Roho Network Pitch

The problem your project solves

Mask the heroes today

Around the world, healthcare and essential workers are risking their lives with inadequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and sanitation supplies. International public health and basic sanitation needs have never been met, with most goods being prioritised for the global North. In times of epidemics and pandemics like COVID-19, existing inadequacies and disparities are made more apparent. PPE, access to handwashing facilities and disinfectants are highly needed to mitigate the devastating impact of COVID-19 and other diseases.

Healthcare workers in marginalized communities (e.g. homeless, elderly, incarcerated, and/or poor) in particular are at risk for becoming “super-spreaders”, due to their high exposure rates and contact with vulnerable populations. Public health education is critical in breaking the chain of infection, but these programs are poorly funded particularly in crowded and remote places that lack access to quality health care systems. Frequently, these workers have the lowest access to supplies because they are not part of a major healthcare system and do not have the support of a wealthy government. Public health is further endangered as these organizations are chronically understaffed and community spread of disease amongst healthcare workers has devastating effects.

Medical procurement departments often have a single staff member, who typically orders all of their supplies from catalogues provided by a handful of vetted suppliers. They rarely have any experience purchasing directly from manufacturers, lack industry connections and have difficulty balancing verification processes with the speed necessary to secure goods. To make matters worse, small clinics are now competing with national governments for supply.

Prevent the pandemics of tomorrow

Deficiencies in supply are exacerbated by just-in-time production, hyper-centralized manufacturing and limited quality control capacity of critical goods. These profitable practices contribute to a lean system that shatters under pressure; only now do wealthy nations notice the types of shortages that are commonplace throughout the global South. Traditional businesses are not agile enough to respond to the ever-changing needs of Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) environments exacerbated by increasing rates of epidemics, financial system instability, climate change and mass migration. New regional production and trade of essential goods that support local communities’ ownership of development are necessary to create fault-tolerant global systems.

Returning to business, as usual, will put the globe at greater risk for recurring pandemics. Responding to only the COVID-19 crisis misses the big picture issue; we must address the root causes of unsustainable social, economic and agricultural practices that lead to collective ruin. Human activities such as hunting and trafficking of bushmeat, concentrated animal production and expansion of farmland into fragile ecosystems increase the rate of transmission of novel diseases from animals-to-humans (zoonotic transmission). These practices are the direct causes of the epi/pandemics including COVID-19, HIV, Bird-flu (H5N1), Swine-flu (SIOV), 1918 flu (“Spanish-flu”), and Ebola. Experts throughout the field are increasingly abandoning anthropogenic thinking in favor of the One Health Approach--understanding the inseparable links between human, animal and environmental health. One Health has been endorsed at the highest levels of global governance and health delivery, including the World Health Organization, Food and Agricultural Organization, and World Organisation for Animal Health. Effective operationalization of the One Health approach requires structured community-centred approaches.

The solution you bring to the table

Our philosophy: “_ Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime _” – Maimonides.

Our platform

Roho Network is a global connection service. We use both human-touch and technology to connect suppliers, recipients, and partners to create durable partnerships that fight COVID-19 today and help prevent the pandemics of tomorrow. We are pioneering an innovative and integrative approach called social and ecological entrepreneurship. We believe we can have it all: healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy profits. Our user-friendly platform aggregates supplier and recipient information and serves as a clearinghouse for critical goods. We combine Artificial Intelligence (AI), global health expertise, and vast personal networks to maximize the public health impact of limited essential supplies and identify business opportunities amidst the noise. Our ultimate goal is to improve human, animal and environmental health by cultivating the next generation of social and ecological entrepreneurs.

Suppliers are empowered to make data-driven decisions about their life-saving impact. They can choose an organisation with urgent needs in their neighborhood, send supplies to an area with peaking infections or opt to make a maximal public impact by choosing an organization in a poor area where infections are low and containment is still possible.

Recipients can purchase or request donations from our growing list of over 268 vetted suppliers and 688 fabric manufacturers ready to join the fight. Partners include recipients, suppliers, businesses, and volunteers who are interested in pioneering social and ecological entrepreneurship. The majority of our volunteers have a business, innovation, or public health background.

Together with our partners, we develop solutions, which not only tackle the crisis at hand, but develop resilience mechanisms. The new supply chains established as a result of COVID-19, will allow us to supply products needed by the community to battle the pandemic, while also encouraging local recipients to build their own businesses. We invite our partners with knowledge and resources to explore local needs and run experiments with MVPs. As they identify opportunities for sustainable businesses we connect them to training via the Biz Skills Academy, mentors, and our global supply chain.

The tech

We have a single page web application written using the Vue.js framework, Airtable, and Algolia. We are set to have interactions with three different types of entities: Suppliers, Recipients and Volunteers. From the landing page https://rohonetwork.com/ each entity can navigate to a form to sign up for our platform. The forms were built using Airtable and for now responses will be manually vetted before being marked active in our system.

We use Doqume's AI-powered Research Platform to provide our users with self-updating information about changing global needs and that automatically flags potential misinformation. The system is trained to provide customized alerts like when new supplies come online or when the infection rate changes substantially. This allows suppliers to maximize the public health impact of their goods.

Technologies used

Frontend: https://vuejs.org/

Search: https://www.algolia.com/

Forms and databases: https://airtable.com/

AI-powered knowledge bases: https://doqume.com/

Other noteworthy things:

Our code all lives on https://github.com/rohonetwork

We are currently deployed on https://www.netlify.com/

Business model

We are not a non-profit because we believe in giving a hand up instead of a handout. Our team's collective 101 years of public sector experience have shown us the organizational problems of volatile funding that include the inability to retain skilled workers, inadequate facilities and not enough equipment. In addition, too much time is spent seeking and sustaining funding, and sometimes poor decisions result from conforming to funders’ expectations that do not match dynamic local realities. Instead, we specifically support projects that will become self-sustaining. The assistance provided can include materials, investment or training, depending on the needs of each case. In general, ad hoc price structures will be negotiated between the supplier and the recipient. As a result, establishing partnerships based on the exchange of goods and services provides an ongoing incentive for continued collaboration.

Our model has two revenue streams: the first is a “freemium” based subscription plan in which essential workers and entrepreneurs in the global South have free access to our network but can pay for concierge matching services. Suppliers and investors can also access our platform for free, but pay a fee for sustainable business development services in emerging markets. These services are ideal for non-traditional manufacturers and established businesses that are committed to improving their environmental impact and driving equitable economic growth. We charge the suppliers and investors a percentage-based commission relative to the size of the sale and the type of supplier. We are also exploring equity models and microfinance lending as potential revenues streams. Additionally, we are exploring funding opportunities with NGOs and IGOs, like the World Bank and the UN, using our personal networks.

Our Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Our MVP tests our capacity to fund, source, and transport PPE to an area where a small amount of supplies would make a maximum public health impact. In addition, we wanted to focus on an area where entrepreneurship would promote sustainability and poverty alleviation by directly leading to decreases in bushmeat hunting and rainforest clearing. As a result, we are focusing on Grand Gedeh County, which is located in the poorest and most remote part of Liberia. Currently, this county has no access to PPE and has 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19. It is surrounded by counties with active cases. Presently, our angel investor is sourcing water purification liquid from a pro-social business contact for local health workers to resell. In contrast to aid handouts or irregular government funding, developing small businesses provides workers control over their income and profit to develop new ventures and life saving services in their community.

What you have done during the weekend

*We used the #EUvsVirus Hackathon to crystallize our business plan and further develop our business strategy. Prior to, we had already identified a handful of reliable suppliers and our initial target community in Liberia. We were also able to connect with mentors who shaped our strategy and honed our messaging. Validated our business plan with 3 business leaders and 2 global health experts

*Friday: Our Liberian partners at Cocoa-Eye learned how to build and installed 10 locally-sourced, hands-free handwashing stations in Zwedru, which is the capital of Grand Gedeh County.

*Sunday: Over the weekend, Cocoa-Eye collaborated with community members in the Krahnville, Toddyville, and Jensenville communities of Zwedru to build a total of 18 hands-free handwashing stations, trained 45 residents using a “Training-of-Trainers” model, supplied over 150 people with this scalable, hygienic, and affordable solution and have made plans to expand further interior toward the borders of Guinea and Ivory Coast. By Friday, our communities will install these at home and we expect a total of 40 new handwashing stations which would reach over 400 people.

*Enrolled 3 budding entrepreneurs from our Cocoa-Eye team into the BizSkills Academy entrepreneurship and virtual incubation program run by a social enterprise that is developing entrepreneurial skills in underdeveloped communities. Our partners plan to develop community-building, One Health-aligned businesses such as low-land rice farming, regenerative agriculture, pasture-raised chicken production and water purification tablet reselling that would provide economic support for their public health efforts, promote climate resiliency, and provide locals with alternatives to unsustainable food production practices like bushmeat trafficking and expansion into rainforests.

*Included a PPE burn rate calculator developed by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/burn-calculator.html

  • Right now our algolia index holds mock data we have generated to prove out the map and search functions for the recipients view.

*Separately we have started the process of ingesting the data from https://www.ifai.com/covid-19/supplier-directory/ using python. We took a first pass and have done a rudimentary conversion from pdf to csv. More data cleaning is necessary to get to a point where the records are reliably parseable but we are close. When that is complete we will upload to both our airtable backend, and algolia.

*Pitched our idea to an Industrial Resource Efficiency Consultant at UNIDO

*Aggregated companies vetted by the Association for Health Care Resource & Materials *Management and Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX): Healthcare Supply Chain management

-156 suppliers of “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)”

-68 suppliers of “Other Suppliers, Test Kits, Swabs, etc.” and 15 providers of medical services such as sterilization and logistics

*Doqume, our AI partner, gathered 54 FFP and N95 Respirator Manufacturers

*We collected contact information on 320 Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies Groups from the OSMCMS Roster

*Collected over 688 PPE providers from the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), nor the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) that provide:

-31 types of finished goods: (ex. PPE, wipes, body bags, and medical tents)

-31 types of upstream input material (e.g. fibers and/or resins, nonwovens, knit/woven fabrics and yarns)

*Added IFAI, NCTO, and INDA: 76 Cut and Sew Service Providers and 23 Machinery Service Providers

*In the first hour that our website went live, we registered a Supplier, Requester, and Volunteer!

*Registered 4 new businesses as Social and Ecological Entrepreneurship Partners

*Connected with 4 new mentors in social medicine health, sustainable agriculture, and entrepreneurship

*Partnered with another Crown International, another PPE project in EU vs Virus. They will be providing back-end development assistance

The solution’s impact to the crisis

Around the world, governments and medical communities are scrambling for PPE and other critical equipment. They are mobilizing supply chains and have the necessary infrastructure to scale dramatically. However, many countries and primarily in the global South are struggling to secure the necessary PPE. Our solution is trying to turn the tables and provide communities in Liberia and beyond with access to these supply chains to stop the spread of COVID-19. PPE and critical supplies play an essential role in breaking the chain of new infections from within the communities and clinical settings. Slowing infection rates shields healthcare systems from being overwhelmed by rapid influxes of patients and prevents substantial financial and health costs from being spent on treatment and admissions. In addition to non-pharmacological interventions like physical distancing and quarantine, PPEs and other critical supplies are important because they provide cost-effective protective and preventive interventions as compared to the cost of treatment and hospital admission levied on the health systems globally.

The necessities in order to continue the project

  1. We ideally receive funding to support a full-time core team, additional developers (front/backend), project management, procurement/sales expertise, logistics expertise, access to legal advice and additional business development support.

The beneficial investments in our project

  1. Our Cocoa-eye team would benefit from $6,200. $1,200 to provide 1 year of high-speed internet access in order to finish their business skills training course and launch their business. $5000 to purchase 10 computers, a motorcycle, maintain the office, and procure a signboard.

  2. Our Regenerative Agricultural model would benefit from $10,000 in funding. $2500 would go toward the purchase of a piece of land at the entry to Zwedru that has access to a stream which enables year-round production. This highly-visible location will be used as a demonstration site for community members who are interested in transitioning to Sustainable Livelihoods from unsustainable bushmeat hunting and carbon-emitting, rainforest-clearing “Slash-and-Burn” agricultural models. An additional $2500 would be used for purchasing supplies, seeds and training Cocoa-eye members in Regenerative Agricultural techniques. Our “Regenerative Clinic Gardens” project would benefit from $2000 to initiate pilot Gardens at 5 clinic sites in Grand Gedeh County, along with training for 50 clinic staff and community members. Our “One Health School Clubs and Gardens” project would benefit from $3000 to conduct training for 300 teachers and students at 10 schools to start One Health School Clubs and Regenerative School Gardens.

  3. Our “One Health National Forum” project would benefit from $10,000 to continue high-level meetings at the national level to bring together key government and civil society One Health stakeholders to raise awareness, identify areas for collaboration, and integrate Health, Climate, and Conservation interventions.

  4. Our “Community One Health Curriculum Development” project would benefit from $5000 to conduct an international survey of best practices that combine Community Health and One Health, draft the Community One Health curriculum, and share it with key national and international stakeholders within government and civil society.

The value of your solution(s) after the crisis

The cracks in the foundations of the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds open a vast new field of opportunities. Adaptable businesses that have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 and have thrived could be ideal partners and mentors to support initiatives in other VUCA environments, such as those in emerging markets. Increasing remote communication, business practices such as Agile/Scrum/Design Thinking, and the convergence of Nanotechnologies, Biotechnologies, Information Technology and Cognitive Science (NBIC) have the potential to support self-organizing communities that develop cross disciplinary solutions. We enable these endeavors by connecting the dots between interested parties. We believe everyone has the capacity to become an innovator so we invite people of all stripes to develop solutions that translate theory into practice by bringing One Health to life.

Our global connection service will help community partners improve their quality of life by fostering entrepreneurship and agency. Ultimately, Roho Network’s value lies in its ability to prevent the spread of this pandemic and prevent the next. Only by working together to collectively lift more people in the global South out of extreme poverty can we combat existential issues like massive deforestation and the animal to human transmission of deadly diseases like COVID-19, Ebola, 1918 flu, HIV, SARS, and more. Due to its integrative merging of holistic health and circular economies, we believe that if our collaborative “Community One Health” model is scaled successfully, it will provide a fundamental change to the delivery of 'aid' by bringing it into a new era which is much more effective at empowering local communities.

The solution also provides several indirect benefits to the communities supported:

*Youths will be discouraged from migrating and entering irregular migration flows.

*Better environmental solutions will be implemented, for instance by promoting water purification tablets instead of bottled and bagged water, which leads to significant pollution and stagnant water that breeds mosquitoes.

*Risk of terrorism and violence, often related to economic difficulties in the global South, could also be mitigated.

*New businesses will lead to the abandonment of certain illegal, destructive, or dangerous practices, thus preventing other pandemics and environmental pollution from occurring.

What's next

We were winners in Hack the Crisis Austria which gained us entry into the AustrianStartups Business Development program which begins on Monday. We will also complete the Startup Wise Guys Pre-accelerator program.

Next week we will compete in MIT's COVID-19 Challenge: Africa Takes on COVID-19.

From the tech side, we will continue building our search functionality and upload the real data we gained over the weekend. We are also building out an interactive map. We will continue training the Docqume model to alert us to new suppliers.

On the business development end we will continue to explore legal structures and validate business models. Now that we have some vetted suppliers we will allow beta users to begin testing the platform before doing a full release. We will also begin engaging with suppliers to see how we can best partner with them to find right-sized customers and display whether or not they have supplies available. In addition, we will look into logistics partners to assist with the movement of these supplies.

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