Innovation That Matters

Making medicine as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola

Nonprofit & Social Cause

It’s a tragic fact of life today that one in five African children die before their fifth birthday from simple causes like dehydration from diarrhoea. Basic medicines could save those children’s lives, yet no means has been found to make them readily available. A new grassroots project, however, aims to tap into the formidable distribution network of none other than Coca-Cola to get life-saving medicines to the children who need them. The ColaLife project aims to distribute oral rehydration salts and educational materials to people in developing countries through a partnership with Coca-Cola by which its distributors carry medicine in addition to soft drinks. The concept actually dates back 20 years, when its originator–Simon Berry, who was then an aid worker in Zambia–was struck by the realization that one could buy a Coke virtually anywhere on the planet, yet medicine was hard to come by. He proposed designating one compartment in every 10 Coke crates as “the life saving” compartment to transport medicines. His idea fell on deaf ears back then, but today the power of social networking is giving it new life. Specifically, Berry’s ColaLife project has tapped the power of Facebook and other social networking tools to amass a group of more than 6,000 supporters, garner widespread media coverage and–at least as important–get the attention of Coca-Cola. Berry has since met with high-ranking officials at the company, and talks are under way to push the idea further. Meanwhile, ColaLife groups have been added on Google and Flickr, and a YouTube video was created earlier this month to promote the project’s submission to Google’s Project 10^100 initiative. Currently, ColaLife is seeking an NGO to participate in the project as well. The web is facilitating social change in ways that simply weren’t possible before, uniting like-minded activists and gathering support from around the globe. Will Coca-Cola jump in with both feet? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, one to watch–and learn from. (Related: Activism site ensures participationCustomers deliver donated TOMS shoes.) Spotted by: Sarah Nill



Download PDF