Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Tyler

I think this project is approaching the challenges of city wide sanitation solutions in completely the right way (as it is for any other sector)

Entering the field with no pre-preconceived ideas except to rigorously investigate the best solutions from technical, operational, financial, sustainable AND acceptability to all stakeholders is the only way to achieve long term usage and the health, economic and community benefits good sanitation can bring

In many cases, it seems like "to the man with a hammer, every problem is a nail" - we try and fit the solution we have, to problem at hand

So the success of your project is just as important for other solution providers as it is for the direct beneficiaries


If funders see this approach as achieving better results, they may provide researchers with more latitude to develop "best" solutions, rather than their "favourite"

Looking forward to hearing progress
Creator of the RealChange Global Impact Fund and MCM GREENMAN GROUP

Solving housing quality , power reliability, water supply and sanitation management in developing countries with private sector impact investors money

Philosophy

* See a problem.
* Make sure it's the real problem (by talking to the people with the problem).
* Find people who are solving this problem somewhere in the world and collaborate - and learn from them to solve the problem
OR
* Create a new solution where none exists
* Find passionate people who care about the problem to help implement solutions

Our solution approach - what's yours?

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  • tgoodwin
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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for all of the great links to related work. I’ve answered your follow-up questions in-line below.

One thing I don't fully understand: what will be at the core of your business in terms of "toilet technology" or would you say this is secondary to everything else? You mentioned a few times the sanitation technologies emerging from the RTTC (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge), even though you said in the beginning that you are not bound to use any of them.



The short answer is that we don’t know yet. When undertaking the grant to work with the Foundation’s technology portfolio, we understood that we were aligning with a very new initiative, and always held it as a possibility that we may need to source technology from outside the portfolio. I would definitely say our approach is more market-centric for our 4 pilot cities than it is tech-centric. While the Foundation is developing some exciting tech, our working theory is twofold: first, that better technology/better products are not the central constraint to adopting improved sanitation, and second, in terms of the partnership ecosystem, WSUP’s most valuable contribution to a global technology initiative is to interpret the city-level market potential at a very granular level for each pilot country, and develop the local distribution model that will ensure system longevity for improved on-site sanitation methods over time. So, the core of our businesses will be the appropriate service and operations model for successful local sales and marketing. If RTTC hardware ultimately fits into this model, or an evolution of it — great. But, our primary concern is developing the city-scale market for sanitation now, which may require thinking more practically about hardware initially.

Could you please tell me which technologies you are currently favouring in each of the four countries?


I’m not sure how much we should discuss arrangements in progress, but I will say:


1. For Zambia (grant to pilot a new model for maximizing utilization of the Omni Ingestor), we’ve decided to pilot the brand we developed for the Omni-Ingestor using manual teams rather than the OI.
2. For Bangladesh (grant to pilot new distribution model for increasing toilet access) users were interested in investing in a septic-like solution that would reduce the amount of interaction that have with waste collectors compared to current ring alternatives.
3. For Ghana (grant to pilot an Operator model for a network of omni-processor systems) we found a stronger business case for larger scale systems with a by-product that already has a proven market (electricity, bio-diesel, etc) rather than a market that has a long development cycle.
4. For Kenya (grant to pilot a new distribution model for increasing toilet access) design research is still underway.


It is interesting that in South Africa there is also something similar going on where some of these toilets that had funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are being demonstrated next year. Or hang on, maybe their project is quite different because it seems more of a technical demonstration, not a business based approach like yours. See here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-gr...bmgf-dst-partnership . They have selected 4 technologies, one of them being the "Earth Auger" UDDT from Ecuador (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...a-uddt-with-an-auger).



Yes, interesting project — and good that you mention a difference in our approaches as technical pilot versus business. While we are willing to work with partners on technical pilots, broadly, our desire would be to come in after a successful technical field test, and start to develop the distribution/service model around the technologies using a slightly larger number of units in a live pilot.


We also have this ICCO project in Bangladesh which is looking at building demand for sanitation (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/167-bu...tion-bangladesh#9722). They seem to have settled on these four technologies:

* Tiger Toilet - see here on the forum: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/105-pr...h-africa-and-vietnam
* Sun-Mar
* Enbiolet
* Biofil Digester

Do you have any dealings with that project?


Yes, we’ve had several meetings with ICCO in Bangladesh, and are following their program eagerly. This is an interesting grant, because ICCO’s final output is a sort of business plan and value chain recommendation based on their technical test. From their search for suppliers and distributors for the technologies being piloted, it seems like there could be multiple gaps in the value chain that might be appropriate for WSUP to design our Bangladesh business around, using our grant to play an active market facilitation role by building the missing pieces of the value chain.

Maybe I am too much of an engineer at heart but I somehow think that the technology is reasonably important within a sanitation business approach, or maybe I am wrong? If I am wrong then what is it that you are "selling" to those city officials that you are dealing with? "Just" the service?



Agreed — hardware is a huge part of selling sanitation. But, we believe the equation for reaching city-scale in any given market is still at least half software and regulatory environment. On the software side, this is why we have designers focused on how to create distribution/operations models that work. On the regulatory environment side, it’s about integrating well with a city’s long-term plans for sanitation, and ensuring that we’re well positioned to ultimately advocate for the right policy environment for ensuring improved on-site sanitation is treated appropriately as a robust market by all levels of city and national government. What we are ‘selling’ then, is really a vision for private sector involvement in sanitation, and how we can collaborate long-term to ensure low-income customers have access services. Among municipalities, this is often a value shared in principle, but there is a great deal of inertia caused by lack of budgets and clear change-management processes. So, we’re designing a stakeholder management approach that takes municipal capacity into account, and seeks collaborations on issues where local authorities do have the power to act.

In other documents and blog posts when I see the words "sanitation as a business" it is often simply related to faecal sludge emptying services…


We refer to sanitation as a business broadly as turning any part of the sanitation value chain into a profitable business. So, in the case of our work with Gates, the goal is to create business approaches for on-site sanitation broadly, and specifically around the various pieces of the value chain: including toilet access; waste collection; and waste processing.


You mentioned faecal sludge treatment in your post. This reminds me of another BMGF-funded project in Bangladesh, called: "Demonstration of pro-poor market- based solutions for faecal sludge management in urban centres of Southern Bangladesh" (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/99-fae...thern-bangladesh-snv)
Are you able to utilise any synergies with them or is each city in Bangladesh so different that the findings from one city cannot easily be applied to another city?


Indeed, this is also a program we’re following with curiosity. I watched this program launch in April just after the Re-invent the Toilet Fair, and our Bangladesh Enterprises Lead gets an update on their progress quarterly via a grantees meeting in Dhaka coordinated by the Foundation. The pilot city is much different from a mega-market like Chittagong, but we’re hopeful that SNV’s program demonstrates some interesting results. With our current product direction in Bangladesh, the style of FSM that they’re doing may not align with the emptying requirements of our approach to toilet access — but we’ll see how things evolve.
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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Dear Tyler,

Thank you for the very detailed and open description of the progress you have made with this project so far ("Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market") in 4 countries, with a focus on Zambia and Bangladesh in this post. Very interesting to read.

One thing I don't fully understand: what will be at the core of your business in terms of "toilet technology" or would you say this is secondary to everything else? You mentioned a few times the sanitation technologies emerging from the RTTC (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge), even though you said in the beginning that you are not bound to use any of them.

Could you please tell me which technologies you are currently favouring in each of the four countries?
It is interesting that in South Africa there is also something similar going on where some of these toilets that had funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are being demonstrated next year. Or hang on, maybe their project is quite different because it seems more of a technical demonstration, not a business based approach like yours. See here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-gr...bmgf-dst-partnership . They have selected 4 technologies, one of them being the "Earth Auger" UDDT from Ecuador (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...a-uddt-with-an-auger).

We also have this ICCO project in Bangladesh which is looking at building demand for sanitation (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/167-bu...tion-bangladesh#9722). They seem to have settled on these four technologies: Do you have any dealings with that project?

Maybe I am too much of an engineer at heart but I somehow think that the technology is reasonably important within a sanitation business approach, or maybe I am wrong? If I am wrong then what is it that you are "selling" to those city officials that you are dealing with? "Just" the service?

In other documents and blog posts when I see the words "sanitation as a business" it is often simply related to faecal sludge emptying services...

You mentioned faecal sludge treatment in your post. This reminds me of another BMGF-funded project in Bangladesh, called: "Demonstration of pro-poor market- based solutions for faecal sludge management in urban centres of Southern Bangladesh" (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/99-fae...thern-bangladesh-snv)
Are you able to utilise any synergies with them or is each city in Bangladesh so different that the findings from one city cannot easily be applied to another city?

Sorry for all my questions and thanks in advance for your time in addressing some of them (and perhaps some other forum users with an interest in this topic or experience in Bangladesh can also contribute).

Regards,
Elisabeth


P.S. I have mentioned a few BMGF grants in this thread. If anyone is wondering where to find them all, we now have a searchable database of BMGF sanitation projects available on the SuSanA website with all the links to previous forum discussion threads and library entries (it is currently being built up further, it already contains 106 projects right now):
www.susana.org/en/resources/research/gat...ndation/all-projects
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  • tgoodwin
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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Hello Elizabeth,

I'll answer on behalf of Andy. Overall, progress has been slower than we expected for several reasons:

First, we're dealing with an experimental technology initiative with a large and diverse set of actors. I’m sure everyone involved in the program feels both how exciting it is to be working with other great pioneers, and also recognizes the difficulty in trying to do so cohesively and effectively. We are in a particularly challenging position to handle this dynamic, as one of the only grantees currently working specifically on 'market activation.'

Second, as a new business unit within WSUP structuring itself to create startup businesses, and do so in the leanest manner possible, this grant (which is essentially to setup 4 new pilot business) required a lot of internal capacity development for us, with regard not only to new people, but also developing our business creation approach to be faster and more effective than in past cases (where we’ve developed new startup businesses in partnership with the various corporate innovation teams at Unilever — including their new business unit and open innovation department).

We're experimenting with an organizational structure to deliver the grant that aims to exit what we call the 'customer development' phase of commercializing these technologies as cheaply and quickly as possible. It's a delicate balance between hiring for fastest milestone delivery and hiring for the long-term sustainability of a fledgling social business.

To balance this, we work through extremely lean country teams and consultants to supplement these teams in places where there are capacity gaps. Orchestrating these teams in 4 countries at once has been our greatest challenge to date.

To hire our core country teams in Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, and Bangladesh we had to first find what we call 'Enterprise Leads’ --who are each responsible for piloting a business and ideally leading it up until the point it's ready for it's first management team. Finding local manager-level candidates with the level of experience, risk appetite, and vision for what we're trying to achieve -- while also not breaking the bank — is difficult.

In a traditional startup environment, you would find co-founders dedicated to the cause and willing to take reduced pay in return for equity. In this environment of intrapraneurship, you can easily find yourself with an unsustainable payroll structure from the outset if you don't hire skillfully. While working with visionary funders like BMGF helps in that we are able to fund staff more like a project than a sustainable business in these early stages, we are constantly thinking about how to best structure startup teams for both efficiency and a smooth path toward ultimately making each business self-sustaining and investable.

Ultimately, we must balance the cost of hiring for skills in difficult talent markets with the desire for strong team continuity through carrying a business to the point of investability. Since the end-game is investable businesses, if we make a model work but do so with an unsustainable team structure, the process of re-structuring the team for cost later on will pose a major threat to carrying forward any one of our models.

To discuss Bangladesh more directly:

The grant in Bangladesh is to “activate the market for on-site sanitation using new toilet designs in Rangpur, Bangladesh” — ideally by utilizing Gates RTTC designs (but this is not ultimately a constraint if we find other designs more suitable and market ready).

We hired the Bangladesh Enterprise Lead about 6 months ago. He is a young diaspora Bangladeshi from Texas, who moved from a Mongolian VC to work with us. He was the only candidate of such a profile that made it into the hiring funnel, and our fortune to find him was only through personal connection.

Other candidates were all Bangladeshi nationals with a "career-NGO” background. Few had ever worked for private companies — almost all had about 15-20 years of project management experience, with no career progression toward bigger projects or more responsibility. While this would be ok for hiring more of a project administrator for a set initiative, it presents huge challenges for a program that includes designing a business model from scratch and building a responsive team that can iterate and evolve the business.

In 6 months, progress has been steady, but slow. First, we originally intended to launch in Rangpur, a small city in the Northwest. However, after initial visits, we determined it wasn't an appropriate foothold market for RTTC. There were a number of active toilet subsidization programs, and residents were too poor to be in the market for upgrading beyond basic sanitation.

Shifting cities required a fresh evaluation of some of Bangladesh's urban areas, and making inroads with the various local city corporations to get an early indication of how supportive the local government actors would be for a program like this. We found the sanitation-as-a-business approach to be very difficult to grasp for many city leaders here, as the poor are not perceived as willing to pay for it, and Bangladesh has a long history of large NGO subsidization programs for latrines. Subsidization, of course, was a huge step in curbing open defecation here over the last 15 years, but it makes the idea of paid sanitation a tricky one.

Toeing the line of social business here is particularly challenging, because if you want to operate as an NGO, it requires a set of approvals and promises of very specific coverage targets agreed with the bureau. However, if you want to operate as a business, city officials may not see any reason to offer important collaborations, such as land concessions or allocation of engineers. Businesses are stereotyped as cutthroat and necessarily corrupt — the practice of paying to get things done is common and accepted.

We ultimately decided to launch our pilot in Chittagong, Bangladesh's second city. The people here benefit from a higher percentage of formal employment than other areas, due to the RMG and shipping industries located here, and basic community improvements in low-income wards have been made by the excellent work of a 10 year UNDP Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction program.

The idea of selecting pilot markets is interesting for RTTC, because you’re generally looking for favorable conditions that are still mostly representative of how the market will develop over the long term, rather than looking purely for suitable pilot conditions.

UPPR built roads, water wells, and communal latrines and created a effective community organization structure that we'll be able to build on in marketing sanitation. The prevalence of basic latrine access for most of the population means the low-income market is in prime position to continue moving toward better sanitation as families decide to trade up to more private solutions.

We expect to be able to build on this structure as the UPPR program is retired next year, and believe RTTC toilets could be an appealing offer for this market. In particular, offering toilets with better waste containment and collection service would be invaluable in communities that suffer from heavy monsoon flooding and poor drainage.

Waste treatment is also an attractive path as Chittagong does not feature any functional waste treatment facilities, and 0% of fecal sludge is currently disposed safely. Combined with the fact that many people bathe-in and drink surface water from local ponds, people are very concerned with increasing the overall hygiene and surface water quality of their community.

To date, we have wrapped up a period of intense market research looking across household economics, current sanitation choices, regulatory environment, and reactions to RTTC toilet concepts. We are now conducting design research to build on these market insights and develop technology-independent business concepts. However, several Gates portfolio technologies look attractive as hardware options.

In the coming months, we'll be creating a plan for government capacity development, using a 'collaborative projects' approach we've been developing in Zambia over the last few months. This approach toward identifying areas of alignment between the expected business activities and government stakeholders' priorities will hopefully shift the dynamic between sanitation actors and the government toward a more win-win scenario. From there, our aim is to begin selling new toilets on a free market basis (as the grant describes) in 2015.

Biggest successes so far:
Hiring a solid core team and bringing in the right supplemental expertise to develop and begin testing new approaches to B-SIM.

Main challenges / frustration: Getting up to speed on BMGF project and partnership universe, and making sense of 4 very diverse markets at once.

Links and further readings related to this project: None

To what extent have you achieved the goals already? Market research and consumer insights work either finalized or coming soon in each country. Approach to capacity development defined in Zambia, currently being transferred to other countries. Final pre-pilot business planning and financial modeling underway in Zambia, and coming soon in other countries.

What have been enabling factors? Willingness of people to participate in the research process. In each country, both consumers and stakeholders are eager to be part of developing solutions, and that is critical to designing approaches that work.

When can your technology be brought to scale and under which conditions? N/A

Where do you see its biggest niche or application area? N/A


Tyler
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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Dear Andy,

I was looking for projects in Bangladesh funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and I remembered your grant which you introduced here in this thread ("Bringing sanitation innovations to market" in Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and Bangladesh).
Could you please give us an update since your last post from a year ago? That would be great.

In particular, what has been your progress so far in Bangladesh (but also in the other three countries)?

I looked on your website but couldn't find specific reference to this project (sorry if I didn't look properly enough).
The link that you gave above is no longer working:
www.wsup.com/news/gatesgrant.htm

It would be great if you could update us on these questions which were too early last year:

Biggest successes so far: Too early to say.
Main challenges / frustration: Too early to say.
Links and further readings related to this project: www.wsup.com/news/gatesgrant.htm
To what extent have you achieved the goals already? None.
What have been enabling factors? Too early to say.
When can your technology be brought to scale and under which conditions? N/A
Where do you see its biggest niche or application area? N/A


Thanks in advance,
Elisabeth
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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Hi All

We're hiring for the WSUP Enterprises Lead in Ghana to lead the Ghana leg of this programme. Please visit wsup.com/vacancies/ for details or the attached job description.

Thanks
Andy Narracott

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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Thanks for your response Andy, looking forward to learning more about this very interesting project as it evolves. Does the project have a website?
Best wishes,
Nelson
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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Hello Nelson

Great questions - let me begin by reiterating that this is a new grant with not much progress to share yet. Nevertheless, these are great questions which I'll attempt to answer:

Which are the local organizations your country offices are collaborating with in these countries and what are their roles in this particular project?
- WSUP partners with service providers in the respective countries: government municipalities, local businesses and community groups. This is at the core of our approach, since we believe stronger service providers will create lasting improvements. In this grant, a specific component includes strengthening those institutions that regulate enterprise engaged in FSM service provision.

I also gather from your objectives that you plan to work at city-scale to reach about 375 000 people by October 2016. Kindly throw some light on your plan, strategy, business model to achieve this.
- The strategy will be to establish city-level platforms to facilitate the adoption and scale up of existing and new sanitation technologies and service models. More on this as it evolves.

Will you test your approach in pilot sites within the city before going city-wide?
- Yes.

Which new latrine designs, emptying techniques and treatments processes will you be implementing?
- In due course, we will be contacting technology providers to create a shortlist of technologies suitable for the given context and market conditions.

From your experience in working in these countries, what are the challenges you expect to encounter?
- This is a big question and could be the subject of a PhD. We expect such things as: low existing demand from households, weak policy frameworks that fail to comprehensively address FSM chains, vested interests in status quo, perceived weak business case by local enterprise...

Do you feel that you already have some understanding of the potential users and markets?
- Yes, some. But a big component will be on developing a deeper understanding of people and business.

Any plans to involve educational and religious institutions in the project?
- No.

Thanks and apologies for the brevity of reply.

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Re: Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Dear Andy,

Thanks for launching your project on the forum. The international focus of your project makes it interesting and permits you to compare the interventions in the different countries. Such a comparative analysis would indeed be great to have. I see from your project time frame that you are still early in the project and have commenced activities in Zambia, Ghana, Bangladesh and by now Kenya. Which are the local organizations your country offices are collaborating with in these countries and what are their roles in this particular project? I also gather from your objectives that you plan to work at city-scale to reach about 375 000 people by October 2016. Kindly throw some light on your plan, strategy, business model to achieve this. Will you test your approach in pilot sites within the city before going city-wide? Which new latrine designs, emptying techniques and treatments processes will you be implementing? From your experience in working in these countries, what are the challenges you expect to encounter? Do you feel that you already have some understanding of the potential users and markets? Any plans to involve educational and religious institutions in the project?


Best regards,

Nelson
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Bringing Sanitation Innovations to Market (B-SIM) (WSUP, UK and Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh)

Title of grant: Activating the Urban On Site Sanitation Market With New Technology
Grantee: Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor, London
Contact: Andy Narracott
Partners: WSUP Country Offices
Location of project: Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh
Start and end date: Nov 212 to Oct 2016

Short description of the project:

This grant will support a four year program aimed at using new sanitation technologies to activate and expand the sanitation market in four cities in Africa and South Asia. Last year, the Foundation put sanitation on the map when it issued a challenge to design toilets that can capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price. WSUP believes that great technology is only the beginning. For technology to translate into improved services, we need a deep understanding of the users and markets in which the technology will operate, as we need supportive and strong local institutions. The project will prime the market for the rapid uptake of sanitation services and create the right environment for the market based scale-up of new and innovative sanitation options and service models which will make a significant contribution to the growing challenge of urban sanitation.

Goal:
The goal of the project is to significantly improve on-site sanitation services being delivered in four locations in the developing world. The aim for an ‘excellent’ outcome of this project is at least 10% of the city wide on-site sanitation market in each location, an estimated 375,000 people, accessing improved services at a cost of $0.05 per consumer per day or less, lower costs and higher margins for faecal sludge management (FSM) operators and on-going investment for service expansion in each location by October 2016.

Objectives:
The program has four sub objectives:
1. Establish a technology-independent working value chain and a supportive institutional environment
2. To utilise new designs of latrine to activate the on-site sanitation market at city scale in Rangpur, Bangladesh & a secondary town in the Rift Valley, Kenya (TBC in design phase)
3. To utilise new pit emptying technology to activate the on-site sanitation market at city scale in Lusaka, Zambia
4. To utilise a new sludge treatment process, from the Foundation's pipeline, or elsewhere, to activate the on-site sanitation market at city scale in Kumasi, Ghana

Current state of affairs:
As at 5th March 2013:
Zambia: Building implementation team. Carrying out background research on the pit-emptying technologies and businesses, institutional touch-points and analogous inspiration. Currently partnering with IDEO.org to use human-centered design methodologies to develop, test, and refine insights into a viable business model for a pit emptying technology. More info here .
Ghana: initiating market research to understand the local market potential for human waste-derived products. Carrying out an analysis of the institutional environment surrounding the transport, storage, processing and sale of human-waste derived products.
Bangladesh: Building implementation team. Carrying out background research on the sanitation value chain and seeking out analogous inspiration. Initiating market research to understand the local market and institutional touch-points for re-invented toilets.
Kenya: Beginning 2nd April 2013.

Biggest successes so far: Too early to say.
Main challenges / frustration: Too early to say.
Links and further readings related to this project: www.wsup.com/news/gatesgrant.htm
To what extent have you achieved the goals already? None.
What have been enabling factors? Too early to say.
When can your technology be brought to scale and under which conditions? N/A
Where do you see its biggest niche or application area? N/A

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