Towards a Universal Social Impact Metric for Engineered Products that Alleviate Poverty

[+] Author and Article Information
Phillip Stevenson

Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602

Christopher Mattson

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602

Dr. Kenneth Mark Bryden

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011

Nordica MacCarty

Dept. of Mechanical, Industrial and Manuf. Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4038925 History: Received April 28, 2017; Revised December 15, 2017


One of the purposes creating products for developing countries is to improve the consumer's quality of life. Currently, there is no standard method for measuring the social impact of these types of products. As a result, engineers have used their own metrics, if at all. Some of the common metrics used include products sold and revenue, which measure the financial success of a product without recognizing the social successes or failures it might have. In this paper we introduce a potential universal metric, the Product Impact Metric (PIM), which quantifies the impact a product has on impoverished individuals -- especially those living in developing countries. It measures social impact broadly in five dimensions: health, education, standard of living, employment quality, and security. By measuring impact multidimensionally, it captures impacts both directly and indirectly related to the product, thereby providing a broader assessment of the product's total impact than with other more specific metrics. The PIM is calculated based on 18 simple field measurements of the consumer. It is inspired by the UN's Multidimensional Poverty Index (UNMPI) created by the United Nations Development Programme. The UNMPI measures how the depth of poverty within a nation changes year after year, and the PIM measures how an individual's quality of life changes after being affected by an engineered product. The Product Impact Metric can be used to measure social impact (using specific data from products introduced into the market) or predict social impact (using personas that represent real individuals).

Copyright (c) 2017 by ASME
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