OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Better building bricks = better livelihoods + better planet

We aim to bring prosperity to Indonesian construction brick making cooperatives while helping them save the planet.

Photo of Aline SEJOURNE
16 10

Written by

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

Our recent meeting with brickmakers confirmed that their critical problem is financial (capital need and cost of production) and would very much need support in this area.
Currently brickmakers buy wood illegally, therefore at a very cheap price compared to other fuels. We have conducted research and test an alternative fuel option with a few brickmakers, which have been successful environment wise but not price wise. We keep conducting desk study, availability survey on the field, and testing

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)

During our meeting with them, brickmakers said that wood currently represents 30% of their production cost, and if they don’t have money to buy wood upfront, they can't complete the production process, sell the bricks and get income. Most often brickmakers need to borrow money to buy the wood, and often from informal and expensive money lenders.
KBJ (103 members SMEs) presence has potential to help creating success and to empower their members, through:
Financial access, to help them to provide funds for production in lower interest compare to informal money lenders, and to help manage the use of production costs and helps saving some profits.
Knowledge/technology access, to help brickmakers to be able to make their production process more efficient, reduce cost, capital needed, and increase profit.
Both access need to be given together to increase the awareness and demand of the members to environmental aspect: improve his kiln, use more environmental friendly firing material.

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)

Access to formal financing for brickmaking SMEs, with much lower interest than informal money lenders is still limited. Informal lenders’ interest rate is so high that they often end up not making any profit.
Following stricter environmental regulation by the government, it has become more difficult for brickmakers to find wood and pushed some of them to stop producing altogether.
We saw this as an opportunity to assist them to transition to a more 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)

Beneficiaries are very interested in the expansion of KBJ’s current savings and loan program and report more working capital and access to finance would help offset many challenges related to the purchase of firing material. At the same time, KBJ management feels existing loan criteria and monitoring systems need to 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.
Brickmakers remain skeptical of making changes to their own kiln, even when new more cost-efficient ways of producing bricks have been demonstrated. Brick makers agree that technical assistance during the process will help them feel more comfortable about investing in this process. Brick-makers are equally skeptical about future use of alternative firing materials. 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. Build Change, Universitas Andalas and the Bata Jaya Cooperative will collaborate to prototype and test alternative fuels options and their effects. We will also prepare the launch of the loan package
Year 2: Launch and adoption to KBJ community. Build Change and the Bata Jaya Cooperative will train members within the cooperative, implement the loan package and inform brick makers about alternative fuel options and improved kiln design.
Year 3: Launch and adoption to brickmaking communities throughout West Sumatra Province. Build Change will work with the cooperative to bring new members and create/strengthen 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 team members involved in this program have been working for Build Change for an average 3-4 years, and have an extensive knowledge and experience of the brick making sector.
We have been working closely with the Bata Jaya Cooperative since its launch in 2015, and have developed a trustful and fruitful partnership.
We have also been partnering with Universitas Andalas for the past year, and we have collaborated in conducting some preliminary tests on alternative fuel options.

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

- Research on alternative fuels 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
- Train brick makers within the cooperative 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?

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, 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 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


Join the conversation:

Photo of geoffrey mosigisi

Hi, Aline

Thanks for your interesting project, as I was reading your idea, I realized that you shall use coconut husks, coffee seedlings and rice husks for your best source of heating bricks. Let me know how coffee seedlings and rice husks will work? I know they burn faster than wood .Geoffrey

Photo of Aline SEJOURNE

Hi Geoffrey,
Thanks for your inputs and encouragements.
We have run preliminary testings with a few alternative materials, and in fact, they burn faster, which makes them as expensive or more, to use. That is why we want to conduct more testings and with more alternative fuels, to be able to find the right one(s), that brick makers will be willing to use. While they would still be more environmental-friendly, they would be more expensive, which is a critical fact for these brick makers. We need to find the right fit and scale it as much as possible.
We'll definitely share more when we have more testings done!

View all comments