Does Scarcity Improve Adoption?


Historically, when new technologies are introduced to communities, access is not limited. Using the case of cook stoves, past attempts to introduce improved cook stoves allowed every person in a village to receive one right from the beginning. In contrast, this project proposes to apply an intervention around the psychology of “hard to get.” Research in psychology shows that the perceived value of a product increases when it is difficult to obtain. Hence, positioning a product as scarce is expected to increase its desirability, and lead to higher demand, adoption, and subsequent usage. Instead of offering the product to everyone, the product will be distributed in limited quantities over time. The goal is to create the feeling of initial scarcity, and subsequent achievement, when a family is finally able to receive a cook stove.

Project Vision and Strategy

Two approaches to introducing an improved technology (lower-emission cook stoves) to rural communities in Kenya will be compared to determine which produces higher adoption rates and sustained use, which will directly and significantly improve the health of individuals and their communities.


With support from DIL, the team has developed a “proof of concept” using lab and “lab in the field” experimental methods. Additionally, this Innovate grant allowed the team to visit Loitokitok (a Maasai district in Kenya) and partner with two NGOs: The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust that will be in charge of the implementation of the project in the field, and The International Collaborative for Science, Education, and the Environment, Inc., which will be in charge of the cook stoves’ technology, construction, and adaptation.

Lead Researchers