Thorsten Kiefer

Ashoka Fellow
Stuttgart, Germany
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Thorsten Kiefer was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Thorsten promotes sanitation and hygiene in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the two world regions most affected by preventable diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene conditions. Using the role model status of sport superstars, a unique set of interactive sanitation and hygiene games, and strictly positive cutting edge communication, he has created a new framework that changes water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues and facilitates behavior change mind sets around sanitation and hygiene issues. The key element of Thorsten’s work is that instead of working with the typical top-down health-based messaging traditionally used in the WASH sector, Thorsten consistently links sanitation to so-called higher level human needs and desires to make toilets and good hygiene aspirational behavior, cool and sexy. Using simple, fun, easy to implement, and effective messaging combined with buy-in from stars as role models, Thorsten creates a broad movement under the roof of his WASH United Club, allowing children and other key stakeholders to become members when proving knowledge and committing to its mission of behavior change and improved sanitation and hygiene solutions. His approach starts with young people in schools and strategically involves all other target groups important for the advancement of effective sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and practice.

Through attractive storytelling and opportunities for co-branding as an incentive for further spread and active stakeholder involvement, Thorsten effectively tackles taboos, fosters commitment among politicians, and generates sustained interest of mainstream media and citizen organizations (COs) for WASH issues. His goal is to effectively train one million children and reach about one billion people with clear and positive messaging on WASH by 2016, thereby creating large-scale bottom-up demand for effective sanitation and hygiene solutions. Within two and a half years, Thorsten and his partners have trained close to 60,000 children and adolescents in nine sub-Saharan countries and India and reached approximately 250 million people through innovative campaigns and media collaborations.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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