In late 2006, the PATH Safe Water Project received a $17 million grant from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its purpose was to evaluate how market-based approaches could help accelerate the widespread adoption and sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) products among the world’s poor. Traditionally, this sector had been dominated by government and philanthropic solutions. Through a portfolio of field-based pilots, PATH intended to experiment with different commercial models for addressing this dire need.
One key factor to consider in constructing its pilot studies was the affordability of HWTS products. To reach people at the base of the socio-economic pyramid, organizations often heavily (or completely) subsidized products. However, through market research and some preliminary pilots, the PATH team uncovered detrimental effects of giveaways, particularly when they occurred without a long-term plan for supporting real behavior change in the community. The team was committed to finding other alternatives for addressing the affordability of safe water products. This mini-case study describes PATH’s efforts to use consumer financing as a mechanism for making HWTS products and supplies more accessible to its target market.
This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Tim Elliott and the PATH Safe Water Project team for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.