The Ripple Effect project is helping fuel real innovation among these Kenyan organizations in the water sector
New York (PRWEB) December 1, 2009
Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture firm addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, announced that it has selected four organizations in Kenya to conduct pilot programs to address issues of safe water transportation and storage.
The pilot programs are part of a broader project called Ripple Effect, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which brings together Acumen Fund and IDEO, a leading design firm, to apply design thinking and entrepreneurial, market-based solutions to the challenges of safe water storage and delivery. Acumen Fund and IDEO worked in collaboration to identify and partner with the following local organizations in the water sector, each of which received innovation grants to pilot their ideas across Kenya and pro-bono consulting support in technical design and business models:
- Kentainers, a manufacturer of water and sanitation containers, will develop a model for water kiosks that include water storage, treatment, and container washing stations.
- Maji Na Ufanisi, an NGO that builds community toilets and water kiosks in informal settlements, will host a design competition to develop water carts and storage vessels appropriate for community-based business models to distribute water.
- PureFlow, which distributes household water purification solutions, will develop a scalable business model for delivery of safe drinking water through a business-in-a-box safe water kiosk system.
- Umande Trust, an NGO which works on sanitation, will create "water choice points," that allow customers to have options around purchasing and transporting water.
"We're very excited to see the work that has already begun," said Sangeeta Chowdhry, Ripple Effect Project Manager, Acumen Fund. "The ideas these organizations are piloting represent creative, out-of-the-box approaches to improving water treatment, delivery and storage in rural areas and informal settlements of Kenya."
Through its investments in the water sector, Acumen Fund has come to understand many of the challenges entrepreneurs face in providing safe, clean water to their customers. These latest Ripple Effect pilots seek to secure the "last mile" of water delivery. Having successfully completed its first phase in India with five organizations, Ripple Effect recently launched its East Africa phase: first by conducting an assessment of issues faced by low-income communities on the ground, followed by a workshop with local water organizations to brainstorm and create innovations that will improve water delivery and storage across Kenya and the region.
"Ripple Effect is a new model of innovation," said Sally Madsen, Project Leader, IDEO. "Rather than trying to push a single solution, we're exploring a range of methods to develop products, services, and systems that fit the missions and businesses of the Indian and Kenyan organizations with whom we are partnering."
A team from Acumen Fund and IDEO spent two weeks with the four organizations in Kenya to provide business and design mentoring to support the development of these ideas. The pilot programs will conclude at the end of January 2010 with an Award Ceremony and presentation of the results.
"The Ripple Effect project is helping fuel real innovation among these Kenyan organizations in the water sector," said Biju Mohandas, Acumen Fund's East Africa Manager. "The goal is for these water companies to adapt the best of the pilot projects and expand their implementation to more effectively serve low-income consumers across Kenya and the region."
About Acumen Fund
Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture fund that invests in market-oriented approaches to deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor. Acumen Fund focuses on the convergence of philanthropic capital and business expertise to produce sustainable, scalable enterprises that reach underserved markets and increase access to the opportunities of the global economy. For more information on Acumen Fund's activities and investments, visit http://www.acumenfund.org and http://www.acumenfundblog.org.
Acumen Fund in East Africa
Acumen Fund has been investing in East Africa since 2001, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of rural and urban poor. Investments made by Acumen Fund East Africa in local enterprises include a manufacturer of insecticide-treated bednets that are providing protection against malaria to millions of Africans; public sanitation facilities in Kenya's underserved urban centers; microfranchises for quality healthcare and drug distribution; and a microfinance institution that is creating affordable, legal housing for former slum-dwellers. Leveraging strong relationships with local academic institutions and businesses as well as the global Acumen Fund network, Acumen Fund East Africa is actively exploring further investments in healthcare services, as well as potential investments in housing and energy services.