Breakthrough behavior change: lessons from Civic Response Team in India

By Shannon Bouton and Cynthia Shih

Sometimes modest adjustments to everyday habits can make an enormous difference. For COVID-19, wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing are our best hope of containing the pandemic. Condom use has been one of the most effective tools in reducing HIV transmission. In recycling, proper separation of waste materials at home preserves the value of those materials, enabling the entire recycling industry to function.

But lasting behavior change is also very hard to achieve, and most efforts fall far short of their goals. Developing a new habit always competes with other priorities, and often existing societal norms, environmental cues, and personal senses of identity serve as powerful motivators against change. In difficult socioeconomic contexts, where people face challenges meeting their basic daily needs like food, clean water, or physical safety, behavior change may be an even tougher ask.   

In the past, many NGOs took behavior change approaches from high-income countries and tried to apply them wholesale to middle- and low-income countries. Increasingly, however, organizations in emerging economies are developing behavior change strategies tailored to the people and communities they serve, achieving impressive results with a fraction of the funding and resources that wealthier countries spend on similar efforts. Earlier this year, countries such as Ghana and Vietnam emerged as global case studies in effective containment of COVID-19, using novel techniques such as drones to transport test samples from hard-to-reach areas, and crowd-sourcing “event-based” surveillance to focus contact tracing efforts. Such examples have much to teach the global community about how to effectively deploy behavior change programs and tools, especially in challenging socioeconomic contexts.

When we launched Rethinking Recycling in early 2018, we set out to explore and learn from community-driven behavior change programs around the globe. One exceptional organization we found was Civic Response Team (CRT) in India, part of a broader social impact firm that includes the Centre for Applied Research and People’s Engagement (CARPE) and EcoSattva Environmental Solutions. CRT has achieved durable changes in recycling behaviors in many municipalities (urban local bodies, or ULBs) across Maharashtra state. The insights CRT has shared about its approach have deeply informed Rethinking Recycling’s behavior change programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Bali, Indonesia. And we believe CRT’s approach holds important lessons for anyone looking to implement effective, rapid behavior change at scale for social impact.

Emphasizing motivation over information for more effective behavior change

Natasha Zarine and Gauri Mirashi, founders of CRT, on field in the early days of their pilot project

Like Rethinking Recycling, CRT’s aim is to increase recycling rates in local communities to divert as much waste from landfills (or worse, illegal dumping sites) as possible. For the economics of recycling to work, people need to separate out recyclable waste at home to keep it clean and preserve its value. Unfortunately, this is where most recycling systems struggle most; in 2018 China, the world’s largest recycling economy, stopped importing waste because contamination rates were too high. The culprits were primarily recycling programs in North America and Europe, where many cities only achieve 30-40% (or lower) of households correctly separating their waste, despite decades of education and awareness campaigns.

In India, CRT has reported getting 80% of households to separate waste correctly into wet and dry categories within two weeks of launching in a given community, and to 95% within the next two weeks. And according to CRT’s data monitoring, these results have also held across demographics and over time.

What is the secret of CRT’s success? We observed that CRT has shifted the focus from information to motivation: putting people’s personal experience of being part of a recycling effort at the heart of every aspect of the program. The following examples illustrate how CRT has embedded this motivation-above-all principle in every aspect of its programs: from the “why” to the “how” and the “who” of community waste management.

1) Create a compelling “why”: invest in activating residents’ emotional commitment to recycling.  

A resident shows off her correctly separated waste: dry recyclables and wet organic matter

Many recycling programs incorrectly assume that building awareness and providing information is enough to change behavior. In fact, residents who need to start separating waste at home have many reasons not to adopt this new habit, even if they are aware and understand what’s being asked of them. And while penalties for non-compliance like fines may work in some other parts of the world, these kinds of negative incentives are not feasible in India where CRT works. “The only way to engage with residents is to make them feel a sense of ownership,” explain CRT co-founders Natasha Zarine and Gauri Mirashi.

CRT’s insight is that while some barriers to behavior change are practical (for example, insufficient space within the home), the most important factor is social. When people sense a critical mass of buy-in for a new behavior in the community, and that adopting that behavior will be good for their social identity, they find creative ways to overcome other obstacles.

CRT’s insight: the most important factor in behavior change is social. When people sense that adopting a behavior will be good for their social identity, they find creative ways to overcome other obstacles

With this in mind, CRT works with each community and its governing body to ensure its behavior change campaigns resonate emotionally with locals and create a sense of shared commitment. Since recycling is often a “hidden” behavior that people perform in the privacy of their homes, CRT brings recycling into public spaces and widely consumed media: for example, by tapping college and high school students to stage high-energy rallies and flash mobs. Catchy local phrases reinforce the pro-recycling message and make recycling a part of daily life, and are featured at local events and festivities, even jingles on local radio and mobile ringtones. Many of these efforts are aimed at young people, who are still forming the habits that they will carry throughout life, to help foster a positive and inspiring identity around recycling.

Through repeated implementation across many municipalities, CRT has also developed pattern recognition for what needs to be tailored to each community and what can be replicated wholesale from elsewhere. In one city renowned for its mango production, for example, CRT made the program mascot a mango dancing to a catchy recycling song, set to the tune of a Bollywood hit. But some elements can be used again and again across an entire region, saving valuable time and resources. For example, CRT uses a hand symbol and catchphrase (“taka-tak”) as universal shorthand for its recycling program, after finding they were memorable and quickly adopted by each new community without further customization.

2) Bring the “how” to life: use hands-on recycling demonstrations and ongoing cues through collection service.

Municipal staff and CRT lead an in-street education event for residents

Once people are inspired to adopt a new behavior, they need first-hand knowledge and supportive cues to put it into practice. For recycling, this means providing practical education on how to separate waste at home – and, just as importantly, integrating this behavior change with the waste collection service itself. 

To that end, when CRT helps launch a municipality’s recycling program, it works with waste collectors to host street events along their collection routes. These include live demonstrations of how to separate household waste into the appropriate categories, using actual waste that people bring out from their homes. Through this hands-on learning experience, recycling goes from an abstract concept to a tactile experience, something people can easily picture themselves incorporating into their daily routines.

After initial launch, the design of the collection service reinforces the behavior change. Here the emerging-economy setting plays to CRT’s advantage. In most higher-income countries, recycling programs rely on standardized, different colored bins to prompt residents to keep waste separated, with mixed results and at high equipment cost. In Maharashtra, most households have someone at home throughout the day, and residents bring their waste out to the collector for pickup. This creates a regular human touchpoint as they work to build a new habit; each collection stop provides an opportunity for residents to ask questions and get helpful tips on how to separate waste correctly, thus creating a positive feedback loop that sustains compliance over time.

Waste collectors host street events along their collection routes, including live demonstrations using actual waste that people bring out from their homes. Recycling goes from an abstract concept to a tactile experience

Waste workers themselves become more motivated through these hands-on education activities for residents, since they vividly illustrate the importance of their own work and how it connects them to real people in the community. According to sanitation supervisors who have worked with CRT, after these community education efforts, waste collection workers were significantly more engaged in their work, and 81% reported better relations with residents. 

3) Highlight the “who”: make every waste worker a recycling ambassador.

Waste workers take a tea break

CRT recognized early on that local waste management staff are the face of the recycling effort, and therefore critical to building credibility and fostering behavior change in the community. Waste collectors who visibly keep waste clean and separated are sending a clear signal to residents: when you make the effort to recycle correctly, the sanitation department upholds its end of the bargain. Workers who can speak knowledgeably about which kinds of waste go where, and educate residents on mistakes they observe when picking up waste, are serving two purposes: they improve recycling behaviors and the value of recovered materials, and they signal that someone is paying attention to what each household is doing, reinforcing the message that everyday behaviors matter.

Workers who can speak knowledgeably and educate residents are serving two purposes: they improve the value of recovered materials, and they reinforce the message that everyday behaviors matter

When working with waste management staff, CRT goes well beyond traditional capacity building. Its deep investment in worker capabilities includes training in leadership skills, public speaking, team building and problem solving, design thinking, and techniques for community partnership building and resident engagement. This holistic curriculum empowers workers to become respected and skilled change agents in the community, and to find their own creative solutions to challenges and setbacks throughout implementation of the recycling program. After CRT hands off the program to municipalities, they continue to perform well in the national Swachh Survekshan annual assessment of cleanliness and sanitation. 

CRT also fosters a motivating work environment for waste workers. One example is the “lucky draw.” In one municipality, after an initially successful launch, the volume of dry recyclables like paper, plastic, and glass coming into the sorting facility began dropping. As an experiment, the CRT team introduced a “lucky draw” incentive system, where individual waste workers could earn chances to win valuable prizes like cookware and bed linens by improving residents’ waste separation in their collection zones. (Through trial and error, CRT found that a randomized “lucky draw” among high performers works better than a straight “top performers” award, which incentivizes workers to question the fairness or accuracy of the ranking.) More dry recyclables began coming in on municipal collection vehicles again – and the incentive program served the dual purpose of improving the municipal staff’s relations with informal waste pickers, who worked at the sorting facility and were able to recover and sell more recyclables. 

Together, such efforts have resulted in waste workers in CRT’s programs reporting a 94% uptick in better understanding of their roles and 75% increase in their ability to problem-solve. In Rethinking Recycling’s programs in Indonesia and Argentina, we have also invested in deep training and performance-based incentives for our partners in the recycling workforce.

A template for broader social impact

As CRT’s methodology shows, focusing on motivation – in awareness campaigns, designing collection service and how-to education, and building worker capabilities – can yield dramatic results for recycling outcomes. And it disproves the often-held assumption that people won’t adopt recycling behaviors in low-income countries because they have “bigger things to worry about.” In fact, when provided with low-cost supports and reinforcing mechanisms, communities and workers in emerging economies can significantly outperform those in wealthier countries when it comes to forming good recycling habits.

Recycling is also emblematic of behavior change challenges in social impact more generally. Separating waste at home is a habit that requires consistent, ongoing practice, with benefits that are largely invisible to the person changing behavior, and which competes with many other urgent priorities. Just as organizations working on public health issues like HIV, vaccination, and teen pregnancy have contributed a great deal to our knowledge about effective behavior change globally, environmental sustainability organizations like CRT are bringing new insights that have broad applicability. 

What other issues have invisible behaviors that could be modeled more publicly? What other habits are tied to a service with regular touchpoints? Where else could we invest more deeply in front-line workers?

What other issues have “invisible” behaviors that could be modeled and celebrated more publicly, in locally meaningful ways? What other necessary habits are tied to a service with regular touchpoints, that could be used for hands-on demonstrations and reinforcing feedback? Where else could we invest more deeply in elevating front-line workers to become respected ambassadors of the cause, who are rewarded and recognized for their successes?

The Civic Response Team, The Center for Applied Research and People’s Engagement & EcoSattva Environmental Solutions Pvt Ltd. are sister organizations that provide evidence driven systemic solutions to pervasive civic challenges with multiple government, industry, community partners. For more information, visit www.ecosattva.in or www.carpeindia.org

Rethinking Recycling Academy brings partners to the table to provide a holistic and empowering solution to address the growing waste crisis in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s waste crisis is at a tipping point. 

“We are experiencing overflowing landfills. The height of the waste that is piling up is 7 times the size of our most sacred temple.” Dhia Fani, a Rethinking Recycling associate, told attendees last week as partners and friends gathered to celebrate the digital launch of the Rethinking Recycling Academy. Dhia has seen first hand the impact of the waste crisis, “when I swim in the ocean, it gives me anxiety, because I am not sure if I am swimming next to a jellyfish or if it is transparent plastic. For me it might just be being scared of a jellyfish, but for the community, the impact is on the quality of food and the fish we eat”. The plastic Dhia refers to stems from uncollected waste that then ends up in rivers or the environment and eventually in the oceans creating not just an environmental crisis, but a health crisis. 

In early 2019, McKinsey.org and partners launched Desa Kedas (Clean Village), a pilot program aimed at reimaging recycling systems in Bali. Working alongside community leaders and waste workers, Desa Kedas re-engineered a community owned recycling and composting center that is now green, financially self-sustaining, operationally optimized and delivers significant benefits for the workers, the environment and the community at large.

It takes a village to scale impact 

Building on the success of Desa Kedas and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we launched the Rethinking Recycling Academy pilot program, in order to provide the necessary tools and resources to empower communities across Indonesia to replicate the Desa Kedas model and drive their own recycling journey. Together with our partners we have created a holistic approach to addressing the waste crisis to deliver good jobs, sustainable infrastructure and community driven recycling programs to create win-win solutions for people and our planet.

Yumi Nishikawa who works on the Plastic-smart cities initiative at the World Wildlife Fund says it’s important to find “real-life examples that can show people that there is an uncomplicated solution to our waste problem and that it’s not impossible…we want to change behaviors and systems that are not working right now or that can be further optimized.” Yumi’s hope for the Rethinking Recycling Academy is that it is a solution that can be scaled across the region. 

“The evolution of our work in Bali has demonstrated that this is truly a village and it takes a village to solve our waste crisis. Every partner has brought their own unique approach and experience and together all of this thinking and passion has made the academy a truly holistic solution to sustainable waste management” said Rethinking Recycling’s Executive Director Shannon Bouton. Over the past year and a half, we’ve worked alongside waste workers, community leaders, local organizations and industry players to lay the groundwork for a waste ecosystem where people and our planet can thrive. 

Our “village” is made up of our Academy partners and friends. Together we are building a platform and pathway towards a resilient waste ecosystem in Indonesia. 

We invite you to join our village and our community as we reimagine our future and the future of sustainable waste management systems. 

To get involved you can sign-up for our newsletter to hear about our solutions in both Argentina and Indonesia and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

COVID is a crisis for our oceans, too

By Jacob Batchelor with contribution from Shannon Bouton.

You drink a bottle of water. Use a plastic fork for takeout. Toss a single-use mask. Each of these individual acts are small, seemingly harmless. But taken collectively, it adds up. To a lot. 

“Somewhere around 11 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year,” says Shannon Bouton who leads the Rethinking Recycling initiative as Global Executive Director of Sustainable Communities at McKinsey.org. “That works out to more than a full dump truck of plastic, every minute of every day.” 

Rethinking Recycling, the flagship program of the Firm-founded nonprofit McKinsey.org, is working to address this problem by partnering with everyone from waste workers to multinational companies to increase recycling around the world. McKinsey News spoke to Shannon to learn more—and how the challenge has only increased since the start of the pandemic. 

Jacob: Can you give us a sense of the scale of the plastic problem in our oceans? 

Shannon: Pew recently released a report saying that—without action—the 11 million metric tonnes per year will about triple by 2040. Someone did the math, and that’s equivalent to 110 pounds, or 50 kilograms, of plastic waste per meter of coastline around the world. 

Landfill just outside of Bali’s capital city Denpassar. It’s currently at capacity.

Jacob: I’ll try to imagine that the next time I’m at the beach. 

Shannon: It’s terrible. If we stay on this course, plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. You can already see sea life, from birds to whales, washing up on beaches with bellies full of it.  

And unfortunately, all that plastic doesn’t go away. It breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics. And microplastics are everywhere—in the deepest parts of the ocean, in remote deserts, even inside us. 

Jacob: That sounds bad—how much should I be worried?

Shannon: We don’t really know if plastic itself is necessarily harmful. But it does act like a magnet for other toxins in the environment. Things like coloring and additives for texture may also be dangerous, and they also make plastics more difficult to recycle. 

One example is the stuff that makes your water bottle crinkle, which marketers have figured out is a desirable thing for consumers. If we could align on just removing those, plastic would be easier to recycle and more valuable to recyclers. Presumably, less of it would end up in the ocean.  

Jacob: How has the problem of ocean plastics worsened because of the pandemic? 

Shannon: The scary thing is that we don’t really know yet. But medical waste was already a huge problem before the pandemic. Hospitals and other health facilities generate several billion pounds of garbage each year, fueled by a shift toward the use of disposable items to keep sterilization simple.

Anecdotally, we’ve seen photos of disposable masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer bottles left behind in parking lots and streets. A lot of that kind of waste winds up in the sea as it travels down drain pipes and into waterways. The Guardian recently reported that PPE is already washing up in the Mediterranean, where a bystander described there being “more masks than jellyfish.”

But we can fix this. Healthcare companies can reduce the use of disposables and use more recyclable materials, which can decrease costs. We can make more reusable items safe for medical settings. The general public could use reusable masks and be more mindful of where and how they dispose of their PPE waste. 

Jacob: That brings me to my next question—what do we do about ocean plastics overall? 

The Pew study I mentioned earlier has a number of pathways by which we could reduce the amount of plastic going into our ocean by 80 percent in the next 20 years. Things like reducing how much plastic we produce; designing recycling-friendly products; and improving waste collection, among others. 

At McKinsey.org, we focus most on waste collection and recycling through our Rethinking Recycling program.

In Bali, for example, we partnered with community leaders to build a profitable waste management and recycling center in just 4 months. So we’re doing good for the environment, but we’re also doing good for people—helping create dignified, safe jobs for essential waste workers, with access to healthcare, job training, and fair wages. 

Jacob: Why focus on a community-based recycling program, as opposed to ocean cleanup? 

Shannon: First and foremost, we have to reduce, reuse, and recycle if we want to stop the flow of our trash into waterways. Ocean cleanups are simply a band-aid on a systemic problem. That’s why our program is focused on addressing the problem at the source, helping communities to properly manage their waste and get it back into the economy—so that it never ends up on a beach.

Essential waste workers from Buenos Aires’ Barrio 31 who champion recycling in their community as a way to keep their communities clean and safe. Their neighbors participate in the program knowing that recycling delivers the women increased incomes from sales of plastics.

Recycling works most effectively at the community level, where you can educate people, build community pride, and foster a sense of common purpose. People feel responsible for their neighborhood, not necessarily the larger city. So it’s important to start there.

Jacob: How have you been able to do those things in Bali? 

Shannon: We work closely with the community to educate and build the right incentives for people to recycle, including making sure they know it will be effective. For the essential workers, we put a lot of energy into capability-building—our  friends at Aberkyn even volunteered their time to come in and do the kind of leadership training usually reserved for senior clients

Jacob: How can folks get involved?

Shannon: The most immediate thing people can do is take a look at their own community and see how they can increase recycling where they are. Learn the rules of what can and can’t be recycled locally and follow them. Putting the wrong stuff in your recycling bin adds cost and can gum up the machines. What we call “hopeful recycling”—putting everything you think might be recyclable into the bin—is not helpful.

From climate change to COVID-19 and racial equity, we live at a time of real consequence and change. But we all have the ability to make a difference, for our planet and for each other. Each little action you take may feel small. But if everyone is doing it, it adds up. 

Audio: Harnessing the ingenuity and resilience of global youth can help save the Ocean

Solving for a clean ocean starts on land

The world has a profound waste problem. As global citizens, we generate at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other waste in just one day. What’s more, we know that at least 11 million tons of plastic waste leaks into our ocean each year. If we want to stem the tide of waste into the ocean, we need to start on land. 

At McKinsey.org, we are solving for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water, by tackling the waste ecosystem and mobilizing every player in the process – from waste pickers to global multinational companies, from village leaders to state governors – to work together to rethink recycling.  And while that’s become more complex during COVID-19, with lockdown orders and economic slowdown buckling supply chains, we see hope in the innovation and ingenuity that today’s youth are using to tackle the challenge of protecting our ocean.

Highlighting young people innovating for change

To highlight the crucial role youth play in protecting our ocean, last week we hosted, Reimagining Ocean Action, in partnership with the United Nations and GreenBiz to showcase youth global innovation. During the event, we welcomed four inspiring young innovators that are developing new solutions to protect our ocean and our planet: Dhia Fani, whose work on Rethinking Recycling focuses on re-engineering local waste systems and training waste workers, Lalita Junggee, whose work focuses on the connection of clean oceans to gender equality; Sarah Travers, who uses GPS and data to track and encourage sustainable fishing; and Chiagozie Udeh, who studies climate’s connection to the Ocean through investments in biodiversity. The innovators were also joined by leading conservation experts, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Ambassador Peter Thomson and our Global Executive Director of Sustainable Communities, Shannon Bouton. Together, the group shared their hopes for a future clean ocean and how individuals and organizations could continue their commitments during COVID19. 

Throughout the conversation, one thing became abundantly clear: human ingenuity has a way of overcoming obstacles to create new solutions for issues and COVID19 is no different.

“While the way all of us collectively deliver impact has taken a new form over the past few months, I have been inspired by what has emerged— our ingenuity, our resilience and our continued commitment to saving our ocean,” said Shannon Bouton 

All four of the young innovators illustrated Bouton’s point as they shared their continued commitment to find new solutions. We invite you to listen to a recording of the event above and learn about their work through their presentations below. 

Meet the innovators 

Sarah Travers is solving fishing’s sustainability problem.

Sarah Travers is the Conservation and Outreach Manager at ConnectOcean and a United Nations’ Reboot Ocean Winner. According to Ambassador Thomson, sustainable fishing is “the future of food” and Sarah is working to make that possible through an innovative approach using GPS and data to track and encourage sustainable fishing. You can learn more about Sarah’s groundbreaking work here.

Dhia Fani is designing new ways to divert waste from landfills. 

Growing up in Indonesia has shaped Dhia’s view of the global plastic problem, as she noted she sometimes mistakes plastic for jellyfish when swimming in the ocean. Her passion has led her to work with McKinsey.org as a Senior Associate on our Rethinking Recycling program. Dhia recently spoke about her work on the Sustainable Asia podcast with others from the team. You can listen here

Lalita Junggee is reimaging consumer goods so they are more sustainable.

Lalita is the Founder of Eco Hustle and is one of the Obama Foundation’s Young African Leaders. Lalita’s first sustainable innovation was the creation of Sakili – a line of upcycled bags that uses sustainable printing practices. Her newest project, Recycle Moi, is creating the first natural and biodegradable sanitary pads in Mauritius. She encourages entrepreneurs to explore new ideas, because you never know what will be successful until you try. Learn more about her work through the Obama Young Leaders’ program here

Chiagozie Udeh is making it easier for all of us to support biodiversity. 

Chiagozie was the 2019 Global South Focal Point of YOUNGO, the Youth Constituency to the UNFCCC. He is now focusing his time on a new app, Plant for the Planet. As Chairperson, he is working to expand the reach of the app and inspire others to get involved. As he says, “anybody can plant a tree.” During the event, Ambassador Thomson noted that mangrove trees can store twice as much carbon on a per-area basis as salt marshes. Chia shared that the app will soon allow for individuals to support planting mangroves. Stay tuned and plant a tree here

Ambassador Peter Thomson, also inspired by the youth innovators, called on all the young people on the call to get involved and take a stake in protecting our ocean. 

“Political will builds up from individuals, to families, to communities, to cities, up to the national and global level. But everybody needs to get involved, especially young people, you have more skin in the game than anybody else.”  –  Ambassador Peter Thomson

A special thank you to our innovators, Heather Clancy from GreenBiz for moderating the panel, and Ambassador Peter Thomson. 

To learn more about our upcoming events, sign-up for our e-newsletter here.

Podcast: Sustainable Asia’s Plastic Purge in Bali

McKinsey.org was honored to be featured on the Sustainable Asia podcast.

Bali’s natural beauty attracts many tourists from around the world, but with that comes plastic waste…a lot of it! Sustainable Asia speaks with Mckinsey.org to understand how they developed a plastic bottle recycling pilot program in Bali… that may change the course of waste collection and recycling across all of Indonesia.


Guests:
Shannon Bouton 
Ella Flaye
Abieta Billy
Dhia Fani

Production credits:
Producer and Host: Marcy Trent Long 
Associate producer: YuFei Wu
Sound Engineer: Chris Wood
Intro/outro music: Alex Mauboussin

Follow Sustainable Asia on Twitter @SustainableAsia and Facebook. Sign up for email updates on their website

Blog: From Doctors Without Borders to McKinsey.org: This engineer designs life-saving health operations in Buenos Aires

Supporting people when they need it most 

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated around the world, Assunção saw an opportunity to draw on her previous experience with Doctors without Borders to help the residents of one of Buenos Aires’ oldest and largest informal settlements, Barrio 31. As in informal settlements around the world, Coronavirus precautions like social distancing and stay-at-home quarantining are nearly impossible here: families live close together in tiny, cramped apartments, and as one resident starkly put it, “If I don’t work, we don’t eat.” It’s unfortunately no surprise, then, that Barrio 31 and the city’s other slums make up 10% of the Buenos Aires population but 50% of infected cases across the city. 

A Prevention Post volunteer performs a health assessment in Barrio 31.

Co-creating life-saving solutions 

Assunção first arrived in Buenos Aires from her home in Portugal as an operations specialist to support the Rethinking Recycling program’s expansion in Argentina. A biomedical engineer by training, she had previously served as a biomedical and cold chain expert with Doctors Without Borders, first in Iraq, then in the Central African Republic, and finally in Guinea Bissau.

When the pandemic hit, Assunção knew rapid testing would be critical to protect communities like Barrio 31 from runaway outbreaks. She helped bring the International Red Cross, McKinsey.org and the City of Buenos Aires government together where they created mobile “Prevention Posts.” These Prevention Posts screen residents for symptoms, connect them with care as needed, and provide information on how to prevent further spread of the virus. Then, Assunção linked with the Doctors Without Borders volunteer training program, helping to build a community base where volunteers would screen Barrio 31 residents for possible symptoms at these Prevention Posts. 

Assunção with her Bio-medical team in Central African Republic.

While serving with Doctors Without Borders in the Central African Republic, Assunção worked with local volunteers that had no previous experience in healthcare to perform basic health assessments – taking temperatures, checking for vitals – for people who needed urgent care. As she described, “Because of my work with Doctors Without Borders, when COVID-19 hit Barrio 31, I knew it was possible to rapidly train people in health assessment skills to help keep the community safe.”

The mobile testing initiative launched with one Prevention Post in Barrio 31, serving nearly 300 people a day, detecting cases that needed to be seen in hospital. Thanks to the pilot’s success, the City Government of Buenos Aires, in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, quickly expanded this cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution and is now deploying Prevention Posts in informal settlements across the city, where nearly 10,000 people are screened for symptoms every day. 

“My work with Doctors Without Borders taught me that with the right training and support, anything is possible,” reflects Assunção, “I really admire the tireless energy that people in Buenos Aires bring to their daily life; so many of them spend their free time volunteering or serving their communities. It was inspiring to see this energy and purpose support the communities we work in to save people’s lives during the pandemic.”

Blog: Advice to the graduating class of 2020

McKinsey.org and the Rethinking Recycling program team share some advice for university graduates this year – from navigating a job market during COVID-19 to building a career with purpose.

As students miss out on the usual pomp and circumstance of commencement, our global Rethinking Recycling team shares advice from their personal and professional experiences for the graduating class of 2020.

Shannon, Detroit, USA

“Look for opportunities that will open more doors for you than they will close. If you can’t get yourself to the place you want to be today, there will be steppingstones that will get you there. Try to look for the learning experience in those smaller steps. Sometimes life takes you on quite a winding path, but if you follow your passion, you will get to the right place in the end.”

Paro, Kerala, India

“As someone who graduated during the last financial crisis, I am aware that not everything may go according to your plan this year. Embrace the change of plans and use it an opportunity to reflect on your goals and passions. Take the time and think through what areas you would like to contribute to in a world that will be fundamentally altered post Covid-19. This crisis has shown us how unbelievably fragile our current economic, political and social institutions are, so there’s plenty of meaningful work to be done in the near-term.”  

Billy, Jakarta, Indonesia

“Do not be intimidated by peers who seem to be more capable than yourself. You are running your own race – take every opportunity to learn and strive to get better. Before you know it you will have achieved so much yourself.”

Barry, Sydney, Australia

“Become good at the things you enjoy, but also learn to enjoy the things you’re good at. There is fulfilment to be found in both.”

Ella, London, United Kingdom

“Make your inner child proud!”

Claire, New York City, USA

“Cast a wide net and look at opportunities and paths that you may have never considered when they present themselves. You never know what you will learn or who you will meet that will support your long-term goals.”

Monica, Santander, Spain

“Now it’s time for you to go and seek some ambitious mission that leaves the world a better place than when you came”

Larissa, São Paulo, Brazil

“Develop inner happiness – this will increase significantly your chances of getting there! The only constant in life is change, so learning to react to the changes with equanimity is the pathway to take. Along that journey, you will also learn how to treat yourself and others with kindness and compassion.”

L’Echo highlights McKinsey.org’s Louise Hannecart

It’s not only eternal growth that counts

SIMON MOUSE | January 2020 | Original article in L’Echo

In July, she was still in Peru where she worked in a prison. There, she just returned from three months in Buenos Aires where she worked to improve the quality of life in informal housing estates. No time to rest. She is already preparing to go back to Bali for six months. An entire program. But embraced 100%. Because Louise Hannecart decided to operate a switch early in her career. After following the classic path of corporate ascent, with a degree in chemical engineering (KU Leuven) and a stint with McKinsey & Company, she decided to set off on the train of the consultant’s new adventure: McKinsey.org , named after this independent, non-profit organization, founded in early 2018, to try to solve complex societal challenges.

” I have always been super-passionate and motivated to be involved in society, ” she says. From a moment of volunteering in Ghana and Burundi in her youth to a collaboration with a social knitting workshop in Ayacucho, this breadcrumb is part of her DNA. And feeds his vision of a young worker.

And for good reason, ” to face the challenges to come, the transition to operate must be societal, not just to analyze from a business angle “, evokes the one who therefore decided to make this postulate her job. History to experience firsthand the challenges inherent in this change of mentality. That the markets for the climate have set in motion. ” There has been a great awareness, coming from consumers, from the people, and which is going up to businesses .”

“Donut economy”
So for the next decade, Louise hopes to see more people working towards the advent of an economic model where the realities of planetary limits are taken into account. Like the “donut economy”, theorized by the economist Kate Raworth (University of Oxford). ” It is to say that the economy should not always go towards eternal growth, but reach a certain balance between human and environmental needs “. A vision that should inspire the leaders of tomorrow. Young or not so young. ” We must take advantage of our brainpower to innovate in the way of doing things “. But without staying in the word. ” We must now take action”over the next ten years. This will not be easy, because the path is difficult to discern, but there is no choice.

Blog: Our impact in sustainability and recycling in 2019

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In 2018, McKinsey & Company embarked on a journey to build a new, independent nonprofit, McKinsey.org, and started to explore the areas where it could make a real difference on critical global issues, like the waste and recycling challenges facing cities around the world. This past year, McKinsey.org took a step forward to make that vision a reality through launching on-the-ground pilot programs under its first initiative Rethinking Recycling.

Together with leading nonprofits, governments, and corporate partners, Rethinking Recycling is working in Bali, Indonesia and Buenos Aires, Argentina to develop and test solutions that will put all waste to productive use for the benefit of communities and the environment. The world generates 3.5 million tons of solid waste every day, a figure that has increased 10 times over the last century and is growing rapidly. Rethinking Recycling aims to prove the economic, environmental and social benefits of recycling, so that they can be scaled across the world, improving the lives of citizens exposed to the effects of air pollution and climate change.

In its first year, Rethinking Recycling’s Argentina program has created the first formal recycling program in Buenos Aires’ Barrio 31, working with roughly 5,000 households and training more than 120 workers from 8 different cooperatives. Through a human-centered approach for behavior change, the program managed to go from 0% to 30% compliance with recycling among community households. Rethinking Recycling also created the first community-run sorting facility for dry recyclables, such as plastic, paper and glass, as well as established the first-ever residential composting service in the City of Buenos Aires.

In Bali, Rethinking Recycling has been working with a community in the capital Denpasar to demonstrate how recycling centers can deliver both economic and environmental impact. The community run program has been economically profitable for over six months, while ensuring all workers receive fair wages and safe working conditions including access to medical care – unfortunately still a rarity for such facilities. The program has also achieved extremely promising levels of source separated waste with as high as 90% of households adhering versus the 11% Bali average, and diverting over 50% of waste from landfill. The center is being heralded for both its economic and environmental success and we are now building an Academy to scale its impact and capability build others in the Indonesian waste space.

As an exciting, impactful year comes to a close, McKinsey.org is immeasurably grateful for its partners – ecoBali, Almado, Civic Response Team, Waste Concern, as well as PRAISE and the City of Buenos Aires Secretariat for Social and Urban Integration – who have worked hand-in-hand with its teams, helping to build a zero-waste world where every community is empowered to build sustainable, inclusive, and economically sustainable recycling systems.

2019 Impact

Bali

In Indonesia, McKinsey.org has partnered with a consortium of six leading CPG players called PRAISE: Danone, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Tetra Pak, and Indofood, and the local recycling company, ecoBali – on the end-to-end Rethinking Recycling program, from community education to recycling operations to developing solutions to drive market demand for recyclables.

Rethinking Recycling’s Bali program, known as Desa Kedas or “clean village” in local language, has launched a successful behavioral change and education campaign to drive households to separate waste with figures as high as 90% compliance. The program has focused on training up local youth and community leaders to deliver the campaign to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.

To demonstrate the scalability of the program we have focused on driving lean and efficient operations which ensure the center is break even and even generating a small monthly profit while ensuring all workers have fair wages and safe working conditions.

Desa Kedas has attracted much attention, being heralded as one of Bali’s best practice waste management centers by both national and local government officials, and featured in multiple new outlets including national news network Metro TV and other news channels in S.E.Asia.

Buenos Aires

In Argentina, McKinsey.org has partnered with the City of Buenos Aires on community and recycling operations and convened a working group of corporate players including Dow, AB InBev, Amcor, Danone, and Veolia to explore demand-side solutions.

At the Buenos Aires site, McKinsey.org has made considerable progress in its pilot community, a large informal settlement called Barrio 31, where the city government of Buenos Aires has integrated Rethinking Recycling’s methodology into a holistic inclusive development program.

In Barrio 31, McKinsey.org has built a waste management and recycling program from scratch, training more than 120 workers from 8 different cooperatives to operate a professional collection service and recycling center with ongoing data tracking, as well as to run education campaigns for residents. Through this program, Barrio 31 is now selling #1 (PET) plastic directly to a plastics processor within the formal market, achieving a 5x increase in income from these plastics.

Through co-creation with the community, McKinsey.org has developed low-cost innovations that make a big difference in changing behavior, such as QR code labelled hooks for hanging cleanly separated waste.

McKinsey.org in the News

McKinsey.org on Indonesia’s national MetroTV primetime – “Plastics are clogging our oceans but stemming the tide of waste starts here on land.”

McKinsey.org’s Shannon Bouton and Cynthia Shih in GreenBiz – “The first step toward unlocking investment in new recycling capacity should be to establish less-volatile supply and demand conditions.”

McKinsey News’ feature on Rethinking Recycling – “It’s exciting to be bringing McKinsey & Company’s expertise and capabilities to directly addressing those challenges while working through innovative partnerships to create solutions that can scale up quickly.”

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