Collaborative products are created when physical components from two or more products are temporarily recombined to form another product capable of performing additional tasks. In this paper, a method for designing collaborative products is introduced. The method identifies a set of products capable of being recombined into a collaborative product. These products are then designed to allow for this recombination. Collaborative products are particularly useful in reducing the cost, weight, and size of poverty-alleviating products—reductions that are valued in the developing world. A simple example of a cabinet maker’s tool shows that a collaborative block plane created from a chisel and sanding block can account for reductions in cost, weight, and size of 44%, 38%, and 44% respectively, when compared to a typical wooden block plane, chisel, and sanding block. Additionally, an example of a collaborative apple peeler is provided to demonstrate scalability of the method. The authors conclude that the method introduced herein provides a new and useful tool to design collaborative products and to assist in engineering-based poverty alleviation.

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