Thursday, December 11, 2008

Implementing IAP Stoves - Working With Communities

I have long thought that a stove project is more that technological improvements - the parts that engineers typically are involved with. I started with thinking that the technical part (stove experiments and drawings and such) was 50% of an implementation, then I changed to 30%, then 10%, then Mark Jacobs convinced me (at ETHOS 2008) that 2% was closer to reality. Hence 98% of the success of a new stove project is due to non-technical, on-the-ground teaching. cooking demonstration, marketing, sociocultural, anthropological. hands-on, get dirty activities! So much for us scientists/engineers.

What can we do about this - remove the scientists and engineers from the project, or figure out how the social scientists can help? I am not the first to realize this, but I am certainly a minority within the stover community. A good place to start our analysis is with our usual stover master site, at the dissemination tab:
where the results of many projects are discussed. A worst VERY recent case set of scenarios is here:
where all/most of the stoves deployed in Ugandan refugee camps performed worse than primitive three stone fires - perhaps because not enough time was spent on education (as to how these stoves should be used)? All of us should read this discouraging article!
Another thing we should read is this one on intercultural engineering - working within local constraints:

A very simple list of activities and documents that might be included with the technological information, when a stove project is implemented, might be:

  • what do we need to know about the present situation? - stoves, fuel collection activities (and responsibilities), financial decision making roles, etc. Always, questionnaires are needed, and lots of time for observations and over-the-stove discussions.
  • a clear description of why "improved stoves' are needed - what is "less optimal" (not "wrong") with the present situation, what benefits new stoves offer, and what changes (e.g. in cooking practices.) may be needed.
  • how will stoves be constructed - materials, labor. and costs...? Who will construct them and what will these people need to know (in the form of posters and such) to do it as well as is possible?
  • what stove operation teaching information is required - posters. handouts, competitions, cooking classes. etc.
  • what "marketing" techniques will work best within this particular community? - guerrilla and viral marketing methods should be investigated - shock and awe, sneeky, selective free give-a-ways, lotteries, competitions. demos, etc.
  • how do we determine if the stove implementation is successful and can be improved?

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