Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE) is a multi-campus program that seeks to address the well being of people living in low-income and resource-poor situations through business and technical innovation. I was part of the team responsible for designing and implementing of the new program at Olin College and a number of partner universities and colleges.
Olin is a small, young and largely project-based engineering college that has tasked itself with reinventing engineering education. Of the many incredible experiences I had at the college, helping build the ADE program is the one that I am most proud of. Together with a small team lead by a professor, a good friend, and myself we spent over two years designing and establishing the program. As designers, we started by researching, talking to people in the target communities and meeting with potential partner universities. With the support of a number of grants, this research took us to Brazil, Morocco and rural Alabama. A report with insights from this research was presented to social entrepreneur Paul Polak in support of his Design Revolution 100 initiative.
An entrepreneurial undertaking in itself, we worked with college and university administrators, developed curriculum, identified partners, established projects and helped recruit the first class of students. ADE has established itself as one of the most innovative programs on Olin’s campus: it is structured as a firm where student teams work with community partners nationally and internationally to co-create and launch new products and ventures. Examples of current project ventures include:
- Designing a new gear mechanism and business model to reduce the physical burden on rickshaw pullers in India.
- Designing and testing a village-scale grater for processing cassava in Ghana.
- Creating a go-to-market strategy for a bamboo bike venture to support economic development, job creation, and job-skills training in Alabama.
- Mapping social and entrepreneurial opportunities to allow the illiterate and innumerate to use mobile phones for communication, education, business, and empowerment in Morocco.