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Kluge discusses social entrepreneurship

Sanitation focus drives market-oriented approach

The Batten School hosted a talk Thursday featuring social entrepreneur John Kluge, whose work on sanitation is currently focused on projects in India, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

Kluge was originally drawn to issues of sanitation because they are universally relevant and complex — but he admitted the topic is far from "sexy," with a "yuck factor" which makes it hard to obtain capital for improvements. But nevertheless, Kluge said the mission is important to him.

“This is unquestionably a terrible job … but yet it will be the best thing that you ever do,” Kluge said.

To combat the lack of recognition and awareness, Kluge worked with Michael Lindenmayer to develop Toilet Hackers, a nonprofit organization which started as a group aimed at developing innovations for sanitations crises at hack-a-thons, and has since evolved to focus on creating change at the national level.

The organization also includes a number of awareness initiatives and field projects to implement developed hacks.

Kluge and Lindenmayer recently partnered with the Sesame Workshop and the World Wide Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to improve education about global sanitation needs. Currently, he is helping develop a new Sesame Street character, "Raya," to promote sanitation in developing countries.

Fourth-year College student Eda Herzog-Vitto said Kluge’s approach to tackling sanitation issues is innovative.

“His usage of ‘Sesame Street,’ which already has such a big impact is also very interesting,” Herzog-Vitto said. “[He is] redirecting that [energy] instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Kluge also underscored the importance of keeping up with infrastructure, making reference to "toilet graveyards" when maintenance efforts are inadequate.

Ultimately, Kluge said only a fraction of the people who need aid have been reached, even with the work he has already done.