Quicksand Uses Social Innovation to Improve Sanitation in Slums of India

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By Sangeeta Haindl

Quicksand, an Indian multidisciplinary design and social innovation consultancy, has launched a new initiative called ‘Project Sammaan’ with Jameel Poverty Action Lab, city governments of two big Indian cities and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to design and implement improved sanitation facilities in slum communities across India. The main aim of ‘Sammaan’ is to rethink the current models of sanitation amenities and design something new that instills a sense of dignity while addressing the issues affecting sanitation practices in India.

According to India’s 2011 census, nearly half of population have no toilet at home, but more people own a mobile phone. Only 46.9% of the 246.6 million households have toilets while 3.2% use public facilities. The Indian government’s ambition is to achieve total social innovation in rural sanitation coverage by 2017. According to data available up to September 2011, 115.3 million rural households have access to toilets, leaving 40.8 million households without sanitation facilities.

The name ‘Sammaan’ comes from Quicksand’s belief that it’s important to transform the user experience of poor sanitation facilities that is shrouded with shame to a new experience of respect, social innovation and dignity. The project seeks to design and build 119 sanitation facilities in urban slums in India. Collectively, these facilities will have 1200+ toilets, bathrooms, spaces for washing clothes, and will benefit 60,000+ people. The project started in February 2012 and will continue for 19 months, where at the end, new toilets will be operational.

Quicksand started in 2005 and is made up of a team of entrepreneurs, anthropologists, technologists, designers and film makers. It is constantly exploring new areas of design inquiry and social innovation cutting across corporates and non-profits. It likes to do things differently and believes in sharing its successes and challenges to create dialogues and engagement—and will be doing exactly this during ‘Project Sammaan.’ It has launched a blog featuring insights from the Quicksand team, as well as guest author posts from its partner organisations and global specialists in the sanitation field.

It has also announced a social innovation design challenge that will open Project Sammaan to public participation. The Open Innovation Challenge seeks to discover radical ideas and new perspectives that will help it in its attempt to reinvent low-cost urban sanitation. Also, on the ‘scent of sanitation.’ Bollywood actress Vidya Balan, has been named the national sanitation brand ambassador by the Indian government to help improve sanitation in the country. Last year the ‘King of Bollywood,’ Shahrukh Khan announced he would become a sanitation advocate at the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in Mumbai.

Photo Credit: Main Website of Global forum on Sanitation and Hygiene

Sangeeta Haindl

I love being a staff writer for Justmeans on topics – Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry. I believe in the power of serendipity for business. Do e-mail me if you would like to know more and what this means. I also am a Twitter lover and believe that social media lets people into our lives. I would also describe myself as a Spiritual Entrepreneur, Conscious Explorer and Futurist. I enjoy helping others, paying it forward and being a mum.

( Article published under 3BL Media-INDIACSR partnership)

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