We Went to West Africa and Learned Our Key Assumptions Were Wrong
IDEO formed a partnership with Unilever and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor totackle the challenge of providing in-home sanitation to families in Kumasi, Ghana
We went to West Africa and learned our assumptions were wrong IDEO.org, Unilever and WSUPIDEO formed a partnership with Unilever and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor totackle the challenge of providing in-home sanitation to families in Kumasi, Ghana
Kumasi, Ghana2.5 million residents72% without access to sanitation at home
Most are using public toilets and paying $.10 - $.40/person/day.Public toilets are in disrepair, have long wait times, and are inconvenient for many.
We decided to come up with a solution that would provide people with affordable in-homesanitation without requiring access to a sewage system.We built rough prototypes and ﬂew to Ghana with 5 toilets.
We expected people would want an option with water ﬂush because that would beaspirational - close to a toilet in a home with running water and sewage.
We actually found that those toilets got really messy - they ﬁlled up fast and people didn’tknow how to use them.They preferred something much simpler - a seat with urine diversion and a bucketunderneath.
The feedback we received about the toilet prototypes led us to design the Clean Team toiletafter we returned home.
Before knowing if there was a business model and sufficient demand, Unilever and WSUPdidn’t want to invest in manufacturing a new product.We selected the closest off-the-shelf approximation to the Clean Team toilet and theybought 100 for the pilot test.
The pilot test is now running with 100+ Clean Team toilets in the homes of local families(serving 1,000 people)People are paying approximately $15/month for the toilet to be emptied 3x/weekUnilever and WSUP plan to expand to 1,000 toilets in the next 6 months and 10K within ayear and a half
When we did our research, we asked people whether they would prefer to carry their ownwaste for treatment or if they would prefer to pay someone to do it. Universally, people saidthey would rather do it themselves.We were skeptical.
So, after we had left the toilets in their homes for two days, we went back and asked them ifthey would want to dump the waste or have someone else do it.
Universally they said they preferred to pay someone to do it. We hired a local guy who workedat a nearby public toilet and he served as our operator for a couple weeks.
As we’ve moved into pilot, this service model has continued successfully.We heard a story about another NGO who asked the same question in a survey, trusted theanswers they heard, and expected people to carry their own waste. Because of the stigma anddisgust associated with it, no one would and the toilets are going unused.
To understand brand preferences, we started asking people what was important to themrelated to sanitation - cleanliness, cost, convenience, smell, etc.
‘CLEAN TEAM’ WAS THE FAVORITE NAME BY FAR PRIVATE SERVICES ARE TRUSTED MORE THAN PUBLIC ONES CORPORATIONS ARE TRUSTED MORE THAN INDIVIDUALS CONVENIENCE AND EMERGENCY ACCESS ARE KEY BENEFITS LOCAL LEADERS ARE POWERFUL VOICES IN THE COMMUNITYThis led us to design four brand directions and when we left the toilet prototypes withpeople, we also asked them to select a sticker for the toilet.11 of the 12 families selected Clean Team.
We thought we’d explore a local version of the brand and brought it to a local sign painter.We thought the Ghanians would like the local version, but they were very clear that theywanted something that looked more western and credible.
So, we reﬁned the Ghanian version of the brand that we initially started with and came upwith this.
However, it was a bit too intricate and needed a further round of reﬁnement as we prepare toscale.We returned to Ghana again with iterations on the Clean Team brand.We tried more abstract versions and people really pushed us to stay with something thatmade it really clear that this brand was about a toilet service.
So we did and got to this version of the brand.In sum, we learned again and again that so many of our initial assumptions are wrong andthat they only way to get it right is to try. To prototype. And to learn and iterate.