Rippleworks + Saha: How does pricing drive water consumption?

At Saha, a new water business is just the beginning of our work in a community.  It’s not enough to bring access to clean water – we want to make it an easy choice to purchase and drink clean water instead of free dirty water. That’s why we build 10 years of ongoing community visits and support into the budget for every new business and are always pursuing Research and Development projects to improve our model. We are excited to announce a partnership with Rippleworks for a new project to determine some major drivers behind clean water consumption.

Behavior change is hard!  While we’ve designed our water businesses to fit in with normal water gathering routines, it is hard for people to change their habits – if you’ve ever tried to form a new habit, or break a bad one, or bought any sort of self-help book, you can start to understand how challenging behavior change can be.

During the period of the Emergency Water Fund when water was free for all, we saw a drastic increase in clean water consumption – on average, more than six times as much water was consumed during this time compared to average water consumption in 2019.  We were thrilled to see that, and also curious: what caused this incredible effect?  Was it simply the water being free to the consumer? Was it that the stipends motivated the entrepreneurs to treat and sell more water?  Both? How can we learn from that success?  The free water program ended in March 2021, and we’ve successfully transitioned our businesses back to the original model: consumers pay for the water (usually at a price around $0.05/L), and the water entrepreneurs use the revenue to buy the treatment chemicals and pay themselves.

We knew there was something big to learn about barriers to water consumption from this experience, which is where Rippleworks came in.  Rippleworks is an organization that partners high-impact social ventures with leading Silicon Valley executives to tackle top operational challenges.  Saha was paired with Stephanie Cruz, a product and marketing expert with experience from IPSY, Stella & Dot, Ancestry, Yahoo, and PayPal.  Stephanie worked closely with Saha’s Research and Development team to design an experiment that will help us explore the main drivers behind the dramatic increase in clean water consumption.  Together we created a five cohort test that will aim to identify how entrepreneur salaries and price affect clean water consumption.

This month, Team R&D, with help from the Customer Care teams are rolling out an experiment in 30 communities which will run for four to eight weeks.  The goal is that this first test will identify which form of subsidy, entrepreneur salaries or the price of water, have a bigger impact on clean water consumption. Once the drivers have been identified, the R&D will immediately run another round of testing to better understand how different levels of subsidy affect clean water consumption. We aim to have both rounds of testing complete before the 2022 rainy season begins in June.

It’s exciting to partner with Rippleworks on this project: they have helped us focus a lot of new ideas into an actionable plan.  We’re grateful for their partnership and support. So watch this space! We’ll report out what we learn from this experiment, and are always prepared to make changes in pursuit of getting the cleanest water to the people who need it most.

Meet the Saha Team: Gbandan Francis (Blessing)

Blessing attends the 2021 Mole Conference

Meet Blessing: Saha’s dedicated government liaison.  He works with Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, regional governments, and government entities such as the Community Water and Sanitation Agency on behalf of Saha.  He ensures that we are properly registered in each district in which we work, introduces Saha’s work to new districts, and builds partnerships and maintains relationships with government partners.  Most of this work happens behind the scenes, but it is absolutely essential to Saha’s work and sustainability.

Blessing grew up in Tamale and attended high school in Salaga.  After senior high school, while preparing for his exams, Blessing worked as a “man with many hats” at WASHPOT – managing a supermarket, a pharmacy, and a drinking spot.  That’s where he met (now Deputy Director) Kathryn and her partner Redgie, and later (then Country Manager) Brianan, and became football-watching friends.  At first, when Saha needed part-time translators for the Global Leadership Program (GLP), Blessing wasn’t free – he had to prepare for exams, and couldn’t quit his job just for a 3-week program. He got the call again in 2014, and since he was planning to start university that year, he decided to take the leap.  During training, Blessing vividly remembers visiting the rural villages for the first time – he hadn’t been to places like that before, and his eyes were opened to how much development was needed in some places.  His first GLP village implementation was in Original Kabache in Salaga.  He describes that first team as great, and still counts them as friends.

Throughout his years studying at University for Development Studies (UDS), Blessing would occasionally translate for the GLP programs – filling in as needed for other people, and in 2017 completed a full implementation in Darivoguyili.  Also in 2017, Blessing interned for Saha’s new Research and Development team, staying overnight for two to three days in different communities to observe individuals’ water consumption.  When he graduated university in 2018, Saha made sure to snag him for the compulsory National Service Year.  That is when Blessing started doing the government liaising work full-time and he’s since become one of our best travelled teammates – visiting all our district and regional partners multiple times a year and bringing different government officials to visit Saha projects.

Translating during a GLP Program
Using 3M tests to explain the hazards of drinking dugout water

Blessing’s favorite thing about working at Saha is first and foremost the project itself – he identifies strongly with Saha’s mission to get clean water to rural communities.  Second, he appreciates how supportive Saha has been to him over the years – this is a culture he attributes to coming straight from Kate at the top. Currently, Blessing is balancing his Saha work with pursuing his master’s in Development Education from UDS and staying on top of every match from Manchester City.

Saha would not be able to do the work it does without our people!  We appreciate Blessing for all his many roles over the years with Saha and we are so proud he is a part of our ambitious clean water mission.

Blessing and his first GLP team celebrate the water business at Original Kabache