This past week I profiled 5 different organizations that I believe are “doing it right.” They all have a different niche to fill and a different model, but they’re all having a positive impact.

It then came to my attention that this list probably looks quite arbitrary to an outsider. How did I pick these organizations from all of the ones that I’ve seen over the past year and a half?

To help demystify this selection process, I’ve decided to write a short checklist of things that I look for in every organization. If the organization meets all of these criteria, then they’re probably pretty close to “doing it right.”

1. A desirable product. Whatever the product is that the organization is making, people need to want it. That sounds obvious, but there are too many organizations over here that are pushing undesirable technologies on people rather than designing based on user wants.

2. A high quality product. There’s enough crap that’s dumped on this continent from all over the world. Whatever the product is, it should be robust and of good quality so that it won’t be added to this junk pile immediately after people start to use it.

3. A price for the product. Whether you’re a for-profit or a non-profit, you need to be charging people for your product. I could list all of the reasons why this is essential, but my friend Brendan already has here. I’ll just add that this price has to be reasonable for the organization’s customers, and if it’s not, the organization needs either a plan to reduce the cost or to help customers pay the full price over time.

4. A dissemination model. Once you’ve got the perfect product for your market, the real challenge begins. The organization needs a solid understanding of distribution networks in the city/region/country in which it’s working so that the product can actually reach the end users.

5. Local staff. If the organization is staffed by over 15% foreigners, then something is wrong. The more locals running the organization, the better. (Note that this will be most challenging in an organization’s first year or so, but should improve over time. Also note that I picked this percentage arbitrarily. It doesn’t really matter exactly what the percentage is – a Malawian company that’s run entirely by foreigners probably has very little understanding of the Malawian market.)

6. Passion. Never underestimate the importance of passion. If the people in the organization believe wholeheartedly in what they’re doing, they’ll go far.

Disclaimer: This is an ever-evolving list. I am not implying that I know everything about what makes an organization do it right vs. wrong. This is just what I’ve learned works well so far, and I’m sure I will continue to learn more about what is effective and what is not as I continue to travel, study, work, and grow.

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