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Vitality and Voyager-like rewards for the poor


The Broccoli Project , an innovative scheme created by Marc Anthony Zimmerman, offers rewards to the poor in exchange for socially beneficial behaviour. Zimmerman, a successful social entrepreneur was inspired by CK Prahalad’s book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid . He explains that while the rich are offered numerous incentives through reward schemes, there is nothing similar for the poor. The project works by linking activities such as taking HIV tests to reward vouchers.

The Broccoli project was nominated by Andrea Bohmert of Hasso Plattner Ventures for the regional Global Entrepreneurship Competition run by the City of Cape Town. The project won that competition and the prize of a fully paid entry into the World Innovation Summit in Barcelona (called HiT Barcelona) taking place from the 17th to 19th June. Along with competing for a prize of 50 000 euros, the project will be presented in front of some of the worlds leading venture capitalists who are looking for enterprises to fund.

The scheme follows well-researched projects like the Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America and more recently New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Opportunity NYC programme. The former programmes have reported a substantial decline in poverty among programme participants.

An issue with these programmes is their high administrative costs which the Broccoli project aims to keep to a minimum using fingerprint technology and barcoded vouchers. Based on the many incentive and loyalty programmes targeting the rich, participants are treated as adults able to make their own decisions about their behaviours. This is a world apart from a handout which has been the traditional way to help the poor.

Vouchers received for positive behaviours such as encouraging attendance of skills-development workshops, staying in school, preventing disease and taking medication can be redeemed at a national retailer for food. In addition to the rewards, anybody can buy and give vouchers which guarantees that a handout at a traffic light turns into a basic food staple such as bread, milk, maize meal or vegetables.

The Broccoli Project is already operational and has been working with a number of organisations including the Desmond Tutu HIV/Aids Foundation. A short news clip from CNBC Africa highlights the benefits of the programme and how it works.

With Zimmerman on his way to Barcelona this weekend, you can support their chances in the global competition by entering a comment which counts as a vote of support for their project.

As Broccoli says on its website “When last did you get the opportunity to make a real, meaningful difference that could literally change the world? And all you had to do was click a button . Vote for The Broccoli Project to win at the World Innovation Summit.”