Author Archives: iDE

Moving Towards ODF Status in Cambodia: iDE Shares Findings in New Tactic Reports

3-2-iDE-Cambodia WASH DIB-PR-07_Photo by Chhom DinatSince the beginning of iDE Cambodia’s sanitation marketing initiative in 2009, we have facilitated the sale of over 325,000 latrines, while sanitation coverage has increased from 23% to over 70% in the provinces where we work. Our latest tactic reports provide new insight into how this expansion of sanitation coverage was achieved:

Reaching Open Defecation Free Status with Grassroots Partnerships

iDE is supporting the further development of a sustainable sanitation ecosystem, to and beyond Open Defecation Free status. Our Cambodia team’s Public Private Partnership Department is facilitating deeper connections between the private sector and government, while generating, sharing, and applying market data to help communities bridge the gap to ODF. 

Reaching the Poorest with Sanitation Through Targeted Subsidies

A recent World Bank report describes several common pitfalls of the delivery of WASH subsidies worldwide, including being pervasive and poorly targeted, non-transparent, expensive for implementers, and distortionary for markets. iDE developed its targeted subsidy model to address each of these issues and help poor household sustainably participate in the Cambodian sanitation market.

Addressing Fecal Sludge Management in Rural Locations

iDE is scaling supply and sales of a new type of Alternating Dual Pit product. Equipped with lime treatment service and a device to indicate when the new pit is filling, this technology allows customers to alternate pits back and forth and empty safely composted waste indefinitely. Guiding businesses deeper into the sanitation market has been a challenge, and in order to more smoothly facilitate this process iDE has increased support for businesses on ways to retain staff, provide adequate protection and equipment, and follow a cleaner, safer installation protocol.

iDE pioneered the market-based approach in sanitation, incorporating private businesses, NGOs, and government stakeholders. In 2003, iDE launched the world’s first market-based sanitation program in Vietnam, and, since then, the model has been successfully replicated across iDE’s global portfolio and by other organizations.

iDE shares its secrets to achieving impact and scale

The market-based organization launches an online knowledge hub that dives deep into 10 years of learnings and insights in building markets for WASH.


After building one of the most successful market-based sanitation programs in the world, iDE is sharing its secrets to achieving impact and scale.

iDE, a Denver-based international nonprofit working to end poverty, launches a knowledge hub for market-based development professionals and enthusiasts, publishing over 10 years of learnings and insights from building markets for WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in developing countries around the world.

Explore the site:

“Critical for our own continued learning, even though it was not required by any donor, we decided we needed to write down, analyze, and reflect on the body of experience and evidence from our sanitation marketing program,” said Yi Wei, Director of Global WASH. “However, instead of the dreaded 100-page report, we decided to conduct this reflection and learning in a modern, dynamic way where others can be invited in to poke around and ask questions.”

iDE’s rigorous evidence and distilled insights highlight five key findings:

  • Markets can be effectively leveraged to reach the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
  • Product and business model design must start with a deep understanding of customer needs, and recognition that customers and their needs may change as the market evolves.
  • Iterative, data-driven programming is required to keep pace with rapid market changes.
  • Business and consumer financing are critical to deliver inclusive results, but nascent and dysfunctional markets mean that implementers must be creative in designing workable solutions.
  • Sanitation marketing and behavior change toward consistent latrine use can positively impact health.

The site primarily focuses on learnings from iDE’s sanitation program in Cambodia, which has facilitated the sale of 309,692 latrines (as of January 2019), improving coverage from 29% in 2012 to 69% today. Learnings from iDE’s other sanitation programs in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Vietnam will be added later this year and next.

iDE’s site shows that market-based development requires constant innovation and iteration, which are not without hard-won lessons. Flexible, supportive partnerships are also critical to create the space to experiment, innovate, and learn adaptively. iDE opens its doors to share this history and experience in a spirit of collaboration and learning.

“The goal of the microsite is not to stand as a static repository of knowledge, but rather, to serve as a conversation starter. We hope visitors will be inspired to unpack assumptions, reconcile evidence with theory, and share with us their reactions,” said Wei.

If water is the key, finance options are the lock that must be opened.

iDE-P_2018 World Water Week, panel 2_Photo credit to Water.orgVedika Bhandarkar, Managing Director of India, speaks on a panel with Yi Wei (left), iDE Global WASH Director, and Hon. Mansour Faye (right), Senegal’s Minister of Water and Sanitation. (Photo courtesy of


At World Water Week 2018, iDE along with WASH colleagues called for integrated financial systems to deliver water and sanitation solutions in the poorest locations.


To meet the Sustainable Development Goal for clean water (SDG 6, Ensure access to water and sanitation for all), we need smart(er) systems that integrate finance and market-based product delivery is necessary.

As part of this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm, Yi Wei, iDE Global WASH Director, co-hosted a joint session called “Smart(er) systems for water and sanitation: subsidies, financing, and markets” alongside Joel Kolker, Program Manager for Global Water Supply and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) of the World Bank, Vedika Bhandarkar, Managing Director of India, Hon. Mansour Faye, Senegal’s Minister of Water and Sanitation, Eng. Benson Ajisegiri, Nigeria’s Director of Water Supply and PPPs, Ministry of Water Resources, and Social Finance.

Click here to learn more.

Join the discussion! New learnings and innovations in FSM (June 4-7)

iDE Cambodia Toilet Installation

Masons install a toilet for a customer in Cambodia. (Photo by David Graham/iDE)

As countries grow closer to reaching open defecation free, there’s a growing urgency to address fecal sludge management (FSM). Join iDE’s WASH team for an e-discussion on June 4-7 hosted by the Civil Society Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Fund. 

Click here to join the discussion.

This is an opportunity share insights, experiences, and new innovations in FSM. Each day, iDE will lead the discussion with an opening question. iDE WASH teams from around the world will join the discussion—sharing new cost-effective solutions, results from a pilot in Cambodia, and an assessment of the FSM value chain.

iDE pioneered the market-based approach in the sanitation, incorporating private businesses, NGOs, and government stakeholders. In 2003, iDE Vietnam launched the world’s first market-based sanitation program, and, since then, the model has been successfully replicated across iDE’s global portfolio and by other organizations.

A discussion between WASH funders and grantees

Innovative strategies, new pathways, and more to learn

By iDE

iDE had the opportunity to participate in a conversation amongst various WASH grantees and funders this past fall. From the power of incentives to output based aid, dive into the discussion—the latest innovations in sanitation marketing and questions that still need exploring. Read lessons learned from designing and implementing results-based WASH programs.


Why WASH organizations need to hire and grow business-savvy leaders

Ghana_Sama Sama Launch_IMG_3045 (1)

Valerie Labi, iDE WASH Director in Ghana, speaks at the launch of Sama Sama, a sanitation social enterprise in northern Ghana.

By Yi Wei, iDE Global WASH Director

Every organization knows the pain and disruption caused by bad hiring decisions, or waiting for an employee to develop the necessary skills to excel in a position he or she is not a fit for. I work for iDE, a nonprofit organization that has been implementing market-based development programs for over 30 years. When it comes to successfully managing a sanitation marketing program, hiring business-savvy program leadership is critical.

If we truly want to drive progress towards the U.N.’s goal to “ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all,” I believe these four things should be considered by any organization working in WASH:

  1. Invest in recruiting talent with business acumen.
  2. Identify and develop business leadership skills.
  3. Incentivize potential leaders competitively, taking into account the opportunity cost candidates face forgoing potentially lucrative private sector positions, and not just the prevailing wages of the nonprofit labor market.
  4. Incubate and foster an organizational focus on training and knowledge sharing.

Dive deeper into the four strategies for building a business-savvy team. 

Systems Thinking Builds Markets

200,000 latrines sold by microentrepreneurs in just 18 months

We are celebrating a major milestone: 200,000 latrines sold by microentrepreneurs in Bangladesh in just 18 months. This achievement comes after three years of laying the foundation: research, product design and development, and putting business-thinking to work. The iDE Bangladesh team stuck by the principles of systems change but tailored the process using adaptive management.

A systems approach to sanitation drives scale, sustainability, and social welfare.

When market actors are connected and incentives aligned, the whole system benefits—improving health and social outcomes for consumers while increasing the market’s economic sustainability. The Bangladesh program encourages private sector service providers to produce high-quality products that respond to the sanitation needs and demands of rural Bangladeshis. Working with market actors across public, private, and civil sectors to engage the whole system drives improved sanitation.

A systems approach: Bringing the public, private, and development sectors together to address sanitation.

Building a business case for improved latrines.

How do all the different approaches used to tackle sanitation challenges fit together to drive progress?

When contracts are not enough: adaptive management and private sector engagement.

Rethinking sanitation in Bangladesh started with redesigning the toilet.

The SaTo pan, prototyped by American Standard in the U.S. and then tested by iDE in Bangladesh, sparked a new evolution in affordable, hygienic latrines—the ingenious trapdoor design requires less water than a traditional P-trap. This innovation was conceived by engaging with end-users—understanding why they did (or did not) use sanitation products and what they prefer. This upfront investment in research and design strengthened the viability of the final product in the marketplace.

Adaptive techniques for marketing at the last mile.

Markets are dynamic—the Bangladesh program employed an adaptive management approach to address shifting perceptions, unforeseen challenges, and new opportunities. By identifying unknowns upfront, running mini-pilots to keep experimentation flowing, taking time to find and fix leaks in the supply chain, and documenting each stage of the process, the team built a robust process of questioning, learning, and exploring that keeps them nimble throughout the project. Improving sanitation at the last mile takes a willingness to learn, a flexible mindset, and the courage to shift course when necessary.

Four ways to increase experimentation in your theory of change.

How can small businesses leverage their collective skills and buying power?

Adapting marketing approaches to today’s evolving consumers.

How market segmentation can increase latrine uptake among hard-to-reach consumer segments.

Journey to cost-effectiveness.

After three years of investment and innovation, it costs iDE and our donors $11 to empower a family to buy a latrine. With a solid systems foundation in place, we are experiencing rapid sales growth, driving down per-unit latrine cost to even lower levels than in the pilot. Families who purchase a latrine are seeing $205 in health and work-related savings per year. At this rate, we will reach 200,000 more households by 2019, outpacing our original target by more than 100,000 toilets.


For more information on iDE’s sanitation programs, please visit