Since August 2015, dloHaiti and SOIL have collaborated to keep Haiti's water and environment clean and safe through market-based solutions.
With SOIL's EkoMobil toilets in 9 dloHaiti kiosks, SOIL has collected and treated 1.5 metric tons of waste that would otherwise pollute the environment. SOIL transformed these wastes into over 660 pounds of nutrient-rich compost that is used to restore Haiti's topsoil.
SOIL's Northern Haiti office has purchased over 3,120 gallons of drinking water from dloHaiti, keeping the SOIL staff healthy and hydrated.
Here is a great story from Devex on doing business in Haiti despite all the recent (and persistent) political turmoil. Dlo Haiti's CEO, Jim Chu, is interviewed for this article. See link below.
"A primary differentiator for a small business versus an NGO is that businesses have to survive. If we don’t solve that problem, we can’t go back to our donor and say, “We’re sorry.’’ There’s no A for effort. You either do it or you don’t. And that makes a huge difference in markets like Haiti because it’s that last little bit of, “oh shit, we’ve got to get this done” that gets you over the line. … The development sector needs more of a business mindset. It needs more innovation. It needs more risk taking ….
"how can you really serve your beneficiaries if you aren’t accountable to them?… You have to be directly accountable to the people that you’re serving or else you won’t get it right. In the business world, that’s simply called being close to your customer . . . ."
Aid tends to distort accountability, as NGOs are often accountable to donors, but often, not enough to the people they are trying to help -- that causes conflicts of interest and mis-aligned programs in most cases.
Here is the link:
Community outreach Bwa Nef March 4, 2015
-Louino Robillard, MA
He said that he had never seen a hiring process so transparent, and so even if he isn't among the final 5 candidates, he will be proud. He said he this means a lot to him, because it is a sign that Cite Soleil is changing.
They asked why it didn't taste heavy like the water they normally drank, and why it didn't taste salty because the they saw that the kiosk was drawing water from the ocean. Raul explained the process and mechanisms by which the DloHaiti system cleaned the water.
The children insisted that we take their photo in front of the kiosk because they said they were the first to inaugurate the center. All of them were students at the Union des Apotres School in Bwa Nef.
Overall, the community reaction is very positive. All of the investment in communication, outreach, and transparency is showing. The next step is to spread even more awareness and help to build community ownership over the kiosk (which it looks like the children today already have!). I am seeing the changes this is bringing in the community - people are beginning to take it as a sign of their worth that there is this kind of investment happening in a transparent way.
-Louino Robillard, MA
Community Change & Peacebuilding
Cite Soleil is not an easy place to work. This is an understatement - it can often be an impossible place to work. The most superficial reason that people cite is the insecurity: it can be hard to stick to the plan when there are battles between rival armed groups. Contractors can hear gunshots and not know how far away the fighting is (although someone from Cite Soleil can figure it out quite quickly), what roads are safe and which are off-limits can shift overnight. But there are deeper reasons that make Cite Soleil challenging to work in: years of violence have create an environment where many in Cite Soleil distrust outsiders, where there is a sense of competition between zones, where each new promise is weighed down by the dozens of broken promises that have come before it.
But perhaps the most significant effect of the violence is the stigma given to Cite Soleil - because for all of its very real challenges, the world has a distorted image of Cite Soleil. The vast majority of people in the municipality are honest people just trying to make a life for their families. And so violence - whether actual violence or the image of violence - keeps people from investing in the neighborhoods. This means there are few economic opportunities for young people from Cite Soleil - which means that more and more turn to the local gangs to get by. This same stigma is also an excuse for the state to not invest in adequate services in Cite Soleil - which means that more communities turn to the local gangs for protection and other services. So a vicious cycle is established: gang violence keeps investments out, and the lack of investments increases the numbers and power of the gangs. And hundreds of thousands of honest civilians are caught in the middle.
It takes a lot to break this circle - but DloHaiti is one of the brave few enterprises willing to try. Many NGOs get the financing to pursue projects to do violence reduction, but not many businesses are willing to take on the perceived risk of working in Cite Soleil. When DloHaiti agreed to work in Bwa Nef, it was a statement that it saw past the stigma and saw enough potential to invest in the community. That in and of itself an important gesture, and important step towards building the stability that is essential to eventual peace.
But that gesture was not enough to ensure a smooth project - there is a lot of skepticism about outsiders. DloHaiti has moved slowly and deliberately, working with the community contacts and partners who invited them to Bwa Nef - particularly Pastor Hilaire and Caroline Sada. Through going at the pace of the community, and following the lead of local leaders, DloHaiti has so far avoided many of the pitfalls that many others have fallen into.
Things can be especially challenging when there are jobs on the line - and DloHaiti had seven small jobs that it had to recruit for. With so many talented young people and so few opportunities, offering a few jobs can often create more division in a neighborhood. There is always suspicion that someone is hiring their friends or family members, a phenomenon called moun pa. But DloHaiti was transparent with its hiring process, holding community meetings, putting out flyers, checking references. More than 70 people applied, but the hiring process was so transparent that amazingly, when I checked in a few days later, there were no complaints from people who didn't get selected.
There are still many challenges ahead - but so far, DloHaiti is making remarkable progress. As I am writing this blog, the construction team is almost finished with the water kiosk, despite hearing gunshots almost every day. At this point, many other enterprises would have pulled out and left, investing the much-needed resources elsewhere. But DloHaiti is sticking it out. As the security situation continues to degenerate in the rest of Cite Soleil, the stakes are higher than ever - but so will the payoffs if DloHaiti can bring in new services and economic opportunities to Bwa Nef.
This is the vicious cycle that needs to be broken: Cite Soleil needs economic opportunity to build peace, but violence prevents economic opportunity from entering the neighborhoods. DloHaiti is making a small but important step to breaking that cycle.
Louino Robillard, MA
Community consultant of DloHaiti
February 1st, 2015
DloHaiti: First community meeting in Bwa 9
The meeting began at 3pm and finished at 4pm. The meeting was organized by Pastor Hilaire, and Jim Chu (the Director of DloHaiti) was present. Poliferan (the point person for marketing and logistics) was present, and myself, Louino Robillard (the Community Outreach officer) was present. There were more than 50 community leaders present, and they were cross-sections of people from all ages - from 70 years old to 18 years old. The community representatives were a mix of women and men, and were comprised of church members, school directors, and young people from the area.
Pastor Hilaire presented the project, and also took the time to talk to people about the broader vision for the community enterprise zone. Then he passed the speaking to Jim, who explained what DloHaiti is, what it was doing in Bwa 9, and what he will do to create an entrepreneurial spirit in Cite Soleil. Jim spoke about the work of DloHaiti, and how they believe in transparency.
The participants showed that they were interested in this and paid close attention. Poliferan spoke about why DloHaiti didn't use water sachets or little plastic bottles, which was to protect the environment.
There were people who asked questions about what other opportunities that DloHaiti was bringing into the community.
Jim said that he believed if this succeeds, it will be a model that other investors will follow to invest more in the community of Bwa 9. `
But Jim also said that what was important was all of the small businesses in the community that will buy good water at a better price, which will help them diversify their business, and that will help Bwa 9 and other communities to have more control over their local economy.
Robi spoke about why he was present in the community, and because he didn't believe in charity because it leads to dependence that is destroying the country. This model is a model that will help people, while maintaining their dignity. It is a model that will help people create business instead of dependency.
People said that DloHaiti would succeed in Bwa Nef because they know that there will be more opportunities that will come to Bwa Nef.
-Louino Robillard, MA
Community Outreach Officer
Danielle Dreis, photographer and videographer in Haiti, shares her thoughts after visiting a dloHaiti kiosk facility in Mahotte, Haiti, with Simbi Haiti founders Lori Manuel Steed and Birgit Coles. Danielle's video is a great look in to dloHaiti operations, as well as an introduction to those who are directly involved in distributing and receiving dloHaiti's brand of water, Ovive.
Upon our arrival at the dloHaiti Mahotte kiosk, myself, Birgit Coles and Lori Manuel Steed, were most impressed by the cleanliness, innovation and environmental care that was taken in the design of the kiosk.
From solar panels strong enough to power the entire kiosk to a “bio-toilet,” or compost toilet, for employees, dloHaiti has given a lot of thought into making this a sustainable long-term investment in the community.
You can see that this is a fully functional local business where the employees have been selected from the community and have a feeling of ownership over "their" kiosk. There is a sense of pride with these employees. Their bright white uniforms are clean, ironed and shirts are tucked in. The care they take in cleaning and filling jugs, testing water and accounting for sales is more representative of a business owner than an employee. It was truly impressive.
The manager of this kiosk explained that his life has changed dramatically since beginning work with Ovive. He used to travel to Port-au-Prince for work, which meant he was away from his family all week. His lifestyle has changed significantly, because now he is able to spend more time with his family and he also feels proud to be working with a company that helps the community so much.
He gave testimonials from family and friends who are thankful because they are confident that Ovive water will not make them sick. He described how it had changed the lives of many women and children, because they were now able to have clean water delivered to their homes instead of spending hours of their days fetching it and carrying it home.
The Ovive/dloHaiti kiosk is having a very positive impact on the community, providing cleaner drinking water at a lower price, environmentally friendly practices, and community engagement.
From what I see, it looks like this is a recipe for a long-term success story for Haiti.
Post by Danielle Dreis, photographer and filmmaker in Haiti
Edited by Hilary White
"Will Silicon Valley save the world, as the authors provocatively ask and then respond with a sneer? Of course not. It’s a silly question. The real question is whether ideas on development, generated from non-traditional places such as Silicon Valley, can help push the needle. The answer to that, of course, is yes." Ned Breslin blogging in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Not all things are transferable, and Ned in his post refers to a Foreign Policy article and weighs in himself on what ideas or principles from the tech world can benefit the development space. Ned very eloquently points out an important takeaway:
Being able to acknowledge failures (and capitalize on learnings from successes) to very quickly and transparently pivot and improve an approach is a critical to long-term success -- and this comes straight out of the tech world's playbook. It's also an idea that can help the development world.
The development space is systemically risk-averse. Trying something new and risking failure the first time around is not often encouraged. No one wants to flush away hard-earned and carefully-monitored funds from institutional donors. These donors are often bureaucratic and have tight controls precisely to prevent this type of "waste."
As I write about here, there are many reasons why we should welcome more entrepreneurial efforts at solving tough development challenges. One of these is the desire and willingness to innovate -- to try new things and be willing to fail -- and sometimes fail big -- in order to possibly win big.
"Failing fast" and "pivoting" are important parts of the tech world. Programs such as USAID's Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) are good steps in the right direction: small sums of money spent on risky new ideas that can may lead to breakthrough ideas. But it's not enough.
I applaud initiatives such as Bridge International Academies who have taken very innovative, and "risky" approaches so solve tough problems, often utilizing technology, but not relying on it as a silver bullet.
My takeaway from Ned's article: failing is a necessary part of getting to a better place -- as long as we are willing to openly acknowledge our failures, stay true to the core mission and convictions, and find a better way.
Post by Jim Chu, CEO of dloHaiti
Danielle Dreis, photographer and film maker in Haiti, gives an account of her visit to several schools that are receiving dloHaiti's brand of water, Ovive. Danielle visited these schools with the founders of Simbi Haiti, Lori Manuel Steed and Birgit Coles. Simbi Haiti donates a portion of all sales of its bracelets and clothing line to provide clean water to Haitians in need. You can check out Danielle's work on her website, and read more about Simbi Haiti here.
We arrived at Ecole Nationale de Luly just after noon and were immediately greeted by the heat of the afternoon, a stark contrast to our air-conditioned vehicles. The sounds of school children rang out through each door and window. Some classrooms were singing the alphabet while others were reciting their times tables. As we glanced into each classroom, we saw big smiles from even the smallest children, despite the sweltering conditions inside. They were curious to know who this group of blans could be and why they were visiting their school.
The reason for our visit was to see how school children were benefiting from the bottles of Ovive water that Simbi Haiti had helped donate. Simbi Haiti provides water subsidies to both Ecole Nationale de Luly and Ecole Nationale de Saintard, where they donate $2 USD for each 1$ raised by the school. The founders of Simbi, Lori Manuel Steed and Birgit Coles, were visiting the schools benefiting from their water donation for the first time.
The Chief Operating Officer of dloHaiti, Ken Michel, was there to give us a tour of the schools. He explained that these were schools that were in need of drinking water, but could not afford to purchase enough water each day for students. Because of the lower price point offered by Ovive water, these schools could finally afford to purchase water. With the assistance of Simbi Haiti, they were able to have water delivered to each classroom daily.
As we toured the classrooms, we were greeted by students standing up and giving us a welcome "Bonjour.” Some classrooms even sang us a welcome song.
In each class Ken gave a water quiz to the students. He first asked if any of the students knew about dloHaiti. One or two students in each classroom would raise their hand. The response was always correct, "C’est Ovive"…it's Ovive. When he asked how many students knew about Ovive, every student raised their hand and pointed to the water container in the corner of the room. As he continued to inquire, we learned that most students now drank Ovive water in their homes as well, and that nearly every student was well aware that Ovive was the "best" water because it was "healthy" for them to drink.
Class after class, it was the same story; Ovive had clearly integrated itself into the community. Students explained that it was by far the best water because it was the cleanest and the healthiest. They explained that no one in their family gets sick any more from water and that the taste of Ovive was better than that of the truck water they were accustomed to.
Ken also gave an interesting math lesson regarding the price of water. He taught students that the cost of water from Culligan or other bottled water companies was 15 gourdes/gallon (35¢) per gallon. The price of the water delivered from trucks is 5 gourdes per gallon (about 12¢) per gallon.
When you see the quality, cleanliness, taste and health benefits of Ovive water, you would think it would be the most expensive water. Yet, it is priced at the same price as trucked water. The children's eyes lit up when they understood.
When Ken explained that the jugs of water in each classroom were there with the assistance of Simbi Haiti, the children responded with rounds of applause and numerous thank you's. It was obvious that the water was needed, as nearly every jug was empty by the time of our mid-day visit.
At our final stop, we learned that many of these students did not live in the immediate area and that they came from surrounding towns to attend school. As a result, many were not familiar with Ovive outside of the jug in their classrooms. For these students, Ken immediately gathered their names to help them register for a program that allows them to buy the water in an Ovive jug that belongs to dloHaiti.
The kiosk in Luly/Mahotte that provides water for this town is meant to support communities within a five kilometer radius through various distribution platforms, so students from towns within that five kilometer radius who weren't familiar with Ovive represented a hole in Ovive's marketing and provided insight into where they could expand their marketing efforts to reach more people and help bring clean water to more communities.
Post by Danielle Dreis, photographer and filmmaker in Haiti
Edited by Hilary White