OCTOBER 2013 FEATURE STORY: First Update from Léogâne, Haiti
By Dustin Mix
I have now been in Léogâne for almost two weeks, and a full two weeks it has been. I’ve have spent a lot of time meeting with our two Léogâne E2E Representatives, Lamarre and Edson, as well as with various community members with an interest in seeing our project succeed. The conversations have been interesting so far – there has been a lot of affirmation of our ideas, both on the housing side and on the financing side, and also a lot of suggestions that could be vital to our success. Below are a view bullet points that provide a snapshot of where we are currently, as well as where we will be going in the near future.
Léogâne Demo Home
One of the most important goals for the upcoming year is to build a demo home in Léogâne. This will be beneficial in many ways to us, but mainly it will (1) allow us to tease out the issues within the construction and design of the home and how to improve it further, (2) give us visibility within the community, allowing people to see what the E2E Home is all about, and (3) give a sense of both progress and commitment to the Léogâne community. I am in the process of getting a first quote on the current housing design, as well as bouncing ideas around about important features that the prototype must have in order to serve as a valuable marketing tool. I am also on the hunt for our prototype location – we have had a few offers thus far for locations, however, it seems that the biggest hurdle will be putting it in a highly visible area. Most of the locations offered so far are a bit off the beaten path. The quote should take shape this week, and hopefully by the end of the month we will have found a suitable location.
As many may know, one of our signature ideas for the upcoming year is to conduct of series of what we have termed Innovation Incubators. The premise is simple: there are certain aspects of the housing, financing, and business model that we as the American contingent of E2E are not best equipped to answer. So instead of guessing our way through the process, why not go directly to those who are most qualified: the Haitian people. We will be holding a series of “Challenges”, in which we will identify members of the community we think have expertise and/or skill sets that make them well-suited to address a particular challenge, and then lead them through a structured program to harvest solutions. These participants will be compensated for their time, as well as provided resources to solve the problem, and ultimately, may even have a chance to come to work for us. We are in the implementation planning stages of this concept now, however, we have targeted a community for a pilot run that will allow us to work out the kinks. Everyone I have talked to here in Léogâne are fond of the idea, and Lamarre and Edson see it as another valuable opportunity to not only show progress of the project, but actually involve the community in driving the project forward. I really look forward to seeing this come together.
Group Savings Program
The bedrock of E2E’s financing strategy for its customers is savings. Without access to formal mortgages, savings is really the best tool that most can leverage toward home ownership. This tool is even better leveraged if people band together and use the power of group savings. We have designed a group savings program to help a portion of our target market finance their home purchase. I have spent a lot of time talking to Lamarre and Edson (as well as others) about this concept and all are excited by it. I was very pleased to find that a similar structure already exists in Haiti, called a “sol”, in which people pay into a group on a regular basis, then that money is distributed to various group members as a need is demonstrated, eventually paying the money back to the sol. Our version is slightly different, however, it will be very helpful to have an existing (and apparently fairly established) cultural practice to use to explain the concept. In conjunction with the Innovation Incubators, I am aiming to try a small pilot project with this concept, and then assign Haitians (probably market women) to each “housing sol”, to see who can incentivize their sol to save the most and operate efficiently and effectively. Mobile technology looks like it could play a very important role in this.
Those are the main updates I have at the moment. I will be writing regular posts to keep the amazing group of people that have, and continue to, support E2E updated. This is an exciting time for E2E and with your continued support I think there will be plenty of encouraging updates to come.