The Cola Road

ColaLife 1 in 5 children die before their 5th birthday from simple preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea. In these same places where clean water and medicine are hard to find, people can still buy an ice-cold Coke.

In 1988 Simon Berry was an aid worker in Africa and questioned if Coca-Colas local distribution networks could be used to deliver life saving medicines to hard to reach places.

Twenty years later, Simon and his partner Jane launched ColaLife, an independent not for profit to work with Coca-Cola to do just that.

‘Reducing child mortality; in certain areas carrying on as we are doing isn’t good enough because it is not going to produce results that we need quickly enough. What we are currently doing isn’t going to solve the problem for 100s of years so we do need a step change.’  Simon Berry, ColaLife

Simons first idea was to remove a coke bottle from one in 10 crates and put a tube filled with medicines in the space. With the help of online networks, Simon’s idea evolved into a wedge shaped ‘aid pod’ that slotted into the unused space between the bottles. Today the ‘aid pod’ is a transparent box, which is also serves as a measurement tool. And if that wasn’t enough It has also won several design awards.

ColaLife aid pod

This year, Zambia has become the first African country to embrace a trial of the ColaLife concept; to use Coca-Cola’s distribution model to deliver life-saving medicines to far-flung, rural communities.

‘We have changed a lot; and accepted input from others, open innovation has given us a lot of strength.’  Simon Berry, ColaLife


I’m a big fan of ColaLife for two main reasons:

  1. Simon and Janes’ passion and unwavering commitment to succeed.
  2. How ColaLife has used online networks to gain support, develop their concept and make it happen.

I’m really excited that Simon and Jane are coming to the UK and sharing their journey at the RSA on Monday 23 September with a special screening of Claire Ward’s documentary The Cola Road.

Unsurprisingly the event is sold out. You can join the waiting list here. Or watch the event live on the 23 September on the RSA website.

This article was originally written for Innovation (Still) Rules. You can download the full report for free from the nfpSynergy website.

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