Serving people’s most urgent needs massively


This is part of a presentation I held at InnovationX16 — a three-week program for DMJX students working cross disciplines on (social) innovation projects


Our point of departure: some of today’s (social) problems:

  • overcoming poor nutrition and obesity
  • access to water
  • overcoming deforestation and climate change
  • overcoming lack of skills
  • more healthcare
  • overcoming pollution
  • food for everyone
  • liveability in cities
  • overcoming poverty
  • inclusion
  • affordable housing

All of these are real needs of people.

Let’s think about people’s needs & business for a second: serving important needs has always been business, has always led to profit. That’s what business is about. But business is broken today. Business is not, or not sufficiently, meeting people’s needs — there is a gap between products & services and people’s needs. Businesses have to get better meeting people’s needs.

It‘s not helpful to turn to NGO’s or government organisations for serving those needs, because they lack the money and resources to scale a solution and reach global impact. Business has the money and resources for scale. (I like Michael Porter’s TED talk on that.)

All you need to do is show business how to make money serving that need. You need to show them where the profit is, you need to find a business model.

Some businesses that do so:

  • Dow Chemical: they’re producing heart healthy oil. Are they making loads shit of money? They’re making loads shit of money.
  • Jain Irrigation: they developed & market a drip watering system saving water in agriculture. Are they making loads shit of money? They’re making loads shit of money.
  • Fibria: they’re planting eucalyptus trees to gain wood instead of deforestation. Are they making loads shit of money? They’re making loads shit of money.
  • Specialisterne: they’re employing people with autism for software testing. Are they making loads shit of money? They’re making good money.
  • Wind for Prosperity (Vestas): they’re providing wind energy solutions for the 3rd world. Are they making loads shit of money? They’re making good money with that.
  • Calico (Google): they do research and development aiming to tackle death. Are they making loads shit of money? They will make loads shit of money.

But if you want scale and large impact, even larger than current business, you need to change the system.

Many social problems are negative effects of the industrial age. Therefore this rightly is a time of disruption. This rightly is a time of change. This rightly is a time of resistance.

This is the time to fix the system. (I’m inspired by Sha Hwang’s presentation at this years The Conference.)

It’s startups bringing back a respect & kindness to people in the area of finance and banking, for example.

We need to reimagine and redesign business.

Summing it up: It’s the businesses job to serve people’s needs. Not only enable business to do so but change business.


Thanks for listening.