The 2017 Toilet Accelerator: Sandy Rodger, Accelerator Lead Perspective
The Toilet Board Coalition sat down with the Cohort and Mentors of the 2017 Toilet Accelerator to find out a bit more about what they felt were the most valuable learnings in their journey together over the last twelve months and what they’re excited about for the future of the sanitation sector.
TBC: Hi Sandy, Could you pease tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your role in the 2017 Toilet Accelerator?
Sandy Rodger: I’m the TBC’s project lead for Circular Economy, and in 2017 part of that was to work with the four African members of the cohort who are all developing Circular Economy business models. That was a mix of direct support and working through the mentors. My background to this is a long career in Unilever and Diageo, mainly running factories and supply chains, then more recently I’ve focused on the Circular Economy, advising a wide range of organisations on how to change resource flows and end up with more profitable, more resilient businesses.
TBC: What have you gotten out of the Toilet Accelerator experience (new partnerships, understandings, business insights)?
Sandy Rodger: I think this has to start with the personal aspects of leadership and entrepreneurship. These sanitation businesses are led by exceptional people, breaking new ground in difficult circumstances and delivering huge value. They have an incredibly positive attitude and spirit which are infectious. I came to respect them enormously for what they do, and really enjoyed working with them, particularly visiting their operations, where you see more than you can ever understand working virtually.
Beyond that what I learned is the vital role that small businesses play in creating a new system, built on new business models, and breaking the mould on past norms. That’s such a hard thing for larger companies and governments to do — but they also have a role which can really help the small businesses to succeed. It’s the combination of organisations that will get this done. And one part of that is the mentoring which the TBC members bring to the Cohort.
TBC: What is your advice to the sanitation business sector?
Sandy Rodger: In the words on the T-shirt, Keep Calm and Carry On! Actually, I’m not calm about this but very excited, but my point is there is an emerging vision here, of a different sanitation system led by business, which I really believe can work. It’s full of innovation but it isn’t a wacky idea — the core elements are proven to work. So it needs scale and experience, and then growing critical mass will make the whole venture easier. We just need to be utterly persistent over the next few years to prove the new ideas at scale.
TBC: What is your vision for the future of the sector?
Sandy Rodger: An eco-system of businesses delivering sanitation as part of a “New Grid” of flows of materials, energy, and information. That will look different from traditional sewered systems, and from off-grid approaches, although it will combine elements of both. The clever thing is not the individual elements, but how it works together as a system. We believe it is much more scalable than traditional approaches to sanitation. In essence this means we can speed up the provision of sanitation, which is what we need to close the gap on the 2.3 billlion people who still don’t have this basic service.