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Living Goods
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Living Goods

Living Goods

Living Goods employs and trains local people--the majority of whom are women--to sell goods and life-saving medical supplies at competitive prices. Living Goods provides businesswomen and saleswomen with employment and entrepreneurial skills while improving health outcomes in their communities. Using a micro-franchise model for direct economic empowerment, women sell their goods door-to-door. These women own and operate their own micro-franchises, while distributing invaluable health and medical supplies to their own communities at affordable prices.

A just-completed study by rigorous researcher Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), another recommended charity of The Life You Can Save, found that the Livings Goods model reduced under-5 mortality by 27 percent and infant (under-1) mortality by 33 percent. As a result, Living Goods’ reach, alongside their partners at BRAC, has tripled to over 6 million people served. New funding opportunities indicate the potential to reach 25 million people across 4 countries by 2021.

The Problem

Lack of economic opportunities for women and poor healthcare. Around a billion people worldwide live in absolute poverty, with little access to healthcare or economic opportunities. Products like anti-malaria treatments, nutrient-fortified foods, solar lamps, and clean burning stoves for cooking can make a positive impact in the lives of the global poor. However, these products will not help the extreme poor if the world’s most vulnerable communities do not have access to these vital resources and goods. Without distribution chains or franchises, communities have no way to access or afford products which could immensely improve, and even save, their lives.

The Solution

Empowering women franchise owners. Local women are well-placed to sell products and teach usage to their communities, creating distribution chains in some of the poorest and most remote areas of the world. Not only does this improve community health through access to much-needed supplies and advice, but it also provides business women a chance to make a living.

How Living Goods is different from other charities

Many interventions fail because they rely on one product and new distribution networks, leaving them vulnerable to lack of demand or infrastructure. Living Goods leverages pre-existing social networks and brings a range of high-impact products together, creating an ‘economy of assortment’ as well as pricing economies of scale.

Because they own and operate their own franchises, local business women feel invested in their work and motivated to succeed. Living Goods trains and supports networks of business women known as Community Health Workers (CHWs), empowering them to sell a variety of low-cost, high-impact health goods. LG provides the women with initial supplies like uniforms, storage containers, and thermometers as well as with start-up inventory, bought with a low-interest loan. Start-up inventory includes medical supplies such as anti-malarial bed nets, deworming pills, water filters, treatments for malaria and diarrhea, kits for safe childbirth, and fortified foods. CHWs also sell everyday sanitation and wellbeing products, including soap, sanitary pads, contraception, solar-powered lamps, and cellphone chargers. Each CHW sells goods to about 800 individuals in her community and earns 15 to 20 percent of sales.

Living Goods utilizes modern technology, including an extensive mobile platform, for monitoring and improving productivity, quality control, and impact. Agents report on key health activities via mobile, allowing real-time data collection; customers receive messages on their mobile phones about specials and discounts.

Why Living Goods is effective

Rigorous Evaluation

Living Goods worked with the highly-respected Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to undertake a randomized controlled trial--the gold standard of reliable research--in order to monitor its progress on reducing child mortality.

Proven and Cost-Effective Results

The randomized controlled trial shows that Living Goods has reduced mortality in children under five years old by 27 percent and infant mortality by 33 percent. Their costs average 50 cents per treatment, and less than US$2 per capita a year per person reached.

Keeping Vital Products Affordable

Living Goods is able to buy in bulk at reduced cost and bypass middlemen in existing supply chains. It also uses the margins received on day-to-day products like soap and lotion to subsidize key health goods, bringing them to around 30 percent under market value.

Holistic Training

CHWs undertake two to three weeks of initial training on both business skills (e.g. sales, record keeping, and calculating profit) and basic health care practices--including diagnosis and treatment for common diseases like malaria, childhood pneumonia, and diarrhea.

Ongoing Training, Support, and Monitoring

CHWs also receive ongoing monthly updates and refresher training, and branch managers visit monthly to monitor performance, review stock, and oversee record keeping. Living Goods’ high performance standards help facilitate and maintain community trust.

Mobile Technology

Living Goods uses its extensive mobile platform to monitor and improve productivity, quality control and impact. Cell phones allow CHWs to collect data to enable them to better target households in need with health services. Community Health Workers report demographic, treatment, counseling, and sales data. data via mobile phone.

High Impact

Living Goods’ Accountability and Sustainability

Living Goods is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. Additionally, Living Goods is listed as a Standout Charity by GiveWell, which awarded the non-profit a US$250,000 GiveWell/Goodventures grant.

Their highly successful micro-franchise model brings together best practices from micro-finance, entrepreneurship, franchising, and health maintenance. Living Goods taps into existing social networks by employing local women who are able to reach communities with no other access to supplies. It shares documentation, tools and methods, and provides hands-on technical assistance, with the goal of enabling NGOs and businesses to adapt and scale the Living Goods model to other poverty relief work. Living Goods works in partnership with well-respected organizations such as BRAC, CARE, and Population Services International (PSI).

A just-completed study by rigorous researcher Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), found that the Living Goods model reduced under-5 mortality by 27 percent and infant (under-1) mortality by 33 percent. 5 As a result, Living Goods’ reach, along with partner BRAC, has tripled to over 6 million people served. With partner Last Mile Health, Living Goods hopes to reach 25 million people by 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to train and support micro-franchise owners?

The initial costs total around US$307 (down from US$375), which include a starter kit, Android phone, and 12 days of training. The net cost (including in-country overheads) of supporting an active CHW in Uganda is around US$1,262 per year (down from US$1509).

Why would the extreme poor pay for medicine that might be free in government hospitals, or that they could buy elsewhere?

Although some medicines are theoretically free in Uganda’s healthcare system, getting to a facility that provides them often involves unaffordable expense and hours of travel. Medicines sold privately are often fake or too expensive. Living Goods offers genuine products at below-market prices, delivered right to people’s doors.

What is the scale of Living Goods’ micro-franchise program?

Living Goods and partners (including BRAC) currently employ over 7,000 CHWs. Over the next four years-, they plan to scale to directly manage a network of 16,150 CHWs and support an additional 13,421 Community Health Workers through an assisted networks approach. This will expand coverage to around 25 million people by 2021. Together, they have supported 227,884 pregnancies, treated 847,616 children under five years old for deadly disease and sold over 68,500 clean-burning cookstoves. As a result of the excellent results from their recent randomized control trial, Living Goods’ reach has tripled to 5 million people served.

How do communities view Living Goods franchise owners?

Sauda Baubidia, 28, says that her work with Living Goods "has moved me from zero to a hero...because I have saved them," she said. "I saved lives for their kids." Pouline Nasuna, a CHW in Uganda, says, “I always wanted to be a nurse or health practitioner, but never had money for the studies, so when this opportunity came about, I jumped at it. Before, my income was never enough. So the extra income I get as a CHW of about US$60 per month is very important. I can now afford school fees, rent and food. My job as a Living Goods CHW has helped me and my family so much… It gives me great respect in the community and it makes me so proud when I see the impact I have on my community. ”

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Living Goods?

We recommend Living Goods because they have been named a Standout Charity by GiveWell, a highly respected charity evaluator.

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