The Challenge


How might we use social business to improve health in low-income communities?

Challenge Brief

OpenIDEO has partnered with the Holistic Social Business Movement (HSBM) of Caldas – a joint venture between the Grameen Creative Lab and the Government of Caldas, Colombia – to consider how social businesses can improve the health of low-income communities in Colombia and around the world. Together, with your help, we hope to develop a set of implementable and high impact solutions to support and promote social business development and improve health in low-income areas like Caldas, where 26% of the population lives in extreme poverty.
The primary goal of this OpenIDEO Challenge is to identify ways to harness the energy, capabilities and impact of social businesses – and the entrepreneurs who build them – to improve the health of low-income communities globally. 

Specifically, we’ll be asking you to focus on solutions to Caldas’ urgent health needs, which include malnutrition, infant mortality and reproductive and sexual health. Compounding these issues are the absence of a culture of prevention, plus minimal access to and quality in the health care system — all of which have serious consequences for the region’s poor.

While the Challenge is rooted in the region of Caldas, the issues surrounding health for such communities are found across the world.

What is Social Business?

According to the Grameen Creative Lab, social business “operates for the benefit of addressing social needs that enable societies to function more efficiently.” In essence, social business – or social enterprise as it is sometimes called – is about using business to change our world for the better. It's also key to remember that a social business is one that does not pay dividends – instead all profits earned are reinvested in the social business, which enables it to continue operating in and supporting local communities.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, sketched out Seven Principles for social business, which we will use as a foundation for this challenge. You can also watch Professor Yunus discuss Grameen Danone Foods, a social business addressing the nutrition needs of low-income communities in India.

The Scale of the Problem: Health in Caldas

Caldas – a region in the western interior of Colombia – is at the very heart of the coffee producing zone. Thirty percent of Caldas’ population lives in rural areas, and it is one of the most unequal states in Colombia with a Gini coefficient of 0.55. 

Manizales, the capital of Caldas, has a poverty rate of 57.1%. In Caldas, 18.5% of the population does not have health insurance, despite the state subsidizing a large proportion. And for those who do have insurance, the care provided is limited and of poor quality.

Specifically, people in Caldas face a number of serious health concerns:

  • Infant health and mortality: 8.3% of newborns are born underweight and Caldas has a 12.5% infant mortality rate
  • Malnutrition: 27.1% of female-led households suffer from severe food insecurity. And for those who do have access to food, unhealthy or poor nutrition often leads to high cholesterol and heart disease.
  • Reproductive and sexual health: Caldas experiences high rates of teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, and uterine cancer
  • Unhealthy living conditions: residents in Caldas often use asbestos to build their roofs, which causes high rates of respiratory diseases. Residents also face overcrowding, which can lead to serious health consequences, especially during mudslides and other periods of intense weather.

Background on Grameen Creative Lab & HSBM of Caldas

Grameen Creative Lab
The Grameen Creative Lab's vision is to serve society’s most pressing needs through social business. We have set ambitious goals for ourselves to reach by 2015:

  • Create broad awareness for social business
  • Establish Grameen as a worldwide brand
  • Create movement for social business worldwide
  • Establish social business as mainstream university case
  • Enable access to corporate knowledge
  • Enable access to funding for social business
  • Ensure quality control for social business

Click here to learn more.

Holistic Social Business Movement of Caldas
The Holistic Social Business Movement of Caldas (HSBM) aims at eradicating poverty and rebuilding the region’s economy while addressing the main social needs of Caldas: education nutrition, healthcare and housing. The HSBM of Caldas was launched in 2009 by Prof. Muhammad Yunus and Caldas’ Governor Aristizabal and focuses on three main areas: microfinance services to alleviate poverty, social business funding, and social business joint ventures. The HSBM of Caldas has started as a pilot in Colombia but longer term will develop into a replicable model of poverty reduction applicable worldwide. Click here to learn more.

As usual – we'll start with the Inspiration phase where we gather existing insights surrounding the challenge. Next we roll over to the Concepting phase where you can add your bright ideas, informed by all that inspirational goodness. Then we get the chance to collectively assess concepts in the Evaluation Phase to help decide on the most relevant solutions.

Sources for the Brief:
- Linea Base Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio en Caldas 2007, Hernando Márquez Palacio, Grupo Proyectos Estratégicos, Despacho del Gobernador
- Caldas, tierra de contrastes, Gobernador Mario Aristizábal Muñoz, Grupo para la Reducción de la Pobreza
- Plan de Desarrollo 2008-2011, Secretaria de Planeación Departamental, Grupo Proyectos Estratégicos, Despacho del Gobernador
All images courtesy of Grameen Creative Lab
Video courtesy of Gayle Ferraro, Aerial Productions

Community & Social Media Manager:

 Meena Kadri

Our Challenge Administrators

Check out how our global community is contributing – and the impact so far!

Comment on the Brief

If you'd like to leave us your thoughts on this brief, tell us what you think. Be sure to also check out the challenge

Join the conversation and post a comment.

Mitchell Sexner

September 16, 2013, 07:36AM
When one of the associates who was working on surgical errors and lawsuits went for his volunteer work, he roped in a few members of the law firm to initiate supporting one of the social enterprises that he encountered. It was very interesting as it supporting a few low income communities in their health care concerns and it was so good that the entire firm decided to take part.

Mitchell Sexner

August 27, 2013, 02:24AM
A known law firm that specializes in medical malpractice recently organized a social initiative to help improve health care in low-income communities. This was triggered by one of the medical malpractice cases they handled, a case wherein the plaintiff was from a low-income community. It was a pro bono case, and after rounds of deposition and out of court settlement, the law firm was able to win the case. But because of that, they decided to do something more – a group of associates was tasked to run an information campaign in a selected low income community on what to do should they run into a medical malpractice situation. More law firms joined and have offered their services, if not pro bono, at very minimum costs.

Jeff Mowatt

September 19, 2012, 08:18AM
Our 2006 strategy paper describes how the profit-for-purpose approach may be applied generally for improving socio economic conditions:

"An inherent assumption about capitalism is that profit is defined only in terms of monetary gain. This assumption is virtually unquestioned in most of the world. However, it is not a valid assumption. Business enterprise, capitalism, must be measured in terms of monetary profit. That rule is not arguable. A business enterprise must make monetary profit, or it will merely cease to exist. That is an absolute requirement. But it does not follow that this must necessarily be the final bottom line and the sole aim of the enterprise. How this profit is used is another question. It is commonly assumed that profit will enrich enterprise owners and investors, which in turn gives them incentive to participate financially in the enterprise to start with.

That, however, is not the only possible outcome for use of profits. Profits can be directly applied to help resolve a broad range of social problems: poverty relief, improving childcare, seeding scientific research for nationwide economic advancement, improving communications infrastructure and accessibility, for examples – the target objectives of this particular project plan. The same financial discipline required of any conventional for-profit business can be applied to projects with the primary aim of improving socioeconomic conditions. Profitability provides money needed to be self-sustaining for the purpose of achieving social and economic objectives such as benefit of a nation’s poorest, neediest people. In which case, the enterprise is a social enterprise. "

Zak Edelman

March 13, 2012, 22:12PM
Construct a public/non-profit/not-for-profit exercise facility, closely mimicking nature, including community input, where "exercise" stations are actually fun, relatively safe, and stress multi-muscle movements.

Zak Edelman

March 13, 2012, 22:21PM
I miss-read this challenge, sorry everyone. Please disregard.

Ashley Jablow

March 13, 2012, 22:26PM
No problem Zak - here's hoping you'll join the conversation on some of our active challenges too. You can find them on the homepage. Welcome onboard.

Dorothy Ogolla

February 14, 2012, 13:14PM
Social impact is what we are all looking for as a proof of concept that our initiatives have touched people's lives. Let me share with you a success story from the Grameen foundation an NGO. Experienced in mobile technology, building sustainable and scalable social businesses models - targeting the poor of the poorest, especially women. Grameen foundation in its AppLabs, has piloted 2 separate Mobile applications in different, but pertinent fields.

Agriculture: A trusted community volunteer, trained to become a community knowledge worker (CKW) is armed with a smart phone to disseminate and collect valuable agriculture related data, is planted in an area covering approximately 500-750 households. Which harbor the targeted small scale farmers. The Ag information provided ranges from Garden preparation to post harvest handling, specific disease and pest control in animals, and market information.
Health: The Google SMS health application piloted in Uganda. Allows a phone user to SMS a sexual and reproductive related query to the 6001 code and gets an instant response through the same channel. Was tested between 2009 -2010. This model was improved and adopted in Ghana under the Mobile technology for community health (Motech). Which has two interrelated applications. The Mobile midwife application - which allows pregnant women and their families to receive weekly SMS or Voice alerts, and reminders in their local languages. The information provided includes; prenatal treatment reminders and advice to help deal with challenges during pregnancy.
The community health workers are also able to record and track the care delivered to the mothers and the newborns using the Nurses' Application. Nurses enter data about patients' clinic visits, into forms which are found in the low-end mobile Java enabled phone seated at the area clinic.
Now to experience change in the livelihoods of low-income communities, women should be a major target. Fore footing solutions which are practical, sustainable and replicable all over the world.

sachin aggarwal

January 29, 2012, 05:01AM
Sometime back I used to work in an NGO in India. They were working on a pilot project of community business. They used to form communities in low income areas. Community members were usually female members as female are usually homemakers and they don't work. Each member of the community would contribute small money every month. That fund was used to start a community business of making cheap sanitary napkins for women. This would not only make families economically more stable but also improve hygienic conditions for women.
This was a great initiative.

Rahilla Zafar

December 09, 2011, 23:21PM
I visited fairtrade coffee farmers in Caldas in 2008. It was surreal to see many coffee farmers literally carrying beans in a bag on their backs walking miles on bad roads to the nearest seller. Fairtrade had a positive component because it not only paid premiums that helped communities, particularly enabling more students to attend school, it also had environmental requirements in terms of water conservation and chemicals used. Such requirements created more opportunities. One example was a group of farmers I met who told me that as they were dumping less pesticides into the water, more fish were coming creating another industry for them to make money in addition to farming. Others that had livestock were trained on how to turn pig manure into methane power which created drastic savings on energy costs for households. A challenge faced during that time was currency fluctuation. From my observations, I think it is important for communities to have multiple avenues of revenues and not rely entirely on income from exports to avoid being hit so hard and balance out hits from times of difficulties such as droughts and currency fluctuations.

I do agree with Ogo's point below on how more programs should be targeted towards women. A great example of that was many of the methane power stations were run and managed by women. It allowed them to spend more time at home and less time having to do remedial jobs such as weeding and walking on fields of large land owners. I'd love to hear other examples of creating income generation opportunities in such communities that otherwise didn't exist or an environmental innovation or practice that ended up creating jobs as well.

Victoria Kennedy

November 29, 2011, 07:29AM
What are some of the non-profits or other social enterprises in and around Caldas that are already trying to address this issue if any? What sort of government programs or funding do they have

Ogo Maduewesi

November 27, 2011, 23:15PM
I think that solutions to these issues such as malnutrition, infant mortality and reproductive and sexual health would be first education, women especially. ,
They really need to understand their environment, outcome of their daily lifestyles etc. I believe in using entertainment education to motivate such behavior change, it has to be through a means they can irresistibly identify with.
in most communities there is this belief that certain food or lifestyle is for certain people, but its totally true, the healthiest things we need for our grat health are most times more available to the poor and by this I mean fruits, vegetables and exercises which they do as past of life.
Jobs should be provided, skill acquisition and Economic empowerment for the women and all these will be less. When they are engaged there wont be time for so many things but the necessary ones.

Pradeep Mehta

November 27, 2011, 04:32AM
I am new and don't know if I am going in the right direction so help me guys.
My idea for Social Business for improving the health of low income communities would be beekeeping if that is possible in the area mentioned. Consumption of honey increases the immune system of the body and honey is used in different diseases.
Addition to this Beekeeping gives income from various by products like honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis, wax, etc that in turn brings money so that the family can meet their basic needs as well as can get treatment in case of major diseases.
Grameen can also market the honey products by giving it a brand.
Vegetable cultivation can be another option to improve the health of low income families.

Dorothy Ogolla

February 15, 2012, 11:35AM
This sounds great, honey is a world wide demanded health product.

Penny Hadley

July 10, 2011, 18:06PM
Just want to say hi! Im new to openideo & love what ive seen so far
Hope i can become a productive participator in the near future - pls be patient with me as i learn how to post :-)

Paramtap Mewada

July 20, 2011, 15:22PM
Same here..:)

Matthew Collins

July 25, 2011, 20:27PM
Thanks for introducing yourselves guys. As a participant, I've noticed the OpenIDEO community is generally supportive and gracious towards fellow participants. I look forward to engaging with you.

Ashley Jablow

July 25, 2011, 23:54PM
Welcome onboard! We're thrilled you're joining us :)

Gina Taha

July 02, 2011, 10:45AM
Hi guys, being Colombian myself I'm particularly sensitive about this challenge and excited to begin concepting! I don't mean to be anal but on the last infoviz Colombia is spelled wrong... it's a common mistake to change to 'o' for a 'u', like the university.

Kerstin Von

June 23, 2011, 02:15AM
Awesome concept! Totally believe in it! Keep it up! : )

Johan Löfström

June 18, 2011, 16:57PM
In this comment section under the challenge-briefs you seem to always get a lot of people that post suggestions. Why not de-activate the comment function here? and make a clearer linking point to where people should post their inspirations and concept proposals? (the grey flag with Start the challenge is not obvious enough)

( I know that I should have posted this idea elsewhere, but to prove my point to you i just stuck it here )
(and note that i love the comment section in all the posted inspirations and concepting stages, because the discussions there seem to spawn many new ideas in the process)
have a great weekend!

Haiyan Zhang

June 20, 2011, 16:56PM
Hi Johan, thanks for the great suggestion. We still think it's valuable to let people comment on the brief. Perhaps even some users find it easier to leave a comment than to add an inspiration? We are trying to figure out the motivations behind the different comments in this section...

From users who are visiting this section now please tell us if one of these apply to you:
a) Did you leave a comment because you find this to be the easiest way to interact with the challenge?

b) Did you leave a comment because you would rather use this comment interface than the 'Add an inspiration' interface?

c) Did you leave a comment because there isn't another place in the challenge for you to express your thoughts?

We would love to hear from you! Please reply below!


June 25, 2011, 02:56AM
Hi Haiyan, I think they all apply, but I would mostly side with "A"

Haiyan Zhang

June 29, 2011, 08:18AM
Thanks Trevor!

Johan Löfström

July 02, 2011, 11:13AM
I believe that the majority of comments on front pages like these is only because people do not see the proper link on how to click their way into the actual challenge forum and contribute in the correct place.

Many are used to the blog-world, where you just add your thoughts in the first empty space available that have a button with "Reply". They do want to contribute, but doesn't take the time or want to figure out where to click to enter and publish their bits.

Compare it with a park; where many bicyclists and pedestrians choose "the path of least resistence", and it soon forms clear paths and patterns on where the most short-cuts are taken across the grass (and not where the designers placed the asphalt paths)

Diana Fernholz

June 17, 2011, 14:03PM
The Center for Health Market Innovations has a great, completely free database of over 800 unique and interesting programs to improve access to health for the poor, including five in Colombia. A lot of these programs are implemented by social entrepreneurs and it could be a really great jumping off point for inspirations!

Jason Wong

June 16, 2011, 08:24AM
Fundamentals (or the root causes) need to be rectified first before any thought off solutions can be implemented. I believe that living conditions need to be improved first. Better living conditions should yield the reduction of asbestos usage, overcrowding, and transmission of contagious diseases. Once these can be improved on, the next step is to improve their quality of life by leveraging on social businesses.

The challenge here can be moved in either concurrently or sequentially. However, the latter approach will be systematically feasible, as the improvements will help the residents of Caldas realise what they can achieve in their lives (as they scale up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).

Alex Todaro

June 15, 2011, 22:08PM
Charity= giving a man a fish, Social business= teaching a man to fish.
Absolutely wonderful.

Anne Kjaer Riechert

July 04, 2011, 05:32AM
I came across a modification of this Fisherman story in Istanbul two months ago. Unfortuantely no source was given. But the idea was:

Philanthropic Approach = "Giving out fishes"
Empowering Approach = "Teaching fishing"
Social Innovation Approach = "Improving the fishing industry"

It builds on (my interpretation of) Mr. Wong´s above point - that public policy and social business should go hand in hand.

Kevin Carroll

June 15, 2011, 21:50PM
I just came from speaking at an event for The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray, Paul Pierce support them) where I serve as one of their Champions & this OpenIDEO challenge hit home regarding social business making a difference – The Alliance was founded by the Clinton Foundation + the American Heart Association w/major support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation(they gave a $23 Million grant to their US Healthy Schools Program on Monday/$51 Million to date - The Alliance is a great example of an organization benefiting from social business!

Nathan Waterhouse

June 16, 2011, 19:56PM
Hi Kevin, this a great contribution, thanks. Would you mind adding it as an inspiration? you can do that here:


James McBennett

June 16, 2011, 23:49PM
Hey Kevin! Great meeting you in New York at the TED Full Spectrum event, I caught one of your red balls you threw at the audience! Great to see you on OpenIDEO.

Kevin Carroll

June 15, 2011, 13:31PM
Echo Shamira's comment - EDUCATION...
Identify the "true" Caldas community leaders (+ identifying the rising leaders) & create an alliance/trust with those leaders via education.

Sean Bunjamin

June 15, 2011, 07:54AM
It seems that the challenge / problem lays very deep into the culture of the region. To solve this means to help the locals to be more aware ( knowledgeable) of the problems they might never considered.

JB Reed

June 15, 2011, 03:52AM
Acumen Fund has a great video that explains social business -

Good inspiration for this challenge.

Meena Kadri

June 19, 2011, 01:42AM
Nice one JB! Would be great if you might post this over in the Inspiration phase of the challenge so that it's shared with our global community.

Meena Kadri

June 19, 2011, 01:43AM
Thanks heaps JB – great to see your Acumen post has been a popular one with others in the community!

JB Reed

June 15, 2011, 03:45AM
Yunus sums up the case for social business well, "Charity dollars have only one life. If you use it, its done. But if you define this into a social business, that social business dollar has endless life, because it recycles. So you touch many more lives."

Sidi Soueina

June 14, 2011, 18:51PM
This is likely going to succeed ... think coffee.


June 14, 2011, 18:19PM
ABC4All YOUNGSTERS REVOLUTION offers a way to bring Global Humanitarian Relief (GHR) to the world to anyone alive who is receptive. This is being shared via the Viral Loop reaching out to half the world's population under 30. This is for A Better Community For All (ABC4All) in any location int he world.

Xanthe Matychak

June 14, 2011, 12:44PM
Empower community members to start door to door service enterprise in which they administer basic medical tests medicines.

Ambareen Raquib

November 14, 2013, 04:44AM
I believe that collaborating with the medicine students and creating a volunteering group to make the residents aware of the hygiene and providing them with medicines which can be funded by the hospitals can help the residents to develop their living conditions

Sina Mossayeb

June 13, 2011, 19:04PM
This background brief is the best one yet. It really does cover a lot of bases!

Ashley Jablow

June 14, 2011, 20:23PM
Thanks Sina :)
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