Redefiner in plastic. The bottles keep coming and coming until Bezos can sit on (or in) his throne of plastic bottles. Bezos wins.
While dramatic for the sake of storytelling, I am concerned that even if we redefine business models, the giants of the world can control the market — knocking any well-intentioned businesses right out.
What do you think? What fighter would you choose?