Case: Learning Through Fire @ Lets Recycle, India

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A CO-CREATIVE response to social enterprise disaster

Presented at #cocreate14. Scroll below the digital presentation for additional pre-lab details provided.

Presenter: Biplab Paul, Ashoka Fellow India
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PRE-LAB INFO PROVIDED about the case is emancipating roadside waste pickers from exploitative informal waste buyers through use of latest ICT based waste collection, which enables them to access better Livelihood.  We were successful to increase our coverage from 9 to 590 waste pickers with daily handling of 3 Metric Tonnes of waste. On 3rd May 2013 a devastating fire gutted down all our 24 months effort. Then a miracle took place –  each waste picker as well as our BOP team members came up with new ideas to make our SE successful. We did it within 5 months. Today we are handling more than 5 metric tonnes of waste per day from 890 waste pickers.

Key outcomes observed

1. We are able to reach a greater consensus with our waste pickers; rather we should admit that we were overwhelmed with their innovative thinking- we were successful to internalize that innovativeness within our existing system and converted their action into profit for all.

2. The creativity and thinking of our BOP workers convinced us to create an incentive model based upon better fleet management. Today that model is enabling them to earn 20%/mo more.

3. Our BOP workers effort in identifying short term shed for sorting and storing of waste convinced us the need of plan B. Today we have implemented that idea into a new packaged model of Lets Recycle Shop – a concrete structure where waste can be traded as well as sorting can be undertaken. This actually created a new revenue vertical for us. It also works as an insurance model for our collected waste along with large scale branding.

4. Rapid learning integration between the waste collection team and waste sorting team.

5. Working during crisis management was able to iron out the differences and misunderstanding between both collection team and the segregation (who were earlier at loggerheads)

6.  We were able to make our investors astonished in our performance from 8th day onward.

Key processes used

1. Our team (core team of 6 members) led from the front.

2. We were honest and addressed all in equal terms – explained them about the challenges and put it as a “”make or break”" situation.

3. We requested each team to share their thought on how best we can overcome this challenge

4. Each idea was further analyzed within our core team.

5. Each selected idea was given total freedom to perform within specific time frame and resource crunch.

6. Each idea was allocated to one specific member of core team and it was that member’s responsibility to make that idea successful.

7. Regular monitoring of each idea’s progress and limiting factors

8. Daily online updating on result of each idea


Sector/field: Waste management

Initial geography (where the co-creation initiative started): Ahmedabad city, Gujarat state, India

Application geography (where the co-creation process has been applied) Ahmedabad city, Gujarat state India

Is it a one shot initiative? an ongoing initiative ? it was a spontaneous process against an accident ie fire at our material recovery facility. The devastating fire gutted down all of our assets as well as waste storage from waste pickers in tune of USD 150000. Against that fire we could not get any insurance as our state insurers feels that waste does not carry any money value!!!!

Issues to be solved/addressed:

1. Survival of the whole company

2. Creating confidence among the BOP waste pickers

3. Continue our work ie interaction with the BOP waste pickers

4. Purchasing of waste from BOP waste pickers

5. Gradually make the profit

6. Continue the faith and trust of all the stakeholders in the process

Early objectives (at the start of the initiative)

1. To convince the waste pickers that due to current fire ad devastation of our system we will not be able to buy waste from them for time being.

2. Explain them that that they can sell their waste to other buyers for time being and we will come and buy their waste only after one month when we are able to clean the fire devastation

Later objectives (developed/evolved through co-creative process)

1. To expand the confidence within waste pickers to different geographies

2. To ensure higher profit for them as well as make our loss lower

Key words used to define the co-creative process

1. confidence building

2. waste specific collection & sale module

3. honest transaction and accountability

4. BOP defied planning and follow up by our social enterprise

Key words used to define the context in which the co-creative process took place

1. Fire and devastation

2. Loss and hopelessness

3. Resurrect from failure


Briefly describe the passion behind why this initiative was undertaken

1. To create a solution where BOP waste pickers can be freed from extreme poverty and severe exploitation in form of cheating and debt trap

2. To keep the process transparent and accountable

3. To prove that severe loss can be converted into great success

What inspired the use of co-creative approaches in this work?

1. The Trust and belongingness of BOP waste pickers within our system

2. The result, promised was exceeding our expectation by many times

3. Nothing worse can happen at that point of time- we had already lost our money, assets and our rich clients; we were left with only the BOPs who are surviving within USD 1.25 per day for a family of five

Which established methods were drawn from in inviting co-creativity?

1. We listened to our hearts and sincerely listened to waste pickers ideas

2. Created space for waste pickers into the process of decision making

3. Facilitated their ideas into right shapes and platform within monitoring parameters (as per their familiarity)

Why was a co-creative approach deemed better in this case than a more traditional approach?

1. It enabled us to tide over all the difficulties as well as assisted us to forge much stronger bonding among all the stakeholders

2. The result was astounding; it assisted us to rejuvenate the business within 1 months

3. The scale of operation increased from 4 metric Ton/ day to 5.1 metric Ton/day

4. Our management cost got reduced by at least 6% within first month

5. Our team efficiency increased by 10% within next 3 months

6. New BOP joined (more than 1000 members) with us and we are now expanding further

7. Government was convinced with our approach and the result was new partnerships

What was the role of serendipity in guiding how this initiative unfolded?

This was totally spontaneous and sheer devastation opened up the new vistas of learning and co-creative space


Stakeholders/stakeholder groups involved

1. BOP waste pickers

2. BOP workers

3. Lets recycle Team

4. Naireeta Services’ Knowledge management team

Roles of stakeholders

1. BOP waste pickers: redefining waste collection and reaped segregation

2. BOP workers: follow the new system of doorstep waste collections from BOPs

3. Lets recycle Team: Identify the BOPs and follow up with space facilitation and timely picking up services

4. Naireeta Services’ Knowledge management team: leadership creation among BOPs and software facilitation for collection

Role of a leader, or a leading team, if any

1. Mr Prahlad, who is a BOP waste picker, after the whole process he is now gradually becoming an entrepreneurs

2. Mr. Dhrumin and Mr. Biplab , who among the Lets Recycle Team kept faith on the BOP process and continuously followed up with Lets recycle core team not to divert from the focus

Were any funders involved in supporting the initiative? (When did they become involved?) – No


“Materialisation” of co-creation : (events, meetings, facilitation sessions, co-developed content, joint actions…)  meetings/consultations led to new operational plans

Technology involved (computers, mobile phones….)

1. Yes android based platform was used to supplement the transparency of the BOP

2. Series of dump site meetings were conducted for remoduled our work to suit the ideas of the waste pickers

3. Joint action were conducted for waste segregation understanding and waste classification

4. Common nomenclature was created for all different types of wastes within same category for easier understanding for all the participating partners

Social networks used – NO

Knowledge sharing processes used during the co-creation process

1. Group meeting with video recording

2. Sample of work and its assessment among all the waste pickers

3. Work assessment within the corporate team

Content created – NA

Impact measurement - Through real time data capturing by our software. The results are explained earlier

Significant difficulties met – NA

Conflict between stakeholder groups that arose - No conflict

Steps taken ahead of co-creation which made co-creation possible or enrich the co-creation process

1. Yes Franchise models have been created for the waste pickers

2. waste specific segregation and colleciotn SOPs are created

3. Whole team is sensitized on the progress and they are all now part of the SOP usage

Timeframe : how long did it take between the idea and its implementation

1. it was immediate ie from day zero. But now we have made it into system planning for last 3 months.