How finding synergies between Social Objectives and Economic Objectives is critical for success


How finding synergies between Social Objectives and Economic Objectives is critical for success

By Abhijit Banerjee

The author discusses about steps required to create a successful social intervention that creates a synergy between social and economic objectives.

“Looking for solutions, supply chain business models were made that were scalable, acceptable and above all, could survive in non-existing market conditions as well.”

Poor hygiene has been observed to be the cause of a large part of medical expenses in rural India. Therefore, connecting health, finance, hygiene and sanitation becomes critical.”

70-year-old BhaiLal is living with dignity today. His wife too has got a new lease of life. A modern toilet in his kuccha house is the reason for their happiness. Bhailal unable to walk due to chronic arthritis had been defecating in the backyard of their thatched house in village Karela in the Bharuch district of Gujarat, for more than a decade. As his self-respect and dignity started slipping away, his sons and daughters-in-law abandoned him and his wife was entrusted with the task of disposing his feces and cleaning the backyard. “Day in, day out, I would be getting my hands dirty.’’, lamented his wife, recalling her days before FINISH (Financial Inclusion Improves Sanitation and Health) Society constructed a toilet, especially with a western style commode in their house, with TAGIC (Tata AIG Insurance Company) support.

BhaiLal’s household is among the nearly 5 lakh toilets that have been constructed by FINISH in 10 states across India. Karela has become an ODF (Open Defecation Free) Village and is being touted as a model village by the district administration.

FINISH Society is one of those organisations that have exemplified how one can achieve social goals by creating synergy between social and economic objectives.

It was in 2009 when a team of passionate individuals quit their plush corporate careers and came together to address the obvious problem of safe sanitation in rural India. They were supported financially by the Dutch government.  The technical support came from  WASTE a 30-year-old Dutch entity specializing in sanitation and waste management. Initially, the approach was on mobilizing the community to adopt to safe sanitation practices with access to finance, but it was soon realized that the model did not suffice in accelerating sanitation coverage and increase usage. Several challenges were faced during the process, ranging from safe sanitation design, technology acceptance, ease of maintenance, the requirement of water, cost, time & quality of construction, etc. Looking for solutions, supply chain business models were made that were scalable, acceptable and above all, could survive in non-existing market conditions as well.

The FINISH program encourages involvement of community members as workers and entrepreneurs to contribute to their village using a four-pronged strategy

  • Creating demand for safe sanitation through awareness generation
  • Enabling communities to create household sanitation assets by facilitating access to banks, micro finance institutions, cooperatives and government subsidies
  • Facilitating supply chain solutions to meet demand on time
  • Efficient monitoring to ensure sustainability

Demand Creation is the first step towards a successful intervention. Partners have used a range of tools to communicate the FINISH message of Safe Sanitation. In the previous financial year, partners carried out some sanitation awareness programs aiding nine million people. Through Film shows of its award-winning film, “Let’s make it Right”, wall writings using Sanitation Mission inputs, distribution of thousands of leaflets and information and communication modules, awareness activities were carried out in villages. “We constructed toilets in villages around Anand, partnering with FINISH for their training modules on safe sanitation. Every household in these villages has seen the Film, “ Let’s make it Right’’ and have felt inspired to practice safe sanitation,’’ said an official in the CSR division of Amul in Gujarat, one of the most trusted partners of the FINISH Society.

School activities were carried out in 546 places and schools were built/refurbished, hand washing units installed in several schools in Rajasthan & Gujarat. “We love the trendy hand washing units installed by FINISH and children are extremely happy using the colourful hand-washing units,’’ beamed the principal, Naveen Chandra Mehta of a primary school in Osara village of Gujarat.

In 2015-16 alone 2720 field workers were trained in sanitation. This training indirectly aids educated youth in villages augment their skill and get gainful employment. 1219 masons were also trained across various states. These Masons were given certificates by FINISH, which has helped them gain stability and even given an opportunity to raise their wages as they looked for work. “I have raised my wages as I have been officially trained by FINISH and have constructed a toilet in just four days,’’ said DayaBhai, a mason trained under the FINISH Mason program in Karela village in the Bharuch district of Gujarat. Today he proudly shows the FINISH training certificate while approaching clients.

FINISH has taken a step forward by training women masons in some states as well. Women usually assist men at construction sites but in some states, like Jharkhand, women were trained specifically for the purpose of giving them a sense of identity and stability. This up-skilling has resulted in their wages going up from an average of INR200 to INR300 – 350. “I have a means of livelihood now and feel much more stable than I felt before,’’ said Shanti, a woman Mason, who was trained by FINISH in Jharkhand.

Financial inclusion is the next big step, rather, the most crucial step towards providing safe sanitation. Poor hygiene has been observed to be the cause of a large part of medical expenses in rural India. Therefore, connecting health, finance, hygiene and sanitation becomes critical.

Financial Inclusion in the form of access to finance/microcredit can play a significant role in improving health through improving sanitation facilities. FINISH has been facilitating access to finance that would lead to higher sanitation density and better community health. Currently, FINISH has 15 Micro Finance Institutions as partners who are giving beneficiaries the required credit. FINISH society is working on developing a dedicated line of credit for sanitation. Till March 2015 INR 2002 million have been mobilised as credit by Banks/MFIs/SHGs/Co-operatives etc. under the sanitation program. FINISH has augmented this by partnering with various state governments to help clients successfully access government subsidies.

The partnership pattern of FINISH Society is very diversified and comprises of micro-finance institutions, NGOs, milk cooperatives, corporates, governments, research institutions, academics, international NGOs, etc. Today FINISH works with almost 100 partners and the list is growing.

The orchestrated approach by FINISH has made it add, on an average, one safe sanitation system every 4 minutes. What does it translate into – The 138,115 safe sanitation systems that FINISH enabled in 2014-15 mean more than a Million days of livelihood for men & women plus many more indirect employment in enterprises both big and small and services, nearly 1500 Million rupees pumped into the rural economy. There are other spinoffs too, upskilling resulting in improved wages, cost reduction through technology. Supply chain efficiencies and aggregation, upscaling of enterprises, improvement in health, efficient use of capital, etc. As can be summarized in the words of village Thakaria’s sarpanch in District Bharuch, “People and children are so happy and hygienic now. Seeing them happy, I am happy, and the whole village is happy.’’

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