Building inclusive markets

Posted in — Global Learning > Methodology
January 17, 2019
413 Idecam Inclusive Bug
iDE Global WASH

Markets can be effectively leveraged to reach the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

iDE recognizes that markets are not always incentivized to serve the poorest or hardest to reach households. Our programs take an inclusive approach to WASH market development that is both targeted and mainstreamed. iDE uses Human-Centered Design (HCD) to identify the unique barriers and challenges facing each marginalized group, recognizing that vulnerable populations are not homogeneous. Simultaneously, iDE mainstreams inclusion by using the market to scale solutions that are embedded in the supply chain and enabling environment rather than targeting only one household, community, or even district at a time. iDE seeks to mainstream effective market solutions to serve:

  • Customers with disabilities and life cycle considerations, such as children, pregnant women, or elderly people
  • Sociocultural minorities and other marginalized groups
  • Poor households

People with Disabilities and Life Cycle Considerations

Households including one or more members with a disability or individuals in certain life cycle stages (children, pregnant women, or elderly) may need modified WASH products. iDE uses human-centered design to better understand the necessary modifications for these customers to use WASH products. By taking an HCD approach, iDE can design products that are tailored to the particular needs, wants, and desires of these consumers, increasing the likelihood that they will consistently use these products after purchase.

Demand Activities:

Mainstreaming for disability focuses on engaging individuals with disabilities directly in the design of products, services, and sales messages. Products and services are designed after extensive consultation with customers with disabilities. Their feedback is incorporated throughout the design process to improve and refine prototypes until a final, marketable product is achieved. As the ability to exercise choice requires equal access to information, our teams also use a variety of marketing messages and materials so that those unable to access one form of messaging can learn about improved sanitation options from other means (e.g., a blind person has access to this information audibly).

Supply Activities:

The most effective way for supply chain actors to support inclusivity is by adhering to basic installation and placement standards that make default latrines more accessible. Modifications to latrine location, the use of sitting toilets, or addition of handrails and ramps are all considered in order to make the latrine physically accessible to all household members. Latrine producers who are incubated under iDE projects receive training on these basic standards. In September 2015, iDE Cambodia constructed its first accessible latrine shelter. The prototype was the result of two independent R&D efforts: exploring accessible latrine designs and testing the use of interlocking bricks that connect together with minimal mortar to construct shelters. The accessible latrine shelter costs less than traditional brick and mortar construction and has wide appeal regardless of customer disability status . [LINK: Learn more.]

We need to reach everyone in order to achieve the SDGs. Therefore, more than ever, we need to double down on efforts to scale.

Sociocultural Minorities and Marginalized Groups

Ethnicity, caste, religion, and many other attributes shape how customers think about water, sanitation, and hygiene. Attitudes towards WASH may vary widely within a single country depending on local traditions, beliefs, and languages. HCD research is critical to serving these customers and understanding their unique motivations and barriers.

Illustrative questions we set out to answer before designing a product or service delivery model include the following: What are the key barriers that might prevent ethnic or other minorities from purchasing latrines? What cultural associations strengthen marketing messages? Are there regional or cultural differences in water use, preferences around sanitation (paper/water for cleansing, location of latrine relative to home, etc.), or other differences that should be considered? Building on this research, iDE refines solutions to meet customer needs, incorporating colors or symbols that resonate with ethnic or religious minorities, adjusting to local languages, or integrating culturally relevant motifs of health and hygiene.

Poverty Targeting

Approaches such as CLTS aim to reach everyone in a community, including the poorest of the poor, who are often encouraged to build their own latrine out of locally available materials if they are unable to purchase a latrine product. iDE strives to be pro-poor using a market-based approach, but recognizes that businesses and entrepreneurs may not see the market opportunity in selling WASH products to the poorest customers. iDE programs are at a minimum, poor-inclusive; that is, the percentage of poor households reached is reflective of the distribution of poor households across the general population.

The poorest households are targeted in iDE’s third “sweep” of the market, after households who are willing and able to pay (the early adopters and early majority) have purchased a latrine. These households are often unable or unwilling to pay full market price for an improved latrine, needing some level of financing or targeted subsidy in order to move up the sanitation ladder.

To better understand how to effectively reach the poorest households in Cambodia, iDE and research partner Causal Design conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which poor households in treatment villages were offered partial subsidies, financing, and cash-only options, while control-village households were offered only financing or cash-only purchase options. The results showed that targeted subsidies significantly increased uptake among poor households, with no significant negative effect on non-poor households.

Subsidies offer operational efficiencies when compared to financing. Much of the sector’s energy has been focused on strategies for unlocking capital to provide financing to consumers of WASH products such as latrines. During this pilot and in iDE’s experience more generally, slow loan processing times and high rejection rates by microfinance institutions have made it difficult to operationalize sanitation financing at scale. In contrast, well-targeted subsidies can be simple and inexpensive to administer, making them an attractive alternative to financing as a means of reaching the poorest and most vulnerable. [LINK: Learn more.]