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MamaCarts: Economic Empowerment through Street Food

A mobile street food delivery service that improves the hygiene and quality of street food for consumers in Benin, while also providing a consistent livelihood and certification program for vendors. [Summary by the Amplify Team]

Photo of Rachael Miller
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Provide a short description of your idea

My idea is a mobile, street food delivery service. It tackles the problem of inconsistent nutritional and hygienic conditions currently rampant in the street food market in West Africa. It addresses the problem by directly selling superior meal choices in food-specific mobile carts, as well as works with local government and specialists to implement a certification program throughout our target regions. ***** At MamaCarts, we believe that access to healthy food is a global right, not a privilege. Our mission is to improve the quality of global street food for consumers, and market conditions for sellers. By leveraging local resources and partners, we sell affordable, nutritious, and clean meals to underserved communities via food carts. Every food vendor deserves access to food safety education and resources. Every consumer deserves affordable, healthy, and safe meal options.

Get a user's perspective on your idea.

Please check out our attached User Perspective in the Additional Files section.
Solution - Power to the Street Eater 
MamaCarts created a 2-prong approach for market entry to empower both street food vendors and consumers to make better choices.  Our model is designed to strengthen supply chains from ingredient producers to end consumers. 
  
We begin with sourcing ingredients from local suppliers and locally fabricate (versus import) food carts.  Meals are prepared by trained cooks at the MamaCarts’ Center and sold at predetermined street-side locations via food carts.  All cart food at the end of the day is composted into fertilizer and sold as a niche gardening supplement in partnership with Parakou boutiques. 
  
However, MamaCarts’ goal is not to eliminate the incredibly rich street food culture that already exists, rather improve and foster overall quality of products offered.  In partnership with government entities such as the Mayor’s office, Ministry of Education, and Department of Health and Sanitation, MamaCarts is creating a certification program for street food vendors who already sell their own products.  By providing training on sanitation, nutrition, and business management as well as a strong market presence through MamaCarts’ branding strategy, the free market system of competition will encourage each street food vendor to be her best; both for her and her consumers’ well-being. 
  
Our 2-Prong Approach to Better Street Food for Everyone!
Product: Direct Sales - Cooks at the MamaCarts Center prepare meal components and vendors then distribute at roadside locations. Cooks are paid a daily wage and complete nutrition and hygiene training during their MamaCarts “apprenticeship”, at the end of which they receive a certificate. 
  
To introduce new meals to market, 1 cart will operate at the “Plate of the Week” cart.  Non-traditional foods have already proven successful in Parakou, such as Lebanese options like schwarma and American fare such as hamburgers.  In a recent survey, both vendors and consumers have expressed a desire to increase meal variety and weekly promotions will increase exposure and meal adoption. 
  
Some key differentiations from the status quo:
1. Using predetermined meal component measurements to get the same plate     composition every time.
2. Actually consulting a nutritionist to compose these meals.
3. Pre-price each plate and post a menu for consumers to use.
 
Promotion: MamaCarts’ strength and differentiation in the street food market lies in branding; other local examples of brand success include FanMilk, MTN Mobile, and Coca-Cola. None of these names are in local or official language (French), yet they have all gained significant market share based on a strong brand presence with fixed color schemes, logos, and catch phrases.  Billboards, radio ads, local television commercials, other brand partnerships, and targeting specific populations such as university students create an image of an aspirational product at an affordable price. 
 
Distribution: Prepared, complete meals delivery through MamaCarts owned and operated food carts.  Vendors are paid a base salary with commission potential, based on number of daily meals sold. 
  
Certification Courses   
Product: Certificate of Completion for non-MamaCarts food vendors
Program components: sanitation, nutrition, business management

Price: (pending further pricing sensitivity research) 
Focus group feedback suggests women will pay between 1,000 and 10,000 cfa for the initial certification.  Depending on enrollment and actual course fee, direct sales revenue may be used to cross-subsidize this community-focused initiative.  While vendors pay a one-time certification fee, they will also be required to pay an annual membership to remain a “Model Mama” in the MamaCarts’ Network. 
  
Distribution: Word of mouth is the best manner of advertising in the street food community.  If this program proves valuable and increases sales, other vendors will choose to become certified as well.  Additional certification and MamaCarts’ Network benefits include: Continuing education opportunities and access to a MamaCarts’ Boutique where we sell ingredients in smaller quantities at bulk prices (by breaking bulk). 
  
MamaCarts’ is in collaborative talks with local officials to organize a Street Food Vendors Appreciation Festival, to take place on World Food Day (October 16).  These certified vendors will be presented to the community as nutritional ambassadors. MamaCarts will co-sponsor this even to increase brand and mission awareness. 
  
Control: The MamaCarts Monitoring and Evaluation Officer will be responsible for creating a weekly, randomized control tour to visit each certified vendor. A standardized checklist will be completed at each visit to ensure all points of nutrition and sanitation are met.
 

Explain your idea in one sentence.

MamaCarts improves street food quality through direct sales and certification trainings.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

Global urbanization is on the rise. The increasing number of people living in these expanding communities often rely on the informal street food economy as both a source of income and meals. 4 root factors compound to prevent these underserved, urban communities from accessing clean, nutritious foods on a regular basis and vendors from providing them. (1) High food prices (2) Gaps in nutritional education (3) Poor sanitation (4) Broken supply chain Women represent the overwhelming majority of street food vendors in West Africa. Often, these vendors lack the daily capital to purchase resources for the next day of sales. In a 2012 report by the FAO on West African Street Food Vendors, trainings and organization were recommended themes to increase overall conditions. After completing our baseline survey of 200 vendors, and 4 focus groups totaling 45 vendors, it became clear that existing traders are ready for a change and welcome formalization of the under-appreciated market space.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

MamaCarts' goal is to improve market conditions for street food vendors and street food quality for consumers. Monitoring: Participatory monitoring will be conducted throughout the project by the M&E Officer and a team of MamaCarts volunteers including: • Baseline Survey: This survey will be conducted at the commencement of the project to collect benchmark data on nutrition awareness and food consumption behaviors. The baseline survey will use individual and household interviews. • Quarterly Monitoring: Monitoring will be conducted by our M&E Officer on a quarterly basis, as a way of crosschecking the progress of the project with the project work plan. This will also allow us to gain insights on how to improve the project implementation, as well as improve execution of staff responsibilities. • Focus Groups: MamaCarts will use focus groups to directly involve the target community in the rapid prototyping process. This will assist in identifying specific needs that impact the community, redefining the project, and develop a co-creation program. • Reflection Meetings: The project team will organize monthly reflection meetings where staff will share and discuss the project progress, identify problems encountered and solutions, prepare an action and budget plan for the upcoming month, as well as provide capacity building to project staff for improving their performance. • End-of-Project Survey: Using the questions from the Baseline Survey, an end-of-project survey will be conducted to collect data on nutrition awareness and food consumption behaviors. Evaluation: Inception Report: The M&E Officer will brief the Project Lead on findings from the Baseline Survey. A determination will be made if adjustments are needed to the key indicators and goals. Impact Assessment: One final evaluation will be conducted at the conclusion of the project with participation from MamaCarts, relevant government institutions, and other local community people. The evaluation will assess the project’s overall impact using key indicators. The M&E Officer will identify lessons-learned/best practices for future implementation and dissemination opportunities. In addition, the project team will produce booklets describing the project experiences for widespread dissemination. End-of-project Evaluation: An end-of-project evaluation using the OECD/DAC evaluation criteria will summarize key findings and assess the performance of the project at its conclusion against all of the intended outcomes. This evaluation will look at the appropriateness/relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, connectedness, coverage, coherence and coordination of the project. Data collected during the Food Consumption Survey and Quarterly Monitoring phases will be used in performing the evaluation. A third party evaluator will be engaged at this stage to ensure independence and objectivity.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

We are the only organization in Benin focused on improving these conditions through partnerships and direct sales. MamaCarts received a 1-year grant from the 2013 Rockefeller Foundation Centennial Innovation Challenge. Our goal is to leverage local resources and connect these pre-existing pieces of the puzzle to bolster supply chains and create a better street food ecosystem. We are the best team in town to empower women as entrepreneurs and increase their purchasing power. Needs moving forward: Sanitation specialist: Other countries already have franchised food chains that have institutional norms for sanitation. While not necessarily healthy, these chains' systems are renowned for efficiency and scalability. We are seeking someone trained in kitchen systems to perform a kitchen and cart audit and co-author our training manual. Certification Model: As we dive into local government politics, we are seeking consult from other organizations that have implemented change through policy. While mandating baseline processes for food preparation has worked to overhaul systems in developing countries, this needs to be an inclusive initiative that does not leave too many current vendors behind. Strategic Advising: MamaCarts is not just about Benin. Safe and tasty street food is bigger than 1 country or even 1 region. As we move forward and consider the challenges and opportunities unique to street food, we want some more brains in the mix! Bring us your, criticisms, high fives, ideas, and feedback; if we're not pivoting and evolving our idea, we're doing something wrong.

Where should this idea be implemented?

We are currently piloting in Benin, West Africa. The FAO has shown that some households in urban West Africa may spend up to 40% of their income on ready to eat meals. Our goal is to create a West African MamaCarts network and continue to pursue global partners to expand this idea into other regions. With the progress the Benin team has already made since January 2014, MamaCarts is creating a plan to enter the U.S. market. We plan to leverage seasonal market surpluses of produce, prepare healthy (and tasty!) meals to sell in areas lacking access to good, prepared foods. While there has been a spike in urban produce production, single parents with multiple jobs still have trouble finding time to prepare dinner every night, especially between jobs. "Fast Food as usual" is a treat, not a way of life. With these two locations, we can leverage cross-subsidization concepts for both ideas and resources.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

Prototyping a MamaCart: While mobile food vendors are not a new concept to Benin; investing resources in a vehicle to specifically sell food IS novel. Not only do our carts need to be easy to use for the vendor, they must look appealing and approachable to consumers. We started brainstorming with a local welder, who is familiar with introducing new products to market. He got on board with our mission and a few weeks later, we had a cart to roll around our potential markets to see people’s reactions and gather feedback. Our second iteration is under way as we missed a few things the first time around: 1. We underestimated the size of compartments needed to sell enough meals each day to make each cart financially sustainable. This means increasing all the dimensions. 2. While cart weight was our greatest concern, after towing this thing around with a motorcycle taxi we now realize durability is a larger concern. Can’t sell any food if the wheels keep flying off! 3. Efficiency! The pre-measured plate concept is new for street vendors. Ordering a “Plate #1” will become common practice but in the startup phase, we need to post a clear menu with pictures so people can prepare their order. 4. To-go containers are black plastic bags or Styrofoam here. We are seeking a compostable solution, however this may not be possible here for several months unless we can figure out a low-cost source. 5. Point of Sale money exchange. Benin is a cash-heavy economy. Everything is done in hard currency, and it is often very difficult to make change for larger bills. We have partnered with a local telecom provider to leverage the existing mobile-to-mobile payment system. This will require consumer adoption of this program too, so we will need to incentivize payment in this manner through loyalty programs. The Benin team is employing rapid prototyping strategies to discover best food cart design parameters, community meal preferences, price points, and vendor needs. This requires us to engage with several local partners such as our food cart welder, current street food vendors and consumers, and local authorities who are responsible for public health and safety. Of course, opinions vary widely and will will be changing many of our assumptions on the fly.

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

Parakou University (Benin) student Catherine is feeling sleepy. She needs a quick pick-me-up and the porridge saleswoman outside her classroom just isn't going to cut it. She needs something that is affordable, tastes good, and gives her an energy boost to get through the day. Dorcas, the MamaCarts saleswoman has seen this need and parked her well branded, food-safe sales cart filled with nutritious and clean meals outside the lecture hall. Consumers like Catherine are now empowered with better, affordable ready-to-eat meal options. Food vendors like Dorcas are able to increase their daily income by leveraging the MamaCarts brand and increasing their client base because of a well-respected product. Through primary research we have found that her increased income will be spent on in household improvements, children's school fees, and providing better meal options at home.

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea have the potential to impact the lives of low-income women and girls living in urban areas?

Yes, the idea clearly targets low-income women and girls living in urban areas. - 66.7%

The idea targets women and girls but isn’t necessarily focused on those living in low-income urban areas. - 0%

The idea targets people living in low-income urban areas but doesn’t seem to benefit women and girls specifically. - 33.3%

2. Does this idea describe a set of next steps and a timeline to accomplish them?

The idea clearly outlines next steps, the resources and team needed to execute them and a timeline to accomplish this. - 100%

The idea gives a broad explanation of what it hopes to accomplish but there is no clear timeline or activities to reach its desired goal. - 0%

The idea has not clearly articulated what the next steps are. - 0%

3. How feasible would it be to implement a pilot of this idea in the next 12-18 months?

Very feasible – the next steps described in the contribution seem achievable in this time period. - 100%

A pilot appears feasible but more work needs to be done to figure out how it would be executed. - 0%

The idea is not ready to be piloted yet – the concept needs several more months of user feedback and prototyping to be ready for a pilot. - 0%

4. Does this idea bring a new and fresh approach to the city or region in which it’s set?

Yes, this idea appears to be new and innovative! I’m not aware of other ideas in this city or region that address this need using a similar approach. - 50%

There are other initiatives doing similar work in this area – but this idea targets a new group or has an updated approach. - 50%

I can think of many initiatives addressing the same need using a similar approach in the same region. - 0%

5. How scalable is this idea across regions and cultures?

This is an idea that could help women and girls in many different cities. I can see it being implemented across multiple regions and cultures. - 100%

Maybe but I’d imagine it would need very significant changes. - 0%

The idea is really only suited for one specific region / population. - 0%

6. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

I love this idea! - 100%

I liked it but preferred others. - 0%

It didn't get me so excited. - 0%

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Attachments (2)

User_Perspective_MamaCarts.pdf

Ibrahim is hungry at the office, but he doesn't trust any of the quick lunch options in town...if only there was an affordable and quick solution....

62 comments

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Photo of Anne Marie van Swinderen
Team

Hi Rachael, I like your idea and I think it is quite feasible. Would there be a possibility to partner? E.g. that you offer training to e-kulki's group-members on how to improve snack-sales businesses (typically, savings groups have some 10 to 20% of the members living of mini-restaurants and food stalls).

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Anne Marie, thanks for touching base! I love the Safe-ings model! We are trying the leverage mobile-to-mobile payment systems as well to address the 3 safety issues you highlighted. I've never worked in your region of the world and am very curious about brand perception. We've found in West Africa that well-presented brands are highly respected and a point of leverage for those operating under a label. I'm wondering if e-kulki is working on that side of your business?

Sounds like there is certainly some space to collaborate. How would you like to proceed? Skype? Email? (rachael@mamacarts.com) Thanks and good luck!

Photo of Kairen P
Team

Its a good idea, I believe it will have positive impacts on local unemployment while also enhance people's capabilities

Photo of Kairen P
Team

Its a good idea, I believe it will have positive impacts on local unemployment while also enhance people's capabilities ? Do you work in the field ?

Photo of An Old Friend
Team

Hi Racheal, great job. I like your project. I got connected to your idea by Bettina. I am currently working with a team on Innovation Centre and Pop Up Bus (https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/ideas/fresh-ideas-for-success). Our entry point is human nutrition. I would like to incorporate your idea of MamaCarts into our centre. I see it as being very viable for creating youth employment while addressing challenge of hygiene with street foods in Uganda. Let me know if we can collaborate to bring the model to our centre?

Thanks,Alex

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

So glad you made this connection, Alex. Looking forward to hearing about potential collaboration with Rachel's MamaCarts!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Me too! Go all!
bettina
and Alex - Rachael let me know that the best way to connect is on their Facebook page. See her comment to me below. (I just remembered. ) You can reach out in that way as well!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Bettina, really great connection! :-) Looking forward to seeing the mama carts implemented by Alex.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Thanks for the feedback everyone. We've added a few pictures of our cart progress and taste testings, in the Make it Visual section. Hope you enjoy and questions are welcome!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Rachel,
Congratulations on making it to the 15 Shortlisted ideas. You have done an incredible job and we look forward to seeing this idea impact the lives of women and girls.

Great work!

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Thanks so much Luisa! We're so excited to be part of this next step. Please let us know what we can do to further explain our idea. Is there a space to update our successes and challenges? As an example, we made our first sales yesterday (!) and would like to share that with the evaluation team.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Rachael, that is great news. We will be opening an impact phase right after we announce the Funded Ideas https://openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/funded-impact/. In this phase you will be able to upload stories of impact. Start writing them and have them ready to upload by the second week of July.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Can't wait to hear about your updates over on the Impact phase which will be opening next week, Rachel. Sounds like you've been making some awesome progress! There will be more info on how to share your updates and plans for further feedback from the Amplify Team coming round then as well.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Excellent, thanks so much Meena!

Photo of Kasia Dybek
Team

Dear Rachel! I just got to read about your project now. After a short break from Open IDEO, your work is so inspiring to see! You have such a solid, detailed plan with all the components carefully considered. I love how all elements are falling together, women, food, sustainability, local...amazing! Big congratulations! Is there some blog / website where we can follow the progress apart from here?

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Kasia, thanks so much! We will be overhauling our website and blog soon. (mamacarts.com) Until then, facebook is probably the best venue other than here. (www.facebook.com/mamacarts)

Photo of Patrick Anucha
Team

Thanks and congratulations Rachel, I am much fascinated for you making it to the top 15 shortlisted ideas. One team members success is the success of all. I am looking forward how the project will create good impact in West African region especially in Nigeria and Benin Republic. Our organisation SEEED will be willing to integrate this project in our progrmme

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Patrick, and thanks so much. Agreed, we are all part of the greater good initiative for West Africa and future collaboration is essential. What is the best manner to keep in contact and follow SEEED?

Photo of Patrick Anucha
Team

You can always reach to us for collaboration through our email.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Congratulations on being short listed Rachael! Exciting news!
I look forward to seeing the MamaCarts project develop . Will you update here, another website?
Great work!!!

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Bettina, Thanks so much for following and keep track of us thus far. We will update on here as much as possible but also on twitter (@mama_carts) and facebook is probably the best (facebook.com/mamacarts)

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Great!

Photo of Afzal Habib
Team

Rachael,

Congrats on being at shortlisted idea! I currently lead Kidogo (another shortlisted idea) providing ECD services in East Africa. I have a friend who is an Acumen East Africa Fellow working on starting a nearly identical food-service / food cart business in Nairobi's informal settlements... Wondering if it would be interesting for you two to connect & share ideas / market research or if there is a way to arrange for cross-African collaboration in the future. Let me know if this is interesting and I can send an intro email.

Best regards,
-Afzal

Photo of wekesa zab
Team

Afzal, if u guys are in East Africa.. U can buzz me.. We @jibondefresh are in this space, tho we,re bootstrapping we are in deep empathy with this Informal food Market.. Al be happy to bridge your hassle on this.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Afzal,
Congratulations to you as well! Love the business-in-a-box idea and the concept of mama-preneurs. We've been calling them Mama Modeles (model mamas).

Yes, a connection with your friend in East Africa would be much appreciated. (rachael@mamacarts.com)
Street food is indeed everywhere, we just want to make it better. Hopefully we can exchange about our ideas and challenges as they relate to our locations.

Photo of Rapudo Hawi
Team

Congratulations Rachel; I see the reality of public space and security in women working deprived areas and informal settlement gaining more insights from the project. I have been a believer in the project since the inception.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Rapudo, yes we've really appreciated your support from the beginning. Thanks so much for coming along with us on this journey!

Photo of wekesa zab
Team

Awesome approach guys.. We are experiencing these challenges, I believe this solution could work for East Africa with afew iterations.. Kindly check of - www.JibondeFresh.com .. All the best

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hey Jibondi Fresh, thanks for posting! We've been following you for a bit. I love your blog on the informal economy challenges (Living Illegally but Being Tolerated") We are working with local officials to try and get support but understand that's a delicate process. We would be really curious to hear your approach to launching your own initiative and trying to please authorities.

Photo of wekesa zab
Team

It still under- land use policy, BT we've been able to jail break some solutions around that. Hope to hear from the mamacarts team on challenges that we might be of help to.

Photo of Karolle Rabarison
Team

Great work, Rachael! I'm especially excited to see you what the certification courses will look like as you dive deeper into bringing this concept to life.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Thanks so much Karolle! We're so excited to dive into the smaller pieces to make the certification program happen. Have you seen any similar programs or have you worked on something like this?

Photo of Patrick Anucha
Team

Hi Rachael,
Nice to witness your idea to the evaluation stage.
Ensure to keep me posted and see to the involvement of members of your team.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

We certainly will Patrick. Thanks for following and hope to stay connected on social happenings in West Africa!

Photo of J L
Team

Wow. Such a cool idea! This project also has potential to educate the community the importance to have safe /clean foods.
As a developing country.. I am assuming rather than running proper advertising.. Word-of-mouth will have huge effect in here! Wish you all the best!

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hey JL! Thanks so much! Yes, our goal is to educate both food vendors and our consumers. I hear you about word of mouth being the best manner of marketing, you're right. However, there is a growing middle class in Benin and formal marketing channels are proving successful, like billboards and commercials. Hoping to leverage every possible communication channel though!

Photo of J L
Team

oh I see! How about conducting a guerrilla marketing at universities? Or main streets in local area
You can have a simple brochure illustrating key points of your project and hand this out to potential customers!
I am sure this will help to increase awareness of your project! :)

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Women's Safety Challenge Refinement list, Rachael! Our team was really impressed with your concept and the way you had considered leveraging existing urban networks to address safety concerns for women, and especially your goal of not replacing but working with existing street food culture. We’d like to work through a few questions with you so we can consider how we might take this idea forward. Can you tell us more about how you’ve been prototyping the idea? Which women have you been working with and what have you found? Do you think your work could incorporate monitoring how working with Mamacarts affects participating traders’ sense of empowerment and safety – this is a more qualitative measure but it would be really helpful to understand how reinforcing community networks increases women’s safety as well as their health and economic position. How are you working with existing street traders and have you considered how to overcome resistance or whether your methods will be adopted in the long-term by the street traders you are working with? For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out http://ideo.pn/ws-refine-tips and catch our Tools for Refinement at http://openideo.com/content/tools-for-the-womens-safety-challenge-refinement-phase.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Thanks so much team! This is an incredible opportunity and we're looking forward to collaborating and learning from the experience.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Rachel,
We look forward to learn the answers to the questions asked above. We are excited to contribute feedback and insights as you refine your idea.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Amplify Team! We've considered your questions carefully as a team over here in Benin, and have modified our entry to address your questions. Thanks for the feedback already. Hope you enjoy a few of the new prototype pics. Looking forward to the next steps as we roll out food sales in the next few months!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Great to read about focus group feedback & new additions, Rachael. We'd love to learn more about what you propose to do next in order to implement further. Would be great if you can fill out the two additional sections in the submission form: Show Us What Implementation Might Look Like + Get a User's Perspective on Your Idea. We're sure you've got great insights to share for both sections, ahead of our Evaluation phase which starts in a couple of days.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Thanks Meena! We're having some difficulties with uploading from Benin. Fairly certain I'll work it out in a bit. Thanks for keeping us on track!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Rachel,
What type of problems are you having? Let me know if we can be of any help. It's great to see that you added the user perspective doc.
Great work.

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Phew, we were able to upload finally, thanks for checking in. Internet issues in the north of the country yesterday.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Great to hear,
Excited to read the update

Photo of Marcela Gutierrez
Team

Dear Rachel:
I love your project and the way you are planning to evaluate its impact. As an evaluator looking at your plan, I would strongly recommend that in addition to collecting a pre and post survey from participating women, you try to find a comparison group (e.g., a group of similar street vendors but who are not participating in MamaCart) to collect data from. This is called a quasi-experimental design and it would strengthen the rigor of your evaluation in the eyes of funders looking for "tested" practices. The comparison group needs to be closely matched to the treatment group Mamacart participants). You may be able to use a waiting list of women who want to get the training but have to wait for a second round before they get in. This would make it easier for you to locate this group. Ask questions about their sales, clients, challenges, etc, and then compare the groups. If you have an external evaluator helping, they could do the necessary statistical tests to see if the groups are different or not in terms of their outcome measures.

Good luck

Marcela

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Marcela,
Great feedback.

Rachael, we look forward to learning more about your next steps for implementation.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Marcela. Your feedback regarding evaluation and strengthening the idea for funders is really great.

Since nutrition education and availability of nutritious food are key components of this idea, I am wondering what
questions one would ask regarding impact of nutritional
education as a component of this project and it's validity for the
project as a whole. Would this be compared only with the work
of other food vendors or with any other nutritional educational
campaign in the community? Rachael? or anyone?

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Bettina and Marcela, thanks so much for the honest questions! We are really struggling between using nutrition as a selling platform or simply an inherent component of our products. Turns out that nutrition just doesn't sell as well as tasty or trendy. I think our nutritional education impact will be measured via different types of consumers; school kids, university students, working mothers, working fathers, etc... measuring this awareness will help us target our message. However, differentiating the education source as either MamaCarts or another initiative will be much more difficult. Suggestions are welcome!

Photo of Marcela Gutierrez
Team

Hi again:

the question of evaluating nutritional knowledge is a tough one. If nutrition education is part of the vendor's training, then you can include questions about nutrition in the pre and post test, but you must take into consideration their literacy levels and comfort with answering surveys. On the consumer side, it would be impossible to measure because you don't know what happens with them after they purchase their food. I would focus more on the economic impact on the vendors and on "improved quality" of the food they sell. "Quality" would have to be defined, for example: reduced use of fats, sugar or salt, hygiene of workplace and food preparation, etc.
Let me know if you have other questions

Marcela

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Rachael. I love your program/idea!
I am curious about the statistic that some households spend up to 40% of their income on ready to eat meals. Any information on why that is so?
Is there a possibility that the women can borrow against future earnings to pay the certification fee upfront - to enable women who have no possibility of raising the funds to participate?
Have you considered an educational component for the community - some sort of "menu" on the cart explaining why the food being served is more nutritious? What is beneficial about eating different food groups etc.? Your plan to have "Boutique Carts", selling ingredients at bulk prices, is fantastic. Are these special carts also opportunities for education, maybe menu planning, recipe swaps, cooking demo?
In NYC we have an initiative called "NYC Green Carts." This brings fresh fruits and vegetables to the "food deserts" in our poorer communities, where there is little access to healthy produce. It has been a success here as a community resource and as a business opportunity, although in this case the vendors own their carts. Apparently a good location and good customer relations are two things that have lead to success for the individual entrepreneurs in this program. Vendors working within their own communities seem to have increased success as well. Will your program provide any training on customer relations? How do the women pick or receive a location in your program? Is this an issue on the street? Are there "turf wars?"
Here is an article describing the NYC program. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/conquering-food-deserts-with-green-carts/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
All the best for success with your program. Really exciting and empowering in many ways!

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Team

Hi Bettina!
Thanks for posting such thoughtful questions. The 40% number is from an FAO report (link at the bottom of this post). We are correlating it with the increasing urbanization. People choose to take on more work, more erratic schedules and cooking takes too much time. People also may not have the ability to purchase enough ingredients to make an entire meal and street food is just easier.

So yes, consumer AND vendor education is crucial to our model. We held several focus groups with food sales vendors and many expressed a desire to improve practices but simply don't have the education or capital. They are ready to sell directly for MamaCarts or become certified vendors. Which leads to your next question about leverage future sales to gain certification. Love that! Enforcement may be difficult as the women we've talked to have no interest in the group style of enforcement, such as used with microfinance.

Also, thanks for the NYT link. So many great links in there and the depth of the article speaks to the need to create an entire ecosystem around healthy eating, from education to payment systems. We are administratively based in Denver, Colorado and the food desert issue is very real there as well. In addition to launching in Benin this year, we are also in the middle of market research to see if there is an opportunity in Colorado as well. We're operating under the assumption that no matter how much fresh produce is put in front of families, they don't always have the time to cook. Insert -fast food- here. Our twist is that we sell healthy prepared food. The concept of consumer education and ensuring there is a "perceived" need for better options is essential to market adoption.

Thanks again!

http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/sites/default/files/resources/STREET%20FOOD%20VENDING%20IN%20WEST%20AFRICAN%20COUNTRIESFinalVersion.pdf

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Team

Thanks for the info Rachael. I am curious about why the women you surveyed are not interested in microfinance. Are the women you spoke with economically secure enough to invest with their own resources? Are they isolated in the city and therefore not trusting of whomever they might group with? For the group of women with no financial resources do you have any suggestion for inclusion in your program?

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Team

Really cool idea—what's some of the feedback you've been getting from your prototype? And what changes will you make based on the feedback?

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Team

Hey Danny, thanks!
We've received feedback on everything from the height of the cart to the style in which we serve food (already packaged in to-go containers or from hot chaffing dishes.) Our most glaring point of sale weakness right now is how to sell food "to-go". In Benin, the status quo is currently to put a meal in a black plastic bag or purchase the more expensive styrofoam containers. Neither option is appealing so we're looking for something compostable.

Have enjoyed following your org, "Who Gives a Crap" - Love it!!!!!!! Am curious about your resource allocation system to the communities in developing countries. Thanks again, stay tuned for cart prototype pictures later today.

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Team

Please our organisation will be interested in your idea, keep me posted on how it goes.

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Team

Thanks Patrick! Please stay tuned, and follow on Facebook (facebook.com/mamacarts) to receive the most up to date news. Does your organization have a website to follow as well?

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Team

Hi Rachael,
We have liked and followed through your Facebook page. We hope that your idea will get through the evaluation and funding stage. Our NGO will be looking forward for a collaboration and implementation strategy of your idea in Nigeria when in full operation. So be confidence to include of extending your operation to Nigeria through the network of SEED-Care project of Society For Economics Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Development. It is important that you adhere to the instruction from openideo refinement stage as has been suggested to you. http://ideo.pn/ws-refine-tips and catch our Tools for Refinement at http://openideo.com/content/tools-for-the-womens-safety-challenge-refinement-phase.
Goodluck

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Team

Thanks Patrick and yes, we are working on our refinement right now. It's been fantastic to receive questions and feedback on this post. Please keep us posted on SEED. Since we are operating right next door and Nigeria is such an economic powerhouse in West Africa, I think we have a lot of synergy to leverage!

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Team

Rachael, this is a great initiative; I work with women from difficult situation who sell and hawkers vegetables, charcoal and small products as sweets in disputed spaces. would the solution be modified? email: rapudohawi@gmail.com

Photo of Rachael Miller
Team

Hi Rapudo! The idea is that MamaCarts is scalable through local adaptations. Our goal is not to bring staff to every country, but to find people within communities who are already passionate about food and the human right to a meal. Sounds like you are, where are you located? We would be interested to learn about your challenges with local authorities, access to capital for vendors, and how earned income is used by vendors.
Thanks for posting!