SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The organization Asili was created by the American Refugee Committee and IDEO.org to combat high child mortality rates in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the World Bank 146 out of every 1000 children will die before they reach their fifth birthday in the DRC. This high child mortality rate was sustained by four major causes: pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition.
There was a consensus that combating child mortality rates did not have a single solution, but rather required the entire community to cooperate.
Thus, a social enterprise called Asili was born.
Asili began with four pilot enterprises providing services for water, health, nutrition and agriculture These have not only directly combated the four major causes of childhood mortality, but have also paved the way for other enterprises including electricity, education and sanitation.
Asili was designed primarily by IDEO.org, a “global design consultancy.”
Over a 12-week period, the women chimed in on everything from the logo to the business plan. Seven women from the village were chosen to collaborate with IDEO.org to design and create a social enterprise.
During the sessions, the women discussed how to provide services to those in the community who have weak purchasing powers. They also analyzed how to increase their disposable income to decrease reliance on subsidies to receive the various services offered by Asili.
The creators of Asili want it to become a locally-run, self-sustaining business. Most recipients of Asili’s services likely will not be able to start off affording everything.
To address this economic constraint, Asili recognized the need for third-party investors. The families most in need will receive financial assistance.
The visions cast by the founders of Asili are big: they recognize the need for financial partners. To cover the cost of subsidies, Asili services would require $154,000.
In total, it has been projected that $2.5 million is necessary to run three Asili stores.
According to the Fragile States Index – which ranks countries by their resilience against difficult circumstances such as unemployment, food, water scarcity and ethnic violence – the DRC is the fourth most unstable country in the world.
Asili’s success in the DRC will be much anticipated.
– Christina Cho
Sources: Asili Blueprint, IDEO, World Bank, IDEO
Photo: Jestina George