Best Ideas 2018 features all the nominated entries submitted to the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition under ‘Submit your Idea’ category. All the entries consist of innovative solution or proposition for an enterprise that champions the Sustainable Development Goals. They can be on the conceptual, planning, or start-up stage. If you want to know the 10 finalists in this category, click HERE
Explain your idea in details:
LifeFilters2Go is a hand-held ceramic water filter that can diminish–if not prevent–the detrimental effects of drinking contaminated water. Scientific studies show that ceramic pot filters (coated with colloidal silver) is effective at killing 99% of E-Coli. The NGOs, such as Potters for Peace and SPOUTS of Water, have standardised the method of producing ceramic pot filters economically and efficiently. SPOUTS’ production process is as follows: mix clay, water, and rice husk; mold into a pot shape with an industrial press; fire the molded mixture with a kiln; coat with colloidal silver. Meanwhile, Potters for Peace has a proven track record of helping to set up fifty-two viable ceramic pot filter businesses worldwide. However, although the existing business model has relatively low startup costs, it still requires a significant amount of investment, including 12,000-30,000USD, heavy equipment, and labour. Shan migrant families, who are working below minimum wage and beyond standard work hours, cannot afford to startup–much less manage–the ceramic pot filter factory. Because they are in the direst need for water purification and, thus, have been identified as the target customer for the product, I have to diverge from the existing business model and take a new approach. My idea is to decrease all the “scales,” specifically in terms of the production process and the product size and shape, without compromising the effectiveness of ceramic water filters. Instead of producing ceramic filters in a factory, I plan to do the same in a workshop at Ban Wiang Wai School and with student partners who are children of Shan migrant labourers. Rather than following the pot design and the pressing procedure, I aim to create a much smaller ceramic water filter that can be placed on top of a cup or a bottle.
Expected impact of your idea on sustainable development
LifeFilters2Go is a product for customers in need of low-cost water purification device and a multi-faceted educational business template for schools without enough funding for afterschool programmes. My first target is to ensure "clean water and sanitation." I’ve witnessed directly the impact of cash crop farming on water scarcity and contamination along Thai-Myamar border. To confirm my suspicions, I noted gastroenteritis and dysentery as the most concerning health issues in my household surveys and took water samples from 15 homes on fruit plantations; the private and university laboratory tests confirmed various contaminants, most notably E-coli. LifeFilters2Go is a simple idea that’s been proven to work against microorganisms (E-coli and MS2). Once I finalise the product development and before I put the product on the market, LifeFilters2Go must undergo further lab-testing to test whether or not it fulfills performance standards. My second target is to improve the "quality of education.” LifeFilters2Go Workshop is at Ban Wiang Wai School that offers free primary education to the children of Shan migrant labourers. Sixth-graders rarely go onto secondary school. Many students wish to do so, but their parents cannot afford the school fees. Hence, with basic literacy and arithmetic skills, they are only qualified for low-paying jobs as manual labourers. The workshop allows students to gain practical business/vocational skills. It also offers a chance to learn about their cultural heritage and preserve a vanishing Shan tradition: pottery-making. According to “Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States” (compiled from British Official Papers in 1900), “there are more potters’ villages in the Shan States than in Burma and that, in many places, the potters are emigrant Shans.” However, with on-going ethnic conflicts and forced displacement in Shan State of Myanmar, Shans’ traditional methods of hand-molding and kiln-fired pottery are on verge of cultural extinction.
Plans for implementation and sustainability
LifeFilters2Go follows a subscription model because of its limited longevity. Ceramic water filters are fragile–prone to cracking and even shattering. Any holes bigger than 0.6-500 μm may allow microorganisms and other contaminants to pass through the barrier and contaminate the drinking water. Hence, customers must be informed of the risks and encouraged to replace their filters regularly. They will be asked pay a contracted price (to be determined) for LifeFilters2Go replacements on a periodic basis of 9 weeks (because a Delft University study has shown that ceramic filters' effectiveness gets lowered by the 12th week) as well as contracted-period warranties for broken water filters. This subscription model's advantage is twofold: maintaining customers’ confidence and earning recurrent revenue. The financing source for the first LifeFilters2Go Workshop is the cash dividends from School Co-op Shop–a retail store owned and managed by consumer-customers at Ban Wiang Wai School. Two years ago, I invested 30,000THB, and I am now eligible for a share in the profits of 6,635THB (as of June 2018). Meanwhile, I’ve completed the preliminary research on the startup cost of 5,556THB by doing a trial run of the LifeFilters2Go production: buying raw materials and basic equipment; building a stack-bricked kiln; teaching manual-spinning technique with video footage and hand-molding technique through in-class demonstration; getting the student partners to make their own LifeFilters2Go–later to be dried in the dark, fired in the kiln, and tested with contaminated and discoloured water. This trial run served as an invaluable–and fun–experience for everyone. It is a partnership of 24 students from Grade 3 to Grade 6, and eight of whom are designated Workshop Leaders. It is also a collaboration of 4 school teachers officially as well as 1 medical doctor, 1 non-profit organiser, 2 Shan emigrant potters, 2 laboratory representatives, and 4 university researchers unofficially.
Servons. It’s in bold print plastered beneath the Cate School emblem on my squash and cross country t-shirts. It appears on my Chemistry quizzes. It’s the motto I hear, shouted out into the assembly crowd per Wednesday for Public Service night, or during the reports of California droughts and wildfires, or Round Square trip heralds. It’s a philosophy, of both selfless and self-fulfilling giving that identifies our community. It is an idea, “to serve,” that encapsulates my thoughts and actions as I am turning eighteen and becoming a rising senior this year. Yet early on, I associated “sustainability” with singing as I trained to hold a note throughout my choir practices. I didn’t understand its importance until two summers ago. At a Shan refugee school, I was saddened by the students’ stories of human rights abuses in Myanmar villages and Thai fruit plantations. I felt even more so because the school had no running water and only limited budget. However, students and teachers weren’t hung up on what they didn’t have. They focused on running a school shop and Shan cultural events. It was fascinating to learn how the two worked together. The shop generated enough profit to pay dividends to the shareholders in the school community and fund special programmes on campus. This form of development was so promising that I applied for (and won) the Cate School's Mark Metherell ’87 Service Challenge and included the School Shop as one of the two components in my proposal. I spent some grant money on expanding the shop and its impact on the migrant labourer community. But there’s still so much left to do. Now that I understand “sustainability” as something achievable and never-ending, I intend to keep on going back there and doing everything I can to help.