Colalife update – moving to $1 million trial

Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with Simon and Jane Berry for an update on the amazing Colalife project, which started with the germ of an idea about how the Coca Cola distribution system could help save children’s lives. When Simon and Jane worked in Africa some 20 years ago they saw that one in five children died before their fifth birthday, often through the lack of simple medicines, because these just weren’t available in their villages. At the same time, you could buy a Coke anywhere.

It was only with the advent of social media that Simon could start a Facebook group “Let’s talk to Coca Cola about Saving the World’s Children” with the idea:

That Coca-Cola use their distribution channels (which are amazing in developing countries) to save children’s lives by carrying ‘aidpods’ that fit in the unused space between the necks of bottles and carry ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts, malaria tablets, vitamin A, water sterilisation tablets or whatever else is required locally.

… and then follow through with blogging, Twitter, events, and a campaign to promote the idea more widely. The campaign gathered supporters, and coverage from the BBC, and through a mix of brilliant communications, relationship-building and fastidious project planning now has $1 million to trial the idea in Zambia. It isn’t as simple as it seems, not least because Coca Cola doesn’t manage the supply chain, but works with thousands of local entrepreneurs, and there have to be approprtiate methods in place to distribute the medicines. There has to be benefit for those involved all along the line – as well as good will.

Simon has documented developments in detail on their site, but yesterday said he had a touch of writer’s block because many of the development were still subject to negotiation. I pulled out my iPhone and shot some video at Westminster Hub, and then asked Simon for a paragraph of summary .. which he provided.

The last 18 months has seen us move from campaign mode to trying to make something happen on the ground somewhere. Otherwise we were in danger of going down as the guys who created a lot of excitement around the ColaLife idea and then did nothing about it! Fortunately, the pressure to act was no real pressure at all because it was precisely what we wanted to do. Giving up our jobs to focus on ColaLife full-time was made a lot easier by an UnLtd Award of £15,000 which has kept the wolf from the door over the last year or so. In September last year three of us cycled across France (Boulogne to Biarritz) and raised £6,000 and this has paid from three trips to Lusaka to work with partners there on the design of a trial. This was successful in raising the funds we need to run a trial in Zambia.

At the end of August we moved out of our house in the UK and have re-located to Lusaka. We are now tying up contracts etc and expect to start the trial in January. Dreams can come true! As always, supporters can follow our progress on our blog and Facebook page.

This seems to have removed the block, because Simon then went on to blog a piece which you can see here. At the end of my interview I asked, how people could help, and Simon said the best way was to vote for Colalife in the making More Health competition – which you can do here.

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