Convergences 2015: co-creating solutions for danone.communities’ social businesses


During the 6th World Forum organised by Convergences 2015 around the Millenium Development Goals, the project leaders from three of danone.communities’ social businesses shared their challenges and issues with the public in a workshop. A creative and enriching moment for everyone.


Last week, Convergences 2015 held the 6th edition of its World Forum in Paris. Every year, the three-days event brings hundreds of participants together around the mission of Convergences 2015:

to help build new convergences between public, private, and solidarity-based players to promote the Millennium Development Goals and to alleviate poverty and privation in developed and developing countries.

Based on the idea that co-creation and cooperation are the right way to go in building a “fair and sustainable” world, the organisation strives to de-compartmentalise the above-mentioned sectors stated above and, above all, to foster dialogue.

Since 2008, the World Forum, a sort of “Davos of new solidarities,” has been bringing this ambition to life every year. For three days in Paris, representatives from the 200 organisations of the Convergences 2015 network thus shared their thoughts, their challenges and their best practices as regards in the fight against poverty and the crusade for development. Convergences 2015 was in fact launched  to promote the eight Millennium Development Goals defined by the United Nations in 2000: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to promote gender equality and empower women; to reduce the child mortality rate; to improve maternal health; to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; to ensure environmental sustainability, and to develop a global partnership for development. On 19 September, at the Paris City Hall, the danone.communities teams held a workshop to contribute ideas for cooperation and co-creation around development issues.


A surprising “conference”


The participants were probably expecting a conventional conference when they chose to attend this event, entitled: “Social Business and access to water.” They certainly thought they were going to hear the project managers (François Jaquenoud, from 1001 Fontaines in Cambodia, Xochitl Galvez from El Alberto in Mexico, and Anoop Ratnakerrao from Naandi in India) share their experience on how to bring safe drinking water to poor and/or rural populations. And indeed they did. But perhaps not exactly in the way they thought…

In fact, after a short presentation about 1001 Fontaines, El Alberto and Naandi, Arielle Genton and Miora Ranaivoarinosy, from danone.communities, explained to the audience that they were now supposed to help François, Xochitl and Anoop solve some very concrete problems they are facing with their social business. The participants were divided into three groups, one for each project, and given just 25 minutes to come up with innovative ideas to help solve the entrepreneurs’ problems. After a moment of surprise and hesitation, they really rolled up their sleeves and got down to it – because the issues they had to work on were in fact quite challenging!


1001 Fontaines: create more impact


1001 Fontaines is a social business designed to improve rural populations’ health thanks through clear, safe water. In 80 villages, they have thus set up water-purifying units, managed by a villager-entrepreneur who sells the water to his fellow villagers at very low prices. François Jaquenoud’s challenge lies in how to create more impact, in villages where the average penetration rate is only 20-25%.


El Alberto: making children prefer water to soft drinks


El Alberto was founded near Mexico City by Xochitl Galvez, an indigenous Mexican woman, with the twofold aim of bringing clear water to indigenous populations in desert areas and empowering women in the communities.

Today, there are 200 distribution centres which employ 200 women. The project achieved profitability a year and a half ago and is now looking to develop in other parts of the country, notably in regions where children die of diarrhoea because they lack access to safe drinking water.

Xochitl’s challenge is cultural: Mexican children tend to prefer soft drinks and sodas to water. How do we convince them to switch?


Naandi: funding free water distribution to schoolchildren


Naandi’s project started four years ago, and its scope reflects its ambition: bringing water to rural populations. In a vast country where basic services are not guaranteed everywhere, Naandi now provides water to more than 200 villages, which impacts more than 600, 000 lives. Anoop Ratnakerrao explained how they are striving to go the “last mile and fill the final gap »: 90% of the nation has now access to water. But 10% still means 100 million people who do not! The social business has chosen to concentrate on children in the years to come, with a programme that will provide free water to schools and nurseries. Anoop’s problem is how to build and fund that programme. He is notably looking for answers with crowdfunding models.


Sharing ideas


After 25 minutes of talking, thinking and brainstorming, the three groups shared their ideas with the three entrepreneurs. They enthusiastically explained how children could be turned into  “water ambassadors” among their families and groups of friends to efficiently share health messages, how fruit-flavoured water could make for healthy and appealing drinks, how allowing villagers to buy large quantities of water and sell a part of it to their neighbours could help increase the penetration rate, how bringing together social businesses with the same issues on crowdfunding platforms could gain them more visibility and support – and much more.

There were so many ideas that it is impossible to mention them all here, and the entrepreneurs seemed to be very pleased with what they got from the workshop – ideas they are going to work on and maybe put into practice. François told the participants: “Do not think that what you just did is not useful,” and Xochitl and Anoop expressed their satisfaction at knowing they were not alone in trying to build solutions for the future of their communities. But perhaps those who learned the most from the workshops were the attendees. As one of them said afterwards, they learned a lot from being able to discuss the entrepreneurs’ problems and think about concrete solutions. Food for thought for further editions!

Let’s watch the interview of Anoop Ratnaker Rao from Naandi. Launched in 2006 by the Naandi Foundation, Naandi Community Water Services has one clearly defined mission: providing access to safe drinking water by supplying inexpensive professional services:

(Photo from:  ©Philothée Gaymard)

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