Design Impact: Update

Ramsey Ford from American based NGO “Design Impact” writes about the development of ODAM’s fairtrade soap and charcoal briquette projects.

The Soap Production ProcessDesign Impact (DI) is a non-profit organization that partners professional designers with community organizations. These designers work on-site with innovative organizations and the communities they serve to design and implement life-improving solutions. Since September of 2009 we have worked with ODAM on two projects: the Paruva Kalaam Fair-trade soap and the Erikoodu Briquette.

The Paruva Kalaam (Tamil for seasons) fair-trade soap project grew out of ODAM’s existing bio-diesel program. ODAM needed to find a way to turn glycerin—a natural co-product of biodiesel production—into a marketable product, in order to support the project and create high wage jobs in this rural area. They developed the idea to create a glycerin soap in conjunction with several  other volunteers.

DI has worked with ODAM to refine their soap formula, develop a brand identity based on local values and international market trends, create a process of batch soap production, and build relationships with distribution and retail in the United States.  We are currently in the final stages of market preparation and are seeking additional retail opportunities in the US and EU.

The Erikoodu (Tamil for burning nest) Briquette project aims to alleviate the dangers of indoor air pollution while creating jobs in this area. The briquette, made from locally available agriculture waste, waste charcoal, and clay soil, burns for 90 minutes without smoke. The briquette is designed to fit inside of the traditional chulas (stoves) used by low income women, and is priced to compete with and replace wood as a fuel for cooking.

Design Impact collaborated with ODAM and other volunteers to refine the briquette product, develop an effective means of production, locate the appropriate consumer and develop distribution linkages to the market. This product is ready for its market debut. However, this debut has been delayed as ODAM waits for funds for a charcoal pulverizer—an essential machine for producing briquettes.

Designers work with innovative organisations

DI and ODAM are working together to see these projects implemented in 2011. Over the past year we have worked closely with several talented volunteers and ODAM staff members to complete these projects. This has been an inclusive grassroots effort to create change—one that we believe will impact both local community and leave a lasting impact on ODAMs process of development.