Paul Polak was a social entrepreneur before it became sexy to be one. Polak first joined the global community of “do-gooders” in 1981 as founder of iDE, a social enterprise that pioneered foot-powered pumps for poor farmers in Southeast Asia. The rudimentary irrigation technology has reportedly reached 19 million farmers in the world thanks to iDE’s efforts. Polak went on to create D-Rev, the Bay Area-based design company that concocts new designs (on a budget) for the “other” 90%, he says.
Polak is 79-years-old but still zipping the globe to deliver electricity, water, and other basic needs to the world’s so-called “bottom billion.” His latest book, The Business Solution to Poverty, co-authored with non-profit guru Mal Warwick, looks at the nitty gritty of the social innovation space.