This month is our one year anniversary of arriving in Zambia, to launch COTZ, an academically rigorous trial, to test the ‘ColaLife’ concept: how can we emulate Coca-Cola, to get simple medicines out to the remote rural villages where the world’s top brand seems to reach?
We’ve had our share of set-backs and frustrations, but we are secretly astounded, one year in, to be on time, on budget and to find ourselves where we are:
So, at the end of Year 1, festive season, we’re ready to have a bit of a celebration (at the Design Museum in London*, since you ask).
Then comes, a flurry of Those Difficult Questions bring you out of your self-congratulatory bubble:
I used to feel challenged by these questions. The same ones come up, time and again – so often, that you think they must be right. But the further we get, the more I think: if people don’t understand, that’s great: it means we really are doing things differently, there must be innovation in there; perhaps we really are challenging the status quo. One forgets that you have to keep ‘out there’; the questions will keep coming; it is your duty to keep explaining yourself.
So, to the individual donor, we say, again: donated goods undermine sustainable markets, and ‘the poor’ are just like you and I – they want to choose how to spend what money they have, and they will buy goods designed to meet their needs, that they like and value. Or as CK Prahalad puts it, rather more eloquently: “When the poor are converted into consumers, they acquire the dignity of attention and choices from the private sector.”
To the US Foundation we say: We are taking our time to get this right. We’ll get back to you.
And to the Charity Lawyer who asks: If you are helping business, how can you achieve your charitable purpose? Well, this one flummoxes me. You may as well ask: Why are you wishing for rain, if you want to enjoy a walk in the countryside? You can’t avoid one, if you want the other.
Click here for more information on the ColaLife supporters’ networking event at the Design Museum, London on 18 December. Both supporters and difficult questioners welcome.
 CK Prahalad: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.