Chapter 9

ZERO-BASED DESIGN IN PRACTICE:A Cautionary Tale

Markets can be merciless. New technology, no matter how brilliant and innovative, will not survive in the marketplace unless it meets customers’ real needs as they perceive them and offers a true competitive advantage over existing products, whether in price, value, or accessibility.

MIT professor Amy Smith has inspired several generations of students and a global network of development practitioners with her passion and commitment to developing technology suitable for use by poor people in the Global South. But when she and her D-Lab team at MIT launched an initiative to help families in Haiti make charcoal out of agricultural by-products such as bagasse (sugarcane waste), they ran into ...

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