Three DM2008 jurors who are past grant winners are sharing their well-learned lessons with the hundred finalists.
Take 2006 winner Florence Cassassuce (in photo at right), who brought her water-purifying UV-light bucket to 900 villagers on the rural outskirts of La Paz in Baja California, Mexcio. Cassassuce, implementing her project with the advice of World Bank Senior Environmental Specialist Ricardo Hernandez Murillo, installed 3,500 buckets toward the goal of 6,00, ahead of schedule. But the original buckets didn't always work well, especially in the field, and improvements had to be made with better, and faster, plastic-injection manufacturing.
Cassassuce said her team learned three lessons implementing their award-winning clean-water project:
1) Collaboration with the government is key. "We're working with the Mexican government to scale the project to reach 5 million Mexicans over the next five years," Cassassuce said.
2) Field monitoring is essential. "We have two people constantly visiting families, asking them what problems they have with the bucket," the French national engineer said.
3) Product design improvements must be continual. "We are already on the third version of the bucket, but we think there will be a new version in 2009 that will be more flexible, which villagers will be able to take in the field or use it in a school," Cassassuce said.
She emphasized the importance of having an adviser like the World Bank's Hernandez, who has a lot of experience working with the Mexican government. Hernandez, of course, was this year's DM winner of the Project Advisor Award.
Edgardo Herbosa (at left in photo above) won a DM2002 grant to start a company, b2bpricenow.com, that established an online bulletin board and cellphone text messaging service to bring market information more quickly to Philippine farmers through their 24 agricultural cooperatives.
"We didn't factor in the need to educate the farmer on how to use the computer and the Internet," Herbosa said. "It was a three-year period, but we were able to sustain ourselves because we got help from the Philippine national agricultural bank. It was a strategic value for the bank to be involved with the cooperatives, to decide to invest in our project."
Herbosa's lesson for anyone who wants to do development work: "You have to get government resources involved in the project."
With national bank bootstrap help, Herbosa was later able to attract equity investors, make his company profitable, and ramp up online transactions that exceeded $2 million.
Ian Thorp (at center in photo above) was a DM2006 winner with his Elephant Pump project that brought low-technology sanitation to a rural Zimbabwean town. The main element was the Elephant Toilet that diverts urine into a side pit. That liquid waste, unlike solid waste, is nitrogen-rich, and therefore could be efficiently turned into compost. The plan called for 200 pumps to be installed over two years, but the project worked so well and created such a deman that 1,380 pumps were installed in one year.
To meet the needs of the heavy demand, "we had to start developing training capacity, which we didn't have," Thorp said.
To respond to demand for the pump from "over 20 countries in Africa," Thorp's Pump Aid company (begun with two other former teachers) expanded its business plan and extended it to 2015. "We're talking about a $120 million plan," he said. "We've already secured $25 million and identified another $20 million. That's pretty good leverage when you start with $120,000 [in grant money]."