ESS majors Tom Wheeler and Andrew Pascale spent their summer with a water purification social enterprise in Kampala, Uganda
The Global Social Benefit Fellowship (GSBF) through the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship here on campus, is a rigorous 9 month action research program designed to provide Santa Clara juniors an opportunity to engage in an immersive experience in a developing context while providing valuable support to social enterprises around the world. The 2015 GSBF cohort consisted of 18 fellows traveling to over 6 different countries in pairs of two. Fellows conducted social impact surveys, marketing and sales research, as well as worked to implement mobile apps among other projects.
ESS majors Andrew Pascale and Tom Wheeler worked with a company named Jibu, a water purification social enterprise based out of Kampala, Uganda. With substantial preparation through the fellowship’s spring quarter course, Tom and Andrew were able to hit the ground running with knowledge of Uganda’s political and cultural history, a strong grasp of Jibu’s business model and how they could make an impact on its value creation strategy. In their preparations, they had the chance to correspond with Jibu’s CEO Galen Welsch. Jibu’s innovative business model employs a decentralized franchise structure to empower local African entrepreneurs to own and operate their own water purification enterprises.
In essence, the franchise locations connect to the local tap water infrastructure, which generally has contamination issues. They then use the water on-site using Ultra-Filtration technology, and sell the purified water in reusable bottles for an affordable price. This reliable alternative to boiling water for purification positions Jibu as an engine for dramatically increasing accessibility to clean, affordable water for the middle class while creating employment opportunities for locals.
As we worked with Jibu to develop a Marketing & Sales Training Manual and Program, Tom and Andrew found that educating community members about the filtration processing as well as the aggregated costs of boiling (such as obtaining the necessary charcoal, medical bills associated with damages from indoor air pollution/ water borne illness, and the opportunity cost of boiling) are critical. This requires a fluid conversation between potential customers and Jibu Sales Agents who must work with locals who are generally uneducated on the dangers of boiling water.
Further, Tom and Andrew were profoundly impressed by the curiosity and innovativeness of the Ugandan people in the region. While the education system is still not near that of more developed nations, there are many talented young people seeking jobs that pay a living wage and rise up to the challenges they present. These jobs are often hard to come by as there is no minimum wage in Uganda and foreigners own many of the local businesses with large amounts of money looking to exploit cheap labor. In Tom and Andrew’s experience, the traditional paradigm of Africans being helpless foreign aid recipients is mis-portrayed by developed nation’s media coverage of only negative challenges facing communities throughout Africa. As Tom observed: "This 'Afro-Pessimism' reigned throughout the last 50+ years as African nations gained their independence from colonization, but we saw that it is beginning to be superseded by the type of social enterprise movement that we had a chance to be a part of."