1You can win $5,000 in the $5,000 Net Impact Challenge cosponsored by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick — if you hurry! The deadline for submissions of your ideas is Friday, Feb. 7, at midnight Eastern Standard Time. 

Here’s the Challenge: design a mission-driven, for-profit business capable of designing, producing, marketing, and distributing income-generating products and services to at least 100 million customers living on $2 a day or less within ten years. Examples of such businesses and a description of the techniques used to design, launch, and grow them are to be found in The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013).

This business-model competition is sponsored by the coauthors in collaboration with Net Impact, a global community of more than 50,000 student and professional business leaders creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and the world. Details follow:

  • The contest is open to all, regardless of age, nationality, educational status, or any other distinguishing characteristic.
  • Each entry must describe in no more than 700 words how to apply the principles of zero-based design (as explained in The Business Solution to Poverty) to build a mission-driven business that will help transform the lives of at least 100 million people now living on $2 a day or less, generate annual revenues of $10 billion or more, and earn generous enough profits to attract mainstream capital investments.
  • Your entry must be posted online at http://www.netimpact.org/pfg no later than February 7, 2014. Each submission must explain what product or service the business will offer, where and how the pilot effort will be conducted, how the offer will be marketed, and how the product or service will be delivered to poor people. Applicants must take into account the needs of rural as well as urban poor.
  • Former Harvard Business School marketing professor and New York Times best-selling author Mark Albion will join Paul Polak and Mal Warwick in judging all entries, and their decision is final. The winner will be announced no later than March 7, 2014, at which time the $5,000 prize will be awarded.
  • In addition to the cash prize, the winner and two runners-up will each be eligible for up to three hours of guidance from the judges to facilitate the development of their ideas into practical business enterprises. 
  • Paul Polak and Mal Warwick will announce a Google Chat open to all applicants who have questions about the challenge.
  • It is suggested though not required that all applicants read The Business Solution to Poverty to gain a deeper understanding of zero-based design.


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