On September 2022, Reckitt launched the Fight for Access Accelerator together with their trusted partners, two of which include Yunus Social Business (YSB) and Health Innovation Exchange. Reckitt and YSB are working together to deliver the Accelerator in South Africa and Brazil, focusing on scaling innovative solutions that enable access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH).
Here are 5 things to know about this exciting social impact journey:
1. Why the WASH sector?
According to the UN, 2 billion people worldwide live without safely managed drinking water services, including 1.2 billion lacking even a basic level of service. This lack of access to clean and safe water can lead to a whole slew of long-term health issues, with roughly 50% of all malnutrition associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections as a direct result of inadequate water use, sanitation, and hygiene.
Particularly in South Africa, water security is a big problem. 75% of 910 municipality-run wastewater treatment works achieved less than 50% compliance to minimum standards in 2020 (Daily Maverick, 2021) and at least 33% of Water Sanitation Assets are dysfunctional (DWS, 2018). With South Africa’s population expected to grow by almost 10% in the next 5 years (Statista, 2022), the need for clean and sanitised water is only expected to grow.
In Brazil, the World Bank and JMP data reveal that 15 million Brazilians living in urban areas do not have access to drinking water that is protected from external contamination and available at home. In rural areas, 25 million people have limited access to water from safe sources, but far from their homes. With regard to sanitation, the staggering number of over 100 million Brazilians do not have access to adequate facilities which are not shared with other homes and where sewage is collected and treated in a safe manner. Of this total, 2.3 million still practice open defecation.
While this data paints a grim reality of how far we have yet to go in terms of achieving a truly fair and equal society, Reckitt and YSB’s Fight For Access Accelerator takes initiative towards solutions, answers, and action for the people in these regions.
Social businesses in the WASH sector create the opportunity for decentralised solutions that can significantly improve current systems in a way that is faster, more agile, and more disruptive than traditional top-down solutions. By identifying and scaling these solutions in WASH, local communities in South Africa and Brazil have a better chance at healthier, improved quality of life for the long-term.
2. What happens in an accelerator program?
By design, the Fight for Access Accelerator has a two-way value approach that enables learning and growth for both the participants and the mentors of the program, namely the social entrepreneurs and the Reckitt employees.
For the social entrepreneurs, they are taken through practical bootcamps and mentorship programs that equip them with important skills for social entrepreneurs, including sessions on systems thinking, purpose orientation, and Impact Measurement & Management (IMM). At the end of the 6-month journey, the social entrepreneurs will receive seed funding to continue to scale their solutions in WASH.
For the Reckitt employees, they are given the opportunity to take part in the accelerator through Give Time - Reckitt’s volunteering program which enables employees to actively contribute to the company’s fight to make access to quality health and hygiene a right, not a privilege, by participating in various social impact projects. By acting as mentors in the Fight for Access accelerator, Reckitt employees are able to engage with inspiring social entrepreneurs and actively learn from their social innovation approaches, ultimately triggering new thinking and motivation which can be brought back into the corporate positions.
3. What is YSB’s role?
> Sourcing and selection of participating social enterprises - YSB’s experience in impact investing enables their teams to identify social impact solutions that have potential to scale. 2 crucial points are always present in their assessment: the strength of the social business model, and the team.
> Program design and delivery - in partnership with the Reckitt team, YSB has co-created a learning journey that accelerates the growth of social entrepreneurs, and enriches the volunteering experience of Reckitt employees. This two-way value proposition is a powerful innovation catalyst for all participants of the program. As the program design is based on deep understanding of the local challenges based on research and expert stakeholder involvement, the 6-month journey offers a clear and impactful pathway to delivering positive change in WASH.
> Partnerships strategy & empowerment - YSB’s approach to solving large, global problems always includes tapping strategic partners. We understand that global issues can never be solved by one player alone, but rather a coalition of carefully selected partners that have valuable experience, aligned goals, and concrete roles to play. Using our experience of over 10 years in delivering social impact, we select the best partners for approaching specific challenges.
4. How were the social businesses chosen?
Out of over 100 applications collected from over 80 network partners across South Africa and Brazil, 12 social enterprises were selected to take part in the Fight for Access accelerator because of their systemic approach to breaking down barriers for community-wide WASH solutions. Rather than alleviating symptoms, the chosen social enterprises address the root of the problem, as measured by:
To add, these social enterprises serve the prioritised communities of women and girls, populations in remote and rural areas, and those in informal settlements and suburbs of urban centres.
Systems-thinking is a powerful approach to solving big, global problems by considering the interrelationships of underlying factors that influence the whole. A systems-thinking mindset can enable long-term, sustainable change and is an integral part of YSB’s impact strategy.
5. How does the Fight for Access Accelerator fit into Reckitt’s larger strategy?
The alignment of the accelerator’s theme with their corporate strategy means that the accelerator not only delivers on their social impact goals, but their corporate goals as well. As a major producer of health, hygiene, and nutrition products, the Fight for Access Accelerator is a way for Reckitt to strengthen the development and innovation of their sector, not just within the four walls of their organisation, but globally through their support of the participating social entrepreneurs.
Patty O’Hayer, Global Head of External Affairs & Social Impact Partnerships, says –
“I couldn’t be more proud of what Reckitt has created together with YSB. Through working with social businesses, our investment will live on over and over again as the enterprises grow, continuing to create jobs and economic empowerment, enable access, and drive positive health outcomes. YSB are such valued partners and experts in accelerating social business, I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together!”
Social-business entrepreneur Roshan Miranda saw an opportunity to address the environmental challenges of waste recycling while also improving the livelihoods of waste pickers. He co-founded Waste Ventures India, a social business that works with waste pickers to boost their income and India’s recycling efforts.
At the halfway point through the program we find ourselves sitting back and reflecting over the last five months. And what a fine journey of progress and development it’s been. We’ve seen our entrepreneurs learn and share all sorts from methodologies to frameworks to general advice about life and business.
More than 40 million Brazilians live in housing that suffers from residual damp, mold, and poor ventilation, all factors that contribute to serious public health problems.