Why Social Design Projects Fail
The PlayPump was a simple device with an intrepid promise. The device was a merry-go-round connected to an underground pipe. As children played on it, the pipe would pump groundwater into a nearby storage tank where it could be accessed from a hand pump in the village. The promise: Solve the water problems of Africa’s most underprivileged communities.
Based on that promise, PlayPump International received a deluge of support and funding. In 2005, PBS Frontline ran a flattering report on how the device would turn “water into child’s play.” It won the World Bank Development Marketplace Award grant in 2000, and the U.S. government pledged $10 million. Millions more in private donations poured in alongside endorsements from the likes of Laura Bush, Jay-Z, and Steve Case. All toward the goal of installing 4,000 PlayPumps by 2010.