Strategies for Change: SOIL’s Partnership with Appleseed

SOIL’s mission is to deliver safe, dignified, and affordable ecological sanitation services to households in Haiti and to increase sanitation access for all who want and need it. As readers of our blog know, one of the ways we do this is by providing in-home toilets and removing waste from communities via our EkoLakay services. A monthly service fee is collected from our customers which helps to cover the cost of the household toilet rental, weekly container collection & replacement, and waste treatment service. The customer fee helps to generate a stream of revenue for SOIL’s service to contribute to operational costs. However, customer fees do not cover the entirety of operational expenses of the service in large part due to the fact that SOIL provides this service to low-resource and impoverished households with low ability to pay, as well as the fact that sanitation services, globally, are often subsidized for users through public tariffs, which are not yet a viable financing mechanism in Haiti.  

SOIL has been providing household sanitation service for over a decade in northern Haiti. We have made significant progress over this time developing a user-approved technology, expanding our service, and refining a market-based service model for long-term sustainability. We also continue to be keenly aware that the vulnerable populations we serve are particularly susceptible to economic and other stressors. This creates a cycle where customers don’t pay on time for service, fall into debt, and risk losing access to the service altogether.

While we have a number of strategies in place to manage debt collection (calls, visits, notes in containers, SMS, pausing of service) and offer customers incentives (special offers, rebates, etc.), we haven’t been certain about which strategy would be most effective in improving payment patterns to retain customers in the long run as well as be appropriate for the economic situation in Haiti. 

We’re serious about providing an affordable service that is accessible to ALL, and to tackle this, SOIL is partnering with Appleseed Impact to help us investigate customer payment behavior and develop strategies that address on-time payments and retention of EkoLakay customers. Applying a human-centered approach, Appleseed works with organizations to determine strategies for change. They start by pinpointing a target behavior and working backwards to uncover and address the complex barriers and hidden motivators at play working from the belief that ‘in every impact organization’s theory of change, there is a step where someone must do something differently’.

Our project goals with Appleseed include:

  1. Understanding the themes around SOIL customers’ capacity to pay and their payment behaviors (not all of our customers with unstable economic resources have inconsistent payment patterns).
  2. Creating a behavior change strategy & recommendations for improvement (some of our customers may be unable to pay, but some may need more well defined payment structures and their timing to be more intuitive).

SOIL is committed to demonstrating a replicable service model that aligns with the Haitian government’s national sanitation strategy, which requires sanitation providers to implement market-based approaches for service provision. At the same time we acknowledge that Cap-Haitien has many households living in entrenched poverty and unstable economic situations. We are serious about increasing access to safe sanitation as we develop our market-based model for service provision.

Through our work with Appleseed, we plan to be able to increase the number of EkoLaKay customers who pay for their service on time (and via MonCash), and increase customer retention rate. Together these factors will ensure a steady stream of revenue for SOIL that will be used to improve and scale the service. As operations become more efficient and financially viable, SOIL will be able to expand its reach and serve even more under-resourced families and communities.

We look forward to sharing more on our work with Appleseed later this year. For a more in-depth look at our historical payment behavior work and research, you can read more here. 

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