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Turning Poison into Economic Opportunity

Speaker(s): 
Arup SenGupta, P.C. Rossin Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering, Lehigh University
Published: February 28, 2014
[photo - Arup SenGupta]
Download  28 minutes,
More from this series: The Tech Awards

Credits:

Steven Ng
Stefan Castelán

PATH and the Safe Water Project: Improving Access to Safe Water Through Innovative Sales and Distribution Models

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Tim Elliott
Published: 2013
[photo - Stefanos Zenios]

This case provides an overview of the nonprofit organization PATH and its Safe Water Project—a five-year effort launched in late 2006 with $17 million in funding from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of the grant was to evaluate to what extent market-based approaches could help accelerate the widespread adoption and sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage products by low-income populations. 

One of the team’s primary objectives was to investigate sales and distribution challenges in this space. By conducting a portfolio of field-based pilots, the team hoped to test different models for improving customer access to these safe water products in an effort to identify scalable, sustainable, and replicable solutions. Although specific results varied across the pilots, which spanned India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Kenya, they collectively gave rise to series of important sales and distribution insights.

GSB Faculty, Students and Staff only may view PDF document, authorization required.

Paper Copy: You may purchase this case from Harvard Business Publishing.

Case No: OIT108

PATH and the Safe Water Project: Empowering the Poor Through User-Centered Design

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Tim Elliott
Published: 2013

This case provides an overview of the nonprofit organization PATH and its Safe Water Project—a five-year effort launched in late 2006 with $17 million in funding from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of the grant was to evaluate to what extent market-based approaches could help accelerate the widespread adoption and sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage products by low-income populations. Through a portfolio of field-based pilots, PATH intended to experiment with different sales and distribution strategies to improve consumer access to safe water solutions, such as water filters and chlorine-based water purification tablets. It also planned to test different pricing and consumer financing models to address the affordability of these products. However, extensive market research revealed another problem—few products in the space were both effective and designed specifically to meet the unique needs and preferences of these consumers. 

Accordingly, PATH applied for and was awarded $7 million in additional grant funding from the Gates Foundation to design a water filter product that would meet high standards of efficacy, be desirable—or aspirational—to low income consumers, and work effectively within the rural conditions where the majority of the poor resided. The PATH team would accomplish this through a process that the organization called user-centered design. 

GSB Faculty, Students and Staff only may view PDF document, authorization required.

Paper Copy: You may purchase this case from Harvard Business Publishing.

Case No: OIT107

Mulago Foundation I: Rigorous but Realistic Measurement

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Amy Lockwood, Stacey McCutcheon
Published: 2013
[photo - Mulago Foundation]

The Mulago Foundation is a private foundation focused on the prospect of creating a better life for the world’s poor. Concentrated in rural settings in developing countries, the Foundation’s work is in four areas that contribute to this overarching goal — livelihoods, health, education, and conservation. The Mulago team looks for investment opportunities in promising products and services that address these high-priority problems. When it comes to health, the organization is particularly committed to improvements affecting the lives of mothers and children.

When it comes to making investments, one of the most important aspects of the Mulago approach is the ability of the organization to have a measurable impact. Leaders of the Foundation admit that they are “unabashedly obsessed with impact.” However, many of the organizations applying to Mulago for funding struggle with how to effectively measure their results. Too often, innovators and entrepreneurs either under- or overinvest in data collection. Those who underinvest in understanding their impact can find themselves spending far too much money to achieve too few results. Those who overinvest in gathering information can waste valuable time and resources tracking metrics that produce a flood of data but do little more than “clog the works.” 

To help organizations meet this challenge, Mulago needed to develop an approach to the measurement of impact that was simple enough for an early-stage, resource-constrained organization to carry out, but rigorous and focused enough to mean something. This mini-case study describes the five-step framework that the Foundation developed.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Laura Hattendorf of the Mulago Foundation for her participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Mulago Foundation

LifeStraw Carbon for Water: Sustainable Funding for a Public Health Intervention

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Stacey McCutcheon
Published: 2012
[photo - LifeStraw]

Vestergaard Frandsen (VF) is a for-profit company that operates under a humanitarian entrepreneurship business model. Committed to supporting the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, VF creates and deploys technologies designed to improve the health of people at the base of the socioeconomic pyramid. The company’s leading products include PermaNet long-lasting insecticidal nets and LifeStraw water filters.

VF was convinced that its LifeStraw Family product could make an immediate and significant difference in addressing the safe water needs of households in developing countries. The challenge was how to make it affordable for its target audience. VF considered seeking donor funding to subsidize the product’s cost. However, it had repeatedly observed the fickle nature of philanthropic funding for point-of-use safe water programs. 

While VF considered its options, CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen decided to launch an integrated campaign to help prevent the spread of malaria, diarrheal disease, and HIV in Western Kenya. Participants were offered HIV counseling and testing services, as well as a free preventative CarePack that included condoms, an insecticide-treated bed net, and a household water filter. Working in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, VF preceded the launch with six weeks of radio ads and road show presentations, collateral distribution, and public health education in order to inform, prepare, and mobilize the community. In total, the campaign reached more than 80 percent of the target population (nearly 50,000 people) within a single week. 

Witnessing the success of the program, the Kenyan government asked VF to scale it up across the Western Province. However, identifying traditional forms of funding for point-of-use water filters at scale remained a challenge. This mini-case study describes how VF eventually came up with the idea of linking carbon finance to providing safe water at the household level as a mechanism for ensuring sustainable funding for a public health intervention. It also explores the challenges the company addressed in setting up its Carbon for Water program.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Meryl Radar and Alison Hill of VF for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Georgina Goodwin, courtesy of Vestergaard Frandsen

KickStart IV: Measuring Impact

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Edward Sheen
Published: 2012
[photo - KickStart]

KickStart was founded by Martin Fisher and Nick Moon to design tools that would enable Africa’s poor to launch and sustain profitable businesses. Its first product was a line of manually operated irrigation pumps — branded “MoneyMaker Pumps” — that would help subsistence farmers transform their farms into profitable family businesses. 

Since its inception, KickStart had sold more than 180,000 MoneyMaker pumps. Despite these encouraging sales figures, the company still faced the critical questions that confronted every social enterprise: What was the actual impact of the product on the people it was intended to help? And were these results cost effective? Fisher realized early on the need for KickStart to measure and validate its performance. Many nonprofits failed to set clearly defined goals, and they often measured only the outputs of their work rather than their desired outcomes (if they measured at all). KickStart was the first to point out that the number of pumps it sold was only an output measure, which did not indicate whether it was successfully meeting its mission to help lift people out of poverty. This mini-case study describes how the KickStart team developed a rigorous yet realistic approach to measuring and understanding the impact of its interventions.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Provided by KickStart International

d.light I: Securing Early Funding

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Edward Sheen
Published: 2012
[photo - d.light]

d.light design is a for-profit social enterprise whose purpose is to create new freedoms for customers without access to reliable power so they can enjoy a brighter future. The company designs, manufactures, and distributes solar light and power products throughout the developing world. 

When the d.light co-founders were first starting out as a student team at Stanford University, they needed a funding strategy to support the continued development of their product concept. They raised their first $10,000 from small donors, principally family, friends, and a church cofounder Ned Tozun was attending. Cofounder Sam Goldman and Tozun also secured some financial support from Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and the GSB’s Public Management Program. These funds financed plane tickets for a return trip to Myanmar, additional field research, and further prototyping. However, it did not take long for d.light to require substantially more funding in order to grow. This mini-case study explores how the team tackled its early fund raising challenge.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Ned Tozun, Sam Goldman, and Erica Estrada of d.light for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of d.light design

Diagnostics for the Real World II: Raising Funds for a Niche Solution

Academic Case Study by:
Stefanos Zenios, Lyn Denend, Stacey McCutcheon
Published: 2012
[photo - DRW]

Diagnostics for the Real World (DRW), a for-profit spinout from the Diagnostics Development Unit at the University of Cambridge, is focused on manufacturing and commercializing technologies created at the university that can help address the unmet diagnostic needs of patients in developing countries. DRW’s first product was a reliable, low-cost Chlamydia Rapid Test (CRT) that made it feasible to conduct field-based chlamydia screening in the remote, resource-poor settings. Even more importantly, the new test enabled healthcare providers to test and treat patients in a single interaction rather than having to send samples to a central laboratory and get patients to return for their results and treatment options.

As Lee and her team worked on the product, they discovered that although chlamydia was a significant global health concern, it was not necessarily a top priority for the international nongovernmental organizations and health authorities that might provide funding or become the early, high-volume customers of the CRT. Moreover, without such organizations raising awareness or advocating for expanded chlamydia screening, there was no ready-made market or large-scale demand for the CRT in developing countries. DRW would have to undertake the daunting and expensive proposition of creating the market for a test that was considered something of a niche solution. To raise the money necessary to tackle this challenge, DRW needed a funding strategy that would support its focus on reaching patients and healthcare providers in developing countries. This mini-case study describes the multi-source funding strategy DRW devised to support its operation without losing sight of its mission.

[Read Case]

This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings. 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Helen Lee of Diagnostics for the Real World for her participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Diagnostics for the Real World

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