Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

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Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

The project that is described here is a sub-grant under the Urban Services Initiative (USI) led by J-Pal which was introduced on the forum here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-ena...on-of-urban-services

I am posting this for Berhe Beyene, the Project coordinator and Co-principal investigator, who sent me this information by e-mail.

Regarding the main research hypothesis, the idea is that the marketing and discounts will make people use the toilets and that will help them to create a habit. They have designed the experiment in such a way that they will be able to differentiate the effect from habit formation from other effects like learning effect.



Title of grant: Creating a toilet habit

Name of lead organization: Urban Services Initiative, J-PAL

Primary contact at lead organization:

1. Thomas Chupein, Initiative Manager, Urban Services Initiative, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
2. Berhe Beyene, Project coordinator and Co-principal investigator, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Grantee location: J-PAL, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • Developing country where the research is being tested: Kenya
  • Start and end date: September 20013 to January 2017.
  • Grant size in USD: 350,000 (this is a sub-grant of this grant: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects?search=j-pal )
Short description of the project:

Despite expanding access to sanitary options such as community toilets, many individuals, especially in urban slums, continue to practice open defecation. One potential explanation is that open defecation has become an ingrained habit. Applying lessons from psychology and neuroscience, the study aims at evaluating whether a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign can foster a new habit—using hygienic latrines instead defecating in the open—among slum dwellers in Kenya.

The researchers are partnering with Sanergy for this purpose. Sanergy is a social enterprise that builds and franchises community toilets called Fresh Life Toilets (FLTs) to local entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs charge pay-per-use fees for the toilets they operate and Sanergy collects the waste and convert it to fertilizer at a central processing facility. Each FLT serves up to 100 users per day and provides personal hygiene products such as soap and water. Sanergy is keen to understand how to maximize sustained usage at each of its facilities, as well as how to attract non-users to its facilities.

Randomized control trial
The study is a randomized control trial and as part of the experimental design, 3000 adults (one from each sample household) will be selected around 45 FLTs. The sample toilets charge either 4 KSH or 5 KSH (1 USD is approximately 90 KSH) per use per adult. The 3000 study participants will be randomly allocated to different groups receiving varying incentives to use the FLTs. We will randomize the following dimensions of variation in the vouchers:

Group 1 will receive 1 or 2 KES discount anytime during the day, limited up to 3 time per day for those toilets that charge 4 or 5 KES respectively. I.e., they will pay 3 KSH per use instead of 4 or 5 KSH.

Group 2 will receive 4 or 5 KES discount for those toilets that charge 4 or 5 KES respectively. I.e., they get 100% discount.

Group 3 will receive 4 or 5 KES discount for those toilets that charge 4 or 5 KES respectively during a certain 2 hour window to be determined after the baseline. All other times they will receive a 1 or 2 KES discount limited up to 2 times per day.

Each of the above groups will be divided into marketing and no marketing. The advantages of FLTs over the alternatives will be presented to the marketing group in a one on one meeting. Reminders about the benefits of FLTs will also be sent through SMS.

The discount period will last for 60 days and during this period, participants will be able to use an FLT at the discounted rate up to three times a day. While the study participants will be selected within 2 minutes of walking distance from the nearest sample FLT, they are also allowed to redeem their discount at any of the sample FLTs. Signs will be put on the sample FLTs so that study participants can easily know where to redeem their discounts. They will not be able to transfer an unused voucher to another day or to a different person. After the discount period, the toilet usage of study participants will be tracked for 6 to 12 months; during this post-discount period, all study participants will get the smallest discount, i.e., 1 or 2 KSH. A baseline survey will be implemented before the start of the discount period and endline data will be collected after the follow-up period.

Objectives:

The research project has the following objectives:
- To inform Sanergy about how to improve their business model and attract new regular customers
- To inform USI, J-PAL and donors whether new sanitation habits can be created and sustained with the help of monetary benefits, and if so, how to implement such interventions in other contexts, and
- To develop novel scientific evidence on both the theory of habit formation and its empirical implications, which will be applicable much more broadly for many different problems studied by social scientists.

Research or implementation partners:
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) – Research partner; IPA hosts the project and is responsible for ensuring that the project is run properly and data integrity is maintained.
Sanergy – Implementing partner; more information on Sanergy is also available here on the forum: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/170-pu...rgy-in-nairobi-kenya

Links, further readings – results to date:
www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/creating-toilet-habit-kenya

Current state of affairs:
Preparation on going to start baseline survey and intervention in Mukuru, Nairobi. The baseline will take from two to three months and is expected to start in May, 2015.

Biggest successes so far:
Ran a pilot study early last year. 4 FLTs and 200 individuals participated and the pilot was done for a duration of five weeks. The result indicates that discounts lead to more usage of the FLTs which is a requirement for the main objective of testing if a new habit of using FLTs can be created once the discount period is completed.

Main challenges / frustration:
Developing a technology that tracks toilet usage daily for the discount and post-discount periods has been a challenge. Sanergy is leading on this and a tracking technology is being developed and expected to be ready in April 2015.

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum
(Forum moderation used to be funded via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 ))

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
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  • SDickin
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Re: Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

I guess this is a follow-up to my previous post about the larger USI project (see here: www.forum.susana.org/forum/categories/16...urban-services#15294 ). It will be interesting to see the results of this study, and if the measures lead to habit formation regarding toilet usage.
It could also be interesting to complement the survey results with more in-depth interviews with some participants regarding why they used the discounts, or what barriers to toilet usage they experienced despite having the discount.

Dr. Sarah Dickin,
Research Fellow
Stockholm Environment Institute
Stockholm, Sweden
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

Dear Elisabeth,

You say: "....the idea is that the marketing and discounts will make people use the toilets and that will help them to create a habit."

Could you kindly make it more clear by what do you (or, they) mean by "discounts," in the present context?

Regards,

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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Re: Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

Dear Mughal,
I believe the discounts are towards the cost of using a Sanergy Fresh Life toilet, and are in Kenyan Shillings (KSH). The three groups of discounts are described in more detail in the text about the project, e.g. "Group 1 will receive 1 or 2 KES discount anytime during the day, limited up to 3 time per day for those toilets that charge 4 or 5 KES respectively. I.e., they will pay 3 KSH per use instead of 4 or 5 KSH."

I am still interested to know how the researchers will collect information on why discounts didn't work (if this occurs), or on what barriers users experienced after the discount period ends, that impacted habit formation.

Dr. Sarah Dickin,
Research Fellow
Stockholm Environment Institute
Stockholm, Sweden
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

Dear Dr. Sarah,

Thanks for the feedback. To me, discounts in the present context, looks more like subsidies.
Are they (discounts) for changing the mindset of the people?

Regards,

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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Re: Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

Dear Sarah,

We’re happy to hear that you are interested to learn the results of the study. In addition to tracking redemption of vouchers and actual usage of the facilities, researchers are conducting a survey that asks households about their habits at the beginning and end of the project. Though this survey is not an in-depth interview, it could provide insight into the decisions households made regarding toilet use. Moreover, as mentioned in the response to your general comments on USI, the theory embedded in the research design can help frame and explain barriers, including non-financial factors, to toilet use.
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Re: Can a combination of economic incentives and a marketing campaign foster a new toilet habit? Resesarch project in Kenya (J-Pal and Sanergy)

Dear Mr. Mughal,

Yes, the discounts referenced are synonymous with subsidies in this project. The marketing campaign component of the study is designed to build a habit loop in users. Hope this helps clarify.

All the best
Thomas
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