Displays of Optimism
Whenever I’m asked my impressions about India, one of the things I always remark on is the sense of optimism that permeates the culture.
Whenever I’m asked my impressions about India, one of the things I always remark on is the sense of optimism that permeates the culture. I love hearing people talk about how their lives, the lives of their neighbors, and the state of the entire country is improving year after year. They believe their ventures will scale and they see the movement of social enterprise taking off all around them.
In the past, I’ve had a harder time finding that same optimism in Kenya. Especially since the elections, people have seemed skeptical of lasting change. They saw that in a few days, so much progress could be destroyed.
I’ve been thrilled to spend time this week with four amazing organizations – groups piloting projects to increase access to clean drinking water in low-income communities. When talking about their projects, they speak with such conviction and hope about the impact their work will have.
Umande Trust and Maji na Ufanisi are community based organizations working in the informal settlements. They are deeply embedded with the community members and are working with them to start businesses to sell and deliver water. The communities have been integral in the design of the pilots and are now owning them and taking them on as their own. They are excited both to serve their communities and to have an additional source of income. They see these pilot sites as just the first in a larger initiative.
PureFlow and Kentainers are private-sector companies that make water filters and storage tanks, respectively. They are both developing water kiosks in peri-urban areas to sell bottled water quality branded drinking water for a fraction of the price. They are run by ambitious entrepreneurs, for whom scale is a given. They believe they can both serve low-income markets and make a profit, and won’t stop working until they do.
The progress these organizations have made in the past four months (from initial conception of the idea through the pilot phase) is incredible. They’re moving fast, proving their models, and truly serving the needs of their customers. And, they are right to be optimistic about what the future will bring.
- Jocelyn Wyatt