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

NETIncome - A Platform for Income Generation from your Own Home

Our home is where we feel safer. NETIncome consists of a Network of Income Generation Modules that enables women to work from their own home. It consists of physical modules easy to attach to low income houses, with properly designed working spaces. It includes access to a web platform that connects the various Modules within a neighborhood with clients, bank and suppliers around the world. NETIncome is, therefore, an enabling platform for local cooperation, increasing the bargain power of women when purchasing raw material, negotiating better deals with clients and so forth. A women can choose her Module from a catalog which includes a wide range of possibilities based on local skills and demands.

Photo of Aguinaldo Santos
11 80

Written by

Provide a short description of your idea

Our idea is an enabling platform of products (working spaces designed on compact Modules, easy to attach to low income houses) and services (web platform for connecting local Modules, thus enabling crowd-sourcing and other strategies that increase women´s bargain power). It tackles the problem of women that live in areas that are far from work opportunities, forcing them to spend a great amount of time far from their homes and at risk of urban violence. It also enables them to stay close to their children and elderly family members, which otherwise would be alone at home during the day.

Get a user's perspective on your idea.

We have conducted interviews with women working on seweing. They produced a variety of products for a local company based in Curitiba (BraziL), using recycled textiles as a raw materials. The interviews included both women working within the factory of the local company (and under their monthly payroll) as well as those women working from home on contract format. That evaluation was carried out using UNEP (2009)´s criteria (UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. Guidelines For Social Life Cycle Assessment Of Products. 2009). The research is reported on the MSc dissertation of Gheysa Prado ("Protocol for Rapid Assessment of Social Priorities for the Product Development Process"), presented in 2012 at the Design Post-graduate Program of the Paraná Federal University, Brazil.

Comparing NETIncome potential with the perception of women on Prado´s (2012) research shows the following advances:
- Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining : women working from home quite often perform their business activities in isolation (purchasing materials, selling goods, borrowing money, marketing, etc). The NETIncome includes the provision of a communication platform that enables them to integrate their buying/selling orders, thus providing them with higher bargain power;

- Child Labour : NETIncome can have relatively little impact on the reduction of child labour since it would be difficult to control the involvement of children from the family getting involved in production. However, NETIncome does require a continuous education process for women in order to enhance their value adding capabilities. That education process might contribute to produce a higher level of awareness on the importance of not involving children in production;

- Fair Salary : factors such as a) higher bargain power on buying/selling; b) design and training support to enable them to add further value on their activities; c) a working space designed to enhance productivity, are more likely to result on a higher salary or, alternatively, on a viable alternative for add further income on the family with a better trade-off regarding time for the family;

- Working Hours : with less time spent moving across the city there will be less overall time dedicated to income generation activities. Furthermore, with a workspace that enables higher productivity these women will be able to work less without compromising the fullfillment of client´s orders;

- Forced Labour : on the interviewes carried out by Prado (2012) this was not an issue perceived as bad on current labor practices. However, NETIncome might contribute to improve it slightly further since it will produce on the women a sense of higher independence, where they will be the patrons and not the employees;

- Equal opportunities/Discrimination : here is a great advancement when taking into account theperception of women on current practices on the labour market. Besides of allowing people from different races, religions and ethnic groups to access the NETIncome platform. Furthermore, women that currently are ´pushed away from the job market (ex: elderly women, women with disability), thus increasing their social and economic fragility, are able to finally have an opportunity with a small barrier;

- Health and Safety : currently the working space for those women working from home is quite improvised, with no proper ergonomics and unsuitable to receive clients/suppliers. Working on such circunstances often create hazardous situation from the rest of the members of the family. NETIncome therefore provides a wider contribution on health and safety since it impacts the entire family;

- Social Benefits/Social Security : here is an aspect that without further initiatives might put NETIncome on the same performance of current practices of working from home. Women might opt not paying taxes related to retirement, for instance. Hence, it is another issue that might need to be tackled on the education initiatives associated with NETIncome.

Show us what implementation might look like.

We envisage that the implementation would require the phases described below (see timeline figure):

a) PSS DESIGN (2 months): this phase aims at obtain a detailed design of the product-service system (system map, storyboard, interaction matrix, etc). It includes investigation on other initiatives related to income generation; review of literature, visit to initiatives on income generation, interview with specialists. This phase might also need a workshop for planning and alignment of goals with key stakeholders. Participants on this phase might include: user representatives, training institution, workspace provider, bank representatives, potential clients, potential suppliers, design team, information technology and communication company, housing agency, city council;

b) MAPPING (2 months): this phase aims at obtain a overall map of viable and attractive alternatives for income generation activities. It will require characterization of existing income generation activities (interviews, photographs, filming, workflows, product/service characterization, system map, etc). Interviews with potential clients in the region; interview with training institutions, city council officials and industry representatives. This phase will end with a workshop: debate on the situation of existing income generation activities and the setting up of an agenda of development of new income generation activities;

c) DESIGN OF WORKSPACES (4 months): this phase involves a review of process and operations for each income generation activity selected on the previous phase. One of its results is an initial catalog of NETIncome Modules. Co-design on this phase will involve users, experts, training institutions and other stakeholders, Mock-ups, virtual prototypes, storyboards, customer journeys, etc, are examples of tools that are likely to be used during this phase. This phase includes also the Design of the NETIncome physical module concept, including solutions for implementing it on typical situations on Favelas (Brazil) and Townships (South Africa). Here again the phase ends with a workshop, bringing together the key stakeholders to discuss the propositions and identify improvements;

d) DESIGN THE ICT PLATFORM (4 months): this phase aims at setting up a platform that allows communication of the NETIncome Modules with clients, training institutions, suppliers, banks, as well as other NETIncome Modules on the same region. The idea her is to use as much as possible on the shelf solutions. The development of this platform will need to consider the cognitive and education characteristics of women on low income areas. The workshop at the end of this phase is where the platform will be submitted to the initial assessment of stakeholders;

e) PROTOTYPE PRODUCTION (2 months): 1 prototype will be constructed in Brazil and 1 in South Africa in order to test of the functional aspects of the concept on a real world setting. The production of the prototypes will focus on using local suppliers. Later the actual design of the NETIncome Modules might be made available on Creative Commons license, thus allowing a faster scalling up of the project;

f) PILOT IMPLEMENTATION (6 months): ten families within the same community in each country will be selected to receive the NETIncome Modules. The selection criteria will use not only total income of the family but, most importantly, violence indicators. The implementation on each country will require the use of a control group within the same community, in order to assess the actual impact of NETIncome on the reduction of violence. Each woman will be able to choose the income generation activity of their interest and production will follow subsequently. The implementation of the modules will involve training and education activities associated with the profile of the income generation activity associated with the selected modules;

g) EVALUATION (2 month): assess the impact on violence and empowerment will be an ongoing activity during the pilot implementation phase. Hence, on the "evaluation phase" the focus is on collecting qualitative and quantitative data to assess the actual impact on turning their living conditions safer and more empowering for women. The internal validity of the results will be obtained by comparing the results with the control group;

h) SCALING-UP: this phase will involve initially an effort for dissemination of the experience, with videos on the web; drawings and instructions on Creative Commons license; training of facilitators. The scalling up might choose the inclusion of NETIncome as part of a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative of private companies in Brazil and South Africa (e.g.: Tigre (Brazil), BMW (South Africa). Municipal housing agencies (COHAB/Brazil, HDA/South Africa) will be consulted throughout the process in order to develop alternatives to improve, expand and replicate the experience..
Large towns in Brazil and South Africa have presented in the last decades a growth beyond what the capability of the public systems, resulting on fast increase of violence, more pollution and reduction on quality of life in general. Women living on the suburbs often have to cross the city to reach their jobs, facing on this journey the danger of assalts, sexual harassment, loosing a significant part of their salary on transport and food. Worst: many of them leave their children by themselves since there is a scarcity of public child care facilities. 
Simultaneously, most women on low income households do present some income generation activity. It ranges from seweing to cooking. Contrary to what happens in richer households, on these houses the workspace is improvised, with various defficiencies varying from poor ergonomics to poor lighting. These women have everything against them when we talk about income generation: poor marketing, poor bargain power when shopping raw materials, difficulties to search for new clients, etc.

With the NETIncome we propose three avenues of actions to contribute to tackle both issues, resulting on a direct contribution to improve their safety and empowerment:
- improve the quality of life at the workspace: workspaces properly designed for the activity they perform, including proper space for communication, storage, processing, packaging, etc;
- enabling a high leve of empowerment by means of collective action: each women that owns a Module is benefited by the integration with women operating in similar Modules within the neighbourhood (collective shopping, collective logistics, etc);
- furthermost: the system enables women to stay closer for longer times with their beloved ones, on the space where we (not only women) feel safer - our home. Such proximity can also produce an enhancement of social cohesion of the local community, with an expansion on the flow of communication. 


Explain your idea in one sentence.

NETIncome consists of income generation Modules, connected locally and globally through a communication platform, easy to attachto new or existing low income houses, designed to enable women to earn income in a better way within their own land, under the safeguards of her own family, and expanding their bargain power when dealing with other stakeholders by means of collective action, thus improving social cohesion within the surrounding community.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

In the search for jobs low income women often have to travel quite fairway from their homes. On their journey they often cross dangerous areas, they have to face the burden of poor public transport, including all the sexual harassment that frequentely occur on such places. Also, frequently they have to leave their children alone at home...
At the same time most of them do have some income generation activity within the household. However, such income generation activity happens on a poor setting, resulting on a poor value added. The NETIncome System offers to low income women, business partners as well as public initiatives the opportunity of a radical change on this situation, with a solution that offers a high level of scalability. Its key foundation is on the embedded solidarity and cooperation observed in low income areas in Brazil and South Africa.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

The direct benefit of the NETIncome System is women on low income households. It could also benefit people with special needs and elderly people (men or women), in need of extra income but unable to work outside of their homes due to health problems.

There is also the private and governmental institutions focused on training. They could channel their training for those people owning an Income Generation Module. In the case of Brazil on of such institutions could be SENAI, a government sponsored institution operating in the entire country.

Municipal, State or Federal programs for the unemployed could also benefit on the existences of a network of Income Generation Modules. At the same time the entrepreneurship programs could foster new businesses through donation, leasing or renting of such modules.

Corporate Social Reponsability Programs could also direct their efforts instead to income generation actions that integrated the NETIncome System. Such corporations could also place product/service orders for the women owning these Modules, thus providing them with the vital push to initiate their own business.

Key aspects to monitore the success of this project would be:
- indicators on the level of training and education among women: this could trigger a higher awareness of their rights regarding violence within their homes;
- indicators on the level of income produced with the NETIncome platform: intensity of financial flows to and out of the community through the NETIncome Modules; a higher economic power might lead to better access to lawyers and other services that could protect them from violence;
- a governance commitee: each neighborhood could have such commitee, enabling a direct communication with the various stakeholders involved in each project implementation (government, community, sponsors, clients, suppliers, etc) and the improvement of the NETIncome platform itself.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

DESIGN OF PHYSICAL MODULES: Our institution (Design & Sustainability Research Center, Paraná Federal University) in partnership with our colleagues from Cape Peninsula University (we do have a cooperation agreement) is able to Design the Modules. Both institutions do have close links with the low income communities, with direct channels to bring them on the process of co-design. We could also lead the process of building the prototypes, after selecting local suppliers for materials and components, and coordinate a pilot implementation and the subsequent assessment. The end result of the design stage will be a catalog of around twenty different options of NETIncome Modules for each city or region. The detailed design, including instructions for assembling and installation, can be made available freely on Creative Commons license;

COMMUNICATION PLATFORM: We would need external support on the technical aspects of the communication platform associated with the NETIncome Modules, which might require the involvement of a bank. Companies such as Banco do Brasil (Brazil)/Nedbank (South Africa) and Google.

TRAINING AND EDUCATION: We would also require external support from organizations specialized on training and education. The training might include themes such as entrepeneurship, financial management and marketing as well as specific technical skills related to each type of NETIncome Module (e.g.: jewerly production). Sebrae/Senai (Brazil) and Sector Training and Education Authority (South Africa) are examples of organizations that could be brought into the project to provide this expertise;

FINANCING: Private companies that do provide solutions for low income projects or that do intend to integrate NETIncome on their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives could be invited to be partners of the project in Brazil and South Africa (e.g.: Tigre (Brazil), BMW (South Africa). Municipal housing agencies (COHAB/Brazil, HDA/South Africa) are necessary partners to be brought into the project since the NETIncome modules would offer a more easier implementation prospect if they were included at the design stage of new housing projects.

OPERATION: In Curitiba, Brazil, we do have companies that have as a core business the provision of working spaces (e.g.: Globusiness), though focusing on different client profiles. Similar companies do operate in South Africa (e.g.: CubeWorkspace). Hence, a strategy to the everyday management of the NETIncome System would be to license the system to these companies.

Where should this idea be implemented?

We intend to perform a pilot implemenation on a community in the Piraquara municipality (Brazil) and on the Cape Flats, which lie to the East of Table Mountain. (South Africa). The community in Brazil consists of around 150 families and we do intend to implement NETIncome in 10 of them (10 NETIncome Modules).
The community targeted on the South African side could be Khayelitsha, meaning "new home". It is located miles from the urban centre and was essentially created as a dumping ground for africans who were not permitted to live in the established townships of Langa, Nyanga and Gugulethu. It is quite close to the ocean and is built on what used to be sand-dunes. On this community we would like to test a similar number of prototypes as the Brazilian side: 10 NETIncome Modules.

On both communities women have reduced work options available locally. Women have to leave the community to get better jobs and there is no public institution to take care of their children when they are away. Their safety perception is, therefore, not only related to their own safety but also to their beloved ones. Also, on both communities there are local organizations that could be used as the channel to establish a dialog with the low income households (Associação de Moradores Águas Claras (Piraquara, Brazil) and Baphumelele Educare Centre (Cape Town, South Africa).

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

The investigation on the most promising income generation activities on low income households will use government data as well as results of workshop carried out with government, NGO and industry representatives. Such investigation will result on an initial catalog of NETSystem Modules.

The prototype 01 of both the physical artefact as well as the Service will be produced within the facilities of the university and its implementation will be tested within a prototype of a low income household that we built in our campus. Usability tests will be performed with low income women in order to improve the product design quality. Service Design tools will also be used to prototype and assess the Module.

The most difficult part of the real world implementation is the business process associated with the modules: from the placing of orders to the delivery of products/services. We are counting with the existence of mobile phones on all low income houses (which is line with our field research results so far), which is likely to be one of the channels (ex: apps) to connect different modules on the same region.

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

Mrs Maria wakes up on a quite Tuesday morning. Whilst having breakfast she wishes a good day for her husband that is going to work in the nearby bakery. She then prepares the breakfast for Pedro, her eight year old son. After watching the news on TV she then follows her path to her work..... which is just besides of her own house! She is the proud owner of a NETIncome Module for "sewing and mending"". On the way to the NETIncome module she checks on her mobile phone the orders of the day for cloth production, gathered through the Neighborhood Association. She also checks the amount of money that she did from her work yesterday. Mrs Maria is quite proud of her NETIncome Module since it is a beautiful and quite functional space, much better than her previous situation, when she had to work within her own living room.

After one hour working she hear the sweet voice of Pedro asking her for some help on his school lesson. The joy of seeing her little boy growing healthy and educated brings her a warm feeling, the feeling of happiness.

Evaluation results

0 evaluations so far


Join the conversation:

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congratulations on making it to the Women's Safety Challenge Refinement list! As you work to refine your idea in this next phase, consider the following questions: What is a module? How might the women using these modules communicate with each other and be empowered by collective action? You mention cellphones briefly – but can you provide a bit more detail? Your proposed initial pilot is 150 houses. How are you thinking you might initially prototype these modules in the community? Are there some modules that will be easier to test than others? Have you considered starting with an even smaller scale pilot (ex: 25 houses)? What would you gain, what would you lose? Have you spoken with target users about this idea? What do they think of it? For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out and catch our Tools for Refinement at

Photo of Aguinaldo Santos

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for the feedback. We are working on each issue you presented.

On your comments you mention that our initial pilot was on 150 houses. In fact on the original text we proposed 10 NETIncome Modules. On this revised version of the proposal we are proposing the implementation of 10 NETIncome Modules on the community in Brazil (Piraquara, community Águas Claras) and another 10 NETIncome Modules on the community in South Africa (Cape Town, Township Khayelitsha). We do believe that with such number we would be able to test the idea of a network of NETIncome Modules in all its dimensions.

What do you think?

A. Santos

Photo of Meena Kadri

Thanks for the clarification, Aguinaldo. Sounds like a relevantly sized test. Apologies for our confusion.

View all comments