Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
"Some of the major challenges facing the tiny, isolated rural communities targeted by MicroConsignment are not only poverty and unemployment, but easily preventable health problems like gastrointestinal and pulmonary diseases, vision problems, and malnutrition. Whereas urban populations are more likely to have access to the goods and services necessary for basic health care, the residents of satellite villages in remote areas cannot obtain the items that they need to ensure minimal welfare. Rural populations also struggle with severe underemployment because the countryside is failing to generate new jobs. According to Greg, in most of the rural communities where he has worked, the jobs created by MicroConsignment have zero opportunity cost—in other words, many of his local entrepreneurs simply have no other options for employment or self-employment. Greg insists that the fundamental problem is not that appropriate, reasonably priced health care related goods and services do not exist; but rather, that many rural communities lack the access to these goods and services. This lack of access not only affects villagers’ health, but also has negative implications on family economy in rural communities. For instance, because most poor rural families in Guatemala cook with indoor bonfires, villagers develop pulmonary diseases, children often suffer burns, and families spend a great deal of time and money collecting or purchasing firewood, thereby limiting their economic productivity. Various models of efficient, portable wood-burning stoves have been invented, but many of these satellite communities do not have access to them and if they do it is only through sporadic donations. A lack of access to important health-related goods and services is largely due to the absence of distribution infrastructure in remote rural villages. Many villages are both far-flung and tiny, thus complicating the efforts of distributors to realize economy of scale in their services to these areas. Often the only roads leading to these communities are unpaved or in great disrepair. Moreover, many villagers speak a variety of indigenous dialects rather than Spanish, which makes it more difficult for distributors to deliver goods and services on a large-scale. Some COs have attempted to deliver donated goods and services to satellite communities, but two problems arise. First, while these organizations are well-intentioned, their donations often increase villagers’ dependency, as critics of “handout” programs are quick to point out. Second, the donation-based approach is not a sustainable long-term solution. Should donations stop, villagers are left without recourse to support. Furthermore, limited financial resources make it unfeasible for donation-based programs to expand to address the needs of isolated rural communities on a national, regional, or global level.
Greg identified the need for a comprehensive model that would deliver necessary health-related goods and services to small rural communities at affordable prices while also providing sustainable, locally generated self-employment. All the necessary components for such a model exist, but need to be articulated and set in motion. “There is a need for an efficient and effective model that leverages all stakeholders’ competencies and mitigates limitations to address this lack of access in a sustainable, profitable, and scalable manner,” explains Greg. To be successful, such a model would have to be “variable-cost-based and holistic” and would have to involve “product vetting, social entrepreneur-identification, financing, [and] training,” empowering villagers to solve local problems on a continuous basis rather than attempting to impose external solutions. After years of experimentation and adjustments, Greg designed the MicroConsignment model to respond to vulnerable community members’ needs."
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Greg's MicroConsignment model creates access to health care-related goods and services in isolated rural communities. The key to the MicroConsignment model is that local women are given the opportunity to become entrepreneurs by selling goods and services in their communities using a consignment mechanism. Unlike the traditional approach of giving handouts to rural communities, the MicroConsignment model—which Greg implements through his American citizen organization (CO), Community Enterprise Solutions and Social Entrepreneur Corps, is scalable, replicable, and sustainable. The majority of MicroConsignment's local entrepreneurs are women who had no other opportunities to generate additional household income. They have successfully sold eyeglasses, wood-burning stoves, seeds/growing techniques, water filters and energy-efficient light bulbs, in over 1,000 remote villages at affordable prices; thereby improving public health and economic welfare. Greg's model creates powerful synergies between all the stakeholders in the supply chain, from low-cost providers to the locally-owned social enterprise partner, Soluciones Comunitarias, to the local entrepreneurs and ultimately, the consumers. These synergies are the basis of the model's success as well as its future replicability.