OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Mobilized Construction - Catalyzing community development and prosperity using just a shovel and a cellphone

Coordinating manual labor to repair dirt roads to improve access to markets, health, water, and more. Saves up to 90% of costs vs. machines

Photo of Kevin Lee
17 10

Written by

*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Create jobs in the community by using labor to repair roads. This increases incomes for farmers, improves access to schools and hospitals, and links communities via trade to build peace.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Mobilized Construction creates software so local people can participate in road repairs.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

This project will be our organization’s second field implementation. Our first project in Uganda focused on community health access. Since then we have added our CTO, Jens Pedersen, and 5 developers to accelerate software development.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

Rural roads are in poor conditions because road repairs are very expensive using heavy machinery. Roads facilitate almost all economic and social activities in communities.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

We are improving our software platform, determining impact methods, and engaging with funders until August. Kevin and Johan will then transition to East Africa to manage field implementation. It will take 2 months to build community relations and train engineers, project managers, and construction workers to use our software. Road repairs will take place the following 6-8 months to reach 100% road accessibility in the community. We will gather data every 2 months to assess impact.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Kevin will train stakeholders to use our software and build rapport within the community. Johan will work closely with the project manager to oversee repairs as well as assess impact. Jens will update and build new software features from Copenhagen.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Get feedback from experts

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

(Prosperity) Job creation – New jobs created throughout the project (Prosperity) Transportation cost of crops – Survey farmers by SMS on the changing cost of transportation to market (Peace) Distance of crops transported – Survey vendors by SMS at different markets (government designated and bus stations) to map where farmers come from to sell crops (Planet) Crop spoilage – Survey vendors by SMS at different markets (government designated and bus stations) to assess estimated food spoilage.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

We changed our payment frequency to construction workers after conducting interviews. We expected to pay people every 2 weeks, however individuals requested once per week if if not twice per week so they could more frequently purchase food.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

The biggest challenge for our startup: There are many different stakeholders in infrastructure governance and repairs and the sale cycle for each segment require more evidence and patience. Our primary customer segment are local governments and their pain points are they need better road intelligence and lower cost repairs to serve more of their communities. The challenge we have encountered are they are hesitant to adopt new technologies and need to see case studies before they will purchase. Our next customer segment are funders such as foundations and development agencies. They don’t dispute the impact of of roads and have previously funded road improvements. Their hesitation is they need more data from a larger scale implementation to validate our model creates the same social impact they’ve seen. Our third customer segment are businesses and NGOs that have local operations. Large agriculture and natural resource companies have paid for road repairs before given the closed loop of their operations. For other companies, they need evidence that show sustained road improvements tie to lower cost operations and better supply chains. We believe these concerns can be addressed with one larger scale implementation of our software for road repairs. Specifically, road condition data will be collected to create the vital link to social impact and roads will be repaired so local government and communities can see the immediate impact. To get ahead of the question of financial sustainability, we see grant funding as critical in the beginning to validate our model. On an operate basis though, stakeholders have expressed willingness to pay and it is a matter of grabbing a piece of their budget.

This idea is a software platform (mobile and web).
It tackles the problem of limited economic opportunities in rural communities because poor road infrastructure limits movement and drives higher costs.
It addresses the problem by standardizing road data collection and coordinating manual labor to repair roads using a shovel and a cellphone. It intersects peace, prosperity, and planet.

3.4 billion people live in rural areas where dirt roads are the primary form of infrastructure. That's almost every other person on this planet. Routine tasks like fetching water or going to school might result in becoming stranded because of flooding caused by rain or traffic accidents. A journey to the emergency room at the hospital quickly spirals from minutes into hours. Farmers eager to switch to cash crops fear they will spoil before reaching the market. Refugees seeking to rebuild life realize there is almost nothing to start from. 

Mobilized Construction is creating mobile software platform to enable dirt road repairs using manual labor. Organizations like governments, NGOs, businesses, and development agencies can use our software to gather road condition data, coordinate manual labor instead of using heavy machinery like graders, and pay individuals once repairs are completed.

Utilizing standardized data collection and mobile phones opens up the possibility that this can be scaled and localized to even the most rural regions of the world.

Explain your idea

We are creating a software platform to governments, development agencies, businesses, and NGOs to manage road repairs using software. Our software platform works in 5 steps: 1. Measure road conditions by mounting smartphone and driving over roads to capture bumpiness, vehicle speed, and photos to GPS coordinate. 2. Create and assign micro-contracts for manual labor repairs from local community 3. Local individuals bid for and then complete work manually. They document daily progress by submitting photos and distance repaired. 4. Officials evaluate road conditions by driving over roads or visually surveying repairs to validate quality of repairs. 5. Wages for repairs are sent via mobile payments like M-Pesa.

Who Benefits?

The long but true answer is everyone. We all use roads every single day. In areas where unemployment can reach upwards of 40%, our model creates jobs for youth and women. Farmers can earn more money from accessing cheaper seed and fertilizer and eliminating the possibility of crops spoiling. Higher incomes affords school fees and healthcare for the entire family in addition to being able to physically reach schools and hospitals safer and faster. Over time the local communities can self fund to pay for roads repairs and one day, tarmac. Communities will be linked together, fostering not only trade but cultural exchange, interdependence, and peace. Ultimately, better roads seed the entire community with the ability to earn income and onto the path for self-sufficiency.

How is your idea unique?

Coordinated and sustained manual labor repairs has not been attempted across entire communities because organizing and quality controlling labor is hard to scale. Individual road segments repairs projects have existed throughout the World Bank and other development agencies with realized cost savings and job creation. Roads quickly return to disrepair once funding is depleted though because there is limited focus to build local capacity and empower the community to manage the repairs themselves. Infrequent road condition evaluations and delays once potholes or flooding occurs quickly spoil roads. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has piloted the “Do-nou” methodology to use packed sandbags with manual labor to make road repairs more resilient. They are not focused on large scale implementation and repaired 10km over the past 7 years. Bridges to Prosperity is likewise focused on infrastructure however they are only focused on bridges and individual projects.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

Kevin Lee is currently based in Washington, D.C. and focuses strategy and design. Kevin previously worked as a UX designer and product manager at IBM building new software products for clients in food and hospitality. Prior to that he was an investment banker at Sonenshine Partners advising healthcare companies in company strategy and capital raising. Johan Juul Jensen is currently based in Nairobi and focuses on operations and evaluation. Johan has previously founded Play it On, an organization that has reached over 15,000 children in Uganda to foster cultural exchanges by bringing people together around sports. He was also a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies focusing on public-private-partnerships and natural resources management. Jens Egholm Pedersen is based in Copenhagen and focuses a software engineering and data architecture. Jens has previously managed complex data systems and developed the infrastructure for one of the central control systems for the particle accelerator for CERN in Switzerland. We have been supported by the Halcyon Incubator, the Danish Innovation Fund, the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, and Venture Cup Denmark. We have been recognized by Seedstars and Disrupt Africa as one of the rising startups in Africa.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
  • Yes, we are a registered company.


Join the conversation:

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Kevin and Team! We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from the BridgeBuilder team and an external set of experts. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on expert career, work and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question:
• This program seems different from some others I have seen in the last 15-plus years in that it is focusing on not just building infrastructure but also (and importantly), creating much needed jobs for the people within the community. I have seen smaller scale programs succeed in making much needed improvements but also building self esteem among workers and their families resulting in more prosperous, healthy (personal and environmentally), better educated (parents can afford school uniforms and books) and peaceful communities. Local job creation (and its ripping effects) is more important than quickly completing major infrastructure projects. Sometimes more simple solutions are the best!

Desirability and Viability of proposal:
• Desirable: This is a very compelling project. It not only builds and repairs greatly needed roads, but also provides substantive jobs for local community members. Working with communities - mostly in Africa, South Asia and Haiti - wants to work and support their families. This proposal does just that. Feasible: By going back to the basics and not over thinking and over paying for new road construction (although it may take longer), this is totally feasible. A challenge may be on how best to decide who to hire beyond just the best bids. I suspect there will be more people who want to work than there are jobs. Must have clear hiring and retention process. Viable and Sustainable: Yes!

Feasibility of proposal (is this an idea that could be brought to life?):
• This idea could definitely be brought to life -- it provides a much needed service and, most important, provides meaningful employment to potentially thousands (long-term) of local community members. This is truly a way to support communities in helping them make progress on their own. It also links peace, prosperity (jobs which will result in improved education, which parents can now afford) and planet (reduced crop loss).

Other questions or suggestions our experts felt would support the assessment or success of your idea:
• What is your plan to vett potential workers and set some kind of base pay so people don't bid so low for jobs they can make a decent wage? Love this proposal.

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.
Have questions? Email us at
Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Kevin Lee

Hi team,

Thanks for your feedback and comments! Please let us know if you have any additional questions.

In response to your question, workers are tested in two ways: upfront through a practical test at the end of a week long road repair training and over time by collecting data on their efficiency in repairs. We will be looking at the amount of road an individual repair per day, weighted based on road severity though IRI, and the rate of deterioration of the roads they have repaired, slower deterioration meaning a higher score. These data will be used to build profiles on workers and be a part of the evaluation when allocating future repair contracts.

On base pay, we will set a wage floor based on local input to make sure that workers will make a livable wage. In Uganda, a typical wage for manual work is about $3-4 per day. For our first project, workers received $6 per day plus food and water.

View all comments