Building delivery systems to the poor - Acumen

Building delivery systems to the poor

By Acumen on December 06, 2005

Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz has been visiting earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan, and documenting her travels in a journal. Excerpts of each day’s entry will be posted.

December 5 – Muzaffarabad

Supplies.jpgThe earthquake in Pakistan has caused the greatest logistical nightmare ever faced with a natural disaster. People have lost their homes across an area as big as England. Families are scattered to the tops of high mountains in rugged, unforgiving territory with terrible roads and a harsh winter season that will make transport all but impossible in some areas.

In a tiny office above a bank in the middle of Muzaffarabad, we find The Citizens’ Foundation (TCF), which is mounting a powerful citizens’ effort to do something positive about the disaster. The operation is run by a dynamic entrepreneur, Adnan Asdar. When the earthquake hit, he quickly decided to give a year of his life to making a contribution. His wife and two young children remain in Karachi, and he visits every couple of months. That’s his way – a no-fuss, quick-decision kind of man with a big heart that he is unafraid to follow.

The TCF model is straightforward. Before winter sets in, the organization intends to deliver 1,500 temporary houses to people who have lost theirs. In the next one to two years, they intend to deliver 5,000 permanent homes.

In the first weeks of the earthquake, TCF provided medical assistance and distributed 20,000 tents. Its lessons around management are key to developing any effective delivery system for the poor. First, TCF counts everything and knows where they are working. Second, they deliver materials needed to build the temporary shelters and expect the people themselves to build them. This means hiring local masons – and paying them – to cut planks for framing, ordering sufficient supplies and distributing proper tools at village level.

This creates a need for constant management oversight and training – and as Acumen Fund also continues to find, the management of the work is what makes or breaks success.

There are clear entrepreneurial gaps. First, there is no good supply chain for well-priced materials and tools. Second, there is a shortage of skilled masons and carpenters, as most people build their homes by themselves over generations. Third – and related – is the lack of consistent seismicproof design, especially in the most vulnerable areas. Fourth, there are inadequate management capabilities to build and oversee construction at any scale.

There is much to learn. How many people will want to rebuild permanent houses right away? Kashmiris have a tradition of building homes for generations. Will people want to pay money for the materials and tools needed to rebuild immediately?

Surely, some will. Finding those individuals is part of what will make for a sustainable model.

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