Oct. 10, 2019: We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of Dr. Paul Polak. Paul has been a friend, adviser and inspiration to our program. A revolutionary and pioneer in the field of social innovation, he worked tirelessly throughout his career to end poverty and through his social enterprises has improved the lives of over twenty million people. His legacy will continue to inspire the work of the design community and improve the lives of countless people in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Paul Polak was the founder of the Colorado-based non-profit International Development Enterprises (IDE), which develops practical solutions that attack poverty at its roots. For the past 25 years, Paul has worked with farmers around the world—in countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe—to help design and produce low-cost, income-generating products.
His innovative solutions, such as the $25 treadle pump and small farm drip–irrigation systems starting at $3, have helped IDE increase poor farmers’ net income by $288 million annually. Paul and was named one of the Scientific American Top 50 for his leadership in agriculture policy in 2003, and in 2004 received Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in the social responsibility category.