Trevor Field and The PlayPumps of Africa

Case Abstract

The water crisis in the African countries is quite severe with two out of five people lacking access to improved water supply. The implication of this problem goes beyond diseases and deaths due to water-related disease. Particularly in peri-urban and rural areas, women and girls have to commute long distances (up to 8 kilometres) and spend hours collecting water from water sources that could be contaminated. Touched by the hardship faced by these people, Trevor Field (Field) a UK-born advertising professional who had immigrated to South Africa, sought to do something to address this problem.

In the late-1980s, he chanced upon a child’s roundabout (merry-go-round) fitted with a pump that could pump water as it turned. Field worked with the inventor of this roundabout to bring about improvements in the system and later developed the PlayPump Water System (PlayPump) that was attached to a high-capacity storage tank and a tap. The four surfaces of the storage tank were used as billboards for commercial and public education/social (such as HIV/AIDS prevention) messages. Revenue earned from the advertising helped maintain the water systems for up to a decade.
Field co-founded a for-profit organisation with a social mission, Roundabout Outdoor Pty Ltd. (RO) to install and maintain these PlayPumps in various parts of Southern Africa. The funds for installing the PlayPumps were arranged by PlayPumps International (PI), a non-profit organisation also co-founded by Field. By the end of 2007, more than 1,000 PlayPumps had been installed in four countries in Southern Africa.
Experts felt that the PlayPump was a social innovation that was also sustainable. Field had succeeded in scaling up installations of the water system across five countries in Southern Africa by adopting an innovative business model based on collaboration with individuals, corporations, governments, foundations, and non-governmental organisations, they said. However, Field faced a number of challenges in scaling up further as he aimed to install 4,000 PlayPumps in ten African countries by 2010.

Authors: Debapratim Purkayastha
Institution: IBS Hyderabad, India
Competition Year2009
Place1st place
Track Social Entrepreneurship
Key WordsEnvironmental analysis, Eco-system framework, Developing and Emerging Markets, Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Strategies, Traits of Social Entrepreneurs, Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, Managing Growth, Business Model, Hybrid Business Models, Business Model Innovation, Managing Innovation, Sustainability, Double Bottom Line, Triple Bottom Line
CoursesStrategy, Marketing, Supply Chain Management
Permission RightsThis case is available for purchase from the Case Centre (809-022-1). This case is also part of the oikos Case Collection book (Volume 2): Case Studies in Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability published by Greenleaf.
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posted June 30, 2009

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