Coca-Cola seems to get everywhere in developing countries, yet life-saving medicines don’t. Why?
That conundrum, that affront to a fair chance at life for children, gave us our name – and we don’t apologise for the difficult question it is intended to raise.
ColaLife started out, in 2008, to answer that one question, for one life-saving treatment: Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and Zinc, for one global killer: childhood diarrhoea. This simple, cheap, globally recommended treatment has been known for 30 years, yet still a child dies from diarrhoea every minute.
Even with just one question, one treatment and one killer disease, everything is more complex than it seems. But we now have a strategy, combining what we have found really works. This weaves together nine unlikely strands to catalyse change:
- asking people ‘what they want’ (Human-centred design) – not just pushing out ‘what they need’
- mimicking consumer goods (Value Chain thinking)
- scope and plan the work locally: private, public, non-profit (Participatory Design)
- bringing together local actors able and willing to make a difference (Smart Networks)
- plug gaps by funding training, awareness and market development (Market Shaping)
- including as many influencers as we can, large and small, to bring with us (Soft Power)
- suppressing our own brand and role, choosing to grow our impact not our organisation (Organisational Obsolescence)
- sharing everything we learn – data, designs, costs, mistakes (Open Source).
- this adds up to Disruptive Innovation: showing change is possible by thinking, designing and acting just a little differently
A bit of history: ColaLife was co-founded by just two people in April 2008 as an online ‘movement’. It became an independent UK charity in 2011.
We didn’t grow our organisation. ColaLife has no employees, no HQ and owns few tangible assets in the real world. We have crowd-sourced global expertise – often for free or at low-cost. We have harnessed more than 10,000 online supporters and individual donors. Beyond this website and blog, our story is largely told by others: thousands of publications, web-sites, blogs, talkshows and events. Together, these have given us the ‘soft power’ to engage big corporations, like Coca-Cola, GSK, Johnson & Johnson and its Trust (J&JCCT), Janssen, SABMiller, Honda; big NGOs like UNICEF, PATH and JSI; big funders (even if they don’t fund us directly) like DfID, COMESA, Grand Challenges Canada, CHAI and The Gates Foundation – funding is important but the encouragement and the kudos we get from association with them is very valuable too.
We understood the importance of evidence, and with the help of our public health advisor, Johns Hopkins University and UNICEF, our locally-designed trial of ColaLife concepts (The ColaLife Operational Trial Zambia – COTZ) produced world-class evidence, which we are now using for market scale up in Zambia and in our globalisation plans.
The Legal Bit: ColaLife – the organisation – is an independent non-profit organisation run and staffed by volunteers. Whilst ColaLife seeks to work with corporates to bring about social change we are not affiliated to any other organisation and our work with others does not imply an endorsement of any product or brand. We became a registered charity on 21 June 2011. Our charity number is 1142516. Our Memorandum is here (PDF 586 KB).
How you can help
ColaLife has thousand of supporters across the world. Without them, we would not have got the attention from the multi-national organisations (for profit and not for profit) that we needed to get going and keep going. You can help us:
- Subscribe to this website and get blog posts by email
- Join us on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter and include the word “colalife” in your tweets
- Subscribe to the ColaLife YouTube Channel
- Join us on Flickr
- Subscribe to our SoundCloud Channel (audio resources)
- Help our crowd-sourcing.
- Comment to add information to our Globaliser plans – about ORS and Zinc in other countries.
Last edited on 23-Nov-16 by Jane Berry