IAP Fellow 2020: Kiara Wahnschafft Part II
Future Initiatives, the team I have be working on at Sanergy, is regarded as the startup within the startup. Many other teams are curious what we are up to as we innovate and test with an agile and fail-fast mindset.
Sanergy’s main product, a container-based toilet, allows them to collect the waste from the settlements daily and convert it into animal feed and fertilizer. However, 60% of the population in the settlements still uses pit latrines (essentially holes in the ground) to store waste: I am working on the financial and technical viability of methods for collecting and dewatering this pit latrine “sludge.” The theory is that in the areas without the container-based toilets, we can collect and dewater the sludge, converting the resulting solid waste into animal feed and fertilizer as well. Sanergy has a pilot site in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, a slum in eastern Nairobi, where manual pit emptiers come to deposit sludge they have collected. Considering I have been tasked with redesigning a sludge collection and treatment site, understanding the advantages and the pain points of the current pilot site is essential.
So, during my second week at Sanergy, I asked so many questions. Iinterviewed many of my colleagues to better understand the process of creating the pilot and its various iterations, as well as every success and shortcoming along the way. I spoke with those who currentlykeep the pilot running to deeply understand the day-to-day minute pain points and simultaneously heard from one of the co-founders of the company to gauge the high-level vision of the site. I created surveys for both manual pit emptiers and the operators that run the pilot site and collected their feedback to understand the perspective of these key stakeholders. As my team looks to replicate the site in the future, they can use these layouts and designs that I’m building to actually implement it when the time comes.
Being on the ground – in country, at Sanergy’s headquarters – is essential for me to design effectively. Without input from those most closely affected by the waste collection and guidance from those at Sanergy who have worked directly on the project thus far, my site designs would likely be naïve and unrealistic. The model of designing with people as opposed to designing for them is much more effectively and fortunately, we are seeing trends towards the former in development work.