Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
In 2006, BEN Namibia and a Canadian volunteer network, Bicycles for Humanity (B4H), developed a new bicycle distribution model, the BEC. A BEC is a 12m modified shipping container with about 350 second-hand bicycles, tools, spare parts, paint, roofing materials, and workbenches, delivered to a grassroots organisation and run as a community-based bicycle shop. With each project BEN Namibia provides extensive training in bicycle mechanics and financial and project management .
Through each BEC, at least 10 per cent of the bicycles are allocated for use by volunteers and beneficiaries of the local partner. Income is generated through sales and servicing of bicycles to the community. This income generation component not only provides paid employment for volunteers, but generates income for community projects and provides ongoing availability of maintenance services to bicycles used by volunteers.
As more than 90 per cent of Namibian healthcare volunteers are women, the majority of our project participants are women. Training women in bicycle mechanics addresses the practical need of teaching them how to maintain their bicycles, and is an entry point for changing existing gender division of labour. BEN Namibia considers it an opportunity to promote more fundamental changes in gender roles and relations, and the planning process of BEC projects with local communities consider strategies to make best use of this opportunity. Training women in bicycle mechanics can be a powerful tool for empowerment.
Fifty six percent of the population of Namibia lives on less than US$2 per day, and typically healthcare volunteers and their clients live on very low incomes. The BECs provide these people with an employment opportunity, and a reward for their commitment to healthcare volunteering.
BEN Namibia has already established 22 BECs, providing employment for 90 people, 50% of which are women.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
The Namibian health system has struggled to cope with the number of people being admitted with HIV related illness, but the shortage of healthcare professionals remains a hindrance. Problems are exacerbated within the rural setting where the lack of transport systems isolates communities from access to social services.
To address these problems, dozens of grassroots organisations have implemented projects in partnership with the Ministry of Health, providing support to the health care system. One of the main responses from communities is the programmes for home-based care (HBC) of people living with HIV/AIDS and for supporting of orphans and vulnerable children. HBC programmes work with health care volunteers that visit clients in their houses. They assist clients and their families with household chores; provide counselling and information on adequate nutrition, hygiene and health; deliver medication and sanitary supplies; and provide basic solutions to common needs. The volunteers also assist clients to visit clinics and hospitals and to adhere to their anti-retroviral treatments. These programmes, however, face major challenges such as lack of appropriate transport and limited income generation activities to enable sustainability for their activities.
The need to support healthcare volunteers with improved access to reliable and sustainable transport is urgent. Many of these volunteers walk long distances to visit people infected with and affected by the disease and often take responsibility for taking sick clients to hospitals and clinics with limited resources. For many infected people, stigmatisation among family and friends combines with geographic isolation and makes coping extremely difficult. Volunteers reduce stigmatisation; provide emotional and psychological support through counselling; distribute prevention information; and give advice on living positively—many volunteers are HIV positive themselves.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?
Skills transfer to project participants occurs through initial training and ongoing support. Each project provides significant economic benefits to the local community in which it is located. Up to five people are employed directly, in most cases these people have never previously held formal employment, relying on sporadic informal work and subsistence agriculture. Each individual is in turn likely to support a number of extended family members, broadening the impact of their employment. At least 50 per cent of people employed are women.
Project participants, together with their supporting CBO, take decisions on how surplus project income is spent. Existing BEC projects have allocated income for different community projects.
Each project generates its own income from the outset, and after implementation is responsible for meeting ongoing costs such as purchase of spare parts and bicycles for resale. By the end of BEN Namibia’s period of support, the project has a clear picture of its financial performance. Eighteen months after implementation there are no costs associated with handing over the project for fully independent management by participants.
The greatest constraint to project implementation and hand-over stems from Namibia’s poor standard of basic education. Historically, apartheid-era spending on non-white education allocated far fewer resources per-capita compared with white education. Policies limiting the level to which non-white students could study were a further limiting factor. Today this legacy is perpetuated as the products of this education system are now teaching, and at the same time government has been unable to improve its service delivery. To address this, BEN Namibia provides 18 months of support to ensure that key components for project success are embedded.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
• Improved income for participating CBOs within 18 months from project inception.
1) Improved quality of life for five participants involved directly in each BEC project.
2) Improved community volunteer service delivery to people living with HIV/AIDS in communities where BECs are located.
3) Replication in other sub-Saharan African countries
From 2010 to 2012, 16 new BECs will be established in Namibia.
BEN Namibia has been in dialogue with different grassroots organisations and is starting to explore replication of the model in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa and Ghana.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?