Strengthening The Sanergy Movement: UC-Berkeley

Ryan Jung (left) and Will Tarpeh at the Sanergy Offices

Ever since winning UC-Berkeley’s Global Social Venture Competition’s Social Impact Award in 2011, we have had a soft spot and strong kinship with University of California – Berkeley. We have done great research on urine with Kara Nelson and her students in the Environmental Engineering Department.

This January, we hosted Will Tarpeh and Ryan Jung. Will is currently undertaking his PhD in Environmental Engineering with Professor Nelson while Ryan is an MBA Student at the Haas School of Business.Thanks to the support of the Blum Center for Developing Economies and the Development Impact Lab at Berkeley, the team were in Kenya to develop a sustainable business model for the treatment of potentially pathogenic waste from in-plot toilets.We sat down with them for a quick chat on their experience and why they found it worthwhile to pay us a visit:

On how they met

Will:  Ryan and I met in one of the inter-disciplinary classes at university. We worked jointly on a project that aimed to increase opportunities for home ownership, while also mitigating and reducing conflicts between residential and industrial uses as well as promoting economic development. In a strange way, this prepared us for the challenges of working in Mukuru.

 On their partnership and inspiration

Ryan: I have spent some time in Soweto, South Africa, refugee camps in Myanmar, informal settlements in the West Bank. I am really inspired by meeting new people and learning as much as I can. Having been a banker at Silicon Valley, I was able to use those skills to make sense of the Fresh Life business model and share my insights with the rest of the team.

Will: I am in Environmental Engineering by training and am doing my PhD research on how to provide sustainable access of hygienic sanitation for those populations that are in dire need of it.

 On the importance of investing in toilets and sanitation

Ryan:  There is still a lack of awareness on the value a clean toilet can bring to the community. In our interviews with the community we have realised that not only do the entrepreneurs make an income from it, but the regular access and security that the Fresh Life Toilet provides is what the community members value the most.

On their pilot in Kenya

Will: Our main focus on the plot toilets was to evaluate how the Sanergy business model would work towards providing adequate access to the residents living in these residential areas. We have had Focus Group Discussions with several Fresh Life Operators who own the toilets and interviews with the community to get people’s views on the same. The results are just a start, but are very exciting!

On visiting the Mukuru offices

Ryan: One of the things I enjoyed about Mukuru is the sense of business enterprise and innovation that is present within the community. Everybody is working on something!  There is plenty of energy and ingenuity; people are constantly finding ways to make their life a little easier. Seeing the pride that the people have in their Fresh Life Toilet is also something that really stood out for me.

Want to join the Sanergy team? Check out our opportunities here!




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