Collaboration
IBM, Dow Partner With NGO to Improve Sanitation in Ethiopia

Dow and IBM have committed to participate in a joint global project with International Medical Corps (IMC) that will promote and support a campaign to improve sanitation and hygiene behavior in the Wolayita community in Ethiopia.

Through this effort, Dow’s team will create a social marketing program to drive behavioral changes required to create sustained resilience — the ability of citizens and government to survive, thrive, or even avoid natural or man-made crises, such as illness, fuel and food shortages, storms or drought. IBM will assess, recommend, and design methodologies that can measure how resilient a community is, particularly in the realm of public health.

Dow and IBM partnered with nonprofit PYXERA Global to identify and facilitate the collaboration with IMC, which delivers health care services to those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease with programs that focus on training and helping devastated populations return to self-reliance.

Employees participating in the project have worked virtually for several months in preparation for their trip to Ethiopia. Dow and IBM employees have been collaborating during this time, together with PYXERA Global, in preparation for their sanitation awareness project.

“When you lead a team there are no manuals or ‘how to’ documents. You have to use your experiences and make the best decisions at the time,” said John Kolmer, Dow Human Resources manager, Global Leadership Development. “This program gives people that real life experience by pushing them out of their comfort zone, and encouraging them to interact with people from different cultures and areas of expertise.”

The Dow and IBM partnership is a great example of how companies can achieve the dual objective of helping communities in need while also engaging employees. In addition to the five Dow employees working with IBM, an additional 36 employees are working on projects that address health, education and commerce.

Sanitation is a major problem in Africa, with more than a third of the population lacking access to adequate sanitation facilities. To help address this, a team of Caltech engineers is working on the toilet of tomorrow — a self-cleaning, solar-powered toilet that turns human waste into hydrogen and fertilizer. The toilet uses a solar panel to power an electrochemical reactor, which breaks down waste into solids that can be used as fertilizer and hydrogen that can be stored in fuel cells to power the reactor during times of low sunlight. A pump sends recycled, purified water back to a reservoir on the top of the toilet. The toilet is completely self-contained (no sewer connection required), and can run off the grid. The system treats wastewater in just three to four hours.

With many regions of Africa suffering from political strife and armed conflicts, helping overwhelming numbers of refugees also is a major issue. In 2013, IKEA partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency and Refugee Housing Unit to develop a solar-powered, insulated, hard-sided shelter that is a superior alternative to tent-based refugee shelters typically deployed by relief organizations. The shelter is large enough to accommodate taller-than-average people, packs up flat and is expected to cost around $1,000.

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