The MicroConsignment Model

SUMMARY: Our MicroConsignment Model (MCM) creates first-time access to technologies that transform lives in isolated villages while creating jobs for local women who never had them before. These women become empathetic entrepreneurs in a value chain that is able to diagnose, identify, deliver and evaluate essential solutions for the “last mile.”

PROBLEM SPACE: In rural villages throughout the developing world, millions of families lack access to basic things they need to survive and thrive, such as purified water, light in their homes, clean cookstoves and eyeglasses. Solutions exist – water filters, solar lamps, and improved cookstoves – but by and large, the only way that they’re being distributed is through donations. The rural poor are totally underserved. Families are effectively forced to waste money and time that could be saved or invested. The MCM’s trimtab – empowering local women who have natural empathy towards and understanding of these communities to become entrepreneurs by having them pay post-sale not pre-sale – creates access for the first time in a sustainable way. This converts uncertainty to risk and communities now have access to these life-changing solutions and entrepreneurs generate an income for their families, often for the first time. Globally, the MCM builds a bridge between technology providers and the people that need them for the first time. Needs find solutions and solutions find needs. Women make money by providing a means for people to save money. We have already scaled the MCM and it can be replicated globally to help people escape the vicious cycle of poverty.

SOLUTION: Because of the MCM, isolated villagers in the developing world now have access to a portfolio of vital technologies for the very first time that have a profound economic, health, and energy impact on their lives. Women weavers can see again and be productive, children aren’t breathing in smoke, families have light at night.

‘Business as usual’ in marginalized communities means millions of families cooking campfire-style in their homes, drinking contaminated water, using kerosene to see, losing their near vision and more. Technologies that solve these problems instantly exist, but are unavailable and inaccessible. The MCM ends this status quo. The MCM trimtab – converting entrepreneurial uncertainty into risk by having local, first time women entrepreneurs pay after the sell and not before – gets families what they need by leveraging local human, social and cultural capital in a dignified way. It creates alignment throughout the value chain as all stakeholders are incentivized “sitting on the same side of the table” whilst bridging the “last mile” of access. The MCM gets people the right things in the right way at the right price.

The MCM was created by Greg Van Kirk, who saw the opportunity for a sustainable method of creating access to improved cook stoves while he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. After proving the model by implementing it to spur reading glasses sales in El Salvador, Greg and his partner Bucky Glickley created the non-profit Community Enterprise Solutions in 2004 as the engine for evolution of the model. Since then, the portfolio of solutions has grown to include water filters, solar lamps, rocket stoves and more, and the model has been implemented in Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua, South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

As use of the MCM grows globally, we anticipate transforming isolated villages into communities where people have access to basic technologies and can make educated choices about what they want, where entrepreneurs can generate an income and where families are healthy and economically stable.