WASHplus - Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor
as part of the
SanMark Community of Practice – A Peer Learning Exchange
With Marion Jenkins, University of California at Davis and Danielle Pedi, WASH Catalyst. This session introduces some of the key principles and practices for designing and implementing successful SanMark programs. These include essential principles such as scale and profits, getting the product right, staging and adapting SanMark strategies over time and roles for different actors. Key practices and steps including market demand and supply research, marketing strategy and business model design, and tracking progress of SanMark programs are explored.
Marion (Mimi) Jenkins is one of SanMark's earliest pioneers and champions. Together with Sandy Cairncross and other colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Mimi published the first seminal work on sanitation marketing (including her own PhD dissertation) in the late 90s, thus beginning a nearly fifteen year career of applied research and technical support to enhance knowledge, policy and capacity for sanitation marketing and market-based WASH initiatives around the world.
Mimi is a research engineer in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Davis and an honorary lecturer in the Environmental Health Group at LSHTM. She has extensive experience advising agencies at a global level on WASH strategy development and evaluation. She has worked on sanitation marketing and programs across sub-Saharan Africa and in South and South East Asia.
Danielle Pedi: As a WASH sector practitioner frustrated with the failures of conventional supply-side approaches, Danielle began exploring alternatives in the early 2000s. Since then, she has managed and advised large-scale sanitation marketing programs across Asia, Africa and the Pacific. By linking user-focused design with effective behaviour change, Danielle is committed to starting with people as the entry point for inspiring action.
Danielle’s early work in Cambodia has seen the emergence of a strong and growing market for rural sanitation. Her most recent work involves support to large-scale businesses on mass manufacture and commercial distribution of low-cost latrine slabs in East Africa. Danielle has worked with a range of clients on consumer research, low-cost sanitation product and business model design, SME business support, and design and evaluation of sanitation marketing initiatives. She is a social scientist by training and is based in West Africa, where she recently founded the WASHCatalyst group.
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Mimi Jenkins and Danielle Pedi respond to questions raised by participants during the webinar:
Q1 How can we balance the need to take take a village-by-village approach with the need to generate enough demand in an area to make it commercially attractive to service that demand?
Q2 During the design of products, who does this and who covers the cost? That is, do some households get the prototypes for free as demonstrations? Do you engage the private sector in the R&D from the start? If so what is the incentive for their engagement?
Q3 For the research parts - on market studies and demand studies - can you give us a sense of the costs involved? For smaller agencies, how can we resource this? And for countries where this is already done, can we access these studies or do we need to do them again?
Q4 I understand that local government is important but in many of the poorest countries local government is not active or very weak. So does this mean SanMark works best in better-off developing countries?
Q5 While the supply side is catalytic, would the NGO still engage on the demand side in a "project driven" approach?
Q6 Unlike subsidy and CLTS where governments are sometimes the main implementer, the government struggles to adjust to their new role as described. What might be some ideas to support change by government?
Q7 Slow initial growth is a challenge to 1-3 year funding cycles. Also national latrine sales versus village by village "coverage' is a challenge to NGOs business/implementation and funding models.
How can we balance the need to not take a village-by-village approach with the need to generate enough demand in an area to make it commercially attractive to service that demand?
Local government leadership, from the province or district down to each village, must be engaged to mobilize community demand (as in CLTS) and create the local enabling environment in each community to link up demand (interested and willing households) to local partnering enterprises and providers, for example by holding community meetings to introduce endorsed suppliers and their products and services in the village, by following-up with individual household visits to check on the quality of construction and products from suppliers or make sure suppliers are paid for their services. NGOs often play a key role in supporting local government to play this facilitation role, for example through training on the use of new tools and materials for mobilization (e.g., CLTS), consumer product education, monitoring, and oversight of local enterprises.
On the supply-side, however, the scale of intervention often needs to be larger than a single village because partnering enterprises need to be profitable: they will likely need to cover multiple villages in reach enough new customers to generate adequate returns on their investment of time, cash, and effort. Here mass social marketing, social mobilization, and mass media campaigns can help generate awareness and demand more broadly than in one village at a time. Partner enterprises themselves also should be trained to use appropriate promotional and sales marketing techniques on their own and encouraged to “go where the customers can be found”, rather than being restricted within project village boundaries.
During the design of products, who does this and who covers the cost? That is, do some households get the prototypes for free as demonstrations? Do you engage the private sector in the R&D from the start? If so what is the incentive for their engagement?
The product design process, following principles of human centered design (see IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit), is most effective if led by a professional designer, but the process must also engage with knowledgeable local experts and practitioners who have experience with and knowledge of local sanitation practices, conditions, and alternative technologies, as well as with target consumers, suppliers and service providers. As with market research (see above), product design can be considered a sector-wide upfront investment that provides foundational inputs for country-wide sanitation marketing implementation. Full scale demonstration installations are generally not necessary, and giving away free “demonstration” products for durable goods is usually neither feasible nor useful and can create a damaging precedent. There are other techniques and tools for allowing potential consumers to fully interact with prototype ideas and designs in order to get their input over several rounds of design iterations, without giving away products. For example, consumers are often very willing to share honest feedback in focus group discussions on prototype designs especially if these discussions occur in their community at a convenient time for them to participate.
Yes, it’s important to get buy-in and cooperation from a few interested private suppliers and providers in the design, production and installation of new latrines early in the R&D process. Design research will need to understand not only what is desirable from the consumer’s side but what is technically and financially feasible for an enterprise to produce and sell. At the start, we’re not taking about getting all the enterprises involved at once. You only need to find one or two who get the concept and are particularly willing, knowledgeable and interested to collaborate on the R&D process because they see growth potential and opportunity. Their incentive to participate should be to learn new product designs and efficient production techniques in order to grow their businesses. Thus they should be willing to provide some in-kind resources for free, such as their time for engagement with the designer team. Depending on the size and nature of the enterprises, new materials or equipment for building or testing prototype components during the product design process are often covered under the R&D project. But in this case enterprises should be willing to provide their time largely for free. The key should be to encourage investment of time and resources by the private sector so that enterprises take their own risk and have ‘skin in the game’. If they are given large amounts of seed funding from the very start, this can distort incentives and build dependency on the external project.
For the research parts - on market studies and demand studies - can you give us a sense of the costs involved? For smaller agencies, how can we resource this? And for countries where this is already done, can we access these studies or do we need to do them again?
In a country where no sanitation demand and supply market research has been conducted before, it has typically cost around US $100,000 - $150,000 to undertake a national scale rural demand and supply chain market study to lay the foundations for sector-wide rural sanitation marketing strategy development, design and implementation planning. Generally, resources for market research and other strategic investments in sanitation marketing have thus far been funded by major international strategic partners in sanitation development, including:
• UNICEF: Sierra Leone in 2011, Rural Malawi just completed
• World Bank Water and Sanitation Program (WSP): Rural Cambodia with IDE in 2008, small towns Peru in 2008, rural Tanzania in 2009, rural Indonesia in 2009, rural/peri-urban Kenya with International Finance Corperation (IFC) currently underway, and others
• USAID: Rural Uganda with PLAN International in 2009, rural Cambodia via WaterSHED in 2009
• World Bank and Danida: Rural Benin 1998 and 2002, rural Vietnam with IDE in 2003
• DfiD: Small town Ghana in 2003, urban Tanzania in 2004 with WEDC).
These strategic (usually donor) agencies have often provided funding to implementation agencies to undertake and manage market research activities and generate results for the sector as a whole, typically with support from professional market research experts and consultants.
Some potential ways to reduce costs of market research while still providing sector-wide value include:
1) Limiting the geographic scale of the study, for example by examining market demand characteristics and supply chains within a strategically selected representative set of sub-regions or districts,
2) Partnerships and collaborations where in-country implementation partners pool resources and provide logistical support, local expertise, and field facilitation to a lead agency and/or professional market researchers.
As we learn more about how and why rural sanitation markets function effectively or fail to reach under-served communities in different settings, it should be possible to streamline the market research steps into a more rapid lower-cost process. Where underlying market characteristics are similar across countries, it should become easier to identify key features and potential opportunities in a region. If good market research has been done in communities with similar sanitation conditions and context as those where you are working, then there is generally no need to repeat the market research. However, a short formative field research phase should be undertaken to confirm the demand- and supply-side findings locally, and to identify local private sector and other actors to build partnership for your local strategy.
Sector partners and stakeholders should be able to obtain copies of existing sanitation market demand and supply research study reports for the countries they are working in from the funding or executing agency. Some of them are available on the Resources Page, and others can be obtained by contacting the funding or executing agency.
Given the critical importance of investment in good market research from the start, smaller implementation agencies may want to explore joining with other like-minded strategic and implementation partners to pool resources to undertake sanitation marketing research for the sector as a whole in their country.
I understand that local government is important but in many of the poorest countries local government is not active or very weak. So does this mean SanMark works best in better-off developing countries?
Roles and functions in sanitation marketing can be taken on by different actors in different situations, depending on what works best locally and which partners are available and motivated. If formal local government is non-existent or very weak, there are others who might be better placed to take on some of the functions and roles that local government should be playing, for example local traditional leaders, community leaders and elders, or community-based organizations. Initial assessments of the sanitation marketing opportunities and formative market research should include better understanding of the enabling environment and existing local institutions and structures that could be engaged to fulfill the different functions and roles to create demand and expand supply. Sanitation marketing is fundamentally about helping the market to reach the under-served and poorer market segments where the need is greatest, and has worked well in some of the world’s most economically poor countries.
While the supply side is catalytic, would the NGO still engage on the demand side in a "project driven" approach?
NGOs can be critical to early market development efforts, by engaging on the demand side through development and testing of effective promotional materials, training, campaigning and supporting local promotion. They also play important roles in training and monitoring enterprises (suppliers and providers), as well as monitoring of reach, coverage, equity of uptake, and consumer satisfaction on the demand side of the market. NGOs often play an active role in brokering and nurturing effective dialogue and cooperative relationships between private enterprises and the local government as well.
NGOs often engage in discrete project activities to help get a market started, and to provide strong frameworks for measuring results, as well as build capacity of local government to continue demand-side activities and M&E functions. In any sanitation marketing project, the key is to clearly identify roles and exit strategies, and to avoid creating or building dependency among suppliers and providers on the project over time. The long-term strategic goal of the market facilitation process is a well-functioning market in which on-going external project support is no longer needed. We’ve seen some evidence of this in Vietnam.
Unlike subsidy and CLTS where governments are sometimes the main implementer, the government struggles to adjust to their new role as described. What might be some ideas to support change by government?
Government has the role of mobilizing communities to achieve sanitation uptake on the demand side and is ultimately responsible for assuring everyone had safe sanitation. Often what is most difficult for government is learning how to work more collaboratively with the private sector to achieve their aims of increasing sanitation access. Evidence from sanitation market research and pilot sanitation marketing experience in their own or a neighboring country is usually a powerful tool to get government to change views and consider supporting sanitation market development efforts. These results tend to demonstrate just how much of the sustained gains in improved sanitation coverage are due to the market and that a large segment of households are interested and able to purchase improved sanitation if appropriate products and services are accessible through the market. Creating opportunities for government officials to network with local private enterprises who have a stake and interest in growing sanitation markets is one way to start the dialogue. Peer exchange visits to early successful pilot areas and businesses helps to create momentum and appetite for trialing new approaches. Creating competition between local government departments, for example by recognizing and rewarding districts with high growth in new latrine installations, is another strategy for helping encourage and mobilize government.
Slow initial growth is a challenge to 1-3 year funding cycles. Also national latrine sales versus village by village "coverage' is a challenge to NGOs business/implementation and funding models.
Sanitation is a significant capital expenditure, so it takes time for households to plan and save up for purchase, thus is can take time for sales to grow. It also takes time for new products and technologies to start penetrating a new market: ‘early adopters’ will purchase first, and they will slowly be followed by others as people gain more exposure and confidence in the product.
As with all sanitation interventions, sanitation marketing has the goal of achieving community-wide coverage and usage. This means that tracking latrine sales, uptake and usage on a village by village basis is essential. Such monitoring is often done by community leaders or local government with initial support from NGOs. Village-by-village results can then be aggregated up to intermediate and project area-wide reporting at quarterly and bi-annual frequencies. As an example, in Benin, the national rural sanitation program uses volunteer community-based sanitation promoters to monitor progress at household level using symbols developed to mark the start of construction, slab installation, and completion of each new latrine on a community map, because many of them are not literate. A local government sanitation supervisor visits quarterly to collect and aggregate results based on the changes recorded on the map in the community.
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