SPOUTS of Water - Providing Clean Drinking Water Across East Africa One Filter at a Time

To improve access to safe drinking water, SPOUTS manufactures an affordable water filter, the Purifaaya, using local resources in Uganda.

Photo of Seul (Kathy) Ku
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

SPOUTS of Water

Year founded

2011

Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $250k - $500k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • More than 100,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • Uganda

Headquarters location: City

Kampala

Location(s) of impact

Uganda
DRC
South Sudan

Website

http://www.spouts.org

Facebook URL

http://www.facebook.com/spoutsofwater

Twitter URL

https://twitter.com/spoutsofwater

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

53% of Ugandans lack access to safe drinking water, and a vast majority of the remaining 47% are boiling water. As a result, more children die from waterborne diseases than malaria or AIDS. Beyond direct health impacts, there are large economic costs of diarrheal diseases and opportunity costs associated with the time to fetch and boil water which falls mostly on women and children. Despite the large need, there is no locally available, affordable solution for households.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

The Purifaaya is the most affordable, accessible water treatment method in Uganda with its ease-of-use, cultural acceptance given the preferred taste, and reduction in greenhouse gases by replacing boiling. SPOUTS also works to ensure that filters reach individuals who need them most through the 250+ distributors who often provide financing to the women and mothers who purchase the filters. Households can then pour 10L of dirty water into the filter, and the newly filtered clean, cool water sits at a bottom reservoir until the water is dispensed through the spigot, preventing secondary contamination. Each filter lasts for 2+ years and costs ~20-25USD, costs that are recouped after 6-9 months. By directly employing 40+ people in the process, a much needed solution is provided using local labor and materials, driving innovation and change from within Uganda without relying on outside aid.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Since starting sales in 2015, SPOUTS has distributed ~20,000 filters, providing more than 100,000 individuals with clean water, a majority of whom are children. For households, this translates to annual savings of $119 ($2,000,000 saved in total), women and children have saved countless hours by not having to treat their water, and families are healthier and happier by no longer getting sick from contaminated water. Environmentally, this has contributed to a decrease in carbon emissions by 177,000 tons, the equivalent of driving >100M miles around the world. As SPOUTS scales to reach 1,000,000 people by 2020, these impacts directly scale through a product that is proud to be made in Uganda by local Ugandans using local materials.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

SPOUTS has scaled rapidly with the help of financial supporters that have allowed SPOUTS to move into a new factory with a capacity of >10,000 filters/month in 2017 after initially being stationed in an old chicken farm. From 2016 to date, our annual budget breakdown has been as follows:
1. Individual donations - 2%
2. Grants - 42%
3. Corporate contributions - 6%
4. Earned income - 50%
Given SPOUTS's rapid growth in the region, SPOUTS expects to be fully financially sustainable by the end of 2018, all the while providing more value to customers by expanding our product offering and improving our current Purifaaya model.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

SPOUTS is not only the only local manufacturer of filters in Uganda, but it has also designed a holistic model that spans from the production of a cost-efficient household solution for clean water to an integrated distribution method to provide filters to families of different income groups. For households, the Purifaaya is seen as an affordable commodity worth investing in given the financial returns, the convenience and ease-of-use, and the taste left behind by the filtration process.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Kathy first traveled to Uganda in 2010, and while living with a host family, she noticed the burden that accessing clean drinking water placed on the family, both financially and in terms of time and health. During her research into appropriate solutions, Kathy came to appreciate ceramic water filters for their effectiveness and local acceptance given the long-standing tradition of storing water in clay jugs. With an opportunity to use the existing challenge of the lack of clean water solutions to create a local manufacturing industry to drive economic development in a sustainable manner, Kathy and John had their "Aha!" moment. They would locally produce filters to provide clean water instead of relying on outside solutions. They knew that the Purifaaya would have a lasting impact as initial customers began to recruit others by sharing their positive experiences via word-of-mouth.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Search engine

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

At our factory, SPOUTS employs 17 individuals to manufacture the Purifaaya, testing each filter to ensure that only the highest quality product reaches its users. Once they are labelled with a unique ID and packaged (taking ~25 days to make), the filters are shipped to various retail partners across the region.
(1) Traditional retail channels include pharmacy chains, sellers of social products (e.g., BRAC, Living Goods) and supermarkets. Outlets are typically found in urban and peri-urban areas, unless they rely on door-to-door sales, and target high to middle income households.
(2) Microfinance institutions and local Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) offer financing options to middle to low income families who might not be able to afford the upfront costs of our filters.
(3) NGOs and institutions often purchase filters for schools, clinics, refugee camps, etc. For institutional partners such as NGOs, SPOUTS often accompanies the distributor to conduct a training-of-trainers or to personally aid in the distribution
At our office, the SPOUTS’s Sales and Marketing team supports distributors with marketing materials, training, educational content, etc. In 2017, based on feedback from partners, we’ve added a larger product offering, the Purifaaya XL. Moving forward, we hope to offer larger marketing support so that they can in turn sell filters to more people in need. SPOUTS also has a dedicated Systems team that oversees impact measurement and reporting.

Focus area

  • Water

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

Filtration is foreign concept in large parts of Uganda where most people do not treat their water at all. SPOUTS is working to expand the number of options for people to gain access to clean water beyond boiling, which is time consuming and expensive; chlorination which remains unpopular due to the taste; and bottled water, which remains financially unobtainable for the vast majority of Ugandans. Clean water can be affordable, convenient and environmentally friendly (as evidenced through carbon crediting) through the use of our filters. And by strategically working in the 3 distribution channels outlined above, SPOUTS can ensure that all Ugandans, regardless of economic status and household location, can easily access our product either for free in public locations, for a monthly fee through financing options or through traditional retail channels.
Additionally, by combining the distribution of filters with an education campaign that stresses the importance of clean drinking water, SPOUTS aims to reach even the individuals who do not end up purchasing our filters.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

In addition to the direct beneficiaries, the end-users of the Purifaaya for whom we help to save time and money and to stay healthy, SPOUTS has other invaluable stakeholders in each step of the way from production to distribution that help us provide clean water to the region.
(1) SPOUTS purchases all production materials locally with the exception of the silver nitrate, and is a large driver in developing local industry.
(2) For distributors, we offer a locally-manufactured much-needed product that they can sell to improve their sales and/or meet their social missions.
(3) SPOUTS also considers our staff members as an integral part of our stakeholder ecosystem. SPOUTS is proud to directly employ 40+ individuals who are committed to our mission of providing clean drinking water to the region. SPOUTS has invested in each of these individuals through education support, training, etc., and we hope to do more in the future to become the ideal employer.

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

SPOUTS achieved break-even at a small scale in 2015, but with the financial support of organizations such as USAID & Gates, YSB and Cartier, SPOUTS was able to move from our chicken farm to a proper factory. As a result, our 2017 sales income (~180,000USD) represents >140% increase in revenue from 2016. At a gross profit of 31% and a net profit of -49%, we are still operating at an overall loss that is supported by grants at the moment. However, SPOUTS projects profitability by early 2019, largely due to (1) an increase in filter sales from our current 1200 filters / month to >1800/month, (2) a reduction in production costs, and (3) other revenue sources (i.e., Carbon financing, which is underway in partnership with Believe Green).

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

SPOUTS locally manufactures a product for the local market using local materials and labor, and we want to help shift the framework of both development work and social entrepreneurship to focus on targeted value creation.
As the winner, SPOUTS would showcase a viable economic model that incorporates social impact in every step of production to distribution that people can replicate without re-inventing the wheel.
Currently, when individuals reach out to SPOUTS in regards to replication, the locally and individually designed machinery for production and trial-and-error of distribution hinders knowledge dissemination. However, with the CSV Prize, SPOUTS is looking forward to creating a replicable template for all aspects of the org.

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

In addition to aiding the launch of the Purifaaya Plus (detailed below), Nestle’s investment would allow SPOUTS to scale by increasing brand awareness / trust in our products to make Purifaaya a household name. Consumer goods social marketing know-how within Nestle’s and Ashoka’s network can be leveraged to develop a marketing strategy. In addition to traditional marketing strategies, SPOUTS is looking to launch a Brand Ambassador program that rewards brand loyalty within social networks. Given that water filters mostly a new product, consumers respond to validation by people they trust. Increasing brand awareness not only directly increases the number of water filter users, it also disseminates the importance of clean drinking water.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

SPOUTS goal is to reach 1,000,000 users by 2020. This will be aided by:
(1) Launch of new product (Purifaaya Plus) to supplement our current basic and XL model (for ~50 people) - The new product will be the result of an open-sourced initiative to create a more visually aesthetic “aspirational model” that will include the designs for a mold that can be reproduced anywhere in the world. The filter will be a disk filter that can stack >300 filters in a cubic meter for easier distribution and lower production costs. SPOUTS currently has distribution partners in the DRC and South Sudan, and the new model will allow for further expansion.
(2) Offering of financing options directly through SPOUTS for regions that do not have the infrastructure for small loans to purchase our filters. SPOUTS is piloting the Village Sales Model and has received positive feedback from end-users. This will ensure that SPOUTS is achieving last-mile distribution even in areas our partners are not active in.

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

The board is comprised of the 2 co-founders; the CEO of Clarke Group, a local investor with 20+ years of business experiences; and a member of YSB, an investment org. founded by Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus.
SPOUTS is comprised of 40FTEs, split into 2 groups, Operations and Sales & Marketing, each led by an experienced Director.
Under Operations lies 3 different branches - Production (17 FTE), Finances and Systems Operations - each with respective Managers and reports. Similarly, the Sales & Marketing Director oversees the Marketing, Sales (10 FTE) and Outreach teams.
SPOUTS also has supporting PTEs and interns who are often hired as FTEs. SPOUTS is looking forward to employing experienced lateral hires as well as internally promoting skilled staff to accommodate growing needs.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

Cartier Women’s Initiative Award Final. ‘17
ReSource Award Final. ‘16
USAID DIV (Gates Found.) ‘16
St. Andrew's Prize for Environment Final. ‘16
SAG-SEED Winner ‘16
Energy Global National Winner ‘16
Yunus Social Business ‘16
Unreasonable East Africa Fellow ‘15
Shell Technology Venture Energy Prize Winner ‘14
Dell Innovation Winner '13

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

SPOUTS is collaborating with the Swiss Development Agency and Antenna Foundation to showcase the scaling of CWF factories by documenting the steps taken to start and grow SPOUTS in Uganda with the hopes that this model can be replicated in other countries. This will not only include best practices but also outline the challenges and the mistakes we made along the way. To further aid in the growth of CWFs, SPOUTS is working with the World Health Organization to develop household standards of ceramic water filters. Given that Uganda has no national standards for any household water treatment systems (HWTS), SPOUTS is looking to leverage our work with the WHO to influence change in the region and to encourage other HWTS’s to enter the market.

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 66.7%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

1 comment

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Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Really interesting initiative. Congratulations.