Since 2004, I have led technology-based social ventures in Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, India, Mozambique, Philippines, Kazakhstan, and other countries. These ventures are very tightly integrated with the Global Social Impact Fellowship Program at Lehigh University (and earlier with the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) Program at Penn State). These are all multi-year academic ventures with student teams rotating in and out of the program. Scholarly articles related to most of these ventures can be found on the Publications page (and on ResearchGate). While some venture teams engage 4-6 students, some others like Ukweli Test Strips, Affordable Greenhouses, and Mashavu telemedicine are built on the work of hundreds of students over the years.
Ukweli Test Strips (Sierra Leone)
Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Ukweli test strips are inexpensive (2-cent) test strips to screen women for Urinary Tract Infections and Preeclampsia, two major contributors to maternal mortality and morbidity. The test strips received regulatory approval from the Sierra Leonean Pharmacy Control Board in December 2019 culminating a four-year research, design, and field-testing journey. In January 2020, in partnership with World Hope International, Ukweli hired the first employee in Sierra Leone to mobilize communities, train Community Health Workers (CHWs), and distribute test strips. We are now exploring how these test strips can be introduced in Liberia, Madagascar, and other countries with similar challenges.
Thera Metrey Mushroom Production Systems (Cambodia, Sierra Leone)
Mushrooms grow fast! Commercial production of mushrooms can improve local food security, reduce malnutrition, and augment livelihoods. Thera Metrey (“compassionate earth” in Khmer) is a social enterprise that works with (mostly women) rice farmers in central Cambodia. As of Oct 2019, about 250 farmers grow over 5,000 kgs of straw mushrooms on a weekly basis for the Phnom Penh market. Penn State, and then Lehigh, students were engaged in the development of the technology, the business model, supply chains, and scaling strategies in collaboration with World Hope International. After tremendous success in Cambodia, a Lehigh team is developing a commercial mushroom production ecosystem in Sierra Leone.
Affordable Greenhouses (Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, etc.)
Affordable Greenhouses designed for small agro-enterprises and sustenance farmers to improve their livelihoods while reducing spoilage and furthering food security. The greenhouses have been licensed to a for-profit company called Mavuuno Greenhouses (http://www.mavuunogreenhouses.com/) based in Nairobi, Kenya for the East African Market and Greenhouse Ventures in Cameroon. In collaboration with World Hope International, and funding support from the USAID Securing Water for Food Program, a network of social enterprises called GRO Greenhouses has been established in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Zambia.
Design and Commercialization of a telemedicine system operated by Community Health Workers (CHWs) in East Africa. Collaborators include Safaricom, United Nations Industrial Development Office (UNIDO) and Children and Youth Empowerment Center (CYEC), Kenya. Mashavu currently has six social franchisees in Central Kenya and has a sustainable cash-positive technology and business model.
WishVast is a cell-phone-based business networking system that harnesses the pervasiveness of cellphones in developing countries to optimize resource utilization and facilitate people-to-people trade, with the ultimate goal of alleviating poverty. People First Tourism evolved from Wishvast and is championed by Duarte Morais from NCSU. It has been deployed in the US, Brazil and other countries.