Conversation with our water expert, Emily:
Anu: “Emily! Oh man, the meeting with the low income areas in Bangalore was great! I think we can make a HUGE impact there! Did you know 10% of their income goes to water? I had no idea it was that high! Did you realize that?”
Emily: “Anu, that number seems really high. I don’t think they spend 10% of their income on water.”
Anu: “Really? But when we asked them how much they spent on water, they were talking about anywhere from 200-500 INR/month! And that’s what Ashish found too…why would they say otherwise?”
Emily: “Ok Anu, think about it. If someone came and asked you how much you spend on water, and it looks like you may be able to do something about it, don’t you’d think you’d over report how much you actually spend? Anyway, here are some research papers that study this exact thing- and most of them agree on people spending about 1%-2% of income, including opportunity costs, on water. “
Anu:“….UGH you’re right. This is why I’m really glad you’re here.”
(Paraphrased conversation, but you get the point).
The thing about being a social enterprise (as opposed to just being a regular business), is you have to try and keep track of the social impact you’re making (or at least the potential you can make). Businesses are well equipped to track the bottom line (which we actively do), but we’re not as good at the social bit. And we just have to acknowledge that part. From my own personal experience (which I should have remembered), I know that I can get a person to change their answer (to the same question) just by the way I phrase it! There are so many nuances to surveying, and studying impact that “market research” just won’t uncover (as evidenced by the myriad of graduate classes available on the subject). All we as a social business know is that there is some sort of opportunity for positive change, but quantifying that opportunity is something we leave to the professionals.
This is why we think collaborating with world leaders/experts in the field is crucial to our success. Business and capital markets naturally lead itself to being efficient, but what if you’re efficient at the wrong things? That’s where the experts come in: channeling that efficiency into doing something that makes positive change.
Anu, is the point of this post to say that the numbers from the last post are running high (re: impact?) Yes, probably. I’m revising it to say that’s what our crude initial market research studies found, but academic papers suggest that we’d save ~ 2% of income, NextDrop would be able to save ~30% of that. I’ll leave it up to others to use their numbers for how much a typical family makes (but the papers we read show something between 1300 INR- 6000 INR/month).
Also, is the other point to engage/call to the academic/expert water community? Yeah, pretty much. It’s also a…personal learning to put out there for other social enterprises. Make sure to have some experts on board to gut check your theories. It’ll save you a lot of trouble in the long run when you realize you are nowhere close to doing the thing you thought you were doing.
It’s no fun learning when you were probably wrong, but it’s incredibly important if we want to get at what’s right.
Again, comments/questions/etc.. are always welcome! Has this ever happened to you? What are your thoughts? Do you think we’re still off here?