How might we use social business to improve health in low-income communities?

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OpenIDEO has partnered with the Holistic Social Business Movement (HSBM) of Caldas – a joint venture between the Grameen Creative Lab and the Government of Caldas, Colombia – to consider how social businesses can improve the health of low-income communities in Colombia and around the world. Together, with your help, we hope to develop a set of implementable and high impact solutions to support and promote social business development and improve health in low-income areas like Caldas, where 26% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The primary goal of this OpenIDEO Challenge is to identify ways to harness the energy, capabilities and impact of social businesses – and the entrepreneurs who build them – to improve the health of low-income communities globally. 

Specifically, we’ll be asking you to focus on solutions to Caldas’ urgent health needs, which include malnutrition, infant mortality and reproductive and sexual health. Compounding these issues are the absence of a culture of prevention, plus minimal access to and quality in the health care system — all of which have serious consequences for the region’s poor.

While the Challenge is rooted in the region of Caldas, the issues surrounding health for such communities are found across the world.

What is Social Business?

According to the Grameen Creative Lab, social business “operates for the benefit of addressing social needs that enable societies to function more efficiently.” In essence, social business – or social enterprise as it is sometimes called – is about using business to change our world for the better. It's also key to remember that a social business is one that does not pay dividends – instead all profits earned are reinvested in the social business, which enables it to continue operating in and supporting local communities.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, sketched out Seven Principles for social business, which we will use as a foundation for this challenge. You can also watch Professor Yunus discuss Grameen Danone Foods, a social business addressing the nutrition needs of low-income communities in India.

The Scale of the Problem: Health in Caldas

Caldas –  a region in the western interior of Colombia – is at the very heart of the coffee producing zone. Thirty percent of Caldas’ population lives in rural areas, and it is one of the most unequal states in Colombia with a Gini coefficient of 0.55. 

Manizales, the capital of Caldas, has a poverty rate of 57.1%. In Caldas, 18.5% of the population does not have health insurance, despite the state subsidizing a large proportion. And for those who do have insurance, the care provided is limited and of poor quality.

Specifically, people in Caldas face a number of serious health concerns:

  • Infant health and mortality: 8.3% of newborns are born underweight and Caldas has a 12.5% infant mortality rate
  • Malnutrition: 27.1% of female-led households suffer from severe food insecurity. And for those who do have access to food, unhealthy or poor nutrition often leads to high cholesterol and heart disease.
  • Reproductive and sexual health: Caldas experiences high rates of teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, and uterine cancer
  • Unhealthy living conditions: residents in Caldas often use asbestos to build their roofs, which causes high rates of respiratory diseases. Residents also face overcrowding, which can lead to serious health consequences, especially during mudslides and other periods of intense weather.

Background on Grameen Creative Lab & HSBM of Caldas

Grameen Creative Lab
The Grameen Creative Lab's vision is to serve society’s most pressing needs through social business. We have set ambitious goals for ourselves to reach by 2015:

  • Create broad awareness for social business
  • Establish Grameen as a worldwide brand
  • Create movement for social business worldwide
  • Establish social business as mainstream university case
  • Enable access to corporate knowledge
  • Enable access to funding for social business
  • Ensure quality control for social business

Click here to learn more.

Holistic Social Business Movement of Caldas
The Holistic Social Business Movement of Caldas (HSBM) aims at eradicating poverty and rebuilding the region’s economy while addressing the main social needs of Caldas: education nutrition, healthcare and housing. The HSBM of Caldas was launched in 2009 by Prof. Muhammad Yunus and Caldas’ Governor Aristizabal and focuses on three main areas: microfinance services to alleviate poverty, social business funding, and social business joint ventures. The HSBM of Caldas has started as a pilot in Colombia but longer term will develop into a replicable model of poverty reduction applicable worldwide. Click  here to learn more.

As usual – we'll start with the Inspiration phase where we gather existing insights surrounding the challenge. Next we roll over to the Concepting phase where you can add your bright ideas, informed by all that inspirational goodness. Then we get the chance to collectively assess concepts in the Evaluation Phase to help decide on the most relevant solutions.

Sources for the Brief:
- Linea Base Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio en Caldas 2007, Hernando Márquez Palacio, Grupo Proyectos Estratégicos, Despacho del Gobernador
- Caldas, tierra de contrastes, Gobernador Mario Aristizábal Muñoz, Grupo para la Reducción de la Pobreza
- Plan de Desarrollo 2008-2011, Secretaria de Planeación Departamental, Grupo Proyectos Estratégicos, Despacho del Gobernador
All images courtesy of Grameen Creative Lab
Video courtesy of Gayle Ferraro, Aerial Productions

Community & Social Media Manager:

  Meena Kadri

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Mitchell

A known law firm that specializes in medical malpractice recently organized a social initiative to help improve health care in low-income communities. This was triggered by one of the medical malpractice cases they handled, a case wherein the plaintiff was from a low-income community. It was a pro bono case, and after rounds of deposition and out of court settlement, the law firm was able to win the case. But because of that, they decided to do something more – a group of associates was tasked to run an information campaign in a selected low income community on what to do should they run into a medical malpractice situation. More law firms joined and have offered their services, if not pro bono, at very minimum costs.

Photo of mengyuan

Good to hear. If there are more law firm that willing to help improve health care in low-income communities, there will be more people could get help from the society. Furthermore, if there are some organizations could help those homeless people to get a place stay or help them find a job in the marketplace, our community will become much better. This way, those people will not longer feel helpless and loveless from our society. Of course, our government will plan a major role of the process. Our government is better to offer more to people in low-income communities so that they will contribute to the society in the future.

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