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Co-creating with Haitian Street Vendors for Clean Cooking Innovation

The UIL engaged street vendors in a participatory innovation process to design new solutions that might spur clean cooking uptake among this critical segment. 

Why this is needed: Almost 37,000 street vendors serve over 6.5 million meals per day in Haiti, and predominantly use charcoal to prepare these meals. As such, street vendors are a key segment of potential clean cooking users with a vested interest in improving the cooking experience. The UIL wanted to test whether a participatory innovation process with users could yield new solutions that ignite clean cooking uptake. 

What the UIL did: The UIL used design research techniques to understand the experiences of street vendors and generate insights on their lives. Vendors took photos and shared insights on their typical day to share their context, needs, barriers, and constraints. Based on these insights, the UIL built a visual journey map that made challenges and opportunities to innovate clear. For example, the journey map made the unseen heavy mental loads street vendors carry visible by showing the decisions and micro calculations that go into running their businesses. The UIL used this map to distill opportunity areas and then engaged vendors in co-creation workshops to develop solutions and prioritize those that would be most impactful.  

What the UIL learned: A highly complex set of factors influence vendors’ day to day behaviors and influence the feasibility of any solution. A key category that emerged was the mental load that vendors are under, and how this impacts their ability to change behaviors when transitioning to clean cooking technologies. Vendors also rely heavily on a variety of group-based financing models that highlight the important role community plays in the running of their businesses. 

What’s next: Through co-creation, four ideas emerged as the most likely to improve street vendors businesses:  

  1. Beautify my market: local artists and street vendors collaborate to transform street vendors’ stalls into personal works of art to raise the profile of vendors and spark curiosity about the clean cooking solutions they use 
  2. Community safety training: provide LPG safety training for street vendors, their entire households and the larger community 
  3. Business starter kit: provide information and advice to new street vendors on starting their business, including information on clean cooking options 
  4. LPG cooking improvements: provide fuel usage trackers that help vendors see how much LPG is left, or large pot stabilizers that cater to slow cooking dishes 

 These innovations can help take away some of the mental load associated with the decision to switch to cleaner fuels and to continue using them. The UIL aims to identify partners to test, refine and launch solutions in the market that have been prioritized by vendors.