Cola Life is an example of how to create opportunity.

Cola Life shows how to create opportunity inside seemingly closed systems, and save lives.

Simon Berry was frustrated that people could buy a bottle of Coke in developing nations more easily than they could obtain essential medicines. He had a dream to make medicine as easy to obtain as it was to get a Coke in these countries.

“The dream,” Forbes Magazine reported, “transpired into using Coca-Cola’s distribution networks to deliver affordable medicines for childhood diseases to remote rural communities where medical care was scarce but Coca-Cola was not.”

Berry’s lesson in how to create opportunity came from leveraging the surplus capacity of Coca-Cola’s international distribution system.

Within the vast and complex mechanisms of a global supply network, Berry identified a small sliver of space and realized it represented the surplus capacity he needed to deliver medicines to developing nations.

It was the room between Coca-Cola bottles when they are crated for shipment:

Cola Life is an example of how to create opportunity in even the most daunting and seeming closed systems.
Sometimes all it takes is a few inches of unused space.

He saw the space, just a few inches high and wide, and thought, “This Could be where the medicines are carried.” He share this observation online and built a vast following. His network of enthused followers crowdsourced the design and manufacturing of the “Kit Yamayo,” or “Kit of Life,” to prevent children dying of diarrhea. 

The kit consists of a package of oral re-hydration solutions, zinc soap, and educational materials—all contained inside a custom-designed “wedge” pack that fits between the bottles inside Coke crates.

Images courtesy of ColaLife

ColaLife trialed its kits in Zambia, where Coke is abundant, but one in four children die of diarrhea each year. In one year, using the empty space in Coke crates as its distribution system, the kits reached almost 45 percent of the children who needed them. In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly labeled the kit as one of the top then breakthrough innovations in mother and child health care that could save lives.

Once the kits made their way into the country in Coke crates, they drew attention to the lack of essential medicines available locally and inspired change. ColaLife recently announced that:

“Kit Yamoyo is now available nationwide through supermarkets and hundreds of small, community shop keepers. The government is also buying a government-branded version and distributing it to front-line health centres where it is give to care-givers for free.”

The next time you feel like you don’t have much to work, remember that sometimes all it takes are a few inches of empty space to begin making your dent in the universe.

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