A range of products exists that is designed to meet the needs of poor consumers. These technologies and the markets needed to deliver them are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, businesses that build distribution channels for these technologies – called ‘last mile distributors’ – face enormous challenges on all fronts. The Global Distributors Collective is a new initiative spearheaded by Practical Action that aims to support last mile distributors to overcome these challenges and operate at scale.

Our new report provides guidance and insight from the perspective of over 100 last mile distributors and 30 affiliated organisations. It captures the key opportunities and challenges in the last mile distribution sector, the rationale behind a collective approach to tackling last mile distribution, and the opportunity to achieve impact through the Global Distributors Collective. Above all, it calls upon the development ecosystem to ramp up support for last mile distribution, and to join the Global Distributors Collective in the design and delivery of critical services to the sector.

Download the full report

Billions of people worldwide lack access to one or more basic types of technology that are crucial to development.

One billion people lack access to electricity, 663 million people lack access to clean water, 815 million people are chronically undernourished, and 3 billion people lack access to clean cooking facilities.

Products like solar lights, water filters, improved cookstoves and sanitary napkins can be transformative for poor families: they improve health, increase safety and save money.

A range of businesses is working to deliver these kinds of technologies to the last mile – communities that are remote, poor, and/or marginalised. But in order for them to succeed, we need to address the barriers that keep them from operating sustainably and at scale. The challenges faced by last mile businesses are common across geographies and product lines.

Without an increase in support for the last mile distribution sector, these challenges threaten the existence of last mile businesses, and hundreds of millions of people continue to lack access to life-changing products and services.

The inherent challenges of last mile distribution:


GDC helps businesses to bring essential products to market for the world’s poorest people.

The GDC is a partnership-based model that acts as a ‘one stop shop’ for last mile businesses, offering support, information and expertise to overcome the challenges of accessing life-changing technologies.

It provides a collective voice for distributors to ensure their voice is heard; drives research and innovation across the sector; facilitates the exchange of information, insight and expertise; and helps pilot, test and scale innovative solutions.

The GDC has three principal objectives:

For more detail on each of these objectives, please refer to the Call to Action report.

Currently being led by Practical Action, with implementing partners including Hystra and BoP Innovation Center, the GDC will act as a curator, tapping into and collaborating with existing communities, platforms, initiatives and service providers as a value adding intermediary.



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