Acumen Funds Pilot Projects for Water Transport and Storage

Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture firm addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, 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 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, a nongovernmental organization (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 that 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."

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.

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.

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