Trevor Field and the PlayPump

Published 21 Apr 2017
Reference 6299
Region Africa
Length 2 page(s)

Having had a successful career in advertising, Trevor Field wanted to give back to society by establishing a social enterprise addressing the problem of access to clean drinking water among poor communities in South Africa. His solution involved an invention called the “PlayPump”, a merry-go-round that pumped water from deep under the ground every time that children spun the carrousel. Trevor came up with a business model that combined donor funding for the upfront expense of buying and installing a PlayPump with a revenue model based on billboard advertising to pay for the upkeep. Having achieved significant success initially, Trevor and his funders are considering whether they should scale up across Africa in a big way. Should they?

Teaching objectives

This mini-case offers an excellent platform for discussing the concepts of “social entrepreneurship” and “social impact” in the classroom. A well-guided discussion of Trevor Field’s PlayPump-based solution should help the students see both the potential and the limitations of the model, and ultimately come to appreciate that just good intentions do not automatically translate into the best possible outcomes and impact. It is important for anybody seeking to make a difference to have the humility and diligence necessary for first understanding a community’s real needs, to continuously measure progress and seek feedback on how their model works out on the ground, and to maintain an openness towards changing the initial model as needed based on initial experimentation. In addition, it is critical to compare not just the benefits but also costs of any new solution with those for alternative solutions. The case also helps debate how fast one should scale up a social innovation, and how much energy should one spend on some form of impact evaluation before doing so.

  • Social Impact
  • Careers
  • Non-Profit Ventures
  • Philanthropy
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Social Innovation
  • Sustainable Development
  • Impact Evaluation
  • Entrepreneurship
  • South Africa
  • Water
  • Economic Development
  • Innovation
  • Advertising
  • Q31617