INCAE Business School Costa Rica
In August 2003, Board members at ACOSAMA (Asociación Comunal de Salud, Agua y Medio Ambiente), an agency created by El Salvador’s La Loma community to manage the local drinking water supply system, held a meeting to examine the organization’s evolution. ACOSAMA was viewed by several public sector institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in El Salvador as an example of local development. Its social work model had resulted from an overall health project undertaken by the community, several NGOs and city halls, with the support of El Salvador’s national administration and international cooperation efforts.
During the meeting, after reviewing the organization’s evolution, board members were to define its expansion strategy. Some of them believed the system should remain unchanged and disregarded any expansion plans. Others, instead, felt expansion would contribute to ensure long-term sustainability for the organization, consolidating its social work approach. However, opinions on how to achieve these goals differed.
Some board members thought ACOSAMA should expand towards neighboring communities, trying to broaden its already validated success, while another group advocated a plan to grow within the original community by setting lower fees in order to make the system available for lower-income families. In spite of the differences, the meeting had to lead to an agreement, since the General Assembly was scheduled for the next day, and the Board had to present and justify its strategic decision.
This case intends to show students a dire issue besieging poor communities in developing countries: the lack of drinking water supply and sanitation systems. A series of partnerships among NGOs, communities, local administration and international agencies provided a fairly effective solution for this problem in the four-community groups described in the case. Similarly, as it depicts a community actually managing its resources to satisfy its basic needs, the case offers an experience that differs from the patronizing approach commonly endorsed by social ventures designed to provide solutions for this kind of shortcomings.
Through the analysis of the case, instructors should discuss the features of the new social venture created in this process and its outcomes over this three-year period.