Solving the complex issue of sanitation in another country would be impossible without the right local teammates.  Overcoming language barriers, understanding cultural intricacies, having familiarity with the geography, and offering a fresh point of view are all key qualities we look for in our local staff.  We are honored to have Olivia Mogaka from the African Leadership Academy (founded by Echoing Green fellows) as part of the team this summer.  As our  time with her comes to an end, we wanted to give you a chance to hear her motivations in her own words:

Olivia and Emily developing marketing strategies

Olivia and Emily developing marketing strategies at Sanergy HQ

As a citizen of Kenya, I can readily attest that we face many challenges, such as famine, poor sanitation and HIV-AIDS. With the newspapers, radio and Internet talking about these from morning to night, I felt that I couldn’t escape the bad news. They instilled a sense of urgency within me. Something had to be done about it. It was with this entrepreneurial mindset that I found myself on the Sanergy team.

Olivia at work

Olivia at work

At Sanergy, I work on the demand generation team. Our role is to build community awareness around issues of sanitation; to create an effective brand that is recognized by all; and to plan marketing campaigns for the Sanergy toilets that will attract users after each one opens.

At first I thought of this as a straightforward responsibility – everybody appreciates the value of good sanitation. While we have found this to be true in slums, I quickly learned that people’s use of good sanitation was determined by their economic incentives, not just the health benefits. Lasting behavior change within the communities would take some serious convincing. But how?

Our team initially focused on the most effective means of communicating with the community. We wanted to reach as many people as possible and with a long-lasting impact. We met with the marketing departments of the most respected brands in Kenya such as Coca-Cola, Faulu Bank, and Safaricom to gain their perspective. But we really needed to know what the community wanted. We undertook much qualitative local research: meeting with grocers, pastors, landlords, and children.

The combination of listening to the customer and understanding why companies before us succeeded produced our marketing strategy for the base of the pyramid. I think that we’ve come up with a lot of high potential ideas. In addition to traditional marketing such as bright, powerful advertisements, we aim to engage the community to demand improved sanitation through community forums, such as the Jirani and Chama meetings.

I’m glad to have contributed even the smallest amount towards building a better Kenya. I applaud the efforts of the government in Vision 2030, which is a strategy to improve our nation holistically, the immeasurable aid that NGOs generate for Kenya, and even the rapid-response initiatives such as Kenyans for Kenya (which is raising money to feed the hungry). Ultimately though, these big issues, such as sanitation, can only be eradicated by every Kenyan playing their part.

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