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New organisations will help boost our support for social enterprises

With EY and Mastercard joining TRANSFORM, we now have more ways to help meet the needs of low-income households in developing countries.

To help tackle the world's big social, environmental and economic issues, we must go beyond what we can achieve in our own operations and with our suppliers.

One way we’re extending our reach is through TRANSFORM, an initiative that brings together business, government and civil society, to leverage their respective strengths.

We set up TRANSFORM in 2015 – with the UK’s Department for International Development – to support innovative social enterprises that meet the needs of low-income households in developing countries.

By offering financial and business support to these social enterprises, TRANSFORM aims to enable up to 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia access products and services that improve their health, livelihoods, environment or wellbeing by 2025.

TRANSFORM is currently supporting over 45 projects across 11 countries, which have reached more than a million people so far.

And now, with the world-class capabilities and reach of two additional organisations – EY and Mastercard – we can do even more.

EY has joined to further its long-standing commitment to impact entrepreneurs and to help their businesses scale equitable access to vital goods and services.

Mastercard brings its network, digital technology and expertise to advance commercially sustainable impact and to put more people on a path from poverty to prosperity.

Every 1 Mobile

Additional capabilities already making their mark

Our support to Every1Mobile is a good example of where these additional capabilities are already making their mark.

With TRANSFORM’s support, Every1Mobile created its U Join digital platform, which helps duka owners in Kenya build business skills that will allow them to promote and expand their offering better. A ‘duka’ is a small general store that serves a local community, usually owned and run by a single person or family. They are essential components of last-mile delivery: responsible for 80% of consumer goods sales. Unilever currently trades with over 60,000 dukas.

With additional TRANSFORM funding, Every1Mobile launched an e-learning project to develop duka owners’ financial literacy in partnership with Mastercard’s Jaza Duka programme, which provides access to credit for low-income retailers. Based on content provided by Mastercard, the project delivered courses and tools to U Join and Jaza Duka shopkeepers to test whether increased knowledge about financial concepts resulted in greater uptake of Jaza Duka credit. It had a very positive impact on shopkeepers’ knowledge, use and confidence of financial concepts, digital solutions and credit.

As well as U Join, which targets informal FMCG shopkeepers in Kenya, Every1Mobile has also set up NaijaCare, a similar platform aimed at informal pharmacies in Nigeria. TRANSFORM supports both projects. The potential for these platforms is huge. Leveraging the expertise of EY, business modelling estimates that together they could be worth $43 million by 2023, based on reaching 8 million consumers across 11 cities.

“Some of the best ideas and boldest actions are coming from entrepreneurs and start-ups,” says Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Rebecca Marmot. “These disruptors are driving innovations and new business models to create the momentum the economy needs. TRANSFORM can unlock these opportunities and help to scale workable solutions, to build a brighter future for all.”

TRANSFORM in action

TRANSFORM partners with social businesses that address a range of low-income household needs from water, sanitation and hygiene, to health, livelihoods, energy and the environment. Here’s a closer look at some of our projects.

Dharma Life

In rural India, less than 18% of women have regular salaried employment. Dharma Life aims to improve their quality of life through an entrepreneurship model that provides women and the poor with livelihoods and access to products and services. Women entrepreneurs are trained to become social change makers in their villages. They help build an ecosystem for community engagement through awareness campaigns, behaviour-change activities and selling socially impactful products. TRANSFORM has helped Dharma Life launch several campaigns including ‘Clean and Connected Homes’. This focuses on sustained behaviour change including handwashing and the use of clean energy technologies. The aim is to train 200 entrepreneurs and reach 50,000 people through the campaigns.

Kasha with a mobile

In many countries, women struggle to buy essential health, hygiene and personal care products – such as sanitary pads and contraceptives – because of social stigma, affordability and poor supply chains. Kasha is a confidential direct-to-consumer offline and online e-commerce platform – available on even a basic mobile phone – that sells these products through direct delivery, pick-up points and a network of agents. TRANSFORM supported Kasha on product affordability, consumer acquisition and retention, e-commerce and how to optimise health promotion. By the end of 2018, Kasha had delivered to 34,000 consumers in Rwanda, 90% of whom were base of the pyramid. We are now helping integrate micro-credit services into the platform with support from Mastercard, expand the agent network across Kenya and optimise digital content.

doctor working

With around 120 million people in rural Pakistan lacking access to affordable, quality healthcare, the country has one of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in South Asia. At the same time, there are many qualified female doctors who don’t practise because of socio-cultural barriers. doctHERs is a gender-inclusive social business that matches the under-utilised capacity of female doctors to the needs of underserved communities. TRANSFORM is helping doctHERs upskill and deploy technology-enabled female health workers in Punjab and Sind states to provide health awareness, products and services, and connect patients to doctors via high definition video-consultation. The aim is to reach over 1.15 million women and girls in low-income households across 1,750 villages.

Water filters

The barrier to universal access to safe drinking water is not a lack of technology, but rather a lack of a successful distribution model capable of achieving a change in habits at an affordable price. Folia Water produces innovative silver-infused filter papers that can eliminate bacteria, viruses and other pathogens at a price of a penny per litre of water. The simple-to-use product design requires no electricity and works with any common household water container. As Folia Water is a materials technology company, TRANSFORM is supporting with sales, marketing and distribution to optimise the consumer and retail proposition in Bangladesh. Folia Water’s aim is to reach low-income consumers with a low barrier to entry product, making water purification as common as soap.

Shobar Jonno Pani

Almost 20% of Bangladeshis don’t have access to a source of clean, safe drinking water and 44% to a functioning sanitation system. This results in poor health conditions and environmental degradation, with water contaminated by waste. Developed by French NGO Eau et Vie, Shobar Jonno Pani – which means ‘Water for All’ – is a mini-utility that provides paid services for water supply, primary solid waste collection and sanitation in underserved informal settlements of Dhaka and Chittagong. TRANSFORM is helping Shobar Jonno Pani roll out its sanitation business to improve latrines and sewerage systems, supporting with expertise in marketing and behaviour change. The service already benefits 100 people in Dhaka’s informal settlements. Its aim is to ultimately reach 15,000 people from low-income households.

Drinking water

Millions of people in India and Bangladesh consume unsafe drinking water – drawn from contaminated groundwater sources – that contains impurities such as arsenic, fluoride and iron. Thousands die every year in Bangladesh alone. Using a micro-franchise model to set up locally-run community water systems, Drinkwell provides access to affordable, safe drinking water through its novel filtration technology that significantly reduces energy costs and waste. TRANSFORM is helping trial a new content-based platform that promotes safe practices in poor communities, driving the purchase of Drinkwell Water RFID-enabled ATM cards, which can be bought in places like pharmacies and bazaars. The pilot will test different content to assess uptake and adoption. The aim is to reach 100,000 users.

Saraplast hut

A big challenge faced by women in urban areas of India is accessing safe, hygienic toilets outside the home, particularly when menstruating. Most public facilities are dirty and badly maintained. Saraplast refurbishes scrapped buses to provide well-lit, fully-equipped restrooms for a small fee. Placed at popular locations across the city of Pune and powered by solar energy, the buses provide access to washbasins, soap and sanitary napkins, with spaces for diaper-changing and breastfeeding. The twelve buses that are currently operating target lower-income women and are used by an average of 150 individuals per day. TRANSFORM is helping explore additional revenue streams – such as cafes – to ensure financial viability, and expand the services to include health information, diagnostics and advice.

Pit Vidura

In dense informal settlements, most toilets are pit latrines which are emptied by hand. The untreated waste is then dumped or re-buried elsewhere in the community. This is the only sanitation ‘solution’ available to over 90% of people living in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. Pit Vidura promotes safe, affordable waste management practices by providing emptying services to households in even the most inaccessible areas. It also employs previously marginalised waste workers, equipping them with professional tools and personal protective gear. Pit Vidura has so far serviced over 1,200 of Kigali’s poorest households. TRANSFORM is now helping the enterprise scale up by testing different business models to increase efficiency, and piloting ways to license its technologies to existing service providers.

Listening to the radio

In Zambia, many remote rural communities remain marginalised because of the costs and inefficiencies of reaching them. Businesses stay away, while non-profits tend to focus their attention on more accessible locations. ZayoHubs are technology-enabled, solar-powered community centres that provide access to phone and internet connectivity. The hubs offer a range of support services which generate livelihoods and deliver valuable social and educational content, and are sustained by revenues from multiple services. TRANSFORM is helping establish a sustainable, scalable business model, refining what a ‘core’ service is and what may differ by location. We are also supporting the recruitment and training of entrepreneurs to run the facilities. The aim is to expand ZayoHubs to hard-to-reach low-income communities within Zambia and beyond.