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Climate Innovation Center Unlocks Potential for Kenya’s Green Entrepreneurs

30 October 2014 14:29 (America/New_York)

October 29, 2014
  • Over 90% of Kenya’s population uses wood, charcoal, or kerosene for their daily cooking needs
  • Young entrepreneurs are using the country’s lack of access to clean energy as a business opportunity
  • On October 28, 2014, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim visited Kenya’s Climate Innovation Center to see these innovative energy projects

In Kenya, over 90% of the population uses wood, charcoal, or kerosene for their daily cooking needs. These fuels pollute the environment and pose serious health risks such as respiratory infections or even death.

While the country offers several clean energy sources, such as bio fuels and solar power, their market is still in its infancy. Prices are often not competitive compared to less sustainable but cheaper alternatives, and the lack of adequate infrastructure prevents their adoption in many rural areas.

Mohamed Kadhi saw a business opportunity in Kenya’s lack of access to clean energy when he founded Consumer Choice Ltd (CCL), a clean technology startup that develops clean cookstoves and a bio-ethanol fuel. On October 28, Mohamed had the opportunity to showcase CCL’s product lineup to Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, during his visit to the Kenya Climate Innovation Center, a business incubator supported by infoDev, the World Bank’s global innovation and entrepreneurship program. The bio-ethanol gel is an alternative biofuel made from molasses, a by-product of sugar extraction.

Mohamed Kadhi (left) demonstrates CCL’s ethanol gel and cookstove to Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, during Dr. Kim’s visit to KCIC on October 28, 2014. Photo credit: The World Bank/Kenya Climate Innovation Center

Mohamed Kadhi (left) demonstrates CCL’s ethanol gel and cookstove to Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, during Dr. Kim’s visit to KCIC on October 28, 2014. Photo credit: The World Bank/Kenya Climate Innovation Center

Another exhibitor during Dr. Kim’s visit to the Kenya Climate Innovation Center was the Keekonyokie slaughterhouse. This business has been recycling blood from a community-based Maasai slaughterhouse to create biogas for cooking. The slaughterhouse generates about 10 metric tons of slaughter waste.  To manage the waste and turn it into something useful, the abattoir has constructed a biogas digester which channels waste into gas. The firm even stores the fuel in used tires, lessening the environmental impact of the operation.

While bio-ethanol fuel and biowaste-based gases are clean and highly efficient energy alternatives, getting Kenyan kitchens to adopt these alternatives at affordable prices remains a daunting challenge that would require carefully planned sales, marketing and financial strategies.

Since its founding in 2012, the Kenya CIC has been helping CCL and Keekonyokie with identifying potential target market segments and financing mechanisms, developing marketing strategies, and providing policy support through working with local policymakers in order to create greater incentives for the adoption of clean fuels.

The Kenya CIC supports 83 client enterprises – selected from over 330 applicants. With support from the governments of the United Kingdom and Denmark, the Center aims to spark the next wave of clean technology innovation in Kenya, and catalyze new solutions that promote Kenya’s private sector growth while achieving sustainable development objectives. Thanks to the services of Kenyan CIC entrepreneurs, about 8,300 persons have better access to safer, cleaner water, 55,000 people are better able to cope with effects of climate change, and close to 49,000 people are using low carbon energy sources. To learn more about how the World Bank is supporting climate-smart entrepreneurs, please visit

The next big challenge: From new ideas to greater health outcomes

30 October 2014 14:23 (America/New_York)

By Eliza Villarino, 27 October 2014, DEVEX

A young girl receives medicine from a health worker at a mobile health clinic in Sindh, Pakistan. How do we scale up innovative solutions for global health challenges? Photo by: Vicki Francis / DFID / CC BY

If there’s one positive lesson to learn from the Ebola scourge, it’s that there’s no dearth of solutions to global health challenges. Prior to the current outbreak, the narrative was that there was no known drug for the disease; soon, vaccines and treatments will undergo testing.

Those experimental vaccines and treatments flew under the radar until the Ebola outbreak turned into a humanitarian tragedy and, eventually, captured headlines and the attention of global leaders. Urgency has created a market for Ebola solutions.

The same cannot be said for many other promising ideas in global health. Today, quite a number of medicines, health diagnostics and delivery mechanisms are lagging behind their potential.

“What we have is only a trickle of things transitioning to scale,” said Peter Singer, CEO of the Canadian government-funded Grand Challenges Canada. “So the next great challenge in global health and development is to turn that trickle into a torrent of things to scale.”

Scaling up new ideas in global health is a challenging venture. It requires leadership, funding and buy-in from a variety of stakeholders, from patients to providers, from the public to the private sector. Cross-sector partnerships can facilitate the process, but there’s no silver bullet to sustainably scaling up new ideas in global health.

Funding new ideas

More players than ever are engaging in global health, with corporations and philanthropic foundations taking on a particularly growing role. Often, they partner with one another to develop new ideas in global health.

The use of competitive grant-making mechanisms — sometimes called grand challenges — is a favorite among the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. Agency for International Development, and has been taken up by governments of emerging countries like Brazil, India and South Africa. Winners of these competitions usually end up with tens of thousands of dollars in cash rewards — not quite enough to scale up a promising idea, perhaps, but a good start.

These challenges have resulted in a slew of new solutions, from a mobile phone application that can help deliver health care to the doorsteps of people in remote villages to a cheap medical device that boosts the chance of newborn survival in the developing world. But despite their lifesaving promise following testing over many years, the majority of them risk remaining at the pilot stage.

“A lot of NGOs and funders are set up to try new things, to fund pilots and small-scale efforts and they don’t necessarily follow through with funding when something is ready to scale,” said Pam Bolton, vice president for strategy and innovation at Concern Worldwide U.S.

That’s because scaling up requires huge costs, especially if it entails making the solution, whether a new drug, equipment or service, continuously available to the poorest of the poor who tend to be among the hardest to reach. And official development assistance for global health, which stood at $31.3 billion in 2013, won’t be enough to cover those costs. Fighting tuberculosis alone requires $8 billion per year, according to the World Health Organization.

Private capital may help supplement that. More and more private investors are committing capital to efforts that generate social impact, including better health outcomes. Impact investments, according to one survey, have reached $46 billion and will likely grow this year by 19 percent.

Sustaining access to new ideas and effective solutions

Beyond financing new ideas in global health, the private sector has a role in developing new ways to advance health care and making new solutions more available to those who need it.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers, for instance, have launched more than 350 treatments over the last decade and have 3,200 compounds in the development pipeline. One of those could end up being a malaria vaccine.

But developing a drug that is safe and effective comes with an expensive price tag — somewhere between $4 billion and $11 billion. Much like donor agencies seeking partnerships with corporations to stretch aid dollars, pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies are partnering with one another and others to share the risks and reward of launching new global health solutions.

“Innovation is becoming more collaborative and we have moved away from profit-alone models to profit-together models,” said Andrew Jenner, executive director of corporate strategy and legal affairs at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations.

Members of the federation are working to develop treatments for diseases in the developing world independently or through product development partnerships, a form of public-private collaboration, such as the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, Medicines for Malaria Venture and TB Alliance. Pledged to donate 14 billion treatments for neglected diseases between 2011 and 2020, they have affirmed the importance of a “holistic fight” against these diseases to include working with the World Health Organization and other partners to strengthen capacity in developing countries.

Like product development partnerships, advanced market commitments are designed to incentivize the pharmaceutical industry to develop solutions that can fight diseases in the developing world. In this case, donors, largely rich governments and foundations, agree to subsidize the price of future vaccines for infectious illnesses and in turn a manufacturer agrees to sell them in developing countries at an affordable price. Gavi, for instance, has this innovative financing scheme in place for pneumococcal disease — the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death among children under 5.

Another scheme somewhat akin to it is the public-private Pledge Guarantee for Health, which uses partial guarantees from U.S. and Swedish governments to enable traditional aid grantees, such as nongovernmental organizations and developing country ministries, to secure short-term, low-cost commercial credit to procure essential health supplies such as bed nets and contraceptives.

Adopting new ideas

Apart from accessibility, adoption is critical to scaling up new ideas.

Take the case of magnesium sulfate, which is proven to effectively treat pre-eclampsia, a disorder that kills 40,000 pregnant women each year, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. Yet despite its low cost — about $1 per dose — and being designated as essential medicine by the WHO the use of magnesium sulphate has been low. Studies suggest that the low price discourages mass production of the drug and policymakers are not moving to change the situation.

Read more #HealthyMeans articles:

● Strengthen routine immunization programs, give mothers a reason to smile
● Where does mHealth fit into the post-2015 agenda?
● For-profit health care: Eliminate, tolerate or stimulate?

A number of reasons may explain why decision-makers aren’t keen on scaling up effective solutions. For some, it’s the lack of money; for others, the fear of being accountable for allocating resources to what may be perceived as a risky activity.

“As long we don’t put in place governance systems, no innovation will help us reach the most vulnerable people,” Gabriel Pictet, unit manager for community health and innovation at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Devex.

Rwanda, for instance, actively pursues new and effective ideas from its development partners as it wants to become more like Singapore, a city-state esteemed for its efficient public service.

Strong support from local communities can help to promote new ideas, as well. Development initiatives tend to find the most success if implementers live and listen to locals and involve them in the design and implementation of solutions.

More importantly, the new idea should strengthen health systems. And that part isn’t going to be easy.

“I think it comes down to the question of how do we build a really strong health system?” said Jessie Cronan, executive director of Gardens for Health, which partners with government-run health centers in Rwanda to help families in rural regions with the highest rates of chronic malnutrition have a diverse diet by cultivating a home garden. “How do we reframe that role that NGOs play so that we’re playing a supporting role to government institutions in these countries so that it isn’t creating parallel systems but instead how are we working to strengthen what is already there so that there is true meaningful capacity building happening which is hard. It’s a lot easier to set up your own thing than to work with any government.”

Over the next month, Devex, along with leading players in global health, will explore how we can address that dilemma, as well as other emerging opportunities and challenges in saving lives and living longer.

Healthy Means is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with Concern Worldwide, Gavi, GlaxoSmithKline, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Population Fund to showcase new ideas and ways we can work together to expand health care and live better lives.

3 Ways Empathy Is Driving Successful Innovations In Health

30 October 2014 12:33 (America/New_York)

This is a repost written by Archana Sinha who leads the Health and Nutrition Initiative at Ashoka India. This post first appeared  first appeared here.

From human-centered design to the lean startup approach, methods to develop innovative products and services emphasize the importance of understanding what customers really need. Here are some lessons in innovation that social entrepreneurs have learned from empathizing with their customers:

Don’t let technology take the wheel: “I used to think that the problem lies in technology. What we realized eventually was that the problem does not merely lie in the technology, but the psychology,” says Ashoka Fellow Swapnil Chaturvedi in a recent video on his work.

Swapnil, founder of Samagra, is talking about providing adequate sanitation in India, where over 50 percent of the population defecates in the open. His statement could be true anywhere else in the world; toilets installed in low-income areas often fall into disuse or end up being used for other purposes such as vegetable peeling bins. To mitigate this, when designing community toilets in Pune slums, Swapnil introduced a LooRewards system. Based on a mapping of the community’s needs, this system linked toilet use with discounts on washing and sanitation products, water purification systems or fortified, nutritional snacks sold by local producers. This helped Samagra engage over100 first-time users of toilets.

Michael Murphy, co-founder of the MASS Design Group also realized that sophisticated technology wasn’t essential, while designing the 140-bed Butaro Hospital in Rwanda. He reveals, “A common misconception is that design interventions that combat the health worsening effects of hospitals are more expensive or require advanced equipment and machinery, but we’ve seen that’s not the case. Hospitals all over the world can be harsh environments for patients—which is shocking to consider, as we think of hospitals as places people go to get better. But labyrinthine corridors, harsh lighting, and stale air can in fact jeopardize a patient’s capacity to heal. Beyond that, hospitals are actually making people sicker. According to the CDC, about 1 in 20 patients gets a hospital-acquired infection (something they did not arrive with) per year in the U.S. (CDC, 2013). In Butaro, we designed the building without hallways, instead creating open-air, comfortable waiting spaces that would reduce the transmission of infection, but still provide opportunity for check-in and interaction. MASS also incorporated ample landscaped areas for patients to have quiet space outside, or visit with their families.”

Build the solution for the most under-served customers: Your most engaged customers often come from the edges of the market. Swapnil admits, “When I started working on community toilets, I didn’t know women would become our biggest customers. However, we have observed that in urban areas, where everyone is stretched for land and privacy, men find a solution to the lack of toilets, but women can’t. They hold their urine and bowel movements, resulting in urinary tract infections.” Thus, women are keen users of Samagra’s community toilets and as its most vocal customers, they help get their friends and families to sign up. Samagra, in turn, pays special attention to their needs, by providing dustbins in each toilet stall for disposing sanitary napkins and prioritizing water supply in the women’s toilets.

For Michael, it was important to design hospitals that served patients as well as doctors better. For instance, hospital wards usually have patient beds facing each other, with a hallway in the centre for doctors to check on patients conveniently. Instead, the Butaro hospital in Rwanda has all beds facing the window, allowing patients to view the landscape. Michael explains, “There are myriad studies that demonstrate patients with a view to nature recover faster. Moreover, patients should not have to look at other sick patients when they are recovering; this represents a ‘factory-like’ setting of health care.”


Shift how the community sees you: “Hospitals should be, first and foremost, a public resource. This includes making the hospital an approachable space, where people can come to maintain their quality of life as well as receive acute care. That is why a lot of the spaces are landscaped,” asserts Michael. While building the hospital, he sought to expand its benefit beyond healthcare. “Health infrastructure requires massive investment and construction. This mobilization of resources should be transferred to the local community, by using local labor and materials, as well as providing on-the-job training. Butaro employed over 4,000 people, and transferred a few million dollars into the local economy as well. Beyond that, several masons trained at Butaro have gone on to other skilled jobs,” he states.

Focusing on positive outcomes for the community has prompted Swapnil to transform his rewards program from what he calls “transaction-based rewards” to “value-based rewards,” such as discounts on private tuition classes for schoolchildren. Samagra’s toilets also have bank kiosks that allow customers to deposit small amounts in their bank accounts regularly. This shift has resulted in increased revenue for Samagra, as “learning what customers care about through empathetic market research has allowed us to capture value and monetize it.” Transforming toilets into community connectors that allow slum-dwellers to access a broader range of services is powerful. Swapnil shares, “Since we installed a banking kiosk in the community toilets, rather than a place to relieve themselves, the toilet becomes a place to bank. People will never vandalise their bank; we’ve seen vandalism reduction by 85%. The toilet has become a place of business and a community centre of sorts.” Regular savings also allow customers to budget for the fees for using the toilet, and their payments have become more regular.

Innovations driven by empathy are now enabling Swapnil and Michael to expand the scope of their work. Michael’s MASS Design Group is currently completing construction on both a tuberculosis hospital and a diarrheal disease treatment center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as well as designing maternity waiting homes in Malawi and a Center for Global Health at Mbarara University in Uganda. Swapnil’s Samagra is evaluating options for adding more value-based rewards such as day-care centers for mothers who work in the informal sector and can’t afford to quit their jobs to take care of their children.


Redefining ‘innovation’ in the global development sector

30 September 2014 12:27 (America/New_York)

In a blog from Oxfam America, Jennifer Lentfer argues for a new interpretation of ‘innovation’ within global development and examines what we can learn from grassroots organisations.

Innovation is not a result of dictating or choosing from what is, but expanding options.” Curtis Ogden of the Interaction Institute of Social Change

Let’s face it. Some days, most days, development work is far from sexy. What’s most needed to bring about changes in ordinary people’s lives is citizens demanding fundamental services, community organising and coalition building, governments and agencies managing their budgets – i.e. the day-to-day grind of making institutions function.

So why then is the development sector so obsessed with being ‘innovative’?

It may be because we are often working in challenging, changing, and complex operating environments, within the risk-averse policies and procedures of aid agencies suffering from bureaucratic inertia. We long for a new ways of thinking and working, and new ideas are way more fun and much less political.

Nonetheless, I am often concerned that the term ‘innovation’ gets over-used and misinterpreted in the humanitarian and development sector.

Rather than the usual ‘latest and greatest idea or fad’ and ‘get-to-scale’ mentality associated with innovation, I wonder if innovation can be re-defined to identify innovation first from the ground up? In other words, can more localised, grounded means of problem-solving generate the most effective ideas, products or processes to be labelled as ‘innovative’?

This is where the DIY Toolkit can help ‘bring ideas to life’ across various sectors and settings. Throughout my experience in aid and philanthropy, I have found that local organisations are doing some of the most innovative, yet under-valued work in the development sector. Solome Lemma, Co-founder and Executive Director of Africans in the Diaspora (AiD), explains: 

“It’s often easy to forget the great amount of innovation that indigenous, grassroots organisations employ. Even more so because they often don’t frame their work within the language we understand or associate with innovation. You must listen, dig, ask questions, and reframe in your head to see that within what they describe as a regular part of their work lies ingenuity.”

Doesn’t it just make good sense to support more opportunities for ‘innovation’ closer to where the problems are occurring? Aren’t the people who intimately know a problem from the inside out more likely to see where the possibilities for innovation lie? And from small initiatives, is there not the potential to pilot and learn for application in larger programs? Ultimately, where we are looking for innovation and who defines innovation is vital.

One of the most important roles of us as development practitionersis to encourage, coach, and uphold processes of individual and collective reflection to identify and overcome obstacles, resulting in changes or adaptations in our work. If you are a development practitioner supporting community- or country-led initiatives, the DIY Toolkit is a useful tool to enhance your support of development partners to think creatively about their programs and practices at all levels. Supporting people and leaders in the developing world to enhance their own efforts with openness and confidence is what gives birth to lasting innovation.

So perhaps it’s time to re-conceptualise ‘innovation’ for global development. What if the thing really makes something innovative is not the idea itself, but the learning that made it possible?

Jennifer Lentfer is the creator of the blog, which focuses on how the international aid, philanthropy, and social enterprise sectors can be more genuinely responsive to local needs. One of Foreign Policy Magazine’s 100 women to follow on Twitter, she has worked with over 300 grassroots organisations in east and southern Africa over the past decade, as well as various international organisations in Africa and the US, including the Red Cross, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, and Firelight Foundation, where in her career she has focused on organisational learning.

Lentfer is currently Senior Writer on Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness team and editor of the organisation’s Politics of Poverty blog. She is also a lecturer in Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication

This piece is cross-posted from Oxfam America’s Politics of Poverty blog

Getting Beyond Hype: Four Questions to Predict Real Impact

8 September 2014 12:25 (America/New_York)

By Kevin Starr, September 2, 2014

Through a kind of magic I don’t fully understand, some emerging poverty solutions—products, services, technologies—become shiny new objects that trigger something akin to a feeding frenzy. Celebration at CGI and SOCAP and TED, breathless articles in Wired and Fast Company, endorsements from celebrities, awards of all kinds—all that stuff is great if the thing has real potential for impact. Too often, though, the appetizer becomes the entrée and hyperbolic celebration displaces systematic evaluation.

That’s a shame, because we really do need to sort good ideas from bad, and it ought to happen before we stoke the fires of publicity. At Mulago, we’ve spend a lot of time trying to figure out if start-ups with a new “thing”—a product, service, or technology—are likely to create real impact in the lives of the people we’re trying to serve. Over time, we’ve evolved a set of four questions that help us make better predictions. Because we’ve been thinking a lot about cookstoves and indoor pollution lately, I’ll use improved cookstoves to illustrate how those questions work.

1. Is it needed?

Given the nature of the thing, is there a profound social impact to be had? Every thing ought to have a mission (preferably in one that’s eight words or less). If you can’t figure out a clear mission that matters, all you may have is a solution in search of problem—and some things ought to be killed while they’re young.

We might reasonably ascribe various missions to better stoves, including: improve health, prevent deforestation, save time and money, and decrease carbon emissions. Since indoor air pollution is a major killer and bad stoves are the major contributor, we think that the mission to “Prevent Respiratory Disease in Poor Families” is a compelling one and rises above all the others (especially since the evidence connecting the other potential missions is considerably more sketchy). So the answer to question one isyes, absolutely, we need better stoves.

2. Does it work?

If the thing is deployed as designed, under the conditions for which it was designed, will it have real impact? In the case of stoves, this is mostly about emissions: Does a given stove reduce pollutants enough to drive a significant improvement in health? Recent research indicates that most improved cookstoves don’t. It turns out that you have to reduce more than 85-90 percent of pollutants before you see any real reduction in respiratory illness (Burnett et al, 2014). A stove that emits 50 percent less pollution doesn’t accomplish much. To date, the only stoves that make the cut are the expensive “forced-draft” models that use a built-in fan to stoke a much more efficient burn. The answer for most stoves, however admirable the effort may be, is no. Really.

3. Will people use it as designed?

Behavior, behavior, behavior. Despite all that user-centered-design, iterative-rapid-prototyping stuff, people use and abuse things in ways that leave even the best designers scratching their heads. Too many—way too many—products have made their way into wide distribution without evidence that people use them as intended. Successful things, though, usually have these qualities in common: They fit well with local customs and culture, are easy to use right and hard to use wrong, and need little maintenance (and when they do, they’re fixable and you can get parts).

Everyone has heard about stoves that people use improperly—or not at all—but field researchers have handed the stove industry another fun surprise: Even when people do use that wonderful new stove, they often use the old one too (Ruiz-Mercado et al, 2011). It’s become known as “stove-stacking,” and you see it when you visit homes—there’s the new stove, fired up and roaring, and there’s the old three-stone fire still belching smoke in the corner. Oh no! If you want to fulfill the mission—prevent respiratory disease in poor families—not only do you have to provide an expensive stove, you might have to provide two! It kind of sucks, but that may be what it takes to get to yes.

4. Will it get to those who need it most (a lot of them)?

Nothing matters if the thing doesn’t reach the people it is intended to serve. If you don’t have a reality-based idea about distribution, you should hold off on the design process until you do. Three things matter above all else:

  1. Price. If it’s too expensive, they won’t buy it. Knowing the customer’s price point is your first order of business, and you need to design the thing to hit that number.
  2. Distribution channel. Poor people live in a world of market failure, and there are a finite number of ways to get things to them—the hardest is to set up your own network.
  3. Sales. Somebody has to make the transaction happen—who are they and how are they going to do it?

And, of course, if the thing costs more than about 20 bucks, you’d better think about financing, too…

This is where stoves have always struggled: The affordable ones are inadequate, and the good ones are unaffordable. Even with the (unreliable) assistance of carbon credit subsidies, stoves that can fulfill our health mission are still too expensive. Emerging technologies will almost certainly lower the price of forced-draft stoves, but for the time being, they’re mostly out of reach for those who need them most. Financing can help, but poor people often have more urgent things to do with available credit.

One organization working on the stove problem that gets to “yes” to all four questions is Inyenyeri, a Rwandan company that leases ultra-low emission, forced-draft cookstoves to households at a nominal cost (about $7 per year), and sells customers the fuel pellets to burn in them. The pellets cost less than charcoal, and people who can’t afford to buy them can trade biomass for pellets. Inyenyeri leases families two or even three stoves to account for stacking. It’s still early days and there are a lot of moving parts, but it’s headed in the right direction.

The four questions are unforgiving; getting a no on any one of them means you won’t pass go on your way to impact. That doesn’t mean that a no answer should lead you to abandon the whole effort, but it should refocus your efforts on getting to yes. Stick with R&D, and avoid the big splash until you’re pretty sure you’re there—it’s the least we owe the people we serve.

fhi360 care Winrock International

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