Guiding Constructs

Three constructs guide our work. The beginning construct is the economic pyramid from C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart (Strategy + Business, Issue 26, 2002). The take home from this construct is that we strive to move up people from the bottom, especially those earning less than $5 per day. The constant in the middle is the poverty framework from William S. Kisaalita (Resource: Engineering and Technology for a Sustainable World 25(4): 11-13, 2018), showing where our work fits. The take home from this construct is that we develop technology-based solutions to intervene. The closing construct is the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) level of solution developers or innovators versus wide use from William S. Kisaalita (Technology in Society 46:58-62, 2016). The construct illustrates how we integrate undergraduate and graduate education, how we embrace multiple disciplines, and how we strive to commercialize promising solutions. The take home message from this construct is that it is not an innovation unless it is used widely.


Construct One: The economic pyramid.



Construct Two: The framework for better understanding of poverty with respect to its causes, resulting behavior among the poor, and interventions. As shown, the state of poverty is a consequence of genetic and environmental factors. The state of poverty (size of the circle) can be visualized or measured in different ways, including daily income and negative affective states (small circles inside the big circle). The meaning of the negative sign from technological/value-chain interventions arrow is a reduction in the circle size (poverty reduction). However, this is counterweighted by the positive sign with the opposite effect because of two characteristics resulting for being poor such as shortsightedness. Question marks in the framework signify that while many studies have conclusively shown these causal relationships, some of these studies have been conducted in the “laboratory” and a few field studies have not succeeded in establishing the suggested causality, calling for continued field study.

Construct Three: Success or failure of science/engineering-driven solutions in developing economies can be represented by a four-quadrant figure, inspired by the quadrant model of scientific research by Donald E. Stokes (Pasteur’s Quadrant: basic Science and Technological Innovations, Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 1997). The vertical axis represents STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) complexity behind the solution. Another way of characterizing widespread use is when the solution units in use are above the “tipping point.” A tipping point is that moment when a critical mass is reached, beyond which the increase in up-take is exponential. The horizontal axis represents the extent to which the solution has succeeded in the market place (achieving the innovation designation) or its widespread use (diffusion).