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Reap Benefit – DIY mobile app platform for personalized innovations in sanitation and water

We work with youth to solve water & sanitation issues locally through local data & solutions by engaging them at school, home & community

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Building on our experience of 4 years  in designing innovations, engaging the youth and achieving resource savings, we’re launching a mobile app platform to integrate all steps involved in solving problems of water and sanitation so that anyone – from a young child in urban India to a small collective in the rural heartland – can be a problem solver.

Our experience of four years in this space has convinced us that the problem is at three levels:

1. Lack of local data: The problem of water and sanitation is localized in every country and needs a customized solution based on usage and behavior patterns. This local and granular data is almost always absent, thus providing the government and social enterprises inadequate data to solve the problem

2. Lack of local solutions: Without local data, NGOs, social enterprises and the government will create create a one-size-fits-all approach, and this possesses no long-term vision. There is a need to develop solutions with local materials.

3. Lack of engagement with local stakeholders resulting in poor ownership: Citizens, especially ones from low-incomes households are unaware of local governmental bodies responsible for better water and sanitation. They are also oblivious to various subsidies and policies of the government, resulting in little or no ownership of public infrastructure.

Our approach is to engage the youth in their communities through schools, teachers and other organisations using an integrated approach with technology. We would engage them through a four-step process, of which they can choose one or more approaches -

Discover: Discover the local problem of water and sanitation and help petition the government or provide details about relevant local government bodies - those who are assigned to solve the problem. This will ensure transparency, governance and allow citizens to understand their rights.

Investigate: Provide knowledge tools where they can understand the problem and provide local data

Solve: Do-it-Yourself solutions which would be customized based on the local data

Communicate: All local data, solutions and government responses will be shared with the citizens at large

We’ve indigenously developed several innovations like our low-cost waterless men’s urinal. The urinal set up costs less that 1.2 USD to make and the materials required - used water can, a ping-pong ball and a drain pipe - are readily available. We have gone a step ahead and have installed low cost sensors, to monitor usage & behavior patterns & are have developed various reward & incentive measures around it. We've created a portable grey-water based hand-wash system and are prototyping a female urinal design.

Waterless Urinal for Boys
Portable Greywater Harvesting System
Waterless Urinal for Girls


Going forward, we want to take the process that we have perfected to the next scale, in the hope that the 345 million youth in this country will each become problem solvers in their immediate vicinity. The numbers are encouraging - 60% of internet users access internet using their mobile phones and this number is expected to touch 317 million by 2017 - 55% of these users are between 12 and 30 years of age.

The mobile app we have developed will serve as a companion for every type of problem solver. It will serve as an information aggregator of government and local civic bodies’ contacts - institutions designated to fix the problem. For the curious who would like to learn more, the app has features to audit the problem to glean data-points on the extent of the problem and quantify the resulting losses. For the more hands-on, the app hosts a large repository of solutions from around the world, including some of our own. The app also has a social component where like-minded problem solvers can get together and spot-fix the issue.

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How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Scaling phase

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

India has 6.3 lakh rural schools and over 50% lack access to safe water and sanitation. In the past 4 years, Reap Benefit has impacted 10,000 students individually, and achieved tangible savings of more than 15 million litres of water last year. We’d like to make this bigger and better, without losing our strength of local-scale personalized impact. Our primary tool in this process of scaling up will be our app, supported in the field by students, teachers, youth-based organizations, NGOs, social enterprises and even the government. Our target is to create 500,000 young problem solvers in the next 21 months who can understand and solve water and sanitation issues at schools and colleges, at home and in the community. Our app with enough on-ground and online mobilization through a network of partner organizations, we should comfortably achieve our target. Our app will not only mobilise but also crowd source local data & local solutions, which will bring tangible change.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

Reap Benefit engages school students, teachers, and organizations like Teach for India, Gandhi Fellowship, National Service Scheme (NSS) and National Cadet Corps (NCC). We would be collaborating with youth at various levels and touch a minimum base of 10,000 low income schools, which will have a multifold impact at home & community. We currently earn our revenue through Do-It-Yourself water-sanitation solutions, which are low cost & customisable. We also earn our revenue through students, who pay a small fee & also community leaders. Our mobile app platform has received partial funding from investors, and we look to generate revenue through DIY solutions, local data, CSR, advertisements, useful data collected on the app & successful implementation of innovations on ground through Reap Benefit or partnerships We've expanded our network over the last four years to a large cohort of well-wishers spread across the globe, including Ashoka India, Unreasonable Institute, Deshpande Foundation and India Water Portal. Our ideas has been ratified by Bangalore Municipal Corporation, Government of India’s Startup India Initiative and several state governments have expressed interest.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

We take great pride in the fact that our balance sheets have always been in the green, even as we grew from a small idea among friends to a 12-member team with cash flows of several million rupees. As we scale up, we would like seed capital from angel investors and agencies like Water.org to serve as a strong launchpad from which to grow rapidly, set up multiple processes and augment our reach. The process of scaling - primarily through our mobile app - will open up avenues for revenue generation. This includes (and is not limited to) product sales, larger networks to implement our facilitation process, partnerships with agencies from across the country and other app-based monetization like advertising, crowdfunding, hosting charges, etc. We’re looking for a one-time grant to develop more features for the mobile app platform. We have been able to attract some private impact investors but we’re sure that together with a grant, we will be in a position to generate revenues in a sustainable manner, just as we have done so in the past. We are scaling our on-ground facilitation 3-fold, and this process will integrate seamlessly with our app so that teachers and interested students will be its first (and guaranteed) users. We continually look to foundations and trusts for support, in cases where they share a common passion and find our interventions beneficial.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

We have informal partnerships/ we have worked with the following organisation in the past, we aim to leverage the following organisations: Arghyam & India Water Portal ( http://arghyam.org/ & http://www.indiawaterportal.org/): They can help us with grants, partnerships with local governments but also integrate the work with policy making to have large scale impact & invite newer ideas & solutions Deshpande Foundation: (http://deshpandefoundationindia.org/), we have worked with them in parts of Karnataka & are going to scale to different parts of India Ashoka India: (http://india.ashoka.org/ ) As, the founder of the organisation is an Ashoka fellow, can leverage partnerships at a product & execution level with Ashoka Fellows in India & across the world http://gandhifellowship.org/ http://www.teachforindia.org/ http://www.akshayapatra.org/

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

Over the past 4 years, Reap Benefit has - 1. Engaged more than 10,000 students directly, and over 1,00,000 students have used the innovations that we’ve installed 2. 30% of those indirect beneficiaries are from government schools and 50% of them are schools where most students come from low-income households 3. We’ve designed our own low-cost waterless urinal device that costs less than $1.2 to build. Our portable hand-wash system is mobile, supports 6 basins and can be constructed at around $30 and will soon sport a sensor to detect usage. 4. Our innovations have been perfected through 2-3 levels of prototyping. They have been deployed in the field and we’re collecting a lot relevant data, which is ready to scale across the nation 5. Alongside water and sanitation, we work on waste and energy. 6. We’ve worked in several small towns of India like Ujire, Moodbidri, Hosur, Chikmagalur and Kuppam.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

We’ve worked extensively with the government of Karnataka, and the governments and individuals in Delhi, Sikkim and Orissa have expressed keen interest in partnering with us. Our work so far has been in these 5 States – 1. Karnataka 2. Tamil Nadu 3. Andhra Pradesh 4. Delhi 5. Maharashtra

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Indians share a special bond with water - we worship our rivers across religions and our harvest cycle is precisely tuned to the monsoon. Despite this, we are myopic in our utilization of it. This is why water is important to us as an organization - we attempt to highlight this mismatch between interests and action, and realign it towards sustainability. Sanitation is closely linked to water, but there is a somewhat different reason why we care about it - fixing the sanitation problem empowers people. The transformation that a waterless urinal or a hand-wash system can bring to households that had no such access previously is nothing short of magical. Kuldeep Dantewadia and Gautam Prakash are the co-founders of Reap Benefit and the rest of the team boasts a variety of members - data scientists, designers, educationists, engineers and above all people with a huge desire to bring meaningful impact on ground.

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

We not only solving with local data & solutions but we engage youth for the long term. Taking our DIY solutions framework online is a natural extension of our work in creating youth problem solvers with the help of technology. For the last four years, we have engaged young people through an offline equivalent of our DISC ( We are currently in the process of transferring content online, creating the User Interface and Experience for the app and developing back-end infrastructure. We’ve created standardized audit processes for sanitation and water that are designed to be customizable based on the needs & can crowd source local data.Trigger mapping techniques are being used to codify our approach in developing and deploying solutions, our content is being streamlined by improving its breadth while maintaining local relevance, and our communication online through social media, blogs and engaging government agencies is moving in line with what we envision for our app.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

Two of our biggest risks are the switch from offline to online, and 2) if our model retaining processes when scaled up. Our offline engagement works very well, but an online component might disrupt the equilibrium and may force us to pivot rapidly. This risk, though unavoidable, can be mitigated by risk evaluation and having fall-back options - we will launched the app as an offline facilitator support, as well as independently. Students engaged in the offline process will be our first users and we will have a constant critical mass to provide rapid feedback so that we can immediately improve adoption rates. If we have to move from 2 cities today to 20 cities and an app tomorrow, we will need the capacity to handle that - even if monetary and human capital constraints are addressed. We as a team are therefore undergoing intra-organization training and capacity building to handle bigger challenges. The inability to crowsource, customisable solutions through partners

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

In our offline process: 1. we record the number of users, problems solved at home,school, community successful projects taken. 2. Stakeholders inputs 3. Sensors based reporting is something we have started using to monitor real time usage in water & sanitation 4. We also record secondary data on who uses our intervention With our app, usage will be monitored through data reported ( visual, numerical) through Reap Benefit & partners, solutions ( sensor based & non-sensor based) deployed.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

With $125,000 USD annually, we are confident of increasing our reach 40 times - from 2,500 per year to 100,000 young people. Using just 8% of our current fiscal revenue of $38,000 USD for expansion, we have successfully quadrupled our reach to 9500 students for next year. With 42 times that amount in external funding, we should garner at least 100,000 students of 10 times with implementation at school, home & community From 200 million internet users in 2013 to over 500 million internet users by 2017 — including 314 million mobile internet users ,the growth story of mobile internet in India is on the upsurge.As per the report, rural India is steadily moving towards a more internet friendly and exploratory mind-set. As of 2014, the Active Internet User (AIU) base in rural India w accounted for 61 million users. 4.4% of the total rural population used.A number of communication models can be deployed using mobiles for sanitation awareness: alerts, IVR, polling, workflow for frontline.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from Water.org?

$125,000: To develop the platform with newer features in the next 12-15 months, create dashboards for government to monitor usage and provide governmental support etc; $125,000 to scale with partnerships in 5 states & to enhance on the ground work and develop newer IOT based technologies to compliment the paltform

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

1. Engineering Support 2. Government Engagement

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

No, we can partner with organisations who have FCRA

6 comments

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Spam
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Team

Hi Reap Benefit, we've added new Refinement questions to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Spam
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Team

Hi Team, we have a few days left before the conclusion of the Refinement phase. It'd be fantastic if you might answer the new questions we added to your idea submission form. To update your post, please follow the tips in the previous comment from OpenIDEO. Looking forward to learning more!

Spam
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Team

Hey Shane, just wanted to check, if the responses are reflecting in the form?

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