Research and Development Program Strives for Efficient Design and Production

The Research and Development (R&D) Program has been hard at work developing the different teams of the program: Product Design, Production/Servicing, and Logistics. Here’s a quick overview of what each team has been up to.

Product Design: We’ve decided to focus our skills in finding and selecting products that have proven impact. There are many great ideas and products out there, and we decided that our team would create the most value and impact for our communities by partnering with the organizations and people who are already developing those products. Through our partnerships, our R&D team can provide them with meaningful feedback in order to continue improving the product and to ensure that their product is relevant and effective in the communities that we work with.

Our first step in this process is to develop the criteria by which we select projects which will impact our community. We ask if the product has demonstrated impact, if there is a viable plan to sustain the product, and if the product can be scaled easily. These were difficult questions, and our team spent a lot of time (and a lot of butcher paper) trying to answer them clearly and comprehensively. This involved interviewing the Non-governmental organizations who were developing the product in order to learn more about their implementation strategy and challenges they faced. However, this also involved asking questions of ourselves and our communities. Would this project be culturally appropriate in our communities? Can we expect the same level of impact shown in the research for our communities? Does Nuru Kenya have the capabilities to maintain and support the product in the community? We’re still improving our method of selecting products, but we’ve had great conversations that have allowed us to understand our goal more deeply.

Production: So far, we’ve built two more latrines for customers since the launch of the social marketing campaign and have continued producing and selling handwashing stations. We’ve also been working on setting up systems to monitor the efficiency of our production methods. For now, we’ve been keeping tracking of all the costs associated with constructing a latrine (labor time, transport, materials cost) as they tend to fluctuate. We might strike a better deal with a motorcycle driver one day and save on transport costs. Or, we may notice that as we build more latrines, the construction time actually decreases since we become more adept. With these historical records, we’ll know which process of production we should focus on in order to make significant cost reductions in the future.

Logistics: In addition to streamlining our logistics for latrines, we’ve been researching other organizations which excel at rural distribution. The reach of HUL’s Project Shakti and ITC in rural India provide great examples of organizations that adapt to the unique and difficult challenges that operating in a rural environment presents. With roads that are in disrepair and a geographically dispersed population, it is extremely difficult to plan  and execute an efficient distribution plan. However, it was encouraging to see that many of the successful strategies used by HUL and ITC reflect values that guide Nuru’s own philosophy on ending extreme poverty. These organizations, and Nuru, engage and empower the communities that they work with, leveraging strengths already found in the community to create sustainable solutions that can reach millions.

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