Pump It Up

 

Nudging catalytic community impact

Solisyon Kominote Yo (Solkomyo) is a locally-owned and led Haitian social enterprise that works daily to identify priority community needs and design and implement social innovations to best serve those needs. Solkomyo was founded in 2013 by a team of inspired Haitian leaders with the strategic and financial support of CE Solutions. Since its founding, Solkomyo has focused on empowering aspiring community entrepreneurs to be profound agents of change and help them turn obstacles into opportunities in their community. The team tackles big challenges such as first-time access to energy, healthcare, and financial services. However, we should never overlook the fact that big change can often come in the form of relatively small packages.

A few months ago, Orest, a Solkomyo community entrepreneur, in Acul de Pins came to the Solkomyo leadership team to discuss a water pump that had been broken for over two years in a nearby community. Because of one broken pump, over 1,000 community members had very limited access to water. What they concluded together was that the problem wasn’t that it was impossible to repair the pump. There were technicians around and someone could theoretically buy what was needed to fix the pump right down the road. The problem was that the repair would cost $180 and no one person or family could afford to buy the parts to fix it and that no local strategy had been designed to help people pool their money. As well, even if they were to pool their money, it would take months to save up enough to pay for what was needed. In response to this, Orest and the rest of the Solkomyo team innovated a simple and elegant financing mechanism to repair the pump.

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The managing committee that is contributing to the repair of the water pump. Each month they will pay 25 gourdes to build a protection fund for the water pump. 

Solkomyo agreed that they would co-finance half of the cost to repair the pump if the community was able to raise the other half in two weeks, providing an incentive for the community to come together in a specific time period. Orest, because he is a locally trusted community member, successfully engaged 60 community members to contribute 100 gourdes (US$1.50) each, raising enough to cover the community’s investment. Solkomyo also advised that the community should be responsible if the pump needed to be repaired again. The group immediately volunteered to meet monthly and have each member pay 25 gourdes (US 20 cents) into a maintenance fund. The very next day, the pump was fixed.

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Orest, the Community Entrepreneur (far left), the keyholder of the pump (2nd from left), and Elizabeth, the Solkomyo team member (2nd from right), stand with community members after the water pump is repaired. 

This is an example of sustainable community development where the community is invested in their solutions and takes ownership. Solkomyo was able to play the catalytic role that was needed to help the community help themselves.

A few weeks ago the Solkomyo team stopped by to see how things were going. The pump was surrounded by people using it. It was a beautiful sight to see. A $90 investment, some brainwork, and teamwork is now providing over 1,000 people and 400 students at a local school access to water for the first time in two years.  And the community isn’t just using the pump, it now “owns” the pump, and with the protection fund that was created, they will ensure that the pump continues to serve the community.

Before and after the water pump was repaired in Acul de Pins. How many tanks do you see? They are all filled with drinking water for the community!

Solkomyo is inspired by community-driven solutions to development and when creative entrepreneurial approaches can be identified to solve development challenges. The key is that the community itself needs to be at the center of the solution. This is what social entrepreneurship is all about. And, although sometimes BIG solutions are needed, at other times a simple nudge can serve as a way to empower community members. We’ll keep looking for nudges and we hope you will continue to support our work.

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