Design Meets Social Enterprise
Tejo Conejo (Spanish for “Tejo Bunny”) is the hands-on Angry Birds of Latin America that harnesses the market forces of free enterprise to focus on joint economic, social, and environmental impact through the empowerment of disadvantaged women. By manufacturing culturally relevant and ecologically sustainable products for local and international markets, we seek to markedly improve the lives of impoverished families by teaching women sewing skills and business principles, allowing them to earn income for their families, and bringing economic activity and new money into traditionally disadvantaged communities.
The Heart of the Problem.
Our NGO partner challenged us to design a solution that would improve the economic welfare of Altos del Pino, a community of displaced urban poor on the outskirts of Soacha. In addition to real-world implementation, the design solution needed to be potentially scalable to the estimated 4.3MM urban poor across Colombia. In places like Altos del Pino, we found that the men of the community were at maximum capacity, working multiple jobs six to seven days a week but families continued to live hand-to-mouth rarely breaking even each month. The women in these underserved areas are available and more than eager to take an active part in lifting their families out of poverty. However, childcare obligations, a lack of tools and resources, and geographic isolation prevent them from doing so.
We saw opportunity in empowering the women of the community knowing that statistically, women reinvest an average of 90% of income in their families in comparison to men who typically reinvest 35%.
A Designed Solution
Our solution was driven by a highly collaborative process with these families of Altos del Pino, culminating in a series of Tejo Conejo game prototypes that are “easy-to-make” given the existing technical skills of the community. The social venture itself arose out of co-creation that gave voice to the needs and aspirations of the women of Altos del Pino through every step of product and business model development. A significant portion of our business model was comprised of solutions the women themselves proposed based on their existing behaviors and needs. This in turn created a strong sense of ownership by the community of process, product and business model.
The design solution seeks to create a self-sustaining platform through which new economic capital and traffic from Colombia’s urban centers will stimulate underserved communities. Tejo Conejo brings new money into the community. The wages the women earn from manufacturing the game increase household income and circulate throughout the local economy. Profits from the game flow from Bogota, moving the needle on the local wealth supply.
Second, proceeds from Tejo Conejo fund the microfactory model for scalability. Once we have established and tested a microfactory in Altos de Pino, we will expand the microfactory network in the Bogota region and beyond. Meanwhile, a variety of products can be added to the manufacturing capabilities that leverage the sewing skills women participants have.
Third, the Tejo Conejo game is designed for marketability and brand longevity. Initial field testing shows that children are attracted to the bright colors, cute bunnies, act of throwing, and the sound of the payload trigger. It is also highly intuitive, and many children need little to no explanation on how to play. Parents find the game has high cultural relevance in teaching their children about Colombian history and traditions. Retailers appreciate the social impact story and see it as a key differentiator from other toys. Initial game sales will drive subsequent licensing and merchandising options. This allows for product line expansion that will evolve the microfactory product line capabilities and allow for additional skills development of participants.