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✇iDE What Works

Building Markets for Sanitation

By: iDE

iDE’s Global WASH Initiative

No two markets are alike.

A quiet rickshaw pulled by a bicycle is the norm for getting where you
need to go in Bangladesh. But in fast-paced Vietnam, the roar of motorbikes is everywhere. In these two diverse countries, the way toilets are bought
and sold differs as much as their transportation styles.

iDE is building markets for toilets in seven countries that span two continents. No matter how different these environments are, our approach is our rock. We use human-centered design to identify market failures, understand all users, and develop products and business models that enable sanitation markets to thrive. Our approach provides a standardized but flexible set of tools that guide us through phases of discovery, design,
and iteration.

The SanBox is mass produced, distributed, and marketed by RFL, an international corporation headquartered in Bangladesh.

Private sector-driven Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a well-developed manufacturing sector. Accordingly, iDE’s Global WASH Initiative convinced a national plastics company that sanitation for low-income households is a profitable market.

Our local partner, RFL, is a plastics manufacturer. They have thousands of retail outlets across the country and the brand holds an enviable position in the hearts of their customers. In the coming months, RFL will be mass producing the SanBox, a low-cost hygienic toilet that’s easy
to install.

“RFL is becoming the brand owners on improved sanitation. ”
— Conor Riggs,
Technical Director-Programs,
iDE Bangladesh

In Vietnam, Women’s Union representatives meet with rural villagers. They raise awareness and increase sales for rural latrine businesses.

Government-driven Vietnam

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Vietnam, where our program is designed to train the government how to implement a successful sanitation marketing program, enabling the government to then catalyze local supply and demand for hygienic latrines among rural households.

This extra layer between us and the end consumer means we have less control over what happens on the ground. But progress in Vietnam is impossible without government involvement.

Succeeding for different reasons

In Vietnam, our approach is one of three government-approved approaches. We are happy to see that market-based ideas are influencing their sanitation strategy going forward. In Bangladesh, our private sector partner not only sees the economic potential of the sanitation market, but is willing to take on the financial investment required to capitalize on it.

The essential ingredient

The essential ingredient is business. Each country has businesses that need customers — businesses that want to grow their reputation and their income. And each has customers who have aspirations to improve their lives — a toilet for the family is part of their dreams.

“We had been dreaming of a latrine for a while. Our new latrine is safer for my mother and for my children. My next dream is to raise our children with good education and food.” — Latrine Customer, a widow with 4 children and 2 mothers

Building markets is a flexible approach that allows room for creative problem solving and local adaptation. It requires a willingness on the part of NGO management to pivot as needed throughout the life of a program, and a commitment to design the program based on local insights. The diagram below illustrates how we analyze key criteria of markets as a backdrop for designing an appropriate business model.

In this chart, you can see how we analyze each country on key criteria that have an impact on the market overall. This diversity shows why we replicate an approach, but we don’t replicate a specific business model.

Our success is due to the fact that we never go into a country with
a plan to replicate a specific product or business model. First, we seek to understand what people really want and need. Unsurprisingly, the barriers and opportunities to selling toilets in Bangladesh are different than
those in Vietnam.

Download to learn more. “The Dynamics of Market Development. No two markets are alike.”

Learn more about how iDE’s Global WASH Initiative is outsmarting diarrheal disease on twitter: @ideorg.

Building Markets for Sanitation was originally published in iDE Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

✇iDE What Works

Bathroom Habits Die Hard

By: iDE

A handful of popular authors in the new discipline of Behavioral Economics — Nudge by Thaler & Sunstein, Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman, and Predictably Irrational by Ariely — reveal important clues about how people make choices. In the moment of decision, we let our emotions rule the day. It’s only later that we justify our choices through the process of rationalization. In fact, in order to change a habit, the new science says
we must change our sense of identity. In other words, to be vegetarian,
we need to become “the kind of person who doesn’t eat meat.”

Maybe this isn’t earthshaking news, but what is surprising is that
we came to the same conclusions in our work selling toilets to
rural families in Cambodia.

iDE’s behavior change campaign relies on a number of striking visuals. This picture of flies and feces tells the story of disease transmission to a couple who are deciding whether or not to buy a toilet for their family.

Millions of people in the developing world don’t have a place to go to the bathroom. This massive public health crisis is hard to get people to pay attention to, and even harder to solve. iDE is dedicated to solving this problem, but not by giving toilets away. Instead, we fill a gap in the market with affordable, desirable toilets designed specifically for rural families at the base of the economic pyramid. With a thriving customer base, toilets are likely to be available for a long time, not just while charity dollars hold out.

Selling Behavior Change

As a market-based organization, we admire a good sales pitch. It’s counterintuitive in our society, however, to believe you can help people
by refining the art of the sales pitch. But try selling a toilet to someone who has open defecated their whole life and has big time demands with modest economic resources to meet them. Making a purchase decision with a delayed benefit requires some persuasion.

“It’s just a hole. Why do you need more?”
— An Unconvinced Husband

A good sales person knows why it’s easier to deal in a product like cell phones rather than toilets. Toilets, despite their ability to prevent disease and death, are not sexy, income generating, or representative of a flashy lifestyle. A “pull” product, like a cell phone, motorbike, or goat, for example, is easier to sell and requires less customer education. These products may be a symbol of status or generate income — they are purchases that are
often driven by desire, rather than rational need.

“Why invest in a toilet when I can invest in land or animals?”
— Rationalization at work.

Conversely, there are “push” products that people know they should buy, but don’t immediately desire, like a toilet. iDE’s Global WASH Initiative shines here. We have found that “push” products require a more sophisticated form of selling — one that involves selling to the problem,
not the product. Our sales agents are trained in this approach to sales by Whitten & Roy Partnership, a sales and management change consultancy that works extensively in the development world.

I used to walk, now I have a bike. Next, I want a motorcycle.
That’s what modern is. — Research Participant

During the research phase, which we call a Deep Dive, we discovered
the customer’s motivations to desiring a toilet. We collected insights
that helped our product designers keep the customer at the center of the solution. But a good product design is only the starting point. It won’t get into the customer’s hands unless we understand the behavior change required for long term adoption. Once we understand the messages that
will trigger behavior change, we must next design a method to deliver
them to people in the right way.

Can the Government Sell Toilets?

We felt there was an appropriate role for the government of Cambodia
to be the messenger of a “push” campaign. We wanted to explore how government employees could play an active role in behavior change by delivering (pushing) the message via in-village social marketing events.
To test this theory, we conducted a one-year pilot in partnership with
the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank, and 17 Triggers,
a Cambodian firm with expertise in social marketing.

How do we get people to shift from open defecation, which requires no upfront investment, to investing their money in a latrine? And how do we break down this process of change so that government employees can deliver the message if training is provided?
Design games to deliver trigger messages in a supportive, social environment.
One of the puzzle games we designed is depicted at right. The other games are described in detail in the download at the end of this post.

A few conclusions from our pilot

Perception of Money. We had to take on people’s perception of money itself. We designed a game that changed their perception of money, price, and what they believed they could afford. We knew there was room to influence how people prioritized purchases, we only had to introduce the right sales technique through a game that’s enjoyable to play.

Emotional Drivers. In many cultures, it’s not acceptable for women to be seen open defecating, so they often wait for nightfall. Once we got women talking candidly about the problems they encountered during their nightly ritual, feelings of shame and fear became strong drivers to action. We created puzzles that, once assembled, visually portrayed this emotional narrative and provided a spark for the much-needed conversation to
take place.

We used to eat less so that we did not have to go out in the day time.
Now we can have a full meal without worry. — Female Latrine Customer

Many rural people in developing countries have a strong desire to feel modern, so one of our puzzles revealed the shame that comes with asking visitors to use the bush.

We learned to avoid rational health messages until after the purchase. Just as Behavioral Economists have been reporting for years, practical arguments are weak motivators to purchase.

Make it Social. We hosted events in a social environment. The games
we developed were designed to use social interaction as a positive driver
of behavior change. Community influences play a large role in shaping individuals’ beliefs. We made the experience fun and interactive to
create an open and safe space where people could loosen up and
share their experiences.

Make it Actionable. Provide an easy way to act. A key part of leading people down the path to behavior change is to offer an actionable step in the right direction. We made it easy for people to place an order on a latrine immediately after the village meeting.

From Behavior Change to Impact

iDE’s sanitation marketing program in Cambodia is selling 6,000 toilets per month on average, an unprecedented achievement in WASH development globally. At this rate, we are on course to reach 100% coverage in our program areas by 2025.

We place a high value on monitoring toilet sales and the overall
business performance of the local entrepreneurs who manufacture them. Our local Monitoring & Evaluation staff collects business data every two weeks in the field, which is uploaded to our global team for analysis. This data is an essential input for management decisions. But — despite our
data-loving culture — it’s hard to deny that the most telling indication
of impact is best captured in an image.

Photos by David Graham

Download to learn more. “Putting the Puzzle Together: Grounding Behavior Change in User Insights.”

Learn more about how iDE’s Global WASH Initiative is outsmarting diarrheal disease on twitter: @ideorg.

Bathroom Habits Die Hard was originally published in iDE Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

✇Sanitation Updates

Innovative Finance in Action: Cambodia DIB at World Water Week

By: iDE

When: Thursday, August 27 at 5:00pm Stockholm time

Where: Your home (online)

Innovative finance is an important tool for bridging the financing gap for SDG 6. Yet WASH has proved challenging for impact investment—despite great interest.

The Cambodia Rural Sanitation Development Impact Bond is the world’s first DIB in WASH. It is a nearly $10m partnership between iDE, the Stone Family Foundation and USAID to achieve 1,600 open defecation free villages, in support of the Cambodian government’s goal of universal sanitation by 2025.

The DIB demonstrates how innovative finance can help achieve national sanitation outcomes, and can provide important insights for others looking to develop similar mechanisms.

This session will start with a brief introduction to the DIB and then share how it was developed from the perspective of the three partners, including key lessons , such as: 

  • Ensuring the right finance at the right time.
  • Aligning incentives and playing to organizational strengths.
  • Focusing on social outcomes in line with national government strategy.

The audience will then be invited to pose questions to the panel and to share their experiences of innovative WASH financing.


✇Sanitation Updates

WASH impact bond lessons learnt

By: iDE

The world’s first Development Impact Bond in WASH is on track to achieve its goals after one year of implementation. iDE, The Stone Family Foundation, and USAID reflect on the progress they’ve made toward the goal, and the lessons learned from this joint effort to increase access to sanitation in rural Cambodia in a new report. The DIB aims to help eradicate open defecation in Cambodia and accelerate the Royal Government of Cambodia’s efforts to reach universal sanitation.


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