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Better building bricks = better livelihoods + better planet

We have brought prosperity to Indonesian construction brick making cooperatives, now we are helping them save the planet.

Photo of Aline SEJOURNE
20 13

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

While co-creating the map, they confirmed that the increasing cost of timber was one main reason they are forced turn to informal money lenders. They need support in financing, to access capital and lower the cost of production. Currently brickmakers buy wood illegally, so it is cheap. We have tested a greener fuel option with a few brickmakers, but it was still not cost competitive with illegal wood. Together, we will keep researching and testing for cheaper and more sustainable fuel options.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Brick makers said that identifying a stable, sustainable and cost-competitive fuel source is a priority, because wood currently represents 30% of their production cost, and it is needed up front to produce bricks, sell them and earn ultimately earn income. Most often brick makers need to borrow money to buy the wood, usually from informal and expensive money lenders, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

Our idea leverages the Bata Jaya Cooperative (KBJ, or Koperasi Bata Jaya, or KBJ, meaning "Great Bricks Cooperative" in Bahasa), which empowers its members through:
- Financial access to fund upfront production costs at a lower interest compared to informal money lenders, and to help manage production costs and earn profit.
- Knowledge/technology access, to help members make their production process more efficient and environmentally sustainable, reducing costs and capital needed to increase profit.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

In terms of financing, the predatory behavior of informal money lenders takes advantage of SMEs everywhere. But, the cooperative model has shown that brickmaking SMEs can gain back their independence.
In terms of the planet, the government has enacted stricter regulations on wood, making it more difficult for brick makers to find wood and pushed some to stop producing altogether. We see these controls as an opportunity to transition to more stable, environmentally-friendly production material.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

By giving the brickmakers access to a low-interest loan product, assistance on how to manage it, and access to information/skills to implement a more environmental-friendly process, KBJ would be able to become a catalyst for the success and sustainability of its members’ businesses and a model for other brickmaking SMEs, cooperatives, and other channels in other areas in Lubuk Alung sub-district (more than 1,200 brick makers), in West Sumatra Province and other brickmaking areas in Indonesia.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

The positive changes that we expect to see with this idea are: more financially independent traditional brick-making businesses, greener environment in and around the brickmakers’ business areas in the province due to more environmental-friendly production process, and also, more sustainable businesses using alternative fuel.
Within 2 years, we expect to start seeing changes in KBJ community. 2 years later, we plan to spread to the whole brickmaking areas in West Sumatra Province, and beyond.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Brickmakers are very interested in the expansion of the cooperative (KBJ)’s current savings and loan program, as access to more working capital would help offset many challenges related to their brick production. KBJ management have responded that existing loan criteria and monitoring systems should be restructured so the loan is more directly tied to increasing both the cost efficiency and brick quality of each kiln, since high quality is the main selling point of the KBJ brand.
While soliciting feedback, brickmakers have been skeptical of making changes to their own kiln, even when new more cost-efficient ways of producing bricks have been demonstrated. They agree that technical assistance during the process will help them feel more comfortable about investing in this process. Some are also skeptical about using alternative firing materials. The benefit of alternatives will need to be clearly demonstrable and may need to be more than “just a little bit better” for them to be adopted

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Year 1: Research and piloting of alternative fuel technologies. Build Change, Universitas Andalas and the Bata Jaya Cooperative (KBJ) will build upon the better brickmaking practices already developed to further reduce reliance on timber and continue lowering production costs.

Year 2: Launch and adoption by KBJ cooperative. Build Change and KBJ will train members within the cooperative on the use of alternative fuel technologies, adapting current loan packages to any pre-investment required. We will begin the groundwork to scale through West Sumatra province.

Year 3: Launch and adoption by brickmaking communities throughout West Sumatra Province. Build Change will work with the cooperative to demonstrate the viability of alternative fuel technologies, bringing in new members and create/strengthening other cooperatives in the province, ultimately scaling a greener and more profitable production process.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

• Build Change, Project Lead: Coordinate partners, lead research and support partners with training and technical assistance.
• Bata Jaya Cooperative, Project Co-lead: Implement iterative activities and prototypes with brickmakers, provide brickmakers financing and support.
• Universitas Andalas, Research Team: Assist with research and testing.
• Village Council, Advisory Team: Support promotional campaigns to encourage production and sale of greener bricks, provide additional capital.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

Research on alternative fuels and firing materials in collaboration with Universitas Andalas; Co-create solutions with brickmakers and prototype them; Refine, monitor and expand existing loan mechanisms; Train the cooperative on loan packages; Promote/market the alternative fuels and firing techniques through the KBJ and Village Councils; Train brick makers within KBJ and provide necessary technical support during the first months of use; Scale the promotion and training to other provinces

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1/ How can we determine what is the best microloan system for the brickmakers so the coop can operate sustainably? We are exploring that the Cooperative will keep collateral for loans, for example on a motorbike, machinery, etc.
2/Can you please give further advice or share past examples of tools that have encouraged or incentivized businesses to invest in more environmentally friendly practices? This concept is still new in the community and we are looking to create awareness not just with our brickmakers but with the wider community.
3/ We want to make sure that the cost of using alternative firing materials will be the same or less than using fresh timber so that it can be a sustainable alternative. What suggestions would you have for us to better track the cost and impact of the alternative firing methods we develop?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Expert feedback received helped us think not only about supporting brick makers financially and with training, but also with marketing and promotion of safer, greener bricks. Already, bricks from the KBJ cooperative have been used for public and private buildings, including schools. One of the schools has even been selected as a model ‘Safe School’ in Padang City. We will leverage the relationships that all project partners have with schools, governments, the private sector and local homeowners to showcase the use of greener bricks, helping to stimulate demand and encourage brick makers to shift their production to more environmentally-sustainable methods. This feedback also encouraged us to bring in an additional partner, village councils, as an advisor. Village councils are trusted organizations within the community and can boost our marketing and promotional campaigns with their support.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Our proposed idea builds on an existing project, which has steadily grown over the past four years. Since the project’s inception, we have trained a total of 230 brick makers, and supported the launch of the Bata Jaya Cooperative (KBJ). 103 of the brick makers we have trained are now members of the cooperative.

Our project has made significant progress in the past year. Key achievements include:
- Technical assistance and support for 97 brickmaking SMEs.
- Trained SMEs report an increase in income during the past year.
- 21 new jobs have been created in participating SMEs during 2017.
- 7.2 million good quality bricks were produced by the trained SMEs, of which 1.3 million were sold through KBJ and its network of stores
- KBJ increased its network from four stores to 16.
- KBJ’s working capital has increased by 15%.
- Build Change assisted KBJ to issue their loans using their own internal funds. KBJ has issued USD 9,300 in loans to 11 of the best performing brick-making SMEs. Money has been used to smooth cash flow, fix roofs, and expand brickyards. Repayment rates are high. Only one person has had difficulty with loan repayments.
- Nine SMEs previously in debt have declared to be free from informal money lenders, and five of them have transitioned to low-interest KBJ loans, one has transitioned to a formal bank loan, and three others have reported that due to more cost-efficient production, increased sales and the stable purchasing price of the cooperative they now no longer need to take out loans.
- Build Change supported KBJ to develop their own administrative standard operating procedure and partnered with local organizations to provide legal advisory services, administrative affairs and marketing strategy sessions.
- Reached an estimated 44,000 people through distribution of marketing and promotional materials, including posters, calendars, commercial banners and published articles in local newspapers.
- Reached an estimated 30,000 people through a radio campaign that aired four KBJ advertisements a day for an 8-month period.
- KBJ brand awareness in areas where we have held our publicity campaigns has increased from 4% to 75%.
- The Parliamentary Head of West Sumatra has publically endorsed our Better Brick Making campaign and explicitly encouraged the government sector to re-examine the construction code enforcement in their programs, specifically in regard to brick quality.

While exciting gains have been made to contribute to the financial stability of brickmaking SMEs, we have only collected anecdotal evidence regarding the environmental impact of the project. As we see demand for greener bricks increased from consumers, some brick makers and the government, it is now time to intervene on the value chain using an evidence-based approach to support the production of bricks that are environmentally sustainable as well as financially sustainability for the SMEs that produce them.

More information about the idea's potential to scale:
It is important to highlight that it is estimated that in Lubuk Alung sub-district, area where the Cooperative is active, 1,200 brick makers are operating.
Overall in Indonesia, about 135,000 brick makers are working all around the country.
These numbers show the tremendous potential of scale of our idea and the resulted possible impact on prosperity and the planet.

Additional videos:
https://www.facebook.com/177039295768959/videos/1695249963930779/
https://www.facebook.com/177039295768959/videos/453310501744598/

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

We have not made any big changes or iterations to our proposal, but we have greatly benefitted from using some human-centered design techniques and receiving input from beneficiaries and experts. Our proposed idea builds on an existing project, which has steadily grown over the past four years. What started off as a training project has evolved into an idea to change the system in order to bring financial stability to Indonesian SME brick makers while supporting greener brick productions practices and raising community awareness about environmental sustainability. Our track record has helped us set up for success, and now we are looking to take the idea to scale. We greatly valued the support and collaboration from the OpenIDEO community so we can learn from others as our idea evolves.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We started working with brick makers in Indonesia in 2014 because buildings needed stronger bricks to better resist earthquakes. We found that the problem wasn’t a lack of knowledge of how to make strong bricks but a lack of capital. Brick makers were beholden to predatory money lenders and could never improve their products or processes. In 2015, we helped them form a cooperative, Bata Jaya Cooperative (KBJ), ("Great Bricks" in Bahasa),which is increasing their incomes and lessening their dependence on money lenders. Now, brick makers want to increase their profits, but they are also worried about the sustainability of their businesses.
Traditional kilns for firing bricks use fresh timber as fuel, causing deforestation and increasing the risk of mudslides and flooding. We help businesses make their kilns more efficient with small design changes. We have made progress in increasing the efficiency of the firing process by working with SMEs to extend the brick drying period and improving airflow within the kiln. Some brick-makers reported preliminary results of up to a 25% reduction in the use of timber.
We also identify and promote less expensive alternate fuels. In collaboration with the Universitas Andalas and several brick makers, we tested using coconut husks instead of timber, and preliminary results indicate that carbon emissions are reduced and profits are increased. We are also testing other locally available bio waste products, such as coffee seedlings and rice husks.
We now need additional support to conduct more testing with brick makers and provide business support to grow. We have a shared goal of identifying and scaling the inputs that make the most sense for the brick makers’ prosperity and for the planet. We want to demonstrate success within the Bata Jaya Cooperative, and then scale throughout West Sumatra, and eventually all of Indonesia, by supporting the creation of new cooperatives that put prosperity and planet at the center of their work.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The direct beneficiaries of our idea will be the SME brick makers and their employees (720 people) in Padang Pariaman District, West Sumatra, Indonesia. They all will benefit a healthier work environment (through healthier kiln firing), cheaper production cost, and increased profits.

Indirect beneficiaries of our idea include the suppliers of alternative materials, who will also increase their income and create jobs, and the communities in Padang Pariaman District where the brick makers operate. These communities will benefit from a greener environment through reduced CO and CO2 emissions, reduced deforestation, and reduced risks of landslides and flooding.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Build Change has supported the brick-making sector in West Sumatra and Aceh provinces for the past four years. In total, we have trained over 230 brickmaking SMEs, and are currently providing technical and business assistance to 180 SMEs and their employees in Padang Pariaman District, West Sumatra Province, to improve their production quality and livelihoods.

What is unique about our idea: we are the only organization working with low-income brick making SMEs, and we take a human-centered design approach to identify their pain points (ie: predatory money lenders) and co-create solutions (such as establishing a cooperative). The Bata Jaya Cooperative is unique as it is an engine of change for its members, providing resources and assistance for more prosperous businesses and environmentally-friendly production practices. Once the idea is tested and proved, the idea can quickly scale through the cooperative, and the cooperative model can in turn be replicated to other regions.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Build Change empowers people in emerging nations to build homes and schools that will protect their families and children from earthquakes and major storms, and supports SMEs in the construction value chain to increase their incomes and create jobs.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Bahtiar, a brick maker and father of four, is one of those who took a risk to work with us to test better methods for firing bricks. He recently told us he has set his business free from moneylenders by incorporating better techniques, an inspiration to all the SMEs we partner with who are trapped in a poverty cycle because of these moneylenders. Bahtiar’s success and the government’s stricter wood logging control have inspired us to support brick makers to adopt greener practices at scale.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Prosperity is influenced by the SMEs income and materials cost for production, including high dependence on informal money lenders for loans. Brick price changes every other month, and at their lowest, the price of a brick can be lower than its production cost, resulting in losses for SMEs. This seasonality makes it difficult for SMEs to lessen their dependence on money lenders, but cooperatives can assist in regulating the supply and sale prices.
Planet is influenced by the government’s recent environmental controls on wood logging. For many years, brickmaking in rural areas depended on wood for production but SMEs were not aware if the wood was certified or legal. Following a stricter control by the government in recent years, the brick makers experience difficulty in finding wood, which pushed some SMEs to stop producing altogether. We saw this as an opportunity to assist them to transition to a more environmentally-friendly production material.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our main partners are the Bata Jaya Cooperative (KBJ) and SME brick makers in West Sumatra, who we have been collaborating with since 2015. We will continue partnering to bridge the gaps between profitability and environmental sustainability. They will be our lead partners in testing alternative fuels, sharing their feedback and concerns to find financially and environmentally sustainable production solutions. We will also collaborate with them to expand membership to the Cooperative and support new members to use alternative fuels and practices. This will help us develop a model to scale across the region and eventually nationwide.
Build Change will also partner with the Universitas Andalas in Padang, West Sumatra to study different alternative fuels, their impact on the environment and their performance. We are already working with their Faculty of Environmental Engineering to study coconut husks as an alternative firing material, and we look forward to expanding this collaboration.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

West Sumatra has a large number of SME brick makers who are reliant on predatory money lenders and are looking to increase their profits. They have identified the Bata Jaya Cooperative as a strength to lessen their reliance on the money lenders’ loans. Another advantage is the availability of bio waste products, such as coconut husks, coffee seedlings and rice husks, to test for environmental sustainability and profitability.

Geographic Focus

Pilot in Padang Pariaman District, expanded to the West Sumatra province, and ultimately nationwide

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Build Change, Universitas Andalas and the Bata Jaya Cooperative will collaborate during the first year to prototyping and testing alternative fuels options and their effects.
 
In the second year, Build Change and the Bata Jaya Cooperative will train members within the cooperative. During the third year, we will work together to bring new members to the cooperative and create other cooperatives in the province, ultimately scaling a greener and more profitable production process.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

20 comments

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Photo of Brannon Veal
Team

Great Idea! There is a great organization that has done some work aggregating many resources with respect to brick making and construction for rural development. https://www.engineeringforchange.org/category/habitat/

I would definitely check out their solutions library. I also think that forming a cooperative is a very empowering approach that provides technical and commercial feasibility. I am an engineer by trade, you can reach out to me anytime for support. Best of luck to you and your team!

Photo of Aline SEJOURNE
Team

Thanks Brannon for sharing this source of information. It has been useful to go through Engineering for Change's library of resources and it was great to see that some of their resources align with ours (https://www.buildchange.org/resources/), not specifically to brick making but also other housing-related documentation.

I also do really like your idea with Built with Humanity, the name also says it all! I think it is a really great idea to solve the problems associated with gentrification in a collaborative way, with the community at the heart of the process. Gentrification is a huge phenomenon (I live in NYC!) spread everywhere, and your idea clearly creates the bridge. Well done, and good luck for the next steps of your initiative!

Photo of Brannon Veal
Team

You too. I think that novel approaches to construction are going to really help provide affordable housing to a lot of people as well as provide jobs for many workers that need it. I an acquaintance, the CEO of New Story, that is doing interesting work in this space. They are attempting to use 3D printing technology to bring low cost housing to the developing countries. https://www.iconbuild.com/new-story. It is a different concept, but one that could be interesting to explore. For example, pioneering ways to produce some form of aggregate that could be used in the 3D printing of homes. I wish you well in the challenge and beyond!

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