Asili: A sustainable, community-owned business in the DRC



The American Refugee Committee (ARC) engaged to help design a way to get better health care to young children in the DRC. Together they designed Asili, a sustainable business that offers agricultural services, clean water, and a health clinic to its members. By addressing an entire ecosystem of need, from potable drinking water to better seeds to vastly improved health care for children under five, helped ARC impact an entire community. After an incredibly encouraging start, ARC is already thinking about how Asili might scale.



  • Early in the process, the IDEO team conducted ethnographic research by immersing themselves with potential users to better understand their needs.
  • The team utilized participatory design principles to develop their solutions and invited users to co-design and co-develop the business model of Asili.
  • Together with ARC,’s design team devised a sustainable business tailored to meet the needs of the people in the DRC. It extended from a business model to a staffing structure, launch plan, and all components of the service.



Asili launched in July 2014 and has already served a large number of people. Farmers are reporting a better yield of their crops thanks to seeds purchased from Asili. Despite severe poverty, locals are buying into Asili because they are seeing tangible benefits. Similarly, through this co-design process, ARC has internalized human-centered design and applied its principles to their community.