Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Public/ Private Partnerships?

We have met with various local public health offices and other stakeholders in specific communities in hopes to build relationships and promote our main product, the Biosand Filter. We are encountering that it is difficult to position ourselves in such a way that we are able to differentiate ourselves from other NGOs or charitable organizations working in the same arena here in Kenya. When we are introducing ourselves and our mission, we want to emphasize that we are a social enterprise that attempts to stand in the gap where conventional development and charity has failed. This is a challenge, and some questions we are asking ourselves at this point are:

How much do we want to collaborate with the local governments and ministries? Of course we know that we need to work within the given systems and maneuver in the proper channels to be successful. But how much do we collaborate? We are considering the idea of giving one or two filters away each to local Public Health Offices in order to promote the Biosand Filter. How much of our product do we give away to these Public Health Offices in order to market ourselves? Would our collaboration become just another bureaucratic system that may lose effectiveness over time? Or would our collaboration strengthen the organization and position among our target market? Are there more appropriate stakeholders that we can “donate” a filter in order to get a better return on our investment- in respect to BSF sales? We believe an issue like clean water in rural areas can be addressed by a private social enterprise, but the questions is who and how do we partner with stakeholders, and how much do we collaborate with local ministries? Perhaps we’ll find the answers to these issues as we continue this work in Kenya, but when resources are limited and time is precious, how much do we want to invest in these partnerships? Any input from our readers and friends is much appreciated!

A Captive Audience for Installation of a BSF


  1. Nice work ladies, getting your hands really dirty down there it seems. Good thoughts which really call for careful examination. It is true the decisions you take now can easiely make or break your initial market penetration potential and you have to move carefully but pole pole. I would look at all the community players (health units, local government, NGOs) as customers and try to sell the product to them rather than giving it for free. In this way they will be responsible for the product handling and will most likely care for it more. If you 'donated' a BSF and because of negligence it does not last long(which can be a couple of days, weeks) your 'partners' will most likely discourage potentail customers (who are their community)since its a new invention. You need a track record and you need a strong start. I would try to sell the BSF to NGOs in the area such as World Vision as well as explain our goal/purpose. Being from East Africa, i know that offices spend a significant amount on clean drinking water annually for staff and visitors, so the BSF could provide a better alternative. These NGOs, which primarily work with the community will actually promote the BSF as a useful addition to the household in their daily work.

    Its good to know that you are already doing some significant sales like the order from the Eldoret NGO. Could you find out and understand what they plan to do with all the BSFs? It will help you understand more your customers. Asante ssana.