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Last Mile

Creating meaningful employment opportunities for youth in Kilimanjaro to improve access to jobs and life-changing products

Photo of Liz McNeil
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Last Mile is a distribution social enterprise in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania whose mission is to improve access to life-changing products and services to low and middle income households. We do this through a network of trained, local sales agents. About 75% of employed youth in Tanzania work in the agricultural sector and other forms of vulnerable employment which is often precarious, informal and offers no or few benefits. There is little opportunity for unskilled and uneducated youth to engage in formal employment and find jobs with growth opportunities. In Tanzania, 35% of children under the age of five years are stunted due to malnutrition. On average 1 in 5 girls miss school each month due to menstruation. Over 75% of Tanzanians go without power. 46% of Tanzanians do not have a clean water supply. Proven solutions to these challenges exist and are not reaching the people they were designed and built to serve. The problem is ACCESS. With only 15% of roads paved in Tanzania, it is simply too difficult and too expensive for traditional retail Our solution is the Last Mile Sales Agent program. Through this program we are able to create meaningful employment opportunities to youth while overcoming challenges associated with access as well as under and unemployment. Our objectives are to mentor, support and develop the capacity of youth, offering them room to grow personally and professionally, while also improving community access to social impact products.

WHO BENEFITS?

Our beneficiaries are young people in the Kilimanjaro Region; specifically in peri-urban and rural communities where there is limited employment opportunity for youth. Our youth benefit financially through an income-generating opportunity with unlimited potential, as well as with skills and capacity development as micro-entrepreneurs, leaders and ambassadors in their communities. With the products we well, the community also benefit positively affected socially, economically and environmentally.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Last Mile is a social enterprise based in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania, with big dreams of scaling across the country. We began in 2015. growing from a business idea into an operational social enterprise. We are looking for collaborators and partners to help develop our sales program for youth

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Tanzania

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Beneficiary feedback has played an important role in the development of the Last Mile program. Participatory research helped us to develop our program, our business model and the product portfolio that our agents have to sell. Recent beneficiary feedback has led to us developing our training curriculum to include more on how to approach and communicate with customers. It has also helped us to realize that we need to make our model more attractive and supportive our youth agents! We are now working on developing a bonus and incentives structure which includes both monetary and motivational incentives to encourage our agents to meet their sales targets and reach their earning potential through this job opportunity. We have gained feedback from our potential customers, who are our beneficiaries as well. The feedback from the market is that our products will be more accessible if there was an option for financing or payment plans. We are now researching ways that we can offer financing options to our consumers, including ways to secure loans for our customers through local savings and credit unions and village banking groups. This will further support out agents to be successful.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

There are several similar initiatives operating in Tanzania. We have done research on these other competitors to understand how we can reach similar objectives and impact in a more effective and efficient way. We are providing youth with an opportunity to receive training on applicable topics, such as entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, money savings, and customer service. We are then giving them access to products to sell without having to front any of the costs that they might incur with other sales jobs (i.e.: pre-purchasing inventory). We provide on-going support in the form of weekly meetings and monthly training and agents also earn access to additional products to sell with higher commission rates once they have shown their commitment. What really makes Last Mile different, and is our unique advantage, is that we are seeking additional opportunities we can give to our agents in addition to the sales job. These opportunities we are investigating will involve them in multiple parts of the value chain, learn new skills and give continuous exciting opportunities. This keeps agents motivated and excited about the role as a Last Mile agent.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

The problem that our idea solves is access. This problem has yet to be solved since it requires a lot of creativity, cultural and contextual understanding to find solutions. Infrastructure to reach low income, rural consumers is lacking. Communities and people become more spread out the further they are from urban centres, making it challenging and unattractive to invest in infrastructure, such as roads and retail infrastructure, to reach and include these people. Since the "last mile" consumers are often excluded from traditional access solutions, we have had to be creative in reaching them! This is why we are training community members from these communities to close the access gap.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

The biggest unanswered question is how to truly keep our youth agents motivated and encourage high-performance. What we are currently trying to learn, through feedback and trials, is what is the best level and type of incentives that we can offer to them. The next question is what products and what prices are customers willing to pay for? We have conducted research to get information for our current product portfolio, but will need to keep running this research when we seek out new product options. Lastly, are we really reaching the last mile with our model? As our model grows, we will need to better understand how to reach the furthest places and engage the youth and consumers there

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

This idea has been one we have been developing for several months. We have tried many different models to reach low-income, rural consumers with the products that can solve their every day challenges, and have recently come up with this model to engage with youth people from these communities. At first we tried to engage with sales agents as retailers, having agents purchase product stock to sell and then selling it at a mark-up to earn their commission. However, we soon realized that this option is only realistically accessible to existing retailers who have the capital to purchase stock in advance. The purpose of this program is to reach people who are not reached by existing retailers, so we had to make changes. This is when we began investigating how to get products to our agents on consignment, and what kind of risk-mitigating steps we had to involve. We also began to focus on youth, primarily youth who are Class 7 or Form 4 leavers, since traditional and formal employment does not offer many stable opportunities or jobs with growth potential to this group of people.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

The Last Mile program will be implemented by Last Mile staff. We currently have a Head of Sales who is responsible for coordinating with, supporting, training and stocking our growing group of sales agents. We have also recently partnered with SNV who will link us to local youth who have received life-skills training and are seeking employment opportunities. This partner takes over significant responsibility in recruiting young people for our program, so we can focus on supporting them.

Our current Sales Agent program provides support to our youth agents through on-going training sessions, weekly support meetings and access to products to market and sell. We invest in the capacity building, skills, knowledge and training of youth, and continue to support them by offering a job opportunity to use these new skills and knowledge and earn an income. We provide  unemployed, under-employed and aspiring entrepreneurs access to products without having to face the barrier required to purchase product stock. This personal and professional development is transferable in all other parts of their lives and can even improve their employability in the future.

Our training program begins with an initial on-boarding training to introduce the mission, vision and activities of Last Mile. All participants are introduced to our products and policies/procedures, and key sales and marketing skills to help boost their confidence and set them up for success. After the initial training, each new agent is given their initial basket of products to market and sell, and have shadowing sales shifts with the trainer as a part of their practical training.

Sales teams meet once each week to replenish their stock of products for sales and marketing, and have group sessions for leader- and peer-support. These sessions are critical for our sales agents to feel as though they are part of a team and have the ability to succeed. Successful agents should be meeting individual sales targets and able to support their team to meet their team targets. Full-team training sessions take place on a monthly basis, bringing together teams from different communities. Full-team training covers topics such as sales and marketing, product knowledge and value propositions, customer service, leadership skills development, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, and saving and money-management.On a day-to-day basis, agents conduct sales and marketing in their own communities and the surrounding areas.  This can include going door-to-door sales, attending market days or setting up a display.

This program builds confidence and resiliency while offering competitive compensation and room to grow within the organization. It also increases financial stability and the ability for youth to contribute to their communities and economies.

We are looking for support in human-centered design to help us to develop a great training program as well as a strong structure of incentives and opportunities to reward and compensate the youth we are working with and keep them engaged and motivated. With a better understanding of our beneficiaries, we can create opportunities which are meaningful to them and respond to their needs and wants.

We are also seeking support to improve our marketing strategies, bringing in human-centered design into this aspect of the program as well.  These strategies include marketing this program and also marketing our products to assist in the sales and marketing efforts of our agents. We would like to create a strong strategy for how to properly market this program in the communities to ensure we are reaching our target audience and making this opportunity accessible to them.

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

In five year, plan to impact 175,000 people through improved access to life-changing products, and create 250 jobs for youth. In order to get there, we need to answer the question of how we will properly shape the job opportunity to properly incentivize our youth agents while also ensuring that we are truly improving access to products to a wider market.

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • More than a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

We are interested in having Last Mile join the Amplify portfolio connected to the resources and design support in order for this project to reach its potential. In addition to this, we can also be made aware of and connected to organizations and partners who are working with similar models and towards similar goals with whom we can collaborate and share ideas.

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Photo of Chelsea Takamine
Team

Hi Liz and Team! Amplify and our experts have some comments and questions for you - we encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea.

-Last Mile show good awareness of other initiatives and have thought through how HCD could help them improve.
-Last Mile is designed with users in mind - lots of participatory research, beneficiary feedback, improvements made and thoughts about how HCD support from Amplify could help improve more areas of the programme - well done!
-Have you considered mobile incremental payments towards ownership, in addition to the loans and credits you currently propose?

In case you missed it, OpenIDEO and Amplify hosted a Storytelling Office Hour - https://youtu.be/g0gZRR6T9tA. Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and help make it come to life! Don't forget - December 18th is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Liz McNeil
Team

Hi Chelsea - thanks for your comments and encouragement! We are currently in conversations with two potential partners which offer mobile pay-as-you-go solutions which would allow our customers to make incremental payments towards products. We're very excited to start testing these options starting in January! These solutions currently only cover solar products, however.

At times, our agents themselves organize a payment schedule with their customers over a few weeks. In these cases, the product is delivered to the customer once all of the payments have been received. Cases like this help to show the trust relationship that agents are able to create with their customers.

Are there any other questions or thoughts the expert team can share to help me to refine the idea? Thanks again!

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