Susan Murcott: Getting the Right Products to Scale: Technology Evaluation for Water Filters

May 7, 2015 · 0 comments

Getting the Right Products to Scale: Technology Evaluation for Water Filters, By Susan Murcott, CITE Suitability Lead, MIT DUSP Research Engineer & D-Lab Instructor. Source: D-Lab, April 29, 2015.

Low-income consumers aspire to a better life that humanitarian products offer. International aid agencies, non-governmental organizations, governments and social entrepreneurs promote and disseminate millions of humanitarian products to alleviate poverty. But many of these products fail to deliver—either they fail to perform consistently, or if they survive in the marketplace, they fail to reach scale.

Rigorous product evaluations that are trusted, affordable and comprehensible are important preconditions to impact, sustained use, and scale. To meet this need, MIT launched the Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation(CITE), a five-year, USAID-funded project to develop a 3S Methodology, examining products’ suitability, scalability, and sustainability. This methodology has now guided two product evaluations to completion, one on solar lanterns in Uganda and another on household water filters in India.

In a recent session at the MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference, we presented our household water filter research in order to explore the challenges of rigorous product evaluation as well as the benefits and opportunities that it can create for development practitioners, users, and entrepreneurs to bring the best products to scale.

Our focal city for the evaluation was Ahmedabad, India, a city of 6 million people, comprised of all income classes, and the target populations were the poor, many of whom have been relocated in Ahmedabad from slums to subsidized, government-built, low-cost housing. This is a unique situation in which the poor have access to an “improved” water source, but it is of mixed water quality.


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