Phil LaRocco

Reality TV for the BoP: Development Idol

Unidentified Announcer: “We’re here at the Roman Forum. Wow, that’s Ryan Seacrest down on main area. He’s introducing the Capulet Sharks, who are entering from the north side of the arena. The Sharks look great, forty of them in formation, all dressed alike in their forest green and soot black uniforms with their shiny supply chains around their necks. Each carries an identical green and black stove…let’s listen.”

“Okay Sharks”, says Ryan “What do you have to show us today?”

“Well, Ryan, we have our incredible one-size-fits-all cook stove. It is made in our efficient, state-of-the-art factory, tested in our cutting edge design lab and shipped just-in-time to any poor country in need of getting more joules from its lousy wood or charcoal.

“We guarantee it has the highest efficiency and the lowest price point; in fact, when we produce enough of these babies in our low cost factory, the carbon benefit alone will keep the price to a level where every house, hut and shanty could afford two.”

“That’s quite a performance, Sharks. What does our audience have to say?”

In one voice, a deep rumble begins and grows, resolving itself to a two by six syllable mantra: “e-con-o-mies-of-scale…scale-scale-scale-ba-by-scale.”

After a few minutes of that, Ryan calls for silence and introduces the other contestant, the Montague Jets, who enter from the south side.

Unidentified Announcer: “Whoa, folks, this is a different look. There are less than twenty Jets, each in a different outfit, pretty much tee shirts and cotton slacks or local garb. Wow, that one guy is old, we’re talking vintage 1970s. They each are carrying a different metal and metal and ceramic stoves, lots of colors and logos, very eclectic. Not a supply chain in sight. Let’s listen to Ryan”.

“Okay, Jets, what have you got to say?”

A few of the Jets start speaking at the same time, then it settles down.

“Okay, okay. What we have here, Ryan, is variety. That plus local designs and local materials. All the labor and materials come from a seventy kilometer radius of the customer and every stove design is based on local use patterns.”

There’s a bit of a pause, an uncomfortably large bit. Ryan clears his throat and asks a question, clearly looking for a little more from the Jets: “What about price, efficiency and carbon benefits?”

“Efficiency varies but is an improvement on the traditional stove. Prices vary also. Carbon monetization is hit or miss, since some of us Jets are too small to handle the paperwork or afford the consultants. But the main thing here is that we’re all local and…”

“Thank you Jets. What does the audience have to say?

A few voices with a few banners high up in the forum jump up and shout: “We may be small but we’re self sufficient.” They get to say this a few times but then the rumble of the larger crowd begins to swell: “Scale…Scale… Scale, Baby, Scale”.

Unidentified Announcer: “Ryan has quieted the crowd and has announced the two call-in numbers: 1-800-SCALE or 1-800-LOCAL and has asked callers to give a reason or two for their choice. That’s it from here at Development Idol. Until next time…” Cue music and logo.