An Ethical Framework for Decision Making: Josh Nesbit on Customer Distribution

July 20, 2015 | Accelerator

An Ethical Framework for Decision Making: Josh Nesbit on Customer Distribution

Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile talked at the accelerator on Wednesday. His work on last-mile health care started when he had the audacity to jailbreak a Nokia phone. Medic Mobile started in 2009, making Josh a veteran and leader in the tech nonprofit sector.

Josh talked to us about the question of distribution—an issue that’s far reaching in the tech nonprofit sector because it impacts who your customers are and how you build a solution specifically for them. The way he put it, there are any number of people who might benefit from what you build. The questions to grapple with in making that decision are: who needs it most? On the spectrum of easy to hard to reach customers, how will you decide where to focus efforts?

Mission alone won’t provide an answer to these fundamental questions. Nor will classic tech startup filters like market-fit and usability (both important, but again won’t provide a complete answer when looked at in isolation). At Medic Mobile they tackle these questions through what Josh deems a tech nonprofit’s “superpower”: developing a moral stance as a guiding principle for decision-making. At Medic Mobile they spend ample time discussing their moral stance, and have identified three main types:

  1. Utilitarian: Goal is to do the most for the most people. Utility reigns.
  2. Egalitarian: Goal is equal access. Guiding principle is to help those who are most disadvantaged in society.
  3. Libertarian: Goal is to respect individual liberty and dignity. Resources reign and access is limited to those with resources.

While quite philosophical, identifying a moral stance directly impact

There’s no playbook for devising your organization’s moral stance. It requires careful assessment, has to be iterative and should constantly happen in real-time. Josh said at Medic Mobile they adapt their moral stance depending on the project they’re working on.

With this level of nuance it’s no wonder that, six years in, Josh has observed that for tech nonprofits standard operating procedure for tech startups should actually be inversed as in the graphic above.