International Development Enterprises (iDE)

Transforming Lives: Making the Market Work for SDG 6.2

Lead Organization

International Development Enterprises (iDE)

Denver, Colorado, United States

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Project Summary

Across the world, millions of people still lack sanitation services that contain and safely treat their waste. The consequences are clear: globally, more children die from diarrheal disease than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. The ambitious goal set by the United Nations to address this, Sustainable Development Goal 6.2, calls for universal access to safely managed sanitation services by 2030. iDE’s proven, cost-effective model - building sanitation markets - is already working at scale in multiple locations to drive progress toward this objective, reaching poor and marginalized households around the world. While our model looks different in each country, our core philosophy remains constant: we use human-centered design (HCD) to create desirable sanitation products and services at a price families can afford, and equip entrepreneurs to deliver solutions that offer an attractive financial return. This creates dynamic markets that continue delivering solutions after donor money and program activities end.

Problem Statement

Over 2.5 billion people worldwide lack hygienic toilets, with 4.2 billion lacking access to waste treatment to adequately prevent dangerous pathogens. Safe sanitation is essential for improved health, education, and economic development, and the people who suffer most are the poor, hard to reach, and most marginalized families. With women and girls often bearing the burden of caring for family members sickened from poor sanitation, generations of people are unable to realize their potential. From iDE’s perspective, this is a classic market failure: a mismatch between demand and supply. On the demand side, many people have not prioritized investing in sanitation. Customers who are willing to invest in high quality toilets and sanitation services often don’t because those products and services don’t exist, are too expensive, or aren’t designed to local context. From the supply side, these products and services don’t exist because risk-averse businesses are hesitant to invest in an unproven market, and fragmented supply chains make it difficult and expensive for them to do so. Addressing demand and supply constraints simultaneously is the most effective way to resolve this market failure. On the demand side, it is important to both identify messages that motivate households to prioritize sanitation spending, and to ensure that the market can provide them with products and services that they are willing to invest in. On the supply side, entrepreneurs must believe in the products and services they are selling, and they need the skills, knowledge, and capacity to provide them.

Solution Overview

Reaching the goal of safely-managed sanitation for everyone by 2030 requires solutions that are cost-effective and scalable. Our market-based model has proved to be both. Traditional programs - which give away free toilets or encourage communities to build their own - leave people with low-quality toilets or run out of funds before reaching everyone. iDE’s model engages local entrepreneurs who are already reaching last-mile customers and trains them to produce desirable, affordable sanitation products and deliver them directly to customers. These entrepreneurs invest their own funds to continue to grow and expand their sanitation businesses with iDE’s guidance. To assist these businesses, we have talented designers who work with local communities to create products and services that fit the local contexts, field agents who collect data on sales and delivery of products that feed into a cloud-based database, and in-country and global managers who use that database on a daily basis to adapt our strategies in order to reach the overall goal.Over the five-year grant period, we will have a broad impact on a large population in the project countries: 4.5 million people will gain access to improved sanitation, and 2.6 million people will invest in safely managed sanitation services. These individuals and communities will be healthier and more productive as a result. Our evidence-based business models ensure that these benefits accrue to all members of the community—and especially the most marginalized—through thoughtful design of products, services, and delivery.

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Project Funders

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) 2014 - 2022
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 2011 - 2020
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2011 - 2015

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