We recently posted a Challenge from Enterprise Works/VITA, which seeks to help households in developing nations harvest and store rain water. While we know that InnoCentive Solvers are particularly motivated by the opportunity to help others and make a positive impact on the world, we were amazed at how quickly the word spread about this Challenge. Within a few weeks of posting we have almost 700 open project rooms. I recently sat down with Don Feil, CEO of Enterprise Works/VITA to get some background on his organization, the Challenge and the end goal for the solution:
Hi Don - thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell me a bit about your organization?
Sure - happy to be here. Enterprise Works/VITA is a recognized leader in the transfer of skills and technology through the private sector that offer solutions to low income populations, farmers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers in developing economies. Over the past 35 years EWV has demonstrated that poor households will invest in improving their living conditions if they are offered appropriate products at a price they can afford and that also provide economic benefits. We are seeking to replicate with rainwater harvesting what we have done with improved cook stoves, manually drilled wells, water filters, treadle pumps and other products, and that is to provide consumers with an affordable solution to a problem facing millions of households.
What are the specific challenges that this solution is expected to address?
The Challenge seeks to address the over riding constraint that prevents households from benefiting from rainwater harvesting, which is the initial investment in a storage system. Rain falls just about everywhere and except for the driest places in the world it falls in quantities that are worth harvesting for use, especially when other sources are unreliable, distant or contaminated. The quality of rainwater is generally considered to be good and it is recognized as an improved water source by the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring program for the Millennium Development Goals. A low cost storage solution has the potential market of millions of clients and can provide benefits to millions of households.
Once the solution is found, how will the new storage systems be produced?
That will depend on the technology that is selected and could vary from mass manufacturing to local production by small scale entrepreneurs.
Where will this solution be implemented?
Initially the solution will be implemented on a pilot scale in a developing country where there is a significant need for clean water and where the market, environmental, and policy conditions are favorable for large scale uptake of rainwater harvesting by households. The pilot will demonstrate the necessary strategies to promote rainwater harvesting and to develop a sustainable supply chain. Based on results from the pilot we will then expand it to other countries.
What appealed to you about the InnoCentive model?
Since we never intended to do this with our own hands, we looked for a company that we felt had the integrity to represent us properly and one that could also deliver a solution to our Challenge. After discussions with InnoCentive we felt that this was the right fit for us.