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Transferring Pity into Creativity

Good things always happen when you have a beer.
You might meet interesting new people you would have never met if you hadn’t been in that bar. You might end up having a fantastic night, doing things you normally would not do. Or you just have a good time with your old friends.
My story is one of those.

 Last saturday I went to a bar with two of my best friends. The place was crowded, we sat down directly at the bar. Drinking a couple of beers, chatting, enjoying the night. But when I had a closer look at the bottles that stood behind the barkeeper on a shelf I found the topic for this blog post! What I saw was a beautiful green bottle, the name of the drink: Lemonaid. Sounds interesting? Yes, it does. Not only the name is proof of creativity (another drink is called Charitea) but also the idea behind the business is worth to be told.
But let’s start at the beginning.

The Background
If we take a look at the world we see that there are certain problems. One of them is the inequality of income distribution. I sometimes ask myself, why does a coffee bean producer somewhere in South America get such a low salary but I have to pay $2.80 for my cappuccino? How can I go to the doctor, get a perfect treatment and end up paying only my usual insurance fee while others have to walk hundreds of kilometers to even find a doctor?

A look at reality
If you live in one of the poorest regions of the world you try to find your way to survive. Somehow. What usually happens if you do not have enough money to live off and satisfy all of your needs is you try to avoid costs. Costs that are cut in poorer regions are typically  related to education, health care and food. Therefore we see three results: A country’s population will be less educated. For children it will be really hard to have a higher income as their parents currently have. Because of the lack of health care infrastructure such as hospitals, people become sick and might even die because medical support is missing. Having less money available for food means that you eat less. Your brain cannot work at full capacity, neither does your body. You may even starve. You enter a vicious circle. Your current standard of living is bad. The one of your kids will be worse.

The goal of development aid
We all know that there is such thing as development aid. Development aid is supposed to increase the standard of living in poorer countries.  Countries that need that money to invest in to their infrastructure, educate their citizens, etc. Almost all of the developed countries have own agencies that try to direct money towards helpful projects. The list is nearly endless.

Aid fails
But development aid in many cases fails. Even some acknowledged economists think so and state their views.
A short example why development aid does not always lead to expected results: A development agency decides to increase the drinking water supply in a poor region. The agency builds a water supply well and a pipeline to a village near by. So far so good. Two years later the pipeline leaks and the engine that pumps the water up the water well and to the city is broken down.
The problem is that usually nobody of the population will be able to repair the damage. The help of an expert is needed, in most cases an expert from a developed country. Therefore development aid is a good start but does not necessarily improve the situation sustainably.
A TEDx talk I recently watched explains a similar  situation a bit more detailed.
Even if you look at the chart I have provided you see that development aid payments have increased dramatically over the years. But, are sub- saharan African countries now significantly better off than a few years ago? In most cases I doubt it.

The idea of fair trade
In order to improve the economic situation and the overall level of living in poor regions the fair trade approach was developed. One of my classmates talks about the basic concept of fair trade in one of her blog posts.
The good thing about this approach is that the people earn the money themselves and can decide on what to spend it and how to invest in order to provide a better future for everyone. I don’t want to discuss the benefits of fair trade in such detail. The basic concept is about giving workers and producers a fair share of the benefits of trade. Therefore fair trade is a major step towards a “bottom up” development. An opportunity for people to shape their future themselves.

What does Lemonaid do differently?
First of all, the plan of the company that produces Lemonaid is to create a beverage that has a nice taste. Secondly, the inventors have the feeling that they have to contribute to a world that is more fair and less unequal. To an economic hierarchy that is not fully based on exploitation. The pleasant fact is they don’t “greenwash” their business model as other companies often do. But they surely know how to use this within an effective marketing strategy.

What I want to explain in this blog post is the idea of transforming development aid into a creative process that helps the change. Often old structures need to be overcome in order to advance and I feel like this product is doing this. It is a business model that is based on mutual respect and not on pity as it is often the case if we look at development aid.
Is this the start of a more socially responsible business model? It might. What I find amazing is the fact that this is a fair trade approach but pushed a step further. The product does not address the typical socially and environmentally aware 55 year old customer. It is a tasty lemonade, a young company with a vision, a surely very good marketing strategy and maybe even a more effective development aid than existing concepts.

(Click here to get to their blog)

Leave a comment


  1. Hi Martin,
    a great topic you present:
    The way you describe the story in the beginning shows your ability to tell a story very well. Remembering your last posts, this is an effective strengzh of yours: Story telling and thus catching the interest of your readers. You managed to build a supporting frame around the important content.

    Additionally you applied the A3 model and a fact to point out is that you hardly took over the subheads, such as Current Conditions or Countermeasures, but developed your own headers. Reading your post, made me understand the concept even better since you start out with describing the discovery, and then giving the reasons behind and how this all adds up, to the Lemonaid bottle standing in the shelf.

    The flavor of Lemonaid is fresh and tasty as you say and I agree that the business model is a great example of turning charity into creativity. Did you know that the boxes, where the bottles are stored also have wooden top covers. Thus, the bottle boxes can also be used as seating-accomoditaion. Not only fair trade, but also practically orientated.

    All in all, your post is well and interesting written. I wonder what other succesful “Charitea” Organization operate and use their creative thoughts to turn fair trade into something cool.

  2. Hi Martin!
    After reading your post I will definitely keep my eyes open for this drink! I like the way you have written the post and the amount of sources. It is well structured and I was so curious about this drink after reading your post that I wanted to know more so I entered the website http://www.lemon-aid.de/flash.html?lang=en and wow, you can really tell that this is a young company who knows how to get young people involved. The design of the homepage, the music, and the text completely struck me with amazement! As you write, this company is not based on pity and you can clearly see that in the way the homepage is constructed: they don’t complain about the situation nor do they try to “guilt trip” us into buying something – they are stating fact and letting us know how easy it really is to make a difference.

    Thank you for bringing our attention to something so simple and yet so genius!

  3. anne

     /  February 14, 2012

    martin, that post was really good. Your way of wrapping your information and thoughts into a little story makes this whole post more personally and easy to read. I aggree with your thoughts, that “lemonaid” (i love word plays and this one is great!) is a brilliant idea! and i think you´re right it´s literally refreshing, that the founders don´t fullfil the clishee of I´m-eco-and-everyone-else-destroys-the-world-but-me, but simply had a great idea and a great vision.
    now there is only one question left: where can I buy some lemonaid? 🙂


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