About ColaLife

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:

  1. asking people ‘what they want’ (Human-centred design) – not just pushing out ‘what they need’
  2. mimicking consumer goods (Value Chain thinking)
  3. scope and plan the work locally: private, public, non-profit  (Participatory Design)
  4. bringing together local actors able and willing to make a difference (Smart Networks)
  5. plug gaps by funding training, awareness and market development (Market Shaping)
  6. including as many influencers as we can, large and small, to bring with us (Soft Power)
  7. suppressing our own brand and role, choosing to grow our impact not our organisation (Organisational Obsolescence)
  8. sharing everything we learn – data, designs, costs, mistakes (Open Source).
  9. 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, including now in peer reviewed journals, 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 Foundation, 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.

COTZ Funders


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).

>> Read our strategy

>> See Next Steps and our Current Status

>> Use our resources

>> Learn more about our history

>> Meet the ColaLife Team

>> Our Virtual Advisory Board


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:

  1. Subscribe to this website and get blog posts by email
  2. Join us on Facebook
  3. Follow us on Twitter and include the word “colalife” in your tweets
  4. Subscribe to the ColaLife YouTube Channel
  5. Join us on Flickr
  6. Subscribe to our SoundCloud Channel (audio resources)
  7. Help our crowd-sourcing.
  8. Comment to add information to our Globaliser plans – complete a questionnaire about ORS and Zinc in other countries.




Last edited on 28-Jun-22 by Jane Berry


  1. The third world government should tax coca cola and other multi nation corporations at proper rates according to their level of profits. This tax then should be use to supply medicine and infrastructure for the maufacture and distribution of medicines,

    These half ass aid program does very little to truly alleviate underdevelopment or promote progress. These programs only continue the dependency and underdevelopment of Africa.

    Tax coca cola and other multinational like they do in the west and use the money for medicines and infrastructure.

    • Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more with the general points you make. But have a couple of comments:

      1 ColaLife is not an ‘aid’ initiative. In fact we using a private-sector, profit-motivated model which will put money into the hands of the very small retailers in remote rural areas (there will be no payments or operational involvement from Coca-Cola or their bottlers). We are not using Coca-Cola’s primary distribution chain, IF the ADKs go into the crates, they will go in at (general) wholesaler level. This is explained in more detail in the business model which is here: https://www.colalife.org/2011/04/28/the-colalife-pilot-business-model-explained/

      2 Public vs private sector. Even if the tax system worked to maximum efficiency, the public sector could not fulfil all the population’s health needs. In the UK, for example, the National Health Service would be completely overwhelmed if there we no private sector provision (chemists, pharmacies, corner shops selling simple pain killers etc). ColaLife is an initiative to develop this privater sector provision in remote rural areas in developing countries. And we are initially testing this approach in Zambia.

      3 What will the innovation be?. The idea of using the un-used space in Coca-Cola crates, which is where we started our journey, has really captured people’s imagination. But this may not be the key innovation. It may be that the real innovation is: the ADK idea/design itself; the use of the private sector; the use of vouchers to simulate demand; the way we use mobile phones to track distribution and sales . . . or something else!

  2. I am very interested to hear more about this project as I hope to open a hospitality/trade school in Kalabo, Western Province, Zambia. What a wonderful way to get help to the people.


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