Kopernik's Work on Water Filtration in Indonesia

by tuftsigl
Jun 24

Natalia Vasquez is a recent graduate of Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences, majored in International Relations

Update #3

Today was my last working day at Kopernik and I can’t believe its over. Good thing I have one more day to spend with the amazing team – the quarterly staff meeting is conveniently planned for tomorrow. The field staff from all over are flying in and, in addition to presentations on what’s happening at all of Kopernik’s project sites which should be quite interesting, we’re having a “relay for the last mile” bonding event with a little friendly competition and a BBQ. 

Here’s what I’ve been working on in the last month:

finished drafting a UNICEF Research Watch commentary on technologies for poverty and leveraging local networks for distribution

finished working on the 300+ website pages I’ve edited or created for Kopernik

Wrote and sent the weekly newsletter, K-Lab weekly

Created technical illustrations on prevent mold in water filters for illiterate users

Wrote a brief summary of Randomized Control Trials for a Project Officer

And created a list of recommendations for Kopernik based on observations I’ve made during my time here.

It’s been an amazing and informative 3 months working with Kopernik to bring life-saving technologies to communities in need. I’ve learned a great deal about:

The technology for development space

Specific simple technologies and how they impact individuals

Distribution challenges and solutions

The early life of a recent start-up

International development

Communications & operations

What I’m interested in pursuing moving forward

Thank you as always to Empower and Kopernik for the opportunity I had this summer!

Update #2
When I last wrote, I had just returned from a fieldtrip to a village where we checked up on water filters Kopernik had distributed in schools. See it here: http://kopernik.info/en-us/theblog/starting-end-road. 
This month?  Seizing a market opportunity to grow Kopernik’s impact, discovering how to hear with eyeglasses, and talking up simple technologies to the development community.
Kopernik’s technologies are designed for remote and impoverished communities, so I was surprised to hear so much interest in Kopernik water filters from the local expatriate community. They understandably wanted to escape bottled water, which drains wallets and the environment. Selling them at Hubud, a local community co-working space where I’m based part-time, seemed like a good revenue opportunity that would ultimately enable Kopernik to provide the same technologies to the impoverished communities mentioned in the mission. To address the challenge of reaching remote communities, Kopernik partners with local shops or individuals to bring the technologies to the people. It’s great because the community can learn about the technologies in their local language, through a source they already know and trust, at a convenient location. With guidance, I set-up and trained the Hubud co-working space as one of these Independent Tech-Resellers, and they’ve successfully been selling water filters. 
Last Thursday, I wrote Kopernik’s weekly technology spotting newsletter, the K-Lab Weekly. Read it here (http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=2ce653b1065632903b7b0b883&id=547e284...). It featured eyeglasses that read text aloud in an earpiece to blind users, making it possible for them to navigate the written world outdoors. It isn’t a Kopernik technology yet, but it’s always interesting to discover cool ideas that could seriously impact people’s lives.
Friday afternoon staff training included tips on lighting one of Kopernik’s biomass stoves. Not as easy as it looks.
I also drafted an op-ed that may run in UNICEF’s Research Watch Commentary later this year. The Commentary will be themed around Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). Our op-ed focuses on the potential for simple technologies to impact the lives of children in poor communities – by making daily tasks less taxing on time, health, or income and by helping to bring bite-sized infrastructure to support ICT.
Otherwise, there’s been volunteer recruiting, editing the website, interviewing staff members for team bios, and writing up a short summary on randomized control trial methodology. Oh, and a sunrise hike of Mount Batur:
Next month? Things are in so much motion here, I can’t say, but I bet it’ll be good. Stay tuned.
Update # 1
It’s hard to believe it’s only been four weeks since I arrived in Indonesia, as it’s already been an incredible experience working with Kopernik.  An NGO with projects in Africa, South East Asia, and South America, Kopernik connects simple, life-saving technologies with poor communities that ask for them.  A rocket ship start-up, Kopernik launched just three years ago and is expanding with new project, new funding, and new technologies monthly. In fact, they’re recruiting for nine new positions starting this week, including three-month fellowships in the field in Africa and Indonesia! Any Tufts internship seekers?
More information here:
So far my diverse projects have taught me about both the entrepreneurial business and social impact sides of the organization. Every week I research and pitch a new technology to the CEOs, Ewa and Toshi. It’s really familiarized me with the development tech world, a strong field in social entrepreneurship.  This has been complemented with presentations on technology impact assessments from MIT D-Lab interns, improving distribution through branding our motor-bike local salespeople from the World Bank, getting carbon credits for our green technologies from a Watson Fellow, and visits from development professionals. A former Tufts professor even visited us who helped to establish the IR TC3 track with Professor Orians, my academic advisor. I thoroughly enjoy our weekly Monday morning meetings where everyone updates the other staff - they’re working with so many organizations that I’ve done case-studies on or read about at Tufts.
I’ve also been supporting the communications team by editing project descriptions and photographs for the website. Looking through all of the files for compelling and narrative shots has helped me to understand worldwide technology needs and how Kopernik meets them. I’ve edited projects on solar lamps that ended flashlight battery dumps in the sea among East Timor fishermen; roll-able water drums that prevent spinal injuries in women who used to carry gallons on their heads in Nigeria; and entrepreneurial training for Kenyan slum girls to avoid prostitution.
A recent field trip to Darmaji Village was eye-opening. As we checked on water filters Kopernik delivered in January, I served as a note taker and photographer, writing an article and editing the photographs for the website afterwards.  Darmaji village is very isolated and some of the children suffer from malnutrition because access to a variety of plants besides cassava is limited. Their drinking water is contaminated with poor sanitation, bugs, and bacteria. Kopernik’s Nazava water filters have had an incredible impact, which you can read about in my article that I will send upon publishing online.
Social enterprise management and organization has been a surprising lesson of this trip.  Kopernik staff rave about Ewa and Toshi’s visionary but hands-off leadership, which allows staff great flexibility under high expectations. The horizontal staff structure has everyone sitting in a big room together, while Ewa and Toshi have their own office. The staff are young, bright, and really enthusiastic about their work. There’s an office puppy, Momo, and a ping pong table to keep the culture energized. 
In my free time, I have been surfing in the south, hiking northern rice fields, exploring temples, and getting to know my Balinese host family. This week Indonesia truly started to feel like home. I love contributing to Kopernik’s impact, learning from my amazing coworkers, and having this adventure. Thank you.

Add new comment