Extreme philanthropy

Asili, the business platform of ECI, is a bold new philanthropic venture that’s in the business of helping poor people out of persistent poverty. Asili is not for every philanthropist – in fact, it’s hardly for any. But there’s a chance it could be just what you’ve been looking for.

Are you tired of philanthropy as it’s always been done?

Do you believe that people deserve dignity and respect in all environments?

Do you put faith in market-driven solutions as a path to sustainability?

Do you agree that, to solve poverty, we can learn from Subway as well as Mother Teresa?

Do you believe cutting-edge technology and data sharing should be deployed to address the world’s most challenging problems?

Do you agree that quality doesn’t happen by wishing for it, but when people are incentivized to deliver it?

Do you no longer want to just send a check but have your skills and brains be fully engaged in your philanthropic efforts?

Does the leverage of having your donations matched dollar-for-dollar by USAID sound intriguing?

If you answered “yes” to each of these, please read on to learn more. If you answered “no,” Asili is probably not your cup of tea.

What is Asili?

Already, Asili’s high-impact entrepreneurial approach is delivering critical services to people in one of the world’s toughest places. By harnessing the promise of free enterprise, we are developing a scalable, sustainable business model for delivering high-quality medical care and clean water in South Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Donations provide the nonprofit’s initial infrastructure and operating expenses, until the incubated startups will spin off as profitable, stand-alone entities. With a Global Development Alliance with USAID, we have access to substantial technical expertise — and donations to Asili are matched dollar-for-dollar up to $7.5 million. Learn more about the Asili model here.

Right now, 120,000 people in Eastern Congo are purchasing clean water and world-class healthcare from Asili every single day.

By the beginning of 2020, Asili businesses were providing clean water and world-class healthcare to 120,000 people every day.

Building on decades of experience working in places like the Congo – and after operating the enterprise itself – the Asili team has come to embrace some basic ideas. We believe:

  1. Poor people deserve both dignity and respect and are increasingly asking for it.
  2. The impoverished are potential customers and not simply beneficiaries of free handouts. Like any customer, they are willing to pay for quality and convenience.
  3. Healthcare, clean water, clean energy and more can be delivered profitably in challenging environments.
  4. The discipline surrounding business unlocks sustainability and incentivizes quality.
  5. New mobile technology and the availability of rich data will let us leapfrog over old ways of doing things in Africa.
  6. It’s hard. But we have brought together a team of capable organizations and people to work on this and we have three years to get it right.

By 2023, Asili businesses will be serving 500,000 customers in eastern Congo. From there, we intend to scale quickly to serve tens of thousands more in new locations across Congo and Africa, and around the world.

Asili is the rugged frontier of philanthropy. Join us in support, then someday in Congo.

Questions philanthropists ask

Why start a new business model in eastern Congo? Isn’t that one of the world’s hardest places to do anything – let alone start a new business?

Simply because some of the world’s poorest and most neglected people live in Congo. And the fact that it’s challenging is not a good enough reason to not work there. More to the point, we want to work to prove the Asili model where it is hard – not where it is easy.

But why launch several service businesses at once?

After doing the numbers, we found that it was too costly to be the only business in town. Our market-based model relies on the synergy that comes from operating multiple business lines that are co-located in zones where people live. Think of Asili as the world’s first social strip mall.

How proven is the Asili model?

By the beginning of 2020, five years after they began, the first Asili water points were already profitable. Not many startups can say the same. Better yet, the Congolese communities who rely on Asili services came together with our staff to make sure healthcare and water services stayed running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

You say you want my skills and brains engaged in Asili – what does that look like?

Asili is the result of the co-creation of many people, businesses and organizations – whether it’s working with the United Health Group on the use of data, Target retail specialists on the maintenance of sanitation facilities, IDEO.org on the design of the customer experience or RSP Architects on the plans for a new health clinic. We look for people who bring unique value. How you do that is entirely up to you.

Who’s taking part in the Asili venture?

First, and foremost, Asili was co-created from the beginning alongside the people of Congo: traditional leaders, local government and, most importantly, the community of customers themselves. Organizations and individuals joining the Congolese in their commitment to Asili have included:

  • Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee)
  • CAT Foundation and dealerships
  • IDEO.org
  • Margaret A. Cargill Foundation
  • Mortenson Family Foundation
  • Nespresso
  • Stanford University
  • Target & RSP Architects
  • United Health Group
  • Ware Foundation
  • Weber Shandwick
  • Waymon Armstrong
  • Allen Bell
  • Jay Bennett
  • Ward Brehm
  • Kevin Burke
  • Ali Carlson
  • Jeremy Carroll
  • Dabbs Cavin
  • Governor Marcellin Chishambo
  • George Cress
  • Howard Dahl
  • Peb Jackson
  • Lowell Jacobsen
  • King Mwami Desiré Kabare
  • Honorable Ruberwa Manywa
  • John Massopust
  • Bob Naegele
  • Greg Page
  • Willie Robertson
  • Dave Segel
  • Ben Teague
  • Mark Thompson
  • Ralph & Lynne Veerman
  • Rich Voelbel

« Return to Blog