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Sunday, 04 August 2013 12:30

Imagination For People - Social Innovation for the Bottom of the Pyramid

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New tools for new problems| New tools for new problems| moladi|

About the project

The aim of empowering people at the Bottom of the Pyramid is to identify appropriate technical solutions in order to tackle basic needs in developing countries. But what are basic needs exactly?

In 1943, Abraham Maslow presented his well-known “hierarchy of needs”. According to his theory, people need food, water, sleep and warmth the most. These are considered to be basic needs and it is only when these basic physical requirements are met that individuals can progress to the next level, that of safety and security. Once these needs are fulfilled, interpersonal needs such as love and friendship, as well as the need for self-esteem and respect from others, can gain importance. Self-fulfilment and the realization of one’s own potential represent the top of the hierarchy.

What does Maslow tell us? Food, sanitation and shelter are not only mandatory preconditions for survival – they also lay the foundations for the personal development of an individual. People can only grow and develop if they don’t suffer from basic supply problems: Children in school simply cannot learn on an empty stomach and the social and economic development of communities depends on access to safe water and sanitation services.

Today, the basic needs approach has become an integral part of theories about human motivation, social and economic development, particularly in the context of development in low income countries. It has become one of the major approaches to the measurement of what is believed to be an eradicable level of poverty and it also forms the center of people-focused development strategies. The “basic needs strategy in development planning” by the ILO (1976), for instance, calls for giving priority to meeting minimum human needs, providing certain essential public services, and also stresses the importance of citizen participation in the determination and tackling of needs. Citizen participation, economic growth, globalization and technology are all intertwined in these development approaches.

The definition of basic needs within the framework of empowering people therefore also encompasses food, water, shelter (moladi), sanitation, education and healthcare. The use of technology in concert with social entrepreneurship to improve the quality of life and social structures.

In what ways is this project unique and creative?


The Moladi system consists of a reusable and recyclable plastic formwork mould, which is filled with stone-less concrete and a special chemical additive. This additive ensures that, once the mortar is set, the framework can be removed – and reused up to 50 times. According to the founder Hennie Botes, the brickless walls can withstand all types of weather. The formwork is lightweight allowing easy transportation. Due to the simplicity in design and the repetitive application scheme, construction costs can be reduced significantly. The Moladi model is not only cost-effective but fast, too. The wall structure of a house can be completed within one day. A further plus point, especially in remote areas, is that the construction does not require heavy machinery or electricity. (Construction Process)

 What is the social value of this project?

Decent quality housing is one of the key factors in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. It is not just about putting a roof over someone’s head. Academic research proves that access to a clean and stable home implicates an improvement in security, health and education. Moladi, a South African based company established in 1986, makes housing accessible to low-income people through innovative and eco-friendly technology.

Moladi combines construction with economic development. With the motto “Train the unemployed to build for the homeless” The company offers training locally for the unemployed thereby creating jobs and empowering the community as a whole. Due to the simplicity of the approach, construction techniques and skills can be transferred in a short time. In this way, the communities benefit from affordable shelter and skilled entrepreneurs (in the area of low-cost housing) at the same time. Moladi’s success in over 20 countries shows that affordable housing is an important key in finding solutions to promoting security and alleviating poverty.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop?

It was Dr. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher who coined this term. The economist and philosopher wanted to stress that small-scale technologies are the ones needed in the fight against poverty. These solutions have great advantages: they can be implemented with local resources and skills and they are affordable – which makes them tools that empower people to help themselves.

The impact of appropriate technology becomes particularly noticeable when innovative solutions are used and promoted by social entrepreneurs who put social impact at the heart of their business. The combination of low-cost technology and social entrepreneurship can have far-reaching implications for thousands of lives. Creating jobs, stimulating ownership confidence and the spirit of innovation – this is what social businesses are looking for. Appropriate technical solutions improve life quality and can give the initial push for development.  A reports on how to bring decent housing to poor communities (Moladi) by using simple and, at the same time, genius technologies, proves that small is beautiful!

What was the triggering factor of this project?

How can simple and low-cost technologies tackle the most pressing problems in the developing world?
How to bring decent housing to poor communities?
How to use technology to fight poverty producing product creating jobs food and shelter?
How to reduce unemployment?
How to address the huge demand for affordable housing?
How to build remote classrooms cost effective?
How to skill people at the base of the pyramid?

What is the business model of this project?

Maslow Model - Create enterprise at the base of the pyramid for the base of the pyramid



  • ConcreteTV Video - Link
  • Innovative Construction Technology - moladi
  • A community of imaginative citizens to detect and develop socially innovative projects - Imagination for People
  • Invention Creates - Innovation Solves - Link

moladi-Invention Creates Innovation Solves




'Traditional (building) is not the way to go'

Additional Info

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moladi - Plastic Formwork -low cost housing affordable Housing building construction

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