Crowdsourcing Sanitation Solutions in Ghana | Source: IdeaConnection Blog, Nov 14, 2012.
In Ghana’s second largest city Kumasi, lack of access to adequate toilet facilities either in the household or in public spaces is a common problem.
Though makeshift solutions can provide some help they can also create serious health risks through the spread of cholera, dysentery and other diseases. This scenario is not uncommon in many other places in the developing world.
To help improve life for Kumasi residents, Unilever turned to open innovation for ideas to improve toilets and waste management.
The multinational consumer company partnered with IDEO, a global innovation and design firm, and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to create theOpenIdeo Challenge to harness the creativity and ingenuity of a 35,000+ member social innovation community.
Value of the Crowd
More than 200 ideas were submitted and included concepts to empower mothers and adopt-a-drain campaigns. These ideas fed into Unilever’s solution which is a five-step, sustainable ecosystem for distributing and servicing portable toilets to low-income households.
According to the project’s organizers the value of the crowd was that it extended the scope of sanitation needs and made the product and the service more robust. And it did so in a rapid time frame according to an interview with Unilever’s James Inglesby in UK national newspaper, The Guardian.
“Within two weeks, the OpenIdeo community had surfaced everything that it took us nearly a year to find.”
Toilets for Rent
The solution is a non-flush in-home toilet that can be rented and it comes with waste cartridges that are replaced between two and four times a week. It falls under an umbrella service called ‘CleanTeam’ which is directed by Unilever and WSUP.
A test project in 100 homes refined the concept and currently there are 110 customers with 300 more on the waiting list. The toilet is proving to be popular, not only because it is safer and more hygienic than public toilets, but also because of pride attached to having a toilet in your own home.