The Cholera Outbreak in Haiti and Kouzin Dlo

Intro: Kouzin Dlo Founder, Jess Laporte, was recently invited as a guest speaker in an Massive Open Online Course curated at Tufts University. The course, The Biology of Water and Health - Sustainable Interventions, is a follow-up to last years introductory WASH course. As an alum of Tufts University, Laporte was invited to share her experience launching Kouzin Dlo in Haiti to combat the continuing cholera outbreak. Check out the full course here - goo.gl/JtFGnI

Video 1 - Cholera Outbreak in Haiti https://youtu.be/nR6UnOeZyP0

Video overview: Clean water sources have long been an issue for Haitian citizens. Nothing highlighted this issue quite like the cholera outbreak of 2010. Cholera was introduced to Haiti in 2010 by UN workers in the rural community of Mirebalais. The disease is spread when a people eats or drinks something infected with the vibrio cholerae bacterium. Those most at risk are individuals living in places with inadequate water treatment and poor sanitation. As of 2012 only 62% of the population had access to an improved water source, leaving many Haitian citizens in this high risk group. Kouzin Dlo is committed to being a part of the solution to the problem. Watch this video to learn how Kouzin Dlo is working to combat this problem of water borne diseases in Haiti.

 

It's never too late to try something new

New Products

Kouzin Dlo has recently released two new products! We will now be selling our own 16 oz bottles along with 8 oz bottles of chlorine, allowing customers is purchase less often by providing more than twice the water purifying power.

Our 8 oz bottle is the same great deal, 40 treatments for $1 providing 200 gallons of clean water for a family. This size typically lasts one month when used simply for drinking water but our sales agents encourage customers to utilize clean water for all household activities improving health outcomes and leading to a quicker follow-up sale.

The new 16 oz bottle provides customers with a new deal, 100 treatments for $2. This size can last up to three months however the reduced price per treatment further opens the door for customers to use clean water for a variety of activities in their home.


Making Some Noise for Clean Water

To launch these products Kouzin Dlo is borrowing from a classic haitian marketing technique and adding our own twist. In each community we've been using a Kouzin Dlo branded tap tap to make some noise and spread the word about our products and services. These mobile marketing days are a new strategy in our arsenal for boosting our visibility where we work.

During Mobile Marketing days community managers and sales agents accompany the publicity truck to advertise our new products. The importance of clean water technology, the benefits of our product, and encouragement to purchase from Kouzin Dlo will be announced to the community from a sound system on the truck, but more importantly it is reinforced by individual conversations. Managers and sales will engage with community members directly to express a similar message and offer the product for sale along the route. Additionally, we will hand out samples of water treated with our product when the truck stops at gathering places. Through these marketing events we hope to cultivate relationships with community members, creating as many new customers as possible.

Meet Kouzin Dlo's Fall Fellow, Emma

Meet Kouzin Dlo's Fall Fellow, Emma

Q: What interested you in working for Kouzin Dlo?

I was initially motivated to work for Kouzin Dlo because of their ultimate goal of improving health conditions in Haiti. This objective aligns with my public health interests, and my desire to be a positive influence in the movement towards global health equity. Additionally, the model through which Kouzin Dlo is promoting change appeals to me. I believe traditional aid is failing at effectively improving conditions, and a new approach is desperately needed. Kouzin Dlo’s social entrepreneurship paradigm works to create a stronger local economy, which in turns allows people to help themselves. Any sort of aid that enables the local community to help themselves is going to be able to generate longer last change than aid that is imposed from the outside. Thereby, social entrepreneurship resonates with me, and Kouzin Dlo’s model of utilizing community members to sell to other members of their community is a project I can whole heartedly get behind. 

Q: What will you be doing?

            The project that I will be working on during my time in Port-au-Prince is implementing a CommCare, new data collection software. Through this system Kouzin Dlo will be able to collect a plethora of data, and more easy analyze this information. CommCare will be used to more effectively track sales. Additionally, Kouzin Dlo will be able to interact with their customers directly by sending them SMS messages and surveys using this system. Informational messages about the about clean water practices and the importance of chlorinating their water will be send out to customers. By pointing out these facts out the hope is that it will encourage people to continue to make smart health practices and to continue to purchase from Kouzin Dlo. Additionally, surveys to the customers regarding their product satisfaction, as well as their clean water knowledge, attitudes and practices will be sent out. This information will allow for more targeted marketing, and hopefully more customer retention. I will be responsible for making sure CommCare is up and running. This includes ensuring the software is actually functional. Additionally, I have drafted these messages, and will as putting them into the software program. Sales Agents and Managers will be trained in the system, and the final step will be monitoring the success of the system. The implementation of CommCare will be an ongoing process, where the success and utility of what is being sent out to customer will be assessed, and changes to the system will be made as we go. I’m excited to get the process underway and see how it goes! 

FIELD NOTE: Sarah's first month

FIELD NOTE: Sarah's first month

Today marks one-month since the start of my summer fellowship with Kouzin Dlo and I am excited to share some milestones!

After two days of interviews with students from the English in Mind Institute in Port-au-Prince, I invited a handful of interviewees to a 3-day intensive training on survey administration. In this meantime, I also hired an advanced English student, Stephanie, as the translator and lead enumerator to ensure better communication during training and research days.

At the end of this training, each participant received an official certificate of completion to add this newly acquired skill to their CV. 

From this pool of trained students, I ultimately hired three enumerators and 1 lead enumerator.

A big welcome to Florence, Josué, Jérôme, and Stephanie!

On Friday July 24th we completed the first round of baseline and midline surveys at the sales agent training session in a new community, Delmas 60. In total, 9 women participated in the training and 5 were interviewed. All women who were asked to participated consented -- which is a major feat!

Overall, it went very smoothly. The baseline surveys were completed in pairs as the participants trickled in during registration. The enumerators and I then spent a couple hours discussing initial impressions and making minor adjustments to the survey based on this first live round of interviews. The midline survey was administered right after the women received their certificates of completion.

Between surveys, I also had the opportunity to sit in on part of the training session co-taught by Carline and Beverly. The session was certainly engaging as it included role-play, chlorination demonstrations, and participants switching roles with Carline and Beverly to review what they've learned. I was very impressed!

It was a long day -- 7:30am to 4:30pm -- but I couldn't have asked for a better first survey round. I feel very lucky to have found such a great research team and I am excited to continue working with them throughout the summer!

New Faces: Meet Ema Dulene and Beverly Pierre

New Faces: Meet Ema Dulene and Beverly Pierre

In April Kouzin Dlo hired 2 Program Assistants, Ema Dulene and Beverly Pierre from L’école Supérieur d’Informatique de Haiti (ESIH). Starting in February we began recruiting for 2-4 part-time assistants positions through ESIH, a Port-au-Prince based university with a strong business and computer science program. We were connected to the career services director at the university through our Kouzin Dlo cheerleader, Charles Plaisimond, who never ceases to have new ideas and contacts for us.

We were excited to receive 11 applications from ESIH students with candidates from the undergraduate and masters programs. In the application process we held group interviews including a computer task, to gauge skills, then offered individual interviews to 4 women. The final decision was tough, given that all of the candidates were qualified and brought unique experience in program management, small businesses, health and community outreach.

Since starting work in April Ema and Beverly have already contributed to major revisions in training and marketing materials, data entry and data processing and our partner recruitment process. Most importantly they bring a local perspective to both the daily operations and big picture planning. Their advice and feedback have helped to rework and reorganize our management system and style from sales agents to community managers and new partners. I look forward to continuing to learn alongside them and improving our operations and reach through their experience!

Kouzin Dlo turns 1!

Kouzin Dlo turns 1!

A year ago today the Kouzin Dlo launch team was touching down in Haiti. I, Jess Laporte, was lucky to have 4 very different and very talented people to help Kouzin Dlo get off the ground. Over this past year the Kouzin Dlo team has transitioned from 4 international volunteers to 7 part-time Haitian employees and a team of over 50 sales agents in 6 different communities across Port-au-Prince.

Even if this past year has changed us through challenges and learning, our goals remain the same - to reduce the spread of cholera and other waterborne diarrheal diseases through widespread distribution of low-cost and effective clean water technology. We’re committed to leveraging local products and knowledge to reach further and deeper into communities.

Kouzin Dlo is able to reach households with clean water products through a growing network of sales agents led by local community managers. We work with women because as the decision makers and care givers within the household they know the effects of waterborne disease and have the power to prevent it through daily choices and practices. From day one our motto has been clean water for Haitians by Haitians. In our first year we’ve seen that this guiding concept has led to unexpected discoveries, important changes in our strategy and an increasingly indigenous approach to sales. 

Over the next few months we are welcoming 3 (and possibly more) international volunteers to help us further develop our business model and practices based on all that we’ve learned and continue to explore.  In July we will hold trainings to add to our existing sales teams, then in August we will look towards launching 3-5 new sites in September. In order to support growth and track our progress we’re also rolling out a new mobile customer tracking system and starting a second pilot of our mobile app for remote data collection at our sites.

If there’s one thing this first year of operations has showed us, it’s that we don’t have all the answers, but hopefully we’re putting together the right ingredients to make something BIG happen. We hope to continue learning from our employees, customers and peers to consistently provide clean water access to more families in more communities over this next year. We’re excited to see where our next pilots and expansion bring us over year 2!

 

We wouldn’t be here without the cheerleaders and supporters helping us to launch, build and grow.

  • To the Resolution Project – Thanks for believing in me, Jess, as a social entrepreneur and continuing to support not just the success of Kouzin Dlo but my growth as a leader and innovator.
  •  To Haiti Communitere – Thanks for being the perfect place to launch our business and for partnering with us into the future.
  • To Tisch College of Active Citizenship at Tufts University – Thank you for not just following the story of Kouzin Dlo and the Archimedes Project, but being a part of bringing new students into our work.
  •  To the Diehl Family Social Enterprise Competition and the D-Prize – Thank you for seeing the vision, purpose and potential of Kouzin Dlo and funding our next phase as we continue to grow and develop. We love that you're just as excited to hear about our failures as our successes because you know what learning looks like on the ground.
  • To the new Kouzin Dlo Advisory Board – Thank you for signing up to be the team that supports Kouzin Dlo from start-up to scaling-up. I am already amazed at your willingness and excitement in bringing your knowledge and experience to Kouzin Dlo in the details and big picture.

Meet our Summer Fellow Sarah Andrus

Meet our Summer Fellow Sarah Andrus

About Sarah

Sarah is a graduate student at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, MA. Throughout her studies, Sarah has focused on community-based public health interventions that engage and empower community members. 

Q: What interested you in working with Kouzin Dlo?

A: Throughout my studies, I have learned that the implementation of sustainable behavior change in a community must be driven by its community members. Kouzin Dlo does just that. By providing the necessary training and resources to local women, Kouzin Dlo empowers them to be health entrepreneurs in their community. In turn, these entrepreneurs are able to continuously educate and supply their community members with the tools for safe and effective water treatment practices. This feed forward approach allows for positive, sustainable practices throughout the community, which is why I knew I wanted to get involved as soon as I heard about Kouzin Dlo. So, this July, I'll be joining the Kouzin Dlo team for two months as the summer intern and I couldn't be more excited!  

Q: What will you be doing?

A: After talking with Jessica about her desire for a more systematic evaluation of the sales agent training process, a fellow Tufts student (Ina Enatsu) and I designed a survey that will be administered at three time points to future Kouzin Dlo sales agents in three communities. Ideally, these surveys will give Kouzin Dlo more insight into the motivations and the current water practices and knowledge of women when they enter the business as well as their job satisfaction after starting work. By identifying possible gaps in the training process, these surveys should enhance the satisfaction and confidence of these sales agents as entrepreneurs and health ambassadors. After all, it's the sales agents who interact directly with Kouzin Dlo consumers! 

One modification to the sales agent training that is already in the works is to add a nutrition module. This would incorporate more information about the long-term effects of diarrhea in children under the age of 5 that are often caused by inadequate water treatment. So I will put my graduate studies to the test as I prepare education materials to be implemented starting in the July training sessions.

As with any business, it's important to track and report a project's outreach in the community. Therefore, I will also help measure and update Kouzin Dlo’s current impact in existing sites as well as progress in new sites. These updates will focus on funder and partner reports, but will also be useful for other communications materials and future grant applications.

All in all, these efforts will hopefully help expand Kouzin Dlo's presence in Haiti and ensure continued success. See you in July!

New sites → new LEARNING → new ways of doing

New sites → new LEARNING → new ways of doing

Since the start of 2015, Kouzin Dlo successfully launched 3 new sites in Port-au-Prince.


These new sites have continued our learning process and helped to refine our model and evaluate inefficiencies. Through the new sites we have been able to gain better estimates of project expenses for A) Manager and Sales Agent training B) Community marketing 3) Partner and staff recruitment and 3) Site management.

By considering both expenses and time cost of activities we’ve worked on adding efficiency to our overall expansion and management approaches. For example, we have consolidated Sales Agent training to 1 full day instead of 3 half days to reduce transportation for the Director and Training Leaders as well as reduce time lost to late arrivals. Similarly, monthly manager meetings now serve as a time to touch base, submit forms, receive new forms and receive new stock. This consolidation us from handling these activities separately for each site and reduces last minute meetings that disrupt our managers time and plans.

Launching these three sites has also helped to build better community partnerships and improve communications to ensure clear expectations. To this end we have created a site visit rubric, in order to evaluate all sites on the same criteria before Kouzin Dlo enters into a community.  We now also give all new partners a ‘Partnership Activity Guide’ to layout the action steps they will take in the process of helping Kouzin Dlo launch a new site in their community.

Sometimes these changes - new documents, set schedules and revised systems – seem small, but we can already see they’re making a BIG difference. Our ultimate success as a social enterprise is just as much about what we do as how we do it.

Happy 6 month Birthday to Kouzin Dlo

Happy 6 month Birthday to Kouzin Dlo

December 15 marked six months in Haiti for Kouzin Dlo! We've packed a lot in in those six months.

Here are some facts and figures:

  • Launched 3 sites where Kouzin Dlo distributes chlorine

  • Trained and hired 3 part-time community managers

  • Trained 27 women as sales agents

  • Sold 620 bottles of chlorine

Most importantly though we've learned. Every day from each mistake and with each new curve ball we've been storing away lessons learned. Instead of packing a bag of frustrations and set-backs we've been luck to keep churning out new ideas and solutions.

One good example has been tackling sales agent retention.

Step 1 was implementing regular meetings for sales agents in one of our communities. To that we added an ongoing health education curriculum as a hook. Then we agreed on a promotional price for repeat attendance (every 2 meetings they were present). Our goal was to retain sales agents assuming retention would equal higher sales over the long run. Our solution was creating a community and reinforcing the informal network of sales agents through management support. A couple months later, we found that the women were coming to get a deal on their chlorine not continue learning or check in with the manager.

Step 2 is an attempt to better target the desired behaviors through an incentive system that uses short, medium and long-term goals. Instead of targeting sales in a round about way we're simply rewarding specific sales levels on a weekly and monthly basis. But yet again, we don't just care about sales. We're looking to improve key services provided by sales agents. We thought, lets not just have the sales agents get all the fun, so community managers will similarly incentivized towards specific marketing techniques, to support sales agents to improve retention and to boost overall sales.

Do we think that our rewards will perfectly match the work? NO. Do we think that it's going to be effective on shaping behaviors and improving sales from day 1? NO.

Is it an improvement? YES. Most importantly...Will we learn something? YES. In a start-up, that's always something work working towards.

The Kouzin Dlo app is up and field testing!

The Back Story

The Kouzin Dlo app was built using the CommCare interface. CommCare is a mobile health app that was built for mobile health workers to track cases and share educational messaging, on a variety of medical needs, over time. Kouzin Dlo is utilizing this platform to track both sales agents and customers who interact with out business.

If we were just a business about making money, simple accounting and stock management would suffice, but Kouzin Dlo is about improving health by increasing access to clean water while creating economic opportunities for women in their communities. We want to be able to track our impact in these three areas – job creation, access to clean water and health. In order to do that we need to know the history of our sales agents over time as well as be able to track customers and follow-up with them through monitoring activities over the coming years.

What’s in the Kouzin Dlo App?

  • tracking Sales Agents
    • Registration (basic household information)
    • # bottles purchased
    • # bottles sold
    • Estimated income
    • Meeting attendance
  • Community Hub 
    • Accounting – sales and expenses
    • Stock management
    • Manager work reports

The Journey

4 training sessions, 12.5 hrs and endless examples later, our three community managers are trained and using our new CommCare app to record their site activities. Everything from accounting and stock management to work reports and bi-weekly meeting attendance are moving from paper to digital over the coming month. For these first 4 weeks all records with be kept electronically and on paper in order to catch manual mistakes as well as glitches in the app. But come mid-January, good-bye printing and 3-hole punching, hello Excel reports.

As excited as I am about the destination - remote data collection with real time updates – the journey to launching this new app has been eye opening. It was a learning process for all of us. I had to learn how to see phones in a totally new way in order to just explain how to swipe from screen to screen or find a menu.

Over the past four weeks I’ve gotten to see our managers not only learn how to use the app and fill out the eight different forms, but also learn how to use touch screens for the first time. In the end the most rewarding moment was watching one of my mangers navigate a new form without instructions to register a sales agent in the field, putting together her new knowledge of how to operate the app and phone with a new set of questions.

At the onset of this process it was all green lights and possibilities. Now I’m seeing the challenges of keeping-up a mobile data collection system – from keeping phones charged to checking data usage to ensure these work phones stay work phones. Ultimately, Kouzin Dlo has continued down this path because there truly are doors to grown and expansion that will only be possible through a tool like this that not only improves the quantity, but the quality and speed of information we can collect on our sites, sales agents and eventually customers. In fact, this new app may be the key to measuring the social impacts of our clean water business over the coming year by allowing us to track sales agents and customers overtime.

What’s next?

  • Sales agents will be able to register and track customers using text messages. 
  • Multimedia social marketing tools for managers

MESI ANPIL (Thank you)

In the spirit of giving thanks I, Jess, want to take time to acknowledge the people, organizations, funders and mentors that have helped us take the idea of Community Chlorinators implement it in Haiti, revise and begin to iterate all in one year.

Where we’ve been...

In November 2013 the Community Chlorinators business plan was designed through the first Archimedes Project Ideation Lab.

By January 2014 we were putting together pilot plans and developing partnerships.

On June 15th 2014 the launch team arrived in Haiti to start testing the model on the ground.

Today we have three amazing community managers who oversee our daily operations in three communities. Our sales force of over a dozen active (and over twenty-five trained) direct sales agents have been responsible for distributing around 600 bottles of chlorine to their family, neighbors and friends.

 

We couldn’t have done this without the following advisors, mentors, cheerleaders and friends

  • Community partners

    • RAJEPRE and RAVAJEP (Bwa Nef)

    • PENAH (Cite Limye)

    • Team Tassy (Menelas)

  • Daniele Lantagne (Assistant Professor at Tufts University) - For the long discussions in Brown and Brew that helped us think about evaluating our impact in clear and concrete ways.

  • Sabina and Louino Robillard - For all the late night talks at Haiti Communitere and off hand advice on how to be a culturally appropriate and empowering initiative in Haiti. And for reminding me that I shouldn’t fear failure, but rather just aim to fail better than all those who have gone before me.

The professional, social, technical and financial support of;

  • Tisch College at Tufts University

  • Tufts Institute of Global Leadership (Empower Fellowship)

  • Clinton Global Initiative University Conference

  • The Resolution Project (Resolution Fellowship)

  • Haiti Communitere

  • Deep Springs International (producer and supplier of liquid chlorine in Haiti)

For our next stage funders who have see the potential in Community Chlorinators both in Haiti and beyond and put their money where their mouth is to make it happen!

  • D-Prize

  • Diehl Family Social Enterprise Competition

Marketing to the Base of the Pyramid and Community Activities

Marketing to the Base of the Pyramid and Community Activities

On November 7th, Kouzin Dlo participated in a Cholera Prevention Community Outreach Activity held by out partner PENAH in Cite Limye. The scene was a classic Haitian block party complete with DJs, community organization stands, food vendors and lots of dancing. The Kouzin Dlo managers had a chance to demonstrate our product and safe water storage buckets for the crowd.

On a marketing level, one of the most important parts of the event for Kouzin Dlo was offering drinking water for the crowd. We had a table setup near the stage where we gave out drinking water treated with our product in our branded buckets. Over the past five months of launching Kouzin Dlo in-country one of the most consistent feedbacks on the product we sell (Gadyen Dlo) has been its superior taste to other chlorine water treatment options (such as Aquatabs or chlorox, which are common in Haiti).

I (Jess) am currently enrolled in an Acumen course called “Marketing with Dignity at the Base of the Pyramid.” One of the important concepts we cover is the issue of “truth” in purchasing decisions. A major difference between consumers in the US and consumers in impoverished countries such as Haiti, is the concept of buying something new. For the most part, consumers at the bottom of the pyramid are not in the habit of purchasing new products, so the majority of their budget goes towards buying exactly what they bought yesterday, a month ago or 5 years ago.

How does this relate to Kouzin Dlo?

Allowing potential customers in the communities that we serve to try our product before they buy something new actually helps to lower the risk. Therefore, when our sales agents come by, offering the product to buy people already have a positive experience with the product to influence their purchasing decision.

It’s all a learning game and only time will tell how these types of activities can improve or increase sales. But we wouldn’t be a start up if we weren’t paying the trial and error game, would we?

Bucket o' fun! pilot safe water storage production

Bucket o' fun! pilot safe water storage production

Today we began to pilot safe water storage production at Haiti Communitere. Since week one we’ve been producing safe water storage buckets (pictured above) on a rolling basis depending on requests by each community we serve. Today marks the beginning of a more formalized production process that will allow us to produce a stock that can adequately supply the demand of our existing sites and expansion in 2015.

Safe water storage is a critical component to the effectiveness of chlorine as a household water treatment solution because it ensures that the water does not become contaminated after treatment. However, for the first few months of establishing Kouzin Dlo we have focused more on creating chlorine customers since buckets are a larger financial investment. We are now putting more of a focus on producing and selling the buckets now that we identified a demand for buckets of this kind in both household and schools.

Step 1 – SOURCING

What goes into a Kouzin Dlo safe water storage bucket?

  • Recycled 5 gallon bucket with a lid
  • Tap and PVC adaptor (and plumbers tape)
  • Kouzin Dlo labels

Over the past couple of weeks I have worked with a Haitian intern, Hudson, to source the various materials needed to product our safe water storage buckets. During the summer we had already identified a bulk supplier for taps and PVC, so our intern mostly focused on securing buckets and labels. He has diligently followed leads to find a consistent supply of recycled buckets at depot boutiques around Haiti Communitere and Cite Soleil. Next, he researched and selected a printer to produce waterproof labels for the buckets. The labels are one of the most critical items for our buckets to be seen as a  in order 

Stages:

  • Identify merchants
  • Establish a bulk price
  • Develop pick-up and delivery system for each input

 

Step 2 – PILOT PRODUCTION

            Starting today our intern will pilot producing the buckets from start to finish at Haiti Communitere. At this point he will be producing the buckets fully and then we will deliver them to the depot in Bwa Nef for distribution to the three sites. However, in the future we plan to just wash the buckets and drill the tap hole at Haiti Communitere and allow for the taps to be installed in the community based upon demand.

Production Process:

  • Clean buckets
  • Drill hole for tap
  • Install tap
  • Label

Piloting is a critical phase for us to experientially determine all of the inputs and then establish standardized methods for production. Through the pilot we will be able to answer questions such as, should we use a brush, knife or solution to remove existing labels? How much plumbers tape is needed to secure each tap? Through the pilot production we will also determine the production wage per bucket based on the time it takes to make a bucket and the amount of buckets someone could produce in one full day of work.  This will allow us to ensure that our bucket producer is making a fair wage for their effort.


Step 3 – LAUNCH

By December we intend to have bucket production fully up and running. In the long-run we plan to employ someone 1 to 2 days per week to source materials and produce the buckets at Haiti Communtiere.  This is just one more avenue for us to support the local economy and create jobs for Haitians. We’re excited to be able to provide this simple yet important product to our customers and the communities that we serve.

Back in Haiti: Hitting Milestones

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since I (Jess) got back to Haiti from my first trip to the US since the Kouzin Dlo launch.

 

The best part of being away? Coming back to three community sites functioning with no major glitches.

 

This means that my three community managers continued their weekly activities without outside supervision or help. They performed key activities such as managing sales agents, marketing, and stock management. One manager even forged new partnerships for community outreach by visiting other organizations in her area.

 

It may not seem like a big deal, but it demonstrates that the organizational systems that we’ve been establishing over the first three months are actually working. That’s a win in our book.

 

Why does it matter that Kouzin Dlo's community hubs can function independently? The establishment of autonomous community hubs is the key to scale for Kouzin Dlo. We are building a network of clean water agents across the country but that’s not possible if we have to have weekly (let alone daily) oversight in each community.

 

I was nervous stepping away for two weeks to go to the US, but in the end it proved to be a perfect test and reminder that unless I do step back, I will never get to see just how well things are going.

More than a job

Yesterday I went to meet with two of our community managers, Carline and Manouchka. Thinking we'd have another standard meeting - updates, clarifying questions, jokes (haitians are always prepared to make you laugh), planning marketing events, collecting forms and handing out new ones - but I was in for a pleasant surprise. 

Somewhere between scheduling bi-weekly meetings and planning for community events in October, Manouchka told me she had been offered another job. Immediately my heart sunk - in just her first three weeks she had already proven herself a leader and her background knowledge was improving Kouzin Dlo's outreach in Cite Limye more than I could quantify. Besides her self-motivation and unique skills that made her a great community manager for Kouzin Dlo, I couldn't think of replacing her so soon. However, I knew that I could only offer her part-time employment and a full-time job would be an amazing and rare opportunity for her and her family.

To my surprise she quickly said she had decline the offer so she could continue working with Kouzin Dlo and volunteering with Manman Lide. Manouchka explained that she wanted to fulfill her commitment to Kouzin Dlo and learn as much as she could from running the business in her own community. She said she was excited about the new skills she was learning and felt that she was a part of something important. Carline echoed her sentiments, adding that what motivates her to keep trying new ways to sell chlorine and spread the word about Kouzin Dlo isn't the salary, it's the necessity of what we offer to individuals and communities. 

The caveat...They both requested that Kouzin Dlo provide official certificates, probably at the 6 month or 1 year mark, showing the skills that they learned and describing the work that they do for the business. I told them that would be a perfect project for my time in the US.

As I rush through my last week here in Haiti before a 2 week break in the US, this was exactly the encouragement that I needed. When you sit at the drawing board miles away from implementation it's easy to have lofty goals and high expectations. On the ground you can sometimes start to feel like you can barely keep up with the hiccups and problem solving. Then there are rewarding moments where you realize that the big picture and the day to day are adding up, most of the time in ways you couldn't have planned or imagined.

 

 

Depot open!

Depot open!

The Bwa Nef depot is up and running. This will be the local stock for our three current sites in Cite Soleil and new sites in the area as we expand. Setting up the depot is especially important with my vacation to the US approaching because it allows for site to access the Kouzin Dlo chlorine supply even if I'm not in country. In addition to the improvement of Kouzin Dlo's supply chain, I am excited about where we've decided to have the depot, Bwa Nef.  

Why I like this location:

1) Putting our depot in Bwa Nef shows that we trust and value the community. Bwa Nef was  a gang stronghold in the early 2000s; although the activity has dwindled, the stigma lingers. Many people from other Cite Soleil neighborhoods still avoid going there. Some individuals who attended our first manager trainings were concerned about the location in Bwa Nef because of this association, despite the reality of a more peaceful community. Putting our stock in Bwa Nef encourages our managers from across the Cite Soleil section of Port-au-Prince to visit and become more comfortable in the area.


2) We are using a back room in our partner organization’s small school building. RAJEPRE began as a community lead initiative to provide free education to the children in Bwa Nef. It was founded by volunteers from the community who taught and ran programs out of their own pockets. Over two years they built up their reputation for quality education and programs. Now families in the neighborhood pay to send their kids there and some have even switched their children to RAJEPRE from other schools in neighboring communities. We’re proud to have our business connected to this reputable group and hope to continue in their footsteps as a positive force in Bwa Nef.

3) Giving Carline (the Bwa Nef manager) additional responsibility will help to continue to develop her as a leader in the Kouzin Dlo business. In the future I hope to transfer more logistical responsibilities to her as we add new sites and I won't be available to visit each manager every week.

3rd site up and running!

3rd site up and running!

Last week we held 3 half days of training for new entrepreneurs in Cite Limye. After being stalled for a couple of weeks in the launching process, I was happy Wednesday to finally be underway again. Little did I know that we would have such a fun and animated group that by Friday I wouldn’t want the training to end.

 

On the first day we had 9 women attend the training, partially recruited by our informational session at the beginning of August, a few were invited by our manager and some even came from word-of-mouth. In the end, 6 graduated from the entrepreneur training and are out selling Gadyen Dlo in their community.

 

All of the 6 women now selling chlorine for Kouzin Dlo also participate in PENAH’s Manman Lide (Mother leaders) program, a group that equips mothers with education on pregnancy, birth, children’s health and nutrition. Through this group they are already familiar with educating peers on health related topics including WASH. Over the three days we were able to build on their existing experience and knowledge to prepare them to sell chlorine within our business.

 

One of the many strengths of the new site is our partnership with PENAH, a Haitian organization that has been working in Cite Limye for over 8 years. PENAH works with Malteser International to do Community Health mobilization through door-to-door outreach and focus groups. This presence in Cite Limye has educated the population about the importance of clean water and how to treat water. Now Kouzin Dlo is stepping up to provide a missing piece, consistent access to low-cost household water treatment. Our manager, Manouchka, is a leader in PENAH and is now putting her door-to-door outreach experience to work marketing for Kouzin Dlo.

 

One week since launching and we’ve already had entrepreneurs come back to buy more chlorine, completed 4 hours of door-to-door promotion and held our first weekly entrepreneur meeting. Not bad!

Kouzin Dlo's 2 month Anniversary!

Kouzin Dlo's 2 month Anniversary!

The two month anniversary of Kouzin Dlo’s first community launch just snuck up on me, sitting at the blue table behind the Haiti Communitere kitchen working on my computer. Other start-ups may have had this date marked ahead in their calendars, maybe even had a little celebration planned. It hit me when I was looking over our sales to date I realized that we had hit a perfect 400 bottles. Now that’s something worth tweeting! So naturally I turned to the calendar to look up how long it had been since we started, hoping for a nice looking number of days or weeks or something dorky like that. To my surprise, I realized it’s been exactly 2 months since our first site launch.

Challenges, changes, success, bumps and a lot of heat later, Kouzin Dlo is still learning. I like to celebrate milestones by giving thanks, so here are five things I’m thankful for on our 2 month anniversary.

At Kouzin Dlo we’re thankful for...

  1. The internet, Skype, Google +, Google Drive, Uber and all the other wonderful technologies that keep our remote team going.
  2. Finding three great women to represent Kouzin Dlo as community managers
  3. My quick progress in speaking Haitian Creole so I can communicate well with all of the Kouzin Dlo managers and entrepreneurs (now just for the writing part…)
  4. Having a great home base at Haiti Communitere, complete with friends that are starting to feel more like family.
  5. Customers that love the product we sell so much that they’re telling their friends about it!

Be a part of the change in how life saving technologies reach customers across Haiti. Join us in disrupting aid for a stronger Haiti. #disruptID

A Big Question

Over the coming month we hope to address the following question in our new and existing sites: How can we increase customer retention to create regular customers who use chlorine for water treatment every day and return each month to buy more chlorine ?

First, let me clarify that this isn’t a new question for Kouzin Dlo. In many ways posing this question is going back to day one of designing Community Chlorinators. This has been a central goal of our business.

Kouzin Dlo is dedicated to delivering low-cost, effective technology to increase access to clean water while providing economic opportunities to women to generate income as small entrepreneurs in Haiti.

We designed our existing business model to try and address this question. Now that it’s on the ground and functioning, we have been able to see that this is exactly the challenge we expected it would be. Now, we have to ask how our business can be improved to reach this goal given a better understanding of the context, input from our Haitian staff and feedback from existing customers.

Although many customers thank the entrepreneurs and managers for bringing a new, effective and good tasting product to treat water, they aren’t returning to buy. According to our entrepreneurs and managers many its because of financial reasons.Customers claim they cannot buy another bottle because they don’t have 50 goudes (about 1 dollar). In some ways, I wish we had gotten other critiques or feedback. Household cash flow isn’t something we can fix and we are unable to lower the price while maintaining profit for our entrepreneurs.

In a meeting this week, Kouzin Dlo managers, Carline and Josette from our two first sites, proposed a solution to the slowing sales and growing frustration amongst entrepreneurs seen in both communities- increase market coverage of the product by allowing entrepreneurs to sell around Cite Soleil outside of their immediate communities. This will in turn improve publicity of the product and reach more new customers. Over time, greater coverage will lead to more return customers as the product establishes itself as a common household good. My concern...this just creates more one time customers and not enough regular customers who are consistently protecting themselves from waterborne diseases.

Tuesday I’ll be sitting down with Carline and Josette again to work over the logistics of this idea and potentially pilot this week with a couple women before shifting over. Both Josette and Carline have shown incredible dedication to their work with Kouzin Dlo through launching, a constantly developing business, improving marketing and now problem solving the road forward. Haitian Creole has a phrase tèt kole which literally means heads stuck together but signifies putting your heads together in collaboration and working together to attack a problem. So glad to experience this with my managers on a daily basis.

A look forward

A look forward

Now that the first two pilot sites are underway we’ve turned towards building new partnerships for expansion. Originally we expected to pilot in Port-au-Prince then move out to another region, potentially the Artibonite and Northwest. Since getting underway we’ve seen the value of continuing to refine our programs and learn through expanding our presence within Port-au-Prince before spreading out across Haiti.

 

Thanks to our host organization and partner, Haiti Communitere, we have been able to quickly make connections with other organizations in Cite Soleil, where our two pilot sites are located. We presented our business and product to community leaders connected with HC at the monthly roundtable in July. From there we conducted site visits in four communities. Expanding through the HC network has helped us to quickly identify strong community leaders and grassroots organizations. From our first meetings with them, the HC contacts have proven knowledgeable and dedicated to increasing access to important resources, such as chlorine to treat water, in their communities.

 

Wanting to build on what we were learning in Bwa Nef, a neighborhood in urban Cite Soleil, we decided to launch a third site in Cite Limye, which is a similar neighborhood. One major difference, is the presence of community health mobilization in Cite Limye through an organization called Malteser International. In addition, Cite Limye has a different socioeconomic status, noted by the improved housing and availability of resources.

 

Another promising site has been Fountain Drouillards along Route 9 in La Plaine of Cite Soleil, between Bwa Nef and Menelas. At the Cite Limye site we have already trained and hired a community manager. However, in Fountain Drouillards we are going to test using a one of our existing managers to deliver chlorine and coordinate the entrepreneurs and marketing there. Fountain Drouillards is a smaller community, so it would not be cost effective to hire a community manager without first determining the demand for chlorine there.

 

In these two new sites we are using revised and refined program documents for accounting, stock management and work hours. In addition, we are able to start fresh with customer monitoring practices in hopes of tracking a higher percentage of customers in these new sites that we have been able to attain in the pilot sites.

 

As an overall business we have been focusing on reducing transport costs and reaching additional customers. Reaching additional customers is both a matter of covering more portions of our existing communities and increasing customers per entrepreneur, as well as, increasing the number of sites to reach new communities.

 

For the near future we will focus on establishing and improving the 4 sites in Cite Soleil. This will allow us to test using our Bwa Nef site as a local depot from which Carline can deliver chlorine and buckets to the other sites or other community managers can come to pick-up their stock of chlorine or buckets. This is an important program shift away from Kouzin Dlo being responsible ot all deliveries to communities. This in turn creates more independence of each community site which will allow Kouzin Dlo to begin expansion in other parts of Port-au-Prince and eventually outside of the city.


One short-term goal, is to get the existing four sites ready to function on their own for two weeks in late September/early October when Jess will be out of country. This is an important milestone for the site to reach before we can begin planning for wider expansion. If successful, Kouzin Dlo will begin prepare to launch new sites in another region of Port-au-Prince starting in October.