Adeena Schlussel

’One for One’ … Win for Win

One for One.

The TOMS Shoes model has been lauded for this simple, marketable mission whereby for every pair of shoes purchased by a consumer in the West, a pair of shoes is donated to a child in need. But there is another One for One working to serve the BoP now – only instead of shoes, they are selling solar kits and water bottles.

When Wouter Durville founded One for One, he aimed to stick to a very basic principle. “We wanted to do what we’re good at, which is Dutch marketing – and let others do what they’re good at,” Durville told me over a phone interview. From this concept, the business model was born. Durville was committed to raising the funds, and stewarding them to partnering organizations that knew best how to transform the dollars into aid.

One for One is an organization that at its most basic level, donates goods and services to those in need for each product and service that they sell. Each time a Dutch consumer purchases a One for One solar kit, an African villager receives one for free. But, of course, solar kits do not grow on trees. So where does each donated solar kit come from? The organization’s philanthropic ability lies in its success in bundling demand and channeling the consequential savings to those in need.

One for One currently partners with Greenchoice, a clean energy provider in the Netherlands. When Durville approached Greenchoice with a mass of consumers looking for a place to put their energy service dollars, Greenchoice was able to provide Durville and his customer base with a subsidized energy cost. Part of that discount benefits the consumers themselves, while the other portion of the savings is funneled to Tough Stuff (read the NextBillion post about Tough Stuff here) in the field, which in turn delivers solar products to the energy deficient in the developing world.

Partnering with local organizations such as Tough Stuff allows One for One to stick to its strengths, while the partners worry about optimizing their products and services; but there is another benefit to this arrangement as well. Durville noted that from the very start, he was concerned that his aid not disrupt local markets. (For example, if 1 million bed nets are donated to an African country, that is fantastic from a health standpoint, but detrimental to the bed net manufacturer of that country). However, in this model, local providers are not excluded, rather they’re trusted to be the linchpin of the entire operation.

One for One is similarly partnering with Pump Aid, an organization working to create sustainable water solutions to prevent disease and fill one of the biggest extant voids at the BoP. For every water bottle sold, the organization pledges to deliver potable water to someone who is otherwise without access.

Although these two partnerships are equally crucial, Durville admits that there are subtle disadvantages to the business model that rely on the sale of water bottles. As opposed to electricity service, it’s not necessary to renew your water bottle supply each month, and the proceeds are therefore somewhat limited. In contrast, the consumers who sign up for energy services from Greenchoice are repeatedly philanthropic each time that their service is renewed. Energy and other services, like insurance, Durville noted, are ongoing and can create a steady stream of funding. As he looks to expand his partnerships in the future, Durville will continue to select them based on needs in the region and on the players doing the best job filling those needs.

One for One is transferring its first funds right now, so there is not much to report on successes or failures at this point, but the team promises to come back with qualitative and quantitative feedback, which I bet will affirm Durville’s early intuitions. Stay tuned.