Recently, a team from the legendary design firm, IDEO.org, spent two weeks evaluating a question that is central to our sustainability: how do we drive usage of Fresh Life Toilets from good to great? At present, we’re doing well – the average Fresh Life Operator generates over 50 users / day and we’re serving 8000 people in Mukuru. However, we strive to do better and we asked for some fresh eyes, ears and brains to help us out.

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Using their Human-Centered Design methodology, which focuses on qualitatively interviewing users,  non-users, and Fresh Life Operators, the IDEO team had three central insights:

• Relationships Matter. Users of our toilets value the connection that they established with their local Fresh Life Operator. Being welcomed and presented with fresh toilet paper upon arrival at a Fresh Life Toilet generates goodwill. Moreover, if the user happens to be short on change to use the toilet, an IOU from their trusted FLO garners further loyalty.

• Cleanliness Matters. Non-users knew of Fresh Life. “Cleanliness” was their tip-of-their-tongue association with Fresh Life. We are extremely proud of this as all of our training, business support and marketing is geared towards eliciting a feeling of freshness. And yet, these people were still not using Fresh Life Toilets…

• Perceived Distance Matters. People are creatures of habit. The arrival of Fresh Life Toilets mean that people have to change their old habits – no matter how unhygienic – in order to form new ones. When IDEO asked why people were not using FLTs, the most common answer was that they were “too far” away. In most cases, the nearest FLT was closer than the one that they were currently using.

IDEO’s findings have given us ideas and energy on how to attract more users in the coming months. Our Marketing and Franchise Development teams are busy plotting new pilots that strive to make Fresh Life the unequivocal preferred brand of sanitation in Mukuru. Stay tuned for those updates…

In the meantime, you can read blog posts by the IDEO team here.

Thanks to the IDEO team, the Wasserman Foundation and our friends and soon-to-be friends in the Mukuru community for their support!

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