ATEC: Digital fast tracks behaviour change in Cambodia

An innovative social enterprise (ATEC* Biodigesters) is spearheading an efficient and powerful new approach to education, behaviour change and impact delivery using digital marketing.

February 17, 2019

An innovative social enterprise

An innovative social enterprise (ATEC* Biodigesters) is spearheading an efficient and powerful new approach to education, behaviour change and impact delivery using digital marketing.

Watch the full webinar

In this webinar with ATEC* CEO Ben Jefferey's we share how digital can transform outreach, behaviour change and impact work in developing countries.

Read the full case study

Normally behaviour change in the development sector can take up to 2-4 months and 30-40 hours of staff time to change one individual's behaviour. But thanks to the rapid rise of access to internet and use of Facebook through mobile, ATEC* were able to use digital channels and call centres to drastically reduce time to change behaviour in 4-7 days, and 4 hrs of effort.

These new channels and approach is enabling development businesses to reach and support local communities in countries like Cambodia and Bangladesh with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

If you'd like the PDF report, download it here

The Issue

In 2020 we face global crises on many fronts, political, environmental, social, justice to name a few. As always the development sector, supported by governments and business, is making great progress, but it’s at its limits and it’s not enough.

Annually, trillions is spent on the development sector with millions of people are working hard to deliver aid, educate, change behaviour, however, the traditional approach is hard to scale. As many people on the front line will attest its grueling, unforgiving and tedious work. But it’s important work, so it must be done. But is there a more efficient way that leverages technology in a digital age?

The Situation

Typically, organisations get boots on the ground (so to speak), directly engaging with local communities to learn, engage, educate and ultimately change behaviour. Passionate locals are often engaged to visit local communities, hold group meetings, provide handouts, samples of products/services, follow-up with in home visits, taking months and often not getting a result.

ATEC* local sales rep visiting a farmer in Kompoung Speur in Cambodia to talk about the benefits of a biodigester to the household. This is the 3rd visit to this household. The first was a village group meet, the second was with the parents and this is with the son.

People in these communities are often working extremely hard, have little or no resources, working in multiple cities so time is in short supply.

Decision making and habits are often a communal affair, with 5-10 people in a family being involved, so everyone needs to get on board.


One resource that has become pervasive and enabling organisations and families alike to get things done is mobile internet. With cheap, powerful mobiles, access to 3G and Facebook or YouTube app, a new channel exists for them to learn, buy, community and develop.

It's pretty crazy that six of the world's seven billion people have mobile phones - but only 4.5 billion have a toilet, according to a U.N. report.

And in Cambodia fast speed internet penetration has rapidly grown in recent years. The number of mobile and internet users rose substantially during the first half of the year, with the number of active SIM cards in the country now comfortably outnumbering the population.

According to statistics released by the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), in July 2019 number of active SIM cards in the country now comfortably outnumbering the population, reaching 20.8 million. Internet users – including both mobile internet and fixed internet – stand at 15.8 million, which equals about 98.5% of the population.


An upstart social enterprise has realised this opportunity, successfully transforming their outreach from field sales to capturing leads through Facebook advertising  on their website and converting sales via a call centre - leading to rapid growth, cost reduction, real-time visibility and ultimately engaging more communities to improve their lives.

The social enterprise, ATEC* Biodigesters, solve critical household issues of energy and farming by providing a low-cost, durable biodigester that provides families with free gas & organic fertiliser, enabling them to improve crop yields by 30%, save hundreds every year and invest in education for their kids or expanding their farm.

The biodigester turns green waste (cow/ pig feces, kitchen and garden waste) into biogas for cooking and organic fertilizers farmers can use in their crops.
ATEC* customers replace cooking with wood fire with a modern biogas stovetop and rice cooker. This saves them time and eliminates the severe negative effects of smoke inhalation. It also reduces forest degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution caused by smoke.

Digital Campaign

Early in 2019, Harvey worked with ATEC*  to launch the digital outreach program using Facebook, website and call centre. Within days the campaign generated more qualified enquiries than they could handle, over the following months the targeting, content, call scripts and team were optimised.

We experimented with 21 ads in 3 content themes, with 17 audiences and a detailed enquiry form to qualify enquiries. We could see which messages were working, optimising the channel weekly.
Facebook ads

The Results

For the first time, ATEC* were generating inbound enquiries, educating & building trust with online content, and closing sales over the phone in days, not months at 25% of the cost. Not only was it more effective but with a data-led strategy, the team were tracking performance of each audience, message, images, call scripts and conversions on a daily and weekly basis.

Within 4 days we identified 2 themes and 4 audiences that dramatically outperformed the rest, we created new, improved, versions and results continued to skyrocket. This process continued fortnightly.

What took a field salesperson days of customer visits, hours of driving around communities reduced to an average of 4 hours to sign each customer up.

ATEC* are using this to test and validate entry into new markets. In July 2019 Harvey ran tests for 2 days in Bangladesh to calculate response rates & cost per enquiries and quickly found there to be a greater demand helping validate and inform the market entry.

This initial trial with Facebook was just the beginning, we’ve been busy trialling chatbots, instant messaging, Youtube, search and the potential is much more significant.

Harvey visited the team in Cambodia in May 2019 and trialed Facebook Live direct from a customer's farm talking about the benefits of Biodigester that got 100x engagement average of Australian Facebook Live streams

The Potential

This new approach can support field sales & development teams to educate and change behaviour at 2-3X the speed and 30% of the cost. It provides managers and leaders with real-time insights on the entire funnel - enabling easy tracking of progress, avoiding wasting money and increasing rollout.

As a new tool in the arsenal of development and social enterprises, digital can turbo-charge their amazing work, improve the livelihoods of people around the world and improve efficiency of current investments being made.

Imagine if you increased the outcomes by 2-3X, or the way you could use the 30% savings out of $US Trillion each year.

Join us in a free webinar and Q&A with ATEC* CEO, Ben Jeffreys on 27th May, 4pm AEST as we discuss this topic further - sign up here.

Are you using digital, real-time data, Facebook targeting and call centres in your development org or social enterprise? Have you found differences across countries? Do other channels present a greater opportunity? Let us know!

Get in touch if you'd like to learn more, we are running Digital for Development Sector workshops. Find out more here and contact us at if you are interested.

Say hi 👋

We want to hear all about the things you're doing.

Subscribe to Harvey Stories - our occasional newsletter containing riveting insights from the purpose sector and a few lessons we’re learning on our journey.