Scott Anderson

An Algorithm for Impact: Four Questions Every Venture Should Ask (With Video)

Is it needed?

Does it work?

Will it get to those who need it?

Will they use it correctly when they get it?

These are four key questions that Mulago Foundation Managing Director Kevin Starr says every social enterprise must ask and must answer fully. In this PopTech 2010 video released yesterday, Starr details several ventures – One Laptop Per Child, the Lifestraw and the PlayPump – that enjoyed incredible press accolades, but ultimately failed to show impact after the limelight dimmed. The designers and the backers of these innovations seemed to have the right intentions and the answers, but, notes Starr, each didn’t seem to ask the right questions.

I’ll admit it, the Lifestraw was one of the first socially inclined businesses to catch my eye several years ago. The design was alluring, the intent, noble. But ultimately, Starr makes a compellingly simple argument that if it sounds to good to be true …

What do you think? Is Starr right to single out these three ventures? Do you agree with his algorithm for impact?