How we halved open defecation in a New Delhi slum in a year

With 1.1 billion people relieving themselves in the open, India accounts for more than 59%, of open defecation worldwide (source: WHO). Open defecation is the leading cause of diarrhea and worm infections, which result in more than half a million children in our country dying annually. Even of those who survive, many are physically and cognitively stunted for the rest of their lives (source: WHO). According to World Bank, India loses 2.4 Trillion Rupees each year due to poor and inadequate sanitation conditions (Source: World Bank) While over 1.2 million of Delhi’s slum population is dependent on community toilets, only 55% of this infrastructure is usable (Source: Action Aid), leaving half a million people defecating in the open.

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To truly understand the problem at its core, my team in Enactus – an international student-led social entrepreneurship body – studied the demand and supply factors of public sanitation. We learnt that:

1) People in slums avoid using toilets, given their filthy state. This, along with age old misconceptions, leads to rampant open defecation. Lack of ownership towards community toilets provokes vandalism, rendering them defunct.
2) Currently, the community toilets are developed by the government and then the operationalisation of these toilets is handled by maintenance firms who file a tender for it. The toilet maintenance firms face shortages of trained staff resulting in substandard operations.
3) Despite efforts by the govt to expand infrastructure, funds end up being utilised for reconstruction of defunct complexes.

Seeing an opportunity to work on systemic failures, four colleagues and I created Project Raahat in 2016.

Raahat has a twofold mission – to eradicate open defecation and provide safe sanitation to urban slum communities by innovating in management of community toilet complexes and sensitising people on good sanitary practices

We took our model and pitched it to different Urban Local Bodies and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) who finally gave us a pilot site in Sultanpuri, a slum cluster in North Delhi. Our intervention comprised the following:

Entrepreneurial Model: To overcome the problem of substandard maintenance our team developed an entrepreneurial model. We selected two unemployed yet aspiring individuals from the community as caretakers. Through extensive and continuous training, we equipped them with the knowledge of plumbing and cleaning practices, interpersonal skills and bookkeeping.

Revenue Model: Further, as mandated by the Government, a nominal fee is charged from the toilet users which forms the income of the entrepreneur after allowing for maintenance expenses and reserves.

Customised Sensitisation: We customised sensitisation activities to suit different demographics. For example, we gamified the topic with hopscotch and relay races to educate children on proper use of toilets. We created a own fictional character called Raahi, who became a mascot for propagating sanitation amongst slum children. Our campaigns for women covered topics such as healthy pregnancy and menstrual hygiene. Aesthetic modifications were made using wall art based on popular Bollywood and cartoon themes to encourage people to use toilets.

Payment Alternatives: Pay and use toilets are characterised by long waiting lines and the compulsion of having to pay each time, deterring people from using them. To resolve this, we introduced the Raahat Suvidha ticket. These tickets can be purchased in bundles at a discount and offer user convenience and flexibility.

Security: By employing nightguards and installing surveillance mechanisms, the toilet facility was operational 24/7. Women no longer have to relieve themselves in the open in the darkness of night.
Data Analysis: To effectively monitor usage levels of the toilet complex, we installed a people counter which measures footfall and segregating the population according to demographics. When usage statistics decline, remedial action is taken by the entrepreneurs in the form of targeted sensitisation to ensure continued usage.

Exit Strategy: We defined benchmarks in terms of number of users and rate of open defecation. Once these were surpassed, all responsibilities of complex management were transferred to the entrepreneurs.

With a baseline and endline done by DUSIB, Sultanpuri showcased a reduction in open defecation from 70% to 35% in a year, a first-time achievement in any slum cluster of Delhi. We were also lauded by Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Mr. Manish Sisodia.

We developed a Standard Operating Procedure with DUSIB for all maintenance firms of Delhi. We have been consulting these firms on such maintenance practices too. Rs 9.8 million worth medical expenditures have been avoided through our intervention.

Key Takeaways

1) Giving ownership of sanitation to the community itself by including a community member for maintenance and care taking
2) Developing the area as a community space to shatter the image of a “dingy dirty place” to a place where you can visit without any fear or discomfort
3) Helping sustained usage of the facility by reducing the per usage cost and using data analytics to solve area specific problems

3 years later, Raahat has come a long way. We are 40 members strong, running 15 community toilet complexes in Delhi. We are now working with the Andhra Pradesh government to run our programme through government volunteers.

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For data on households in India that have access to a toilet, look at our data here.

From a cushy corporate job to the development sector

I spent over 16 years driving operational excellence to derive value and efficiency for several corporates. I was good at it and I enjoyed every bit of it. Therefore, my transition to the development space was initially a trial with no long-term commitment.

It may not be an easy transition for everyone either. Corporate life provides some financial comforts. The larger the organisation you leave behind, the more startling is the perceived difference in the sector, and so, it takes time to acclimatise. The basic amenities of large corporations like air-conditioned offices, travelling in comfort, food and beverages in abundance and sometimes just the option of moving to another role in the same organization gives comfort. Unlike many others, I consider myself fortunate that I could quit my job even though there was a reduced pay cheque and I could take the plunge without worrying.

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“There is no way that a handful of us can comfortably solve the issues that confront us, given their enormity and complex nature.” Credits: Shrutee Ganguly

From the outside it seemed like a space that was unorganised and largely depressing, mainly because all the success stories somehow do not reach outside a selected few. Never did I think that my values, skills, aspirations or even courage, to see reality upfront will align to the needs of the sector. Until then, participating in employee volunteering activities, making donations, frequent visits to old age homes or rehab centres, and even making myself heard by counting the failures of our social system during lunch table conversations, was the closest I had done to make a difference.

Giving back to society originates from the most inherent human need to nurture positive thoughts and recognise self-worth. It is this journey to self-realisation, feeling worthwhile, experiencing gratitude and leaving a legacy behind, that attracts many people.

But I wanted to go beyond the donation of money, material or labour. I was interested in efforts that have scope to scale and sustain.

Tackling the challenges head-on and doing something about it, is the DNA of this sector. Problem solving is required extensively to ensure every challenge, small and big, is quickly dealt with. My new role gave me an opportunity to use my skills of not just problem-solving, but also building systems and processes where data played a role. In addition, this sector has respect for honest efforts. I had the privilege here to work on many functions which were first in many ways like working with partners and helping them grow by building their capability. This sector has so many people with intent, yet corporate brings an organized and systematic approach to the transformation. Together the results are worth taking a notice.

Having said all that, what this sector does not prepare you initially is the magnitude of the problems that we may encounter. There is no way that a handful of us can comfortably solve the issues that confront us, given their enormity and complex nature. So, working together with same goal at various levels of our socio-economic classification, is our hope to bring collective impact on the ground.

Corporate experience is a definite plus. The tools and techniques which often work for making profits are tweaked to generate better social ROI. Projects selected are based on social importance along with strategic alignment to have long term impact. Change management, which is restricted to a few stakeholders in the corporate world has a much larger connotation here.

Some of the radical work in the sector today requires the best of organisational practices, process expertise and thought leadership by the people who have been there and done that.

The best results are delivered by people who have the choice to do something else, but choose what is important – no money and no designations can alter their grit. They are achievers and have chosen to follow their life’s calling. During my transition, I have met many such incredible people who have largely influenced my thinking today and will shape our tomorrow.

India is maturing as a country, where the need is to balance modern practices with old traditions. As the saying goes, deeper the roots, more difficult it is to shake the tree. Often there are moments of uncertainty, as there is no quick success. So, what really drives us? And my answer to this is simple. Here we are not in the business of selling hope, but hope is what drives our business. In other words, the only driver is to create impact and make a change. The mind shift becomes more real when the ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ and ‘them’ becomes ‘us.

I know I am here for my own selfish reasons. Where else will I get to meet amazing people, witness stories of perseverance, learn from real life experiences, apply skills to solve challenges and to top it all rebuild my faith that the world is getting better.

I think I can safely say that I am here to stay.

This blog was previously published in Qrius.

Malvika Dwivedi

Malvika is a part of the Transformative Advisory Team in Mumbai.

She has over 4 years of experience in the development sector. She worked at Pratham, as a Regional Coordinator for Pratham’s skill development programme, monitoring progress of trainees placed in jobs (with specific focus on migrants). She has also worked at an early-stage social enterprise, where she focused on building the organisation’s strategy with the objective to deliver skills of the future. At Sattva she has worked across various types of projects including – research on integrating women in the value chain, organisation building for a large-scale child right’s organisation, and programme design and management for CSR clients. She is committed to fixing systems and building stronger systems — be it strengthening an organisation so that it can scale effectively or figuring out a way to bring women entrepreneurs into the mainstream.

Malvika has a Masters in Development Practice from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Pawan Kumar

Pawan leads Sattva’s CSR Advisory Practice in the South region, working with corporate clients across Strategy, Capacity Building, Assessment and Programme Management projects. He has over 10 years of experience in private and development sectors. His current focus in the development sector is on enabling corporates and civil society organizations to come together and jointly address key societal challenges.

Pawan is a postgraduate in Management with certifications in Public Policy and Social Entrepreneurship. He was also a guest faculty at IICA.

Manasi Parvatikar

Manasi leads key client engagements in Africa and Southeast Asia for Sattva’s international business unit, working with social enterprises, funders and donors that are working in the intersection of food security, climate change and gender inclusion in Africa and South-East Asia.

Prior to Sattva, Manasi was an Analyst and Engagement Manager, working on Market Entry Strategy​, Strategic Sales and Channels Planning, Business Modelling, Marketing Ecosystem Planning and more. She has also co-authored reports on topics related to Indian small and medium businesses – operational challenges and opportunities and India IT Report Card – Implications of federal budget. At Sattva she has worked with key CSR clients in helping develop national strategies around waste and water management. She has further helped developed programmes around marine waste management and integrated village watershed development.

Manasi is a Mathematics graduate from the University of Delhi.

Sulagna Datta

Sulagna is an Engagement Manager with the Consulting Services team. Sulagna leads large scale implementation of projects with a focus on Education Technology and grantee management.

Prior to Sattva, Sulagna was an investment research analyst at Goldman Sachs, in the automotive sector. But she was always involved with the development space. She interned with Teach for India and was also a curriculum adviser for a Bangalore based Ed-tech start-up called VChalk. In 2016, her team was one of 6 finalists out of 900 applicants globally to be invited to Washington, D.C to present a paper at the World Bank.

Sulagna holds an MBA from IIM Kozhikode, a B.E. from I.C.T, Mumbai, and a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy from Takshashila.

Video: Design for Social Impact

“When you set off to make big social impact with product design, two things can make all the difference – the right social context and being prepared to take big risks.”

This was how our CEO Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy kicked off the Introduction to Design Thinking session for the applicants of the Design:Impact Awards.

The Awards promote visionary and transformative product design for social impact. The initiative has had a tremendous response and here is a quick glance at the applications received.

The applicants have been through selection processes and learning sessions and the finalists of Design:Impact Awards have now been selected. These life-changing innovations from all over the country are a great showcase of how great design can create great impact.

The initiative has had a tremendous response and Sattva is proud to partner with Design:Impact Awards to promote visionary and transformative product design for social impact.

Meet the finalistshttps://youtu.be/hIMYHuY97rM

Lakshmi Sethuraman

Lakshmi currently heads Operations at Sattva. She has been with Sattva since 2010 and has led a diverse set of projects during this time working extensively with leaders of social organisations in building and scaling their operations sustainably. She has also worked with key CSR clients of Sattva in designing, implementing impactful programmes. She also set up the sales function at Sattva.

Prior to Sattva, Lakshmi has worked with the Manipal Group, Jubilant Retail and ITC Hotels across sales, business development and strategy functions. She holds a PGDM from T.A.Pai Management Institute and is an alumunus of the INSEAD social entrepreneurship programme.

ADVISORY – SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

OBJECTIVE
A group of social entrepreneurs developing technology innovations to optimise water usage for food production were looking to take their idea to market. They wanted to develop a robust business model in order to create impact in emerging economies. In our role as advisors, we helped these founders take ideas off the ground supported by a right business model, go-to-market strategy, and execution to scale their efforts.

SATTVA’S VALUE-ADD
As advisors our primary role with these entrepreneurs, whose innovations were mostly at seed or early stages of development, was to develop an actionable strategy to grow their venture from idea to market. We worked with them closely to establish the best business model to validate their innovations as well as identify the ideal consumer base in every market. We designed a business model strategy for three to five years which included correct pricing to ensure a product-market fit for long-term sustainability. Our mission was to condition entrepreneurs with business thinking and this involved working proactively with them to zero down on the core value-proposition of their product. Once they hit the market we delved into specific capacity building around sales, marketing, operational planning, financial forecasting and partnership strategy for the foreseeable future. From June 2016 we have meticulously helped these entrepreneurs move through each stage of their journey to reach the ultimate end goal of impact on the ground.

KEY LEARNINGS
We documented our actionable strategy for each aspect of business and entrepreneurship in a playbook which we believe can be customised for use by any innovator in the ecosystem. This knowledge material is a valuable asset for all players in the sector. Alongside, we contributed to change the mindset of social entrepreneurs to prove that innovations can lead to viable and sustainable businesses. Also, we were able to give them actionable strategies to survive and scale ventures, thereby boosting overall confidence in the sector. Innovators were able to strengthen their go-to-market strategy and capacities for next three-five years.

HIGHLIGHTS
Number of entrepreneurs advised: 12
10 Regions covered: Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal
Innovations included: Seed tape, affordable green-house technology, contract farming, precision agricultural devices, and weather management phone service

SYSTEMIC TRANSFORMATION – EDUCATION

OBJECTIVE
A social change organisation is working in the field of education with the intent to transform the quality in public schools. The systemic transformation plan required providing leadership training to school principals as well as education officers to create a long lasting impact. The solutions had to prepare the organisation to ensure quality delivery at scale for 6,00,000 government schools. Sattva has been working as a key strategic advisor to this organisation and is helping co- create solutions for standardised quality delivery of their flagship Principal Leadership Development Program and newly introduced District and State Transformation Programmes. The approach was to bring together the current strengths of their on the ground workforce & ongoing interventions to build scalable , effective and impactful solutions.

SATTVA’S VALUE-ADD
Sattva’s association with the organisation started with smaller individual projects. In January 2017, we entered into a strategic advisory partnership with the foundation, to co-create a blueprint for quality delivery at scale for 600,000 schools.
We helped them align the core objective of improving the Student Learning Outcomes(SLO) for interventions across the organization across various operations. We helped design a multi-level capability maturity model for the 10 key interventions for development of schools through critical milestones at various stages. We led the co-creation of an organization-wide technology platform through a mobile based application to ensure easy collaboration for fellows (this organisation runs a significant and sough-after fellowship programme) to map their journey across 5000+ schools and gather data analytics for monitoring and evaluation purpose.

KEY LEARNINGS
The Maturity model and the Journey app is being further used by various government schools, NGOs in the ecosystem to map their leadership development initiatives. Our combined efforts helped the organization to structure the products around solutioning for various stakeholders at all levels, starting from teachers all the way to the middle managers in the education ecosystem. The foundation is now a reputed name in the field of education working across states and districts to replicate this model to 6,00,000 schools in the future in line with its overall vision.

OUTCOMES
● Capability maturity model for 10 key interventions for school development across stages through milestones
● Product creation: Journey app for 5000+schools in PLDP and DTP which can be replicated across 6,00,000 schools
● Number of people impacted: 5000+ schools, 500+ fellows
● Interventions planned across 12 states covered in STP – Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh