WASH Impact Network members brainstorm components of the business model canvas with assistance from the Dasra team in Mumbai, India on June 27, 2016. ©Results for Development
In 2014, Results for Development (R4D) started the WASH Impact Network to help local innovators in East Africa and India address some of the challenges they face in doing the important work of improving access to clean water and sanitation, and promoting good hygiene practices. We decided that to really understand how to support these organizations, we needed to ask them what they needed and what’s most helpful. We needed to listen.
So we conducted a needs assessment with over 120 local WASH organizations in the WASH Impact Network, and we learned (unsurprisingly) that operational financing—funds to support core activities and/or scaling up—was the greatest need. In 2015 and 2016, R4D and our regional partners, Dasra and the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA), organized a series of workshops and focus group discussions for WASH Impact Network members in in Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi, and Mumbai to start addressing this need and to hear more from WASH innovators about their challenges and what helps to overcome them.
Talking about what’s helpful and what isn’t with local WASH innovators
Since implementing the WASH Impact Network, R4D has conducted interviews and focus group discussions with network members to learn more about what’s helpful and what isn’t when trying to learn and implement new ideas. Some key takeaways from these conversations are summarized below.
- Learning events that allow participants to learn by doing.
- Surveying participants before the workshop to understand problems they are currently facing, and design content to address challenges and current interests.
- Distributing “soft” versions of tools that can be used immediately or customized.
- Setting up reach-back mechanisms for participants to consult with experts and stay in touch with peers at the end of learning events.
- Learning events that are mostly lecture-based and offer no time for collaboration and participant input.
- Webinars without built-in discussion time. Without a space to chat about research results, webinars do not offer the space to get to dig deep and brainstorm solutions to complex problems.
- PowerPoints and long written reports. These tools are rarely revisited and require big time commitments to digest and adapt to the specific needs of programs.
After listening to workshop participants, we designed workshops that were participatory, action-oriented, and relevant to the contexts in which they work to address innovators’ need for operational financing. Through the development of an elevator pitch, population of a business model canvas, and the creation of action plans, innovators had the space to create useful tools that they could easily share with their organizations.
Crafting a solid elevator pitch in East Africa
Workshops in East Africa were hosted by MWA. The workshop focused on the development and refinement of an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is an important networking tool intended to grasp the attention of a potential collaborator or funder within a matter of seconds. Because resources are often limited for local program implementers, an elevator pitch can be a game changer in developing a relationship that may generate funding in the future.
Tailored elevator pitch sessions in Kampala and Nairobi were facilitated by Nyambura Waruingi, a Kenyan creative innovator who possesses over 13 years of experience writing, curating, and producing in the creative industry sector. Participants created their own pitches and received targeted feedback from Waruingi and other workshop participants. They challenged one another to find compelling ways to communicate their organization’s work.
Participants were advised to:
- Be personal when telling their stories. There is value in inserting yourself into the narrative. Before you sell, you must connect.
- Customize your pitch for your audience when selling your impact and vision. Research and understand the audience’s interests and objectives, be specific about your accomplishments, and show where and how the audience can play a role in your organization’s story.
- Investors value personality. That’s most important. Because it’s about relationships. The business model can change, but the entrepreneurs you interact with cannot.
The workshops also included a funder/investor panel including with foundations and knowledge centers designed to support business sustainability and inclusiveness. Members of the WASH Impact Network had the opportunity to hear from panelists about the partnerships they seek to build with organizations and ask candid questions about their funding and support needs.
Examining the business model, action planning and using social media in India
The workshop in Mumbai was co-facilitated by Dasra, and focused on identifying their own strengths and areas for improvement, and creating action plans for goals that were developed during the workshop. The main activities included:
- Developing the business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page visual tool that summarizes the organization’s sources of revenue, how they intend to interact with partners and consumers to achieve their goals, and what resources are available or needed to achieve their goals. Innovators were able to populate the canvas after hearing examples relevant to each section of the business model. Innovators were encouraged to share the canvas they created with their teams, ask for input and revisit it every quarter.
- Developing action plans: Organizations were encouraged to create simple action plans that would lay out a path to better leverage their strengths or address any opportunities for growth. This exercise allowed participants leave with a targeted action plan they could present to their organizations on “Monday morning.”
- Optimizing one’s social media presence: Social media is an important communications channel for sharing an organization’s work and forming connections with consumers, donors and organizations engaging in similar work. Organizations were introduced to social media analytics, innovative website designs and visual messaging examples to increase their presence on various platforms.
After workshops in Mumbai and Nairobi, participants designed their own “reach-back mechanisms” to stay connected with one another after the workshop, recognizing their peers in the room as key resources for the future. Moving forward, participants will keep in touch using social media tools, such as WhatsApp groups, to chat informally and share information on upcoming events, success stories and funding opportunities.
Want to know more about what we’ve learned through our conversations with WASH innovators? Click here to see the preliminary results. Look out for the final report, which we will be publishing at the end of the year.