Governments and private entities, organized on a non-profit basis, unite to create solutions for clients.
This is not the only model for assistive technology.
What I would like to see more of is the market charity model. This is what the Skoll Foundation (right) promotes as social entrepreneurship.
This model first developed as dot-com millionaires and billionaires started setting up foundations to give away their money several years ago. The idea was that, instead of giving money to projects which would help people, they would give money to projects that would seek profits in helping people. In this way, they felt, their gifts would become self-sustaining.
Most of what we've seen at events like the recent SKOLL Forum and the CSUN Conference has been based on the charity model. While there is nothing wrong with such conferences, in creating solutions, I think they're all missing the ultimate point, which is self-sustainability and the market.
Social entrepreneurship, in other words, needs to accelerate.
It's possible many of the market charity foundations may also be missing the boat here. Instead of creating a single entity and sending that into the market, I think it would make sense to fund multiple entities, and to keep funding new entities as new ideas arise, in the same solution areas.
(Image from Zizzoo.)
Essentially, charities need to become more like venture capitalists. VCs know that most of the ideas they fund will fail. But they also know that, with proper management, one in 10 might succeed wildly, and another few will do OK.
This is what more organizations dedicated to the areas of assistive technology and accessibility technology need to get on with. It's not enough for a solution to exist in the world. It's not even enough that a market solution exist in the world. What matters most is having several, competing market participants in the world, who will work hard to keep costs down, and to innovate, taking advantage of the market opportunity a charity has identified.
This means being a little more heartless with the people you're giving money to. It means not just holding them to budgets, but to business plans. It means looking at their bottom lines as bottom lines, not just in terms of help given and needs met.
There is an awful lot of market potential in all areas of assistive technology. There's enormous market potential in helping people use technology, and in using technology to help people live better lives. But we need to understand that a market has many participants, that some fail, that new ones need to happen, and that competition is a very good thing indeed.