Manny Ohonme: Samaritan’s Feet

Design for Social Innovation

Talk about Manny Ohonme’s visit and how the class may have
helped you think better about design for social innovation and its role in

Manny Ohonme, founder of Samaritan’s Feet, is not only a passionate about his world shoe program, but his story also ties closely with the type of service he is giving. I really liked his personal story about receiving tennis shoes and playing basketball, and I think a lot of people can relate to the feeling of getting something they have wanted for so long. I think showing Manny’s story, even just to have a bigger presence on the Samaritan’s Feet website, can give a larger impact and strengthen the mission statement.

I think Manny has really thought through his program, its purpose, and its implementation. I felt a little uneasy when he kept stressing that all these sole-transmitted diseases and parasites could be solved with his world shoes. To quote him, “The solution is basic.” I understand his motivation and drive, but I believe the problem is much bigger than just a shoe problem and far too complicated to be broken down and labeled as such. Moreover, if those affected by these sole-transmitted diseases have feet swollen many times their original size, how would they fit into a shoe? This is, at the very least, an issue of hygiene, cleanliness, and health.

Samaritan’s Feet makes more sense to me than the TOMS’ buy-one-give-one campaign, though. TOMS is a good example of a wrongly-framed international aid idea that attempts to solve a problem that may not even exist by dumping shoes in a developing country. Samaritan’s Feet is also not a case of “the white savior”; the program is rooted in someone’s story, someone who experienced the pains of not having good shoes and the joys of receiving new ones. The fact that it is someone like Manny who is trying to perpetrate change is what sets Samaritan’s Feet apart from other programs.

I appreciate that Manny and his team are not just implementing an idea and leaving it; they are trying to grow toward a goal. Manny mentioned a goal of localized manufacturing, which was originally one of my concerns. Does his world shoe program interfere with local shoemakers?

It is interesting how Manny has integrated faith in Samaritan’s Feet. The symbolism of washing feet and humility is strong in the Bible, and it is interesting to see how it translates into this world shoe program. Like Silvia said in class, a lot of social innovation organizations are driven by faith — not for the purpose of evangelizing but for the purpose of love and service. This was something I knew but never really reflected upon.

I think Manny is headed in the right direction, although the scale at which he wants to work at is HUGE. He definitely has the right motivation and drive for social innovation, and I find his story incredibly inspiring and selfless.