Sanergy: On the Ground and In Full Force

Sanergy is back in Nairobi and bigger than ever. With twelve team members working on the ground all summer, we’re preparing to grow our impact at an even greater rate than we’re growing the team.

Over the next two months, we are focusing on technological development and operational expansion – in order to build a network of toilets that makes hygienic sanitation fully accessible, affordable, and sustainable in one Nairobi neighborhood. In preparation for tales of these adventures, we want to introduce you to our dynamic cast of characters.

Toilet Design & Construction: Just days after his MIT graduation, Benji Moncivaiz has brought his experience developing the bicilavadora (a portable, pedal-powered washing machine) and training Ghanaian villagers in new techniques for drilling wells, to Kenya. Joel Veenstra, another newly-minted MIT alum, returns to Kenya to reprise his role last summer as a member of the design and construction team. Joel previously lived in Tanzania and Kenya for six years and is proficient in Kiswahili, a key skill for his upcoming work in training our construction teams.

Benji and Joel will soon be joined by Ella Peinovich and Nathan Cooke. Like Joel, Ella will be reprising her own role last summer as the lead designer of Sanergy’s v1.0 toilet, using her experience as an architecture grad student at MIT. Nathan has also worked with Sanergy for more than a year, moonlighting from his day job as a designer at the MIT D-Lab and organizer of Maker Faire Ghana.

Waste Processing & Conversion: Another pair of 2011 MIT alums, Joseph Atnafu and Sivakami Sambasivam, will lead Sanergy’s R&D on waste conversion processes. A chemical and biological engineer, respectively, both have a passion for applying their engineering skills to international and economic development. Joseph loves to travel, and Sivakami has worked in La Vaquita, Mexico building biodigesters in that community.

Ani Vallabhaneni will be working with both technology teams, applying his engineering and operations background, his new MIT Sloan MBA skills, and his experience building start-ups in India, the Philippines, and the US.

Toilet Expansion: The team working on expansion brings a wealth of development, community organizing, business operations, financing, and land rights expertise and experience to Kenya – and broadens Sanergy beyond its MIT base. Fresh from her Georgetown graduation, Emily Durfee will leverage her prior work with African development organizations including USAID in Washington DC and Accra. At the University of Chicago, Shashin Chokshi has worked both at ShoreBank International, a financial intermediary working with emerging market financial institutions, and at SEWA Bank in India, to consult, train, and fund grassroots entrepreneurs. Gaurav Tiwari, the Hernando de Soto Fellow at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, specializes in land rights for the poor and formalizing informal economies.

David Auerbach and Lindsay Stradley will be working with this expert team. As he refines the franchisee strategy, David will be drawing on his experiences at the Ignia Fund in Mexico, Endeavor, and the Clinton Global Initiative. Lindsay, in her work on marketing strategy for Sanergy and our franchisees, will use knowledge gained from sales at Google and operations at Bridge International Academies.

Stay tuned for unsavory details from the trenches!


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