Edited by Michael H. Morris
Chapter 22: Penn State Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program
Over 1.2 billion people across the world live on less than $1 a day and 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day. In East Africa, over 60 percent of the population is malnourished and access to healthcare is incomprehensible for the vast majority of the people. Traditional top-down aid-based approaches, though essential in certain humanitarian situations, have largely failed to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life for marginalized communities. There is ample evidence that billions of dollars in aid money have been expended on development projects that are fundamentally unsustainable. Chronic unemployment, a lack of housing and unreliable agricultural and energy systems plague communities globally. Despite these facts, 90 percent of current design efforts are directed towards 10 percent of the world’s population. At the same time, innovative products designed for low-cost markets like India and China are being introduced into Western markets at disruptively low price-points. As the developing world looks toward ‘us’ to solve their problems, how can we learn from ‘them’ to address our own problems? The Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) Program engages students and faculty across Penn State in the rigorous research, design, field-testing, and launch of technology-based social enterprises. HESE follows in the footsteps of social entrepreneurs like Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank), Paul Polak (International Development Enterprises) and G. Venkataswamy (Aravind Eye Hospital) who have successfully demonstrated the potential of market-based solutions to improve lives and livelihoods from the bottom up.
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