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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
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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


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Photo of Deepshikha

What a fantastic idea! Kudos!

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