PlayPumps: A Playful Solution to Africa’s Water Problem?

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CASE STUDY. This two-part case examines the PlayPumps project, which aimed to provide an innovative solution to water problems in southern Africa.

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PlayPumps: A Playful Solution to Africa’s Water Problem?: Abstract

PlayPumps: A Playful Solution to Africa’s Water Problem? is a case study by Anna Kim and Julie Perreault-Henry.

PlayPumps: A Playful Solution to Africa’s Water Problem? is a two-part case that examines the PlayPumps project, which aimed to provide an innovative solution to water problems in southern Africa. Part A begins with an overview of the PlayPump, a merry-go-round attached to a water pump powered by children’s play. It then describes the excitement of the media, philanthropists, and international organizations wishing to support the initiative, promoting its rapid expansion in South Africa and other countries.

Part B presents the challenges and unanticipated consequences of implementing and scaling up the project and what happened next. By studying this case, students are expected to gain an in-depth understanding of the real-life challenges facing social entrepreneurs working to ensure a positive social impact. Students will see the limits of dominant approaches to social entrepreneurship in existing research and practice, observing how mission-driven innovation can inadvertently create a negative social impact on target beneficiaries – especially under the pressure of rapid expansion.

Multi-part case

  • Part A
  • Part B (only available with a Teaching license purchase)

Teaching objectives

  • Understand the real-life challenges facing social entrepreneurs working to ensure a positive social impact.
  • Develop a nuanced critical perspective from which to evaluate outcomes of social entrepreneurship.
  • Understand the importance of incorporating the perspective of target beneficiaries in the design of social entrepreneurship products and services.
  • Critically evaluate existing frameworks for social entrepreneurship research (e.g., five dimensions of social entrepreneurship, strategies for scaling up social impact) and recognize that having a social mission does not guarantee a positive social impact.

Main themes covered

  • Social entrepreneurship

Concepts and theories related to the case

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Sustainable development
  • Business ethics

Additional information

Also available in French.

Teaching notes are available for teachers only. Please contact the HEC Montréal Case Centre.

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