The case relates to the problem of water shortage in the poverty stricken region of Kenya. Growing population with increasing needs for water has created serious shortage of water resources in Kenya. The country's water resources are both scarce and do not have any distribution mechanism. The current available sources of water supply are highly polluted and a breeding ground for diseases. Even to access this polluted water supply, villagers need to travel several kilometers to carry a load of 20kgs of water every day.
The activity of carrying water is not only a physical toll but also comprises of almost six hours of labor for majority of households in rural Africa. A significantly large proportion of houses in Kenyan villages comprise of thatched roof which does not possess the capability to collect water. Consumption of unclean water raises the vulnerability of the local population to several forms of diseases which eventually leads to high mortality rates in the region with little or no medical help.
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The case relates to an innovative solution to the above mentioned water problem created by a non-governmental Canadian organization named Free the Children (FTC). The organization has proposed a solution of an innovative device called WaterHarvester. WaterHarvester is a device which enables collection of water from rainfall in sufficient quantities to be used for daily activities of an average household. Water collected through this device is far cleaner than the supply consumed by the households, as well. Mass adoption of this device can save long hours of toils for the rural households and most importantly help deter spread of water borne disease among local population.
The problem in this case is a multifarious one. Even though, WaterHarvester is a highly successful solution to the issue water availability in rural Kenya, Sebastian Herrmann is facing the challenges of communicating the benefits and raising adoption of the innovation among the local population. These problems are compounded by the fact that there are no formal marketing communication media – radio, print, television or internet – in the region to which Herrmann and his associated are accustomed to.
Despite promoting a product which contributes invaluably towards wellbeing of the rural population, Herrmann is facing the challenge of raising adoption among local population of the product innovation for it requires an investment for the target market for the implementation of the solution. The cost of even a rudimentary device as WaterHarvester is a sizeable one for marginal communities depicted in the case. The problem not only comprises of making the product affordable and available in sufficiently large number, but also in determining best approach for positioning WaterHarvester for the target market. The most important aspect of the problem comprises of bringing about a change in centuries-old behavior among the target audience, where going to the river is an important element of the daily lives of people.
Free the Children (FTC) had learned from previous experience that solutions which are either gifted for free or subsidized do not turn out to be useful. Therefore, subsidization through donations or gifting WaterHarvester is not an alternative at all for Sebastian Herrmann and his team. The first alternative comprises of leveraging the strength of government organization to arrange a door-to-door campaign for the education of masses.
Since the major challenge in this scenario comprises of absence of infrastructure for mass communication, FTC need to adopt the traditional and effective method of door-to-door communication. Most debilitating limitation of FTC is the absence of a large workforce required for a campaign of this scale. Also, majority of FTC’s team comprises of westerners with little direct contact with the locals. The task of communication with the masses is best carried out by a large team comprising of locals to communicate the benefits of the revolutionary product to the households and persuading them to invest in WaterHarvester for the long-term well being of their families.
FTC can collaborate with governmental organizations in Kenya – for instance, healthcare department – which have a large workforce. The key advantage of this approach is penetration of the message to the masses, and more importantly demonstration and installation to be carried out by trained individuals. Also, the cost of implementation of this solution wouldn’t be large since an incentive can be given to the field force of a sizeable commission on making sales of the WaterHarvester. Driven by the prospect of commission, sales force will spread the message and consequently increase awareness and adoption of WaterHarvester within the population of the region.
In terms of the Current Value Proposition, the most relevant elements of the model in the context of impoverished community like rural Kenya are the Economic Impacts. The economic impact of this innovation is sizeable since it saves a significantly large proportion of the time of women in the household. The opportunity cost of this time is the time employed in income generating activities of these women to make products and sell in nearby markets. Another important element addressed in this solution in terms of Current Value Proposition is the improved health of the adopters of the innovation. For the field force carrying out the task of education and bringing about behavior change, this solution presents economic benefits.
Sustainable Value Proposition of this solution is high since the benefits derived from the solution are long-term; both for the target market and field force bringing about the social change. Also, it is easy to comprehend both the current value proposition and foresee future benefits through adoption of this solution. In terms of Eco-Advantage Playing Field evaluation, consumers and community are adequately addressed through this solution. Also, Rule Makers and Watchdogs are also involved through this alternative. A major drawback of this approach, though, is lack of transparency in government organizations which can jeopardize the entire campaign of bringing about social change. Excess profiteering may be sought by the workers in field force and they would most likely be unwilling to resolve any problems after the transaction is made.
The second alternative for TFC is to involve local Board of Elders (BOE) for the mass adoption of WaterHarvester. The Board of Elders is a highly respected body in a tightly knit community like rural Kenya. The body also has close links with local population in resolving their issue and most importantly has links with ‘mommas’ of the community via school. Eco-Advantage Field analysis of the situation indicates that the major decision making within household lies with mothers and these are the stakeholders concerned with the health and wellbeing of the children within the households. The specific value proposition will also appeal to mothers in the households because it pertains to time saving and improved health of the children.
A possible disadvantage of the product is the loss of socialization time for the women and an investment to be made for the purchase of a product which is sizeable proportion of the total household expenditure in these communities. This alternative also offers the advantage of forming partnerships within the institutions owned by the community and getting the stakeholders involved. Also, FTC will be directly in contact with the decision makers and adopters of change.
Bringing about a change in cultural behavior is much for difficult than convincing the households to make a monetary expenditure. Since schools and education are highly valued in this community, this alternative has a greater likelihood of bringing about a change in behavior than other possible alternatives.
Current Value Proposition addressed through this alternative involves with Social and Economic impacts. Community involvement is attained through this alternative which is an important component of Social Impact in Current Value Proposition. Sustainable Value is created because WaterHarvesters can be provided through installment payment when the community is involved as a whole. This approach will lead to Risk Mitigation (a key element of Sustainable Value Goals). Eco-advantage Playing Field for this solution incorporates greater number of stakeholders – namely opinion leaders within the community, consumers and investor (FTC).
Conclusion & Recommendations
The case analysis evaluated two alternative solutions to the problem of marketing WaterHarvestor to population of rural Kenya. The second alterative is recommended for FTC because it incorporates community involvement and more appropriately matches the models of Current Value Position and Sustainable Value. It is recommended for FTC and Sebastian Herrmann to utilize the meeting points of household mothers to spread awareness messages for WaterHarvestor and to employ photographs and diagrams during communication so to increase reach and comprehension of the message.
Hermann, S., Brophey, G. and Lafrance, D. (2009) 'Making Waves in Rural Kenya', The University of Western Ontario, pp. 1-10.
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