The Shoe That Grows

Wouldn't it be great if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand- so that kids always had a pair of shoes that fit? Kenton Lee; Because International Founder and Executive Director

Monday 8 June 2015, by ebaiget

1 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

“The Shoe That Grows” is a project created by Kenton Lee in 2007 and developed thanks to “Because International”, a practical compassion organization which fights the extreme poverty by developing and making real some projects as the one we are presenting.
The idea of a shoe which can be adjusted for different foot sizes was born in Nairobi (Kenya) where Kenton, the project manager, was living. One day he saw a little girl standing next to him with a pair of shoes that were too small for her feet. At this point he thought that a shoe that could “grow” or adjust for different sizes would be a perfect idea in order to protect the feet of the children who could not afford a pair of shoes every now or then or that basically could not buy a pair of shoes at all.
After having the idea, he contacted with some of the most important shoes companies around the world but the answer he received was: “No, this kind of project would not be beneficial for our company”. At this point they founded Because International; a nonprofit organization whose aim was to listen to those living in extreme poverty to hear their thoughts, ideas, and dreams for a better life; and then work together to help make those ideas into reality.
Basically, what was developed was an adjustable sandal composed by simple materials as leather, compressed rubbers and snaps that could be used by children from Kindergarten to 4th grade and another model that could be worn from 5th to 9th grade. The shoes were easy to use, clean, “reform” and transport (50 pairs of these shoes could be carried on a standard plane suitcase).
The project was not so successful at the beginning because it was not advertised properly and the creation process was not well established. After some time the project emerged on the internet and the popularity of it went through the roof, forcing the main organization to create an independent area just dedicated to the shoes.

Regarding financial aspects, it is based on donations by individuals or other organizations. People donate a certain amount of money depending on the pack they want to get produced (amount of pair of shoes that they want to get produced).
When a donation is done, the pack of shoes is produced and delivered to random children around the world or into a certain area the donator can specify.
(Note that the shoes cannot be targeted to specific individuals and that the all the donations are used to fabrication so there is no direct profit for the organization at all, it is a non-profit organization).
Nowadays the project has been decentralized. The production is still managed by “Because International” but the transportation and the delivery is carried by other organizations like: Extreme Nazarene (Ecuador); Haiti Evangelical Mission (Haiti); Ghana Youth Advocates (Ghana); Expansion International (Kenya) and Hands of Hope (Rest of the globe).

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Since the idea was born from unethical living conditions in the underdeveloped world The Shoe That Grows has its main pillar in an ethical challenge.

Basically the main challenge was the unethical living conditions and its direct consequence on health:
-  The Shoe That Grows protects children from one of the main dangers in the earth, the soil. The shoe protects the children from thousands of diseases and parasites who live in the soil, not just solving but preventing bad health conditions from them.

Another challenge that the organization is trying to solve is the inequality:
-  Giving children the chance to protect themselves from the soil gives them such a boost in the “inequality ranking”. With better health conditions they can live longer and be more productive, meaning that they can help the family, the territory in which they live… creating a positive externality to the surrounding society.

One important challenge this organization may solve is the unethical working conditions in the clothing market:
-  The organization works the other way around compared with the most important companies in the sector. Shoes are produced in the developed world where the working conditions are better and then are given to the people in the underdeveloped world.

Finally, they are fighting against poverty:
-  The shoes are given for free to the poor people. Here there is a direct help to the poor children but indirectly, as said before, it induces some positive externalities that can help the people who are surrounded by the product.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

The main factor that makes us believe this company is really ethical is that it is a nonprofit organization. It uses its revenues in order to help people living in extreme poverty around the world with practical things that impact their daily lives.
In addition, they work in a fair and transparent way, always looking for the social benefits and empowering human rights. Furthermore, their mission is “practical compassion”; they want to keep children healthy and happy by meeting some of their basic needs.
Kenton Lee realized poverty does not stop the natural growth of children; they grow up and so do their feet. This is what brought him to create “The shoe that grows”, an ambitious project that answers a need for people right around him.
This company shows a simple idea, as it might seem creating a shoe that protects children feet all their way from kindergarten to high school, can make a huge change in their lives.
Moreover, we trust in this company because it is not a profit maximizer. The idea was born from someone who lived there, that leads to a strong “corporate culture” right from the beginning.
Also, another important factor is that it relies on donations in order to distribute their shoes in bulk; 1 pair of shoes for $10. The team does not distribute the shoe themselves, but instead, partners with churches, mission groups and those who are already working with poor children.
This organization was created in 2009, and it has proved its project to be successful as it is now present in many different countries; for instance in Ghana, Haiti, Kenya and Ecuador between others.
To sum up, we believe this company is really ethical because it is a nonprofit organization that has been working for over six years with the poorest people in countries all around the world. It is a project that they decided to create because they became aware of a need, but as we have seen it is strong and solid as they are still taking part of it.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

One of the challenges the organization may face or, at least, one debate it opens, is a wondering about the traditional and current donating system. Developed countries just send what they do not need to underdeveloped ones without thinking about if those items will be useful or if they would satisfy poor people’ real needs. By doing that, we already feel good and forget about the topic. The shoe that grows shows that not all kind of help is adequate, most of the shoes kids receive do not fit on their feet. Organizations and governance institutions should take note and try to improve and make the system more efficient. An option would be, first, to find out what are the specific needs of the population in each area, and then send the aid available according to these needs. From our point of view, there is a great chance to modify how we "help". We believe the idea can be also extrapolated to other products as clothing, educational material, toys, medicines, etc.
Another idea is to move the manufacturing process to the countries where the product is going to be distributed. That would contribute to the economic and social development of the area.
One of the reasons why Kenton Lee founded Because International was the refusal to accept de patent from the shoe industry. The idea of children having only two pairs of shoes in their first ten years of live did not seem interesting. The companies would lose millions of dollars. However, Kenton Lee also received requests to sell the products in certain areas of USA. That may mean an opportunity for families who cannot afford the expenses that having children implies. One possibility would be to find a kind of collaboration or cooperation from some textile company in order to take advantage of its position on marketing and distribution. Moreover, that increases the chance to improve the initial business: easier access to materials and manufacturing process facilities. Always maintaining the objective and the spirit of nonprofit. We hope this can go further and not remain as a dream.



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1 Discussion / 1 Message

  • The Shoe That Grows 15 June 2015 at 13:49 , by ejwhite340

    This project is really inspiring as it addresses so many issues with the relationship the developed world has with the under developed. Traditionally, as the text refers to, we have always felt good about sending what we don’t want anymore to these countries. This is inherently a half hearted effort to address the issues in these regions. Additionally, black markets for these good actually exist and the goods that are meant to arrive for the needy fall in the hands of resellers. The inspiring start of this project points at the need for direct involvement in these communities and regions to study and observe the actual needs of the people. In the past their needs have been studied from afar and decisions are made without truly knowing the plight of the people. This approach should be a model of other organizations attempting to bring positive change.
    Additionally it is sad that the profit driven shoe companies would not lend even some support to the project. It wouldn’t be expected for them to buy completely into the project, but lending some financial support and the ability for them to promote their name through partnership on something like this would actually be beneficial to their self serving profit needs. Even if they did it half heartedly, only expecting an increase in their positive image, some people in need would ultimately benefit from this.

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