In the sixth blog in the#InnovMAMPU talks series, we spoke with Kopernik who is working to enhance women’s livelihoods. Kopernik aims to provide women in the remotest areas of Indonesia with safe, simple and clean energy technologies such as water filters, solar lights, and clean stoves. Kopernik works with “Wonder Women”, a network of women micro-social entrepreneurs in 8 districts in East and West Nusa Tenggara.
VIN: Since its establishment in 2010, Kopernik has been working to provide life changing technologies to communities in the last mile. Could you briefly describe the program Kopernik is running as a part of the MAMPU Innovation Fund?
Kopernik: People living in the last-mile do not have access to life-improving technology that addresses their basic needs. These include solar lights that replace dirty, dangerous and expensive kerosene; improved cookstoves that produce almost no smoke and use much less fuel wood than the typical means of cooking over an open fire; and water filters that make dirty water safe to drink. Kopernik is building a network of women micro-social-entrepreneurs called Wonder Women to sell these technologies to households in East and West Nusa Tenggara.
The program has three key outcomes:
- Generate demand for the technology by strengthening the Kopernik brand and developing it into a desirable, aspirational and trusted brand by clearly communicating the benefits of the products to consumers.
- Develop a sustainable life-improving technology distribution network of top-notch women micro-social entrepreneurs who are proud to be Wonder Women; and convey that being one is profitable, beneficial and desirable.
- Increase the desirability and benefits of Kopernik association to encourage women to join the Wonder Women distribution network
VIN: What puts women in a unique position to become tech agents for Kopernik products? Could you talk a bit about the idea of ‘Ibu Inspirasi’? How does it work?
Kopernik: Providing for a household’s cooking, drinking water and lighting needs is largely the responsibility of women in Indonesia. Women in rural Indonesia are burdened by the time it takes to collect cooking fuel, cook over inefficient traditional stoves, and boil water to make it safe to drink. Women’s activities at night are limited by access to electricity, which ranges from unreliable to nonexistent.
Our Wonder Women are superheros in their villages: making life-changing technology available to their friends, relatives and neighbours, technology that saves families time and money, improves health and safety, eases pressure on the environment, and opens up new economic opportunities. They are also inspiring others through what they achieve – earning money to support their families, gaining new business skills, and gaining confidence in their ability to succeed as entrepreneurs.
Women selling to other women can increase technology sales and adoption rates, and also creates a wider social impact, as women reinvest up to 90% of their income into their families and communities.
VIN: How are benefits of the technologies explained to a local community members? What forums, tools and messaging does Kopernik leverage to do this?
Kopernik: Once registered, Wonder Women receive a training package that includes learning about the product. The training details how each technology works; and what benefits it provides towards customer’s health, time and economy. For example, a solar lamp replaces the need to spend money on kerosene, so it helps with economic saving, and provides health benefits.
Wonder Women are trained by Kopernik in product demonstrations (Tech Fairs). Forums for Wonder Women to introduce the technologies include:
- Their friends and neighbours
- Traditional markets
- Hospital/ Puskesmas
- Village meetings
As the women’s confidence improves and they move through the training levels, Kopernik introduces the concepts of renewable energy and how to advocate for access to sustainable energy for all. This gives Wonder Women the skills and confidence to engage key influencers in the community, village heads and local government.
Kopernik also invites Wonder Women to expand their experience by attending events, conferences or exhibitions. This year we invited Wonder Women to participate in local government exhibitions, the Eastern Indonesia Forum Festival in Sulawesi, a ‘Smart Village’ workshop in Bunaken, the MAMPU forum, among others.
VIN: It was early on in this process that Kopernik identified that brand knowledge is a key factor that influences customer uptake. How has this insight been used in Kopernik’s program work?
Kopernik: We recruited a social marketing specialist to help us clearly understand the market, information channels, and what key messages are important for the community. The findings showed that rural and peri-rural areas are the best target markets. There were several marketing channels proposed and tested.
We recruited Wonder Women who are key influencers in their community such as kader POSYANDU (pre and postnatal health care volunteers), wives of village heads, successful village business women and members of local organisations. We learnt that having those women involved in the program gives greater impact. The community already trusts these women, and because of that they are more likely to trust the program and the products.
We developed a poster campaign to promote the technologies in rural areas. Posters were placed in public area such as kiosks, warung, hospitals, Puskesmas, outside Wonder Women’s houses, and on the roadside.The poster content was based on inputs from the community. They gave us feedback on a range of images we presented to them such as a clean house for cookstoves, women and children for water filters, and night activities for the solar lights.
An example that we would like to share is of Balurebong, East Flores; where the village head was planning to spend his Village Fund on generators for lighting his community. When he saw the solar light poster, he purchased a solar home system for every house in the village instead; he realised the ongoing economic and environmental benefits of using solar power over diesel.
VIN: What have been some of the most challenging elements of this program been? What has your approach to addressing some of these challenges, moving forward?
Kopernik: There are multiple challenges that we are working on overcoming actively. The Wonder Women have various levels of motivation, progress and willingness to learn. They also find it challenging to comprehend the impact that the technologies are having on their community. Kopernik continues to work with local partners to better understand their members’ workload and responsibilities. Kopernik’s local staff visit Wonder Women monthly to provide support and coaching. They are supporting Wonder Women to gather feedback from the users,so they see how they benefit the customer. Also, they can then use these testimonials to generate more sales.
Village level government realise the technologies are beneficial but the challenge is how to connect our program with their existing priorities in their village plan. Kopernik is working to help the Wonder Women tap into the Village Fund and existing village priorities (i.e. STBM, renewable energy). Wonder Women often do not understand their community or village activity calendar so this makes it difficult for them to plan product demonstrations at a suitable time. Kopernik is supporting the Wonder Women to develop networks in the community to find out this information so they can leverage on existing events to introduce these life-changing technologies.
VIN: Could you please reflect on some of your learnings from the Innovation Fund program? How has your understanding of innovation changed over the past year?
Kopernik: Small, incremental changes are required to create a significant change. MAMPU’s Innovation Fund has helped Kopernik make these incremental changes by using the prototyping method. Kopernik piloted many activities and evaluated their success. We were able to analyse where the program is working and where change is required.
Some learnings from the Innovation Fund with a direct impact on program design include:
- Target Locations: People really like the technologies. They are all popular. The solar home systems and cookstoves are a real hit. But we need to be operating in the right location – i.e. off grid – or less than six hours electricity at night. Then we will have real impact.
- Consistent Branding: The technologies come from different suppliers, so there is no consistent branding. Kopernik has developed a ‘Didistribusikan oleh Kopernik” to place all the technologies.
Kopernik have recruited 187 Wonder Women to date, empowering them through income generation, development of new skills and experiences, and improved position in society. The Wonder Women have sold 4,976 technologies to date, impacting 24,880 people. The MAMPU Innovation Fund has been key to enable Kopernik to adapt the way in which they work, and to support more women to become inspirational, motivated Wonder Women in society.