Problems & Solutions





Introduction and timeline

Although the project plan contained a risk analysis of the project and we felt well-prepared, events turned out much different than expected and in some cases different from what we had hoped. There are many factors that influenced the turn of events, apart from the fact that we did not always make the right choices. In this the encountered problems have had an influence on the results of the project. This chapter will elaborate on the turn of events during the project, which should be taken into account during a further reading of this report. Nevertheless, all of these experiences assure that we learned a lot during the project.

Partners/Stakeholders

One week before departure we had a meeting with the board of Engineers Without Borders, Jan Kluiver and Farida Rerhioui and her husband. During that meeting it became clear that the role of each party, as well as arrangements and expectations upon the different organisations had not been evident until that point, due to a lack of organisation and a lack of clarity in communication. The roles of the different organisations, our communication with them and some situations are explained below.

EWB

Engineers Without Borders is the organization we worked for, from which Jan Kluiver has been the contact person. In the beginning of the minor, still in the Netherlands, it was not yet clear who the client of the project was.  During our meetings in The Netherlands Jan has had a guiding role and the choices were up to ourselves. Therefore we have made all the assignments of the minor program, including the project plan, based on ourselves as clients for the Fortune Cooker.
During the meeting one week before departure an agreement was made in which EWB would be the official client and we could stick to our plan as described in the Project Plan. Jan Kluiver, as a member of EWB, would fulfil the role of Project Leader, which meant that we would inform him of our actions during the project and he would have a veto on decisions that mattered for the bigger program and continuation of the Fortune Cooker Project.

During the preparations in The Netherlands we met with Jan every one or two weeks. At that time the design of the original Fortune Cooker had changed into the hybrid Fortune Cooker described in this report, which diverged the goal of our project slightly. Instead of performing a pilot with a finished product, while making only small adjustments and looking for possibilities to bring it to the market, the design of this product was far from finished.
Jan however had about the same expectations of the execution of the project; performing a pilot with the new product and redesigning it along the way. These expectations worried us, as we were afraid the learning goals of the minor, mostly on cultural aspects in development countries, would not be achieved. We therefore decided to do a pilot with an extensive research on the influence of culture on the use of the product and market, which is described in the project plan. Thereby the research would consist of three fields; technical aspects, customer segment and market possibilities of the Fortune Cooker.

Furthermore the hybrid Fortune Cooker had the potential of being a unique design with commercial possibilities. Jan therefore decided to prepare an application for a provisional patent. We signed a confidentiality agreement to ensure that his idea could not get stolen. This confidentiality agreement and the continuous changes in the design of the product hindered us in sponsoring, as we could not communicate what the product was meant to be. Fortunately, at that point Jan had assured us a donation of a thousand euros by an acquaintance of his and Students4Sustainability agreed to sponsor us a couple of weeks before departure.

Up to the point of departure, communication with Jan was frequent and good, though he had a mostly technical view on the project and ours was more directed towards the culture. These differences became evident when we decided to send some essential materials to Morocco and not add them to our luggage, as it was too much weight. We made the mistake of sending Jan an insufficient update only after ten days in Morocco. We believe Jan decided to take a more directing role as project leader after this error and asked us to make a Gantt-planning, test plan and list of milestones throughout the project, these can be found in Appendix 1. It became clear that Jan prioritized the technical aspects of the prototypes and wanted us to start building as soon as possible. However, we had decided to first perform a research on cultural (cooking) habits, as the materials had not arrived from The Netherlands yet. This would be used in the design of our first prototype. From that point on the communication got more complicated, which made us feel we should be very cautious and watch our every step.

Then a decision was made by Jan to cancel a research trip to Aïn Sfa, because we did not finish the first prototype yet. Because this was being done without consulting us, we had to change our planning at the last moment, which consumed precious time. Sophie made an appointment in The Netherlands with both Jan and Iva to try to align Jan’s vision on the project and ours, as we felt our goals and activities weren’t in line.  We then decided to keep Jan up to date by means of email and telephone conferences to avoid ambiguities. Unfortunately, the communication remained complicated as we still had different views on the execution of the project and we could not manage to set equal expectations. We think Jan reasoned from the project plan and planning we sent him, while we were trying to achieve as much as possible with the circumstances we encountered. Our project plan turned to be too optimistic, which is why we were not able to live up to Jan’s expectations. Eventually the TU Delft was called for help and Otto Kroesen, the Minor Coordinator, did manage to clarify things. From that point on the communication and project went in the right direction, although the constant change of course and communication did cost us a lot of time.

An evaluation of the project in Morocco pointed out that we had performed many things different than Jan had expected. In some of these cases we had been making mistakes, for example by sending the materials later than expected. The subsequence of these cases made that Jan tried to give more guidance to the project. However, this more active role resulted in undermining our decision making and micromanaging our project and eventually effected moral and motivation in the group.

TU Delft

The project originated through a collaboration between Jan Kluiver and the minor program International Entrepreneurship & Development. Iva Pesa was our mentor during the project and we informed her of our actions throughout the project.
As a result of a miscommunication over the planning of the minor that the project plan was to be written in the last two weeks, as well as the confidentiality agreement hindering us to publish things about the product, the project plan was completed only one week before departure. At that point there was no time left for the different organisations to have a good reality check on our plans and give us feedback about it. Unfortunately this meant we travelled to Morocco with ambitious plans, which, while experiencing Morocco, turned out to be unrealistic. Now we know we should have communicated about the content of our project plan regardless of the embargo, better or even distribute early versions, to get feedback.

Otto Kroesen expressed his doubts on the duration of our intercultural internship when we called him for help. We were in Morocco for eleven weeks, of which two weeks of Christmas holidays. For the intercultural internship 420 hours, roughly ten weeks,  must be completed. We were aware of this from the day we arrived and planned to work six days a week to earn our Christmas holidays.

S4S

Students4Sustainibilty is a Dutch student’s foundation for sustainability around the world. S4S is our main investor. They donate money to buy materials and tools for prototypes. Every two weeks we have send them an update on our progress and the correspondence went well.

Dutch Orientals

Dutch Orientals is a newfound organisation that aims to connect Dutch Moroccans to their home region: l’Oriental. Farida Rerhioui is the founder of this organisation and her role in the project was much bigger than we and Jan had expected.

During the preparations in The Netherlands Farida was introduced as a person that could help us out during the project. She had done the same for Noor, a girl who performed a research of 6 months in the same region. Both Jan and ourselves therefore assumed some things would go in an equal matter as they went with Noor; that we could live in the same place in Berkane near three villages in which we could perform research and that we could find a free translator through the university in Oujda. Most of these things would be arranged in collaboration with Association Homme & Environnement, but only a couple of weeks before departure it became evident this was not the case. Farida would help us acquire several of our key resources, such as transport, accommodation, interpreters and contact with locals herself. Farida did always plan to do this and for us to live in Saïdia instead of Berkane, but there was too little contact with her for us to acknowledge that as we and Jan misjudged her role in the project. This did have a large influence on our budget estimation.

Even more did it influence the communication with Farida during the project in Morocco. Farida expected a tight collaboration with us, while we were under the impression that she was merely a supporting role and would be available for questions. We thereby expected a far less substantive  role for Farida than she did. We experienced her actions therefore as interference in the project, which resulted in miscommunications. The triangle of communication between Farida, Jan and us complicated things even more. When Farida decided to take a step back from the project,  she took on the roll we thought she would have beforehand, and we think this improved our collaboration.

In the end, better and more frequent communication during the preparations in The Netherlands could have solved these problems. Farida’s role in the project was essential to its results and we would have been nowhere in Morocco without her, even though the collaboration with her did result in some ambiguities.

Association Homme & Environnement

This organisation did not play any role during the project, but it did cause a lot of confusion for the reasons explained above.

Université Mohammed I (university of Oujda)

Due to the early stage of the project and the product, we decided not to collaborate with the Université Mohammed I.

Budget and crowdfunding

Our budget largely consisted of the S4S donation, due to the fact that money was to be mostly needed to cover material costs because, as described earlier, we were under the assumption the test locations would be very near our home and we would have a university student as an interpreter for free.  Both expectations were wrong and in the end a donation of a thousand euros, on which we were counting, did not come through.
As a result we were not able to hire a translator, pay for excursions to possible target groups and had to pay for transport for materials or meetings ourselves. These three aspects are essential to a good research and we therefore set up a crowdfunding in the second week of our stay in Morocco. This problem should have been encountered before, because setting up the crowdfunding campaign was very time-consuming and could have been done in The Netherlands as a preparation of the project in Morocco.
Eventually we managed to collect about €520, which solved the problem partly. The estimate of the crowdfunding target can be found in Appendix 2. With it we were able to pay for transport to get the materials of the prototypes, travel to Aïn Sfa and other research locations and compensate parts of Farida’s efforts, both translating and facilitating.

Materials and Building

The delay of the materials did have a large influence on the turn of events as described above. Some essential materials would travel with us to Morocco, but they turned out to be too heavy to fit in our luggage. When we had encountered this problem earlier, transport to Morocco could have been arranged in time. Now, we decided to send them afterwards and made the mistake of arranging to send the materials one week later. The materials would be transferred by bus, as this is most reliable, which left The Netherlands at the end of our second week in Morocco. The materials arrived two and a half weeks later than expected beforehand.
Because we eventually agreed with Jan that a first prototype had to be built as soon as possible, we decided to find alternatives and other needed materials in Morocco. The search for materials took a lot of time, because we had to orientate first and most materials cannot be bought in one and the same store. The orientation did however give a good insight on the availability and prices of materials.
Once all of the needed materials were collected, we were ready to build the first prototype. Since this design of the Fortune Cooker had never been built completely, we had to prepare the building plan well. Even so Moroccan resources are very different from known Dutch workshops and our problem solving was being tested during the building process. A further description of our building experiences can be found in Appendix 5 and Appendix 6.

Other

Apart from all of the above there were some other circumstances that had an effect on the results of the projects. At our arrival in Morocco the apartment missed some essentials to live and work there of which internet was most important. Beforehand we did not take into account how time-consuming the purchase of for example simcards, sheets and a router could be. During our stay the internet only worked on one of our laptops from time to time. We therefore had to plan certain actions like sending emails or looking up information.
In addition Sophie received bad news about her grandmother’s health and she decided to fly back to The Netherlands twice, both for a goodbye and the funeral of her grandmother.
During her first absence Carlijn and Suzanne got a severe food poisoning, which enabled them of doing anything for a week and affected their health up to three weeks after the illness.
Furthermore, we had never thought how time-consuming the Moroccan culture can be. To work as efficiently as possible we divided certain tasks, split up the group when possible and relied on known factors, for example hiring the same, reliable taxi driver.
Throughout the project we have tried to have an entrepreneurial attitude by making well-funded decisions. Now we know we have been too pro-active with some of our plans when we communicated them without a full explanation of our choices, whilst in other cases we could have been less hesitant to follow our own course. Both cases have given us more experience on how to dose assertiveness, which is essential in entrepreneurship.

All the events described in this Chapter caused the execution to differ from the one described in the Project Plan. Looking back on the project, much time is spent on communication and making choices. Both as a result of the constantly changing course throughout the project, the cultural differences and the poor communication with Jan and Farida, we became very cautious in our decision-making. Every step, and every e-mail was thought through several times and as a result became very time-consuming. The cultural differences will be further elaborated in the next chapter. In the part ‘execution’ of this report the actual execution of the project will be described.