Introducing the UniLoo from the Ghanasan project

The Ghanasan project is a collaboration between Unilever, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), and IDEO to develop new products and services for in-home sanitation in Kumasi, Ghana.

The project aims to address the barriers that prevent 1 billion people in urban areas from accessing adequate sanitary facilities. These include insecure or non-existent land tenure, cramped living conditions and poor access to finance.

The idea is that low income households receive a branded self-contained plastic toilet when they sign up to a regular paid-for emptying and cleaning service provided by a local franchisee. The service will either be run by local entrepreneurs through a franchise agreement or through a network of service operators employed by the enterprise.

Stage 1: Research

The first six weeks of the collaboration focused on uncovering new opportunities for providing in-home sanitation to the urban poor. In order to better understand the end-users’ challenges and aspirations the team conducted interviews on the individual, community, and civic level. They used research tools such as inspiration cards, observations, shadowing, and storytelling to gain a deeper understanding of their day-to-day lives and sanitation needs and preferences. Additionally, the OpenIDEO community and the project team worked together to share inspirations and generate concepts, working together to uncover unmet opportunities in urban sanitation.

Stage 2: Design

The second six weeks was spent building and refining prototypes of early ideas and incorporating the learnings from those prototypes into the designs shown in the presentation below. The team took four toilet prototypes to Kumasi, each designed to test a different functional approach to collecting and removing waste from the home. They left each toilet with a family for several days, returning afterward to gather the family’s feedback, collect and clean the toilets, and repeat the test with a new family. Additionally, they sought to understand users’ preferences regarding placement in the home, service and maintenance, branding and marketing, and pricing and purchase.

Stage 3: Test

Since the idea is a radical departure from existing low-cost sanitation technologies in the developing world, the Ghanasan team are running a small 6-month trial in a specific area of Kumasi to test the basic idea. The trial, beginning in July 2011, will begin with about 20 paying customers and will be able to grow up to a maximum of about 100. They will use existing portable toilets available on the market with a view to manufacturing a small number of IDEO-designed toilets to test later on in the trial. Customers in the trial will receive the first month free to let the service sell itself. WSUP will contract with a local business to service the toilets and training will be given in customer service and operation, and uniforms will be provided.

A key objective of the trial is to gather sufficient data to enable a launch of the business in 2012. Cranfield University students will assist in data collection as well as identifying promising treatment opportunities, such as waste-to-energy and fertiliser for resale, adding additional revenue to help the business scale. The data will be included in a business plan which will be used to attract further funding for scaling up the enterprise in Ghana and beyond.

View the Ghanasan design summary by clicking on the link below:

http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/8124018

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