Too often in development, we see expensive and complicated capital-intensive projects being implemented, usually with little to no input from the community. This is particularly true in the water sector.  It’s estimated that around 40 percent of water systems in developing countries become inoperable after five years. That’s not only a waste of money, time, and resources, but it means there are a lot of people who should have safe drinking water, but don’t. We believe this system is broken.

Beneficiaries should be involved in projects. They should know how a technology is made and how it works. They should know how to source a replacement part and they should have the means to fix it on their own. 

To enable this, we work with local partners and pursue sustainable and scaleable solutions that follow the principles of our Low-Tech, High-Thinking design process. 

Principles of Low-Tech

  • Simple: Anyone, regardless of education level or expertise, should be able to develop and implement a solution with minimal instruction

  • Low-cost: The solution should be affordable to the end-user

  • Locally-sourced: 100% of the materials, tools, and labor should be available locally

  • Flexible: Every community is different and has different resources available to them;  solutions should be flexible enough to adapt to varying local conditions

  • Open-source: Solutions should be freely available to anyone who would like to utilize them


Wait a minute, what’s high-thinking? A lot of attention is given to the newest app or high-tech gadget, but we think it takes just as much (if not more) creativity and ingenuity to create low-tech solutions that can have meaningful impact on a global scale. High-thinking requires examining and understanding a problem and its underlying causes; a vital part of this process is listening and learning from the people directly affected.

Our process is a form of design thinking and our approach is similar to IDEO’s Human-Centered Design. Human-Centered Design is a creative approach to problem solving. It's a process that starts by engaging with the people you're designing for/with and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. To learn more about OHorizons' Low-Tech, High-Thinking design process check out our blog post on it.  

Our utilization of a volunteer coalition of technical, social, and commercial innovators and entrepreneurs, which includes community members in the areas we work, shows we’re an organization on the cutting edge of social innovation and using design thinking for good.