Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Delivering Water and Sanitation

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Friday 13 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What role can business play in delivering water and sanitation at the BoP?
  2. How can WASH products, services and business models scale rapidly and yet remain appropriate for the local context in multiple countries; are we constantly going to have to 'reinvent the wheel'?
  3. What are the next big challenges facing the WASH sector?

Panelists include: Jason Kass, Toilets for People; Fanny Boullard, Antenna; Tara Lundy, Vestergaard; Conor Riggs, iDE Bangladesh; Martina Nee, Peepoople; Yi Wei, iDE WASH; Rob Whitby, DFID; Ashley Thomas, Evidence Action.

Editor's Note:

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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I agree with Tara, products should be able to be designed to work in many countries. However since sanitation is a push product, there will always be the need to educate every new market, and that takes time. So scaling quickly is a matter of definition, what is quickly for a push product?

Fanny - thanks for sharing that great example.

At iDE, we generally see three critical components to effect solutions in this regard:
1) Mainstreaming a customer-oriented approach: For iDE, Human-Centered Design is mainstreamed into all our WASH programming. Utilizing an approach that intrinsically focuses on the behavioral triggers and barriers of consumers/customers, but also of supply chain actors, enables us to find the “right” or at least “better” solution early into the piloting/demonstration phase – a solution more likely to be grounded in the incentive structures of the supply- and demand-side actors (& enabling environment players) with the greatest ability to a) diffuse the solution at increasing scales, b) access the solution with minimal devt. sector support/involvement over the long-run.
2) Partnerships with right global partners for external expertise and support: Whether working with IDEO on the HCD Toolkit, American Standard on the SaTo Pan, or RFL Plastics on a forthcoming mass-producible toilet, we know that leveraging skillsets from commercial players who know the technologies and/or production/distribution processes better than us are critical to success.
3) Partnerships in-country with the private sector that are grounded in the right contextualization to take to market in each specific country in which we are working: Market development is best delivered with a "spectrum of approaches" mentality. In Cambodia, we've facilitated the sale of 100,000 latrines in 2 years through a social enterprise-oriented model due to the relative immaturity of the local private sector in sanitation. In Ethiopia and Vietnam, the government is the key player to incentivize before introducing the private sector to the space. And in Bangladesh, we utilize a highly-M4P, "hands off" approach b/c of the relative market maturity.

I wholly agree- but in that case, you're not designing the product as much as the messaging. That has a much quicker turn around time in the design phase, but needs careful consideration on the actual implementation. I agree with you that it is often the case that people see the product as the solution rather than the "software" and "hardware" package.

The management of a households excreta is based on decisions made by the HH so in a rural community in say Malawi , it will take 20 to 35 families each to make a decision not to open defecate to achieve full coverage. Each decision is very much influence by social norms, which can take a long time and the family have to manage the acquisition.  Improving a families water quality would also tend to be a household based decision. 

Water quantity tend to be a community level decision and is a bit of a no-brainer.  Do you want an improved water supply? Who would say No. The real issues come to light when those same people have to put their hands in their pockets to pay for its maintenance and that is when the social cohesion tends to break down, along with the expensive water infrastructure.    

Also agree with Tara and Martina, we shall tend to have solutions that will work around the world. But affordable technologies (for safe water production) varies from place to place and carefull customer survey should be also done... Education is indeed a very important point as Martina mentionned, and we are talking here about generation (educating the children is one of the way, educating parents and grand-parents is another one)

Great point, Martina. The question I might ask: Is sanitation ALWAYS a push product? If we can properly demonstrate the business potential to commercial players in the market, and work with them to develop strong marketing strategies to reach BoP consumers, does it remain a push strategy for us? And if the private sector can properly market sanitation products and services, doesn't diffusion become pull through those marketing channels?

Martina - does that suggest an important role for NGOs and government to help educate new markets around the needs and benefits of new WASH product or service innovations? Do you have any examples?

Can you explain what you mean by "software"?

Conor - thanks for sharing these great examples.  Where can people go to find out more?

Hey all,

Sincerest apologies - got my time zones mixed up - totally on me! I love where this discussion has been going, though. As Conor mentioned, we at iDE don't believe necessarily in a replicable model or product, but rather, a replicable process to understand the needs and wants of the users and the world of possibility in terms of business models around that. For us, we use Human-Centered Design as our process to understand users - both the end-users, and all relevant stakeholders along the value chain.

Great point, Tara. Most important in this area, I think, is to facilitate the right kind of productive, cooperative engagements between businesses and government in certification and regulation. Too often we see little communication between them that breeds mistrust and delays/rejections of high-potential solutions. Part of our approach is focused on the private sector "selling" the government on the merits of solutions we develop with them, so that the value of those solutions speak for themselves rather than have the NGO push behind them or are left to the vagaries of the existing private-public relations.

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