Accessibility links

In Your Network: Simon Berry

Simon Berry FRSA runs ColaLife, a groundbreaking project which uses Coca-Cola crates and distribution model to deliver diarrhoea kits which can be the difference between life and death for a child in sub-Saharan Africa. He would like to speak to other Fellows particularly those in design about how he can improve the use of the kits used at ColaLife:

1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why? 
Coca-Cola aim to get their product within an arm’s length of everybody. I want to do the same for an anti-diarrhoea kit by using the same techniques that Coca-Cola use. I do this under the name of ColaLife, a UK charity, which my wife and I co-founded.

More than 10% of children in sub-Saharan Africa die before their 5th birthday and the second biggest killer is dehydration from diarrhoea. Diarrhoea kills more children than Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Measles combined. WHO/UNICEF have the solution to this, but public health systems just have difficulty delivering it. Coca-Cola gets everywhere, but essential medicines do not. We have asked why, and with advice from Coca-Cola and their bottlers, we are now mimicking their techniques to deliver an anti-diarrhoea kit to remote rural areas in Zambia.

This started with the design of a desirable anti-diarrhoea kit – the Kit Yamoyo – and the design of an end-to-end value chain to go with it. The value chain ensures that everyone who touches the kit on its journey to remote rural areas makes a small profit and that mothers can afford it. This approach has delivered 20,470 kits in the first 6 months of our trial in Zambia and will have saved round 60 young lives. This is why I do it. 

We were thrilled when the Kit Yamoyo won Product Design of the Year 2013 (Design Museum) and Ethical Product of the Year 2013 (Observer/B&Q) and the top award at the Dupont Packaging Innovation Awards.  2)

2) Why did you join the Fellowship?
I joined the Fellowship to support the work of the RSA and for the networking opportunities it offered. After starting an online campaign to get support for ColaLife, my wife and I gave up our jobs to see if we could get a trial underway somewhere in Africa. During this 12-month voluntary period I made extensive use of the facilities in London for work and meetings.

3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship?
When you are so involved in your own project it is a challenge to participate in the wider Fellowship! But I do hope our work and ideas inspire others ‘to have a go’!

Before ColaLife started I was involved quite heavily in the Fellowship’s early experiments in the use of social media where I have some expertise. ColaLife would have got nowhere without Facebook! Amongst other things, social media has allowed us to convene people and expertise around our idea and given us the soft power we needed to engage the likes of Coca-Cola, UNICEF, WHO and the UN to help us on our way.

4) What would you change in society given the chance?
I’d like children to have the same life opportunities no matter where they are born. 

5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
I’m afraid I do not go to the mainstream news for my inspiration. My inspiration comes from other people. I would go to the opening of an envelope! I always come away from events having learnt something or with a piece for the puzzle I’m trying to solve.

6) What did you learn last week?
Ambuya, the name of a beautiful song by the Zambian artist Wezi, which plays to the credits of the ColaLife Documentary, means Grandmother.

7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
Long before I started my work on ColaLife I met and worked with David Wilcox. David’s openness, his concern for fairness and his constant challenges to the status quo have always been an inspiration to me. He also introduced me to the concept of open innovation and the effective use of social media and both of these are key pillars of ColaLife.

8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows 

Through the ColaLife blog – which documents our sometimes bumpy journey – we have attracted top experts from around the world in almost every aspect of our work. We know that'the knowledge is in the network'and Fellows are a part of that. We recently put out a design challenge on our blog which we’d like Fellows to engage with. We would like to speak to other Fellows particularly those in human-centred design about how we can improve the use of the kits used at ColaLife. Please see our recent blog: Calling all designers - help us out here! to find out more.

Simon Berry

Simon Berry



You can contact Simon by: