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Eat Your Own Clinic and Related Business Models

July 17th, 2009 - An entry in an Architecture for Humanity design competition combines low impact design, social problem solving, and local food. Can this example help us think about business models and longevity?

The Kenaf Field Clinic is simple. Plant a circle of really fast-growing kenaf in an HIV/AIDS stricken area of Africa, when the doctors come they mow out the middle and put an easy tensile structure on top. Doctors don’t have to bring their own building, and when they leave, the people cut down and eat the kenaf.

With a focused design mind operating within crisis constraints, more of the business and humanitarian challenges in this world could be tackled effectively and with lighter resources. Stacking the functions elegantly like this can help tackle the immediate humanitarian need without creating new ones. If the mobile clinic solution were high resource or used toxic materials, then people would be solving an immediate crisis while creating future crises. By considering the peoples needs, the resources available, the environmental impact, and the cost, a solution with all those was designed.

Businesses employing the same thinking might find double revenue streams, or reduce input costs by designing material recovery systems. The Kenaf Field Clinic idea is now some years old, but is as relevant as ever as a sweet design example. See Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity talk about it on TED.

What are your favorite examples of profitable cradle to cradle business models? Drop down to the comments box below!


Lily Laurence is a Happiness Engineer at Yerdle, and sometimes people pay her to draw while they talk. She is pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School.

[Read more about Lillian Laurence]


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