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:

This is a text-only, written discussion. To post comments you will need to sign in / sign up to Business Fights Poverty. A list of recent comments is shown in the right-hand side bar and will refresh every 5 minutes. To refresh more often, please click on the refresh icon in your browser.

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.

Hi everyone - welcome to this online written discussion. We've got a great panel today to help us explore delivering water and sanitation to the base of the pyramid.

Good afternoon, my name is Fanny Boulloud and I work for a Swiss Foundation, Antenna Technologies as the safe water program coordination for Asia and the knowledge capitalisation ( models documentation).

Antenna Technologies has developed a thorough approach around a technology (WATA), which is a low cost mini-chlorinator, or how to produce chlorine remotly with simply water and salt. But my role in Antenna is to support programmes in Asia for their social marketing.

Hi everyone – I’m Conor Riggs, Technical Director – Programs with iDE in Bangladesh.

I’ve been in the market development sector for about a decade and with iDE since 2012, focused on technical and management oversight of our 14 projects in Bangladesh in WASH, agriculture, food security and nutrition, and affordable design. In Bangladesh, iDE currently implements 4 WASH programs focused on generating markets-led solutions underpinned by scalable, sustainable business models heavily underpinned by a combination of Human-Centered Design (HCD) and M4P facilitation. Glad to be here and looking forward to a dynamic discussion today!

Ok, thanks everyone - let's kick off with the first question...

Q1: What role can business play in delivering water and sanitation at the BoP?

Afternoon. I am Rob Whitby. I head the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Team at the UK Department for International Development. My team leads the WaSH policy agenda for the UK and we also run 2 large results programmes across 13 low income countries. The UK has pledged to provide 60m people with WaSH services by 2015

Hello, My name is Martina Nee, I work at Peepoople. Peepoople has developed and is producing the self-sanitising and biodegradable Peepoo, a single-use toilet that transforms human faeces in to valuable fertiliser.

Peepoo is distributed for free by aid organisations in emergency and refugee camps. But in urban slums Peepoople has an inclusive business model for the base of the pyramid market.

Hi Everyone,

I am Tara Lundy, Concept Development Manager at Vestergaard. I oversee implementation of our water programs including our carbon financed water program in Kenya in which we have provided over 800,000 LifeStraw Family water filters to households. I also work with our research, design and marketing teams to develop and test new products in our LifeStraw portfolio for the BOP. Looking forward to hearing from everyone.

Well, to me business play according to me the following roles:

- Ensure the production of a certified product (as we are often dealing with Health issues)

- Social awareness of WASH (hygiene)

- Service to the population (Ease their lives by delivering water for instance)

- Secure the delivery (According to the business model of course) for local, or regional scale (ensuring the presence on the market, especially in remote areas)

Water supply is a different animal to sanitation and it is hard to generalize about them as one entity. Business can play a significant role in delivering both

Thanks, Zahid.

My immediate reaction to this question is to focus on context. In our work, we find that above all the local environment and existing stakeholders in each distinct country we work in (11 internationally for iDE) are primary determinants for the degree to which the private sector can play a significant in a) design/R&D, b) demonstration/piloting, and c) scalable rollout and diffusion of WASH solutions developed.

For example, in Bangladesh we have a very mature and robust private sector infrastructure, with large corporations leveraging distributions networks in WASH-related products as large as 3,500 independent retailers across all 64 districts of the country. Accordingly, these conditions provide iDE's WASH programming with the opportunity to focus its technical strateguy on long-term engagements with such firms, to co-create and fully transfer the production, distribution and marketing of WASH products and services through these robust and large-scale networks. The SaTo Pan developed by American Standard Brands in collaboration with iDE and RFL Plastics Ltd. is a great example of this - RFL's incredible market reach enabled the diffusion of this innovative and highly customer-oriented product at scale relatively rapidly.

In other countries with less mature market infrastructure, iDE focuses on models oriented more toward social enterprise, directly catalyzing the market to develop and utilizing that demonstration effect from its impacts to encourage crowding-in for maximum scale, efficiency and consumer satisfaction. The trick is to comprehensively analyze the national context in terms of the private sector's overall strengths, capacities, and reach to BoP consumers.

We could debate of the role of the private sector in social awareness, but they are a way to deliver also the message to the BoP and should be integrated as a sustainable solution in the regional/national awareness campaign... with the possible cross funding of public donors, as it does represent a big cost.

Business can be a very important player in developing innovative solutions, as well as innovative business models, which I believe are important factors to establish sustainable sanitation services and products in the BoP market.

Steven - can you expand on that point? Perhaps with some examples from your organisation?

Hi All,

My name is Ashley Thomas, and I am the Engineering Manager for Evidence Action, a sister organisation of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).

I've been working on WASH product design and dissemination for the last 5 years, and am currently working on a chlorine dispenser to allow rural people to treat their water. I'm very interested in how to build product supply chains and how that can determine product designs. I'm looking forward to a great discussion!

I agree that it is sometimes hard to generalize about water and sanitation as technologies and delivery models can be very different. However, in a general sense I think businesses can play a strong role as innovators of technology, products and services. There is clearly representation of that here especially on the product side. We are also are well-placed to deliver more market based solutions such as introducing innovative retail schemes for WASH products and to find those opportunities. Businesses can also play a strong role in seeking out developing new financing models that add more investment in the sector. This is something we have done with Carbon for Water, making use of an available carbon financing methodology and investing big in that concept.

That's a great point, Fanny - one of our biggest challenges is building agreement with commercial firms on "taking up" social awareness and behavior change communications in their overall advertising and marketing strategies. Generally, we expend a significant amount of energy on building strong personal relationships and "joint venture agreements" with lead firms in our projects in WASH, and work on co-developing value and marketing propositions with each firm that balance a) our core development and public health objective with b) their typical marketing propositions, staff capabilities, and financial resources.

I would love to hear more about your experience in addressing and succeeding in embedding these social awareness messages in commercial marketing channels!

I am glad you mentioned the certification part of the product, Fanny. I do think businesses are well placed to deliver high quality products and that is important because we are dealing with health. Outside of the role of business, however, it is important to have International bodies like WHO can provide the independent role of testing products and ensuring they meet a certain level of quality standards.

We tend to work in countries with less mature markets. Can you give an example where crowding-in has achieved scale in Africa? In either Water or Sanitation?

Let's move on now to the second question:

Q2: 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'?