The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment for Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS), led by the World Health Organization, collects a wealth of data on national sanitation and drinking-water–related policies, financing, and human resources. GLAAS publishes the results in a biennial report, the last of which was released in 2012 (PDF).
In an effort to make those data more accessible to policymakers and decision-makers, and others working in the WASH sector, WASHfunders.org initiated a pilot effort to visualize key variables related to the policy and regulatory context of national governments. For each country participating in the GLAAS survey, a “heat map” provides an at-a-glance summary of 11 GLAAS survey questions, including:
- Have there been any political or financial commitments on WASH made at the minister’s level in the last five years?
- Is the right to sanitation and drinking water explicitly recognized in policy and law?
- Are financial flows sufficient to meet MDG targets?
To view a country profile, simply go to the WASHfunders.org Funding Map, click on the country of interest, and select the GLAAS tab.
As the GLAAS team completes its next round of data collection and releases new data for 2014, the WASHfunders team will continue its collaboration with GLAAS researchers to develop data visualizations for the sector.
Let us know what you think. Is the heat map useful in your work? Did we choose the right indicators? What other indicators would you like for us to integrate in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: We pose five questions to foundation, NGO, and thought leaders in the WASH sector as part of our “5 Questions for…” series. In this post, David Auerbach, co-founder of Sanergy, shares his thoughts on the sanitation value chain, community ownership, and exciting innovations in sanitation in response to our questions.
1. What is the number one most critical issue facing the WASH sector today?
The most critical issue that the WASH sector faces is the lack of systems-based thinking. We need to go beyond simply providing a toilet. Although 2.5 billion people lack access to a clean toilet, 4.1 billion are at risk because sewage is not treated. At Sanergy, we take a systems-based approach that addresses the entire sanitation value chain. We provide clean toilets through a franchise network of local micro-entrepreneurs, collect the waste professionally, and treat it properly by converting it into useful byproducts, such as organic fertilizer. Failure to address the whole chain ultimately pushes the challenge further downstream.
2. Tell us about one collaboration or partnership your organization undertook and the lessons learned from that experience.
Sanergy sells Fresh Life Toilets to local micro-entrepreneurs. The franchise package includes installation, marketing, training and business support, and a daily waste collection service, and costs about $600 for the first year. In our work with the residents of Nairobi’s slums, we came across micro-entrepreneurs who were excited to launch Fresh Life businesses -- especially women and youth -- but who did not have immediate access to finance to start up their businesses. Kiva, an online micro-lending platform, partnered with us to provide 0% interest loans to future Fresh Life Operators. The partnership has led to 73 loans being issued and the construction of over 120 Fresh Life Toilets. Those operators serve 5,000 residents with hygienic sanitation daily. At the same time, Kiva gives us an incredible platform to share the resilient, compelling stories of our micro-entrepreneurs with the world.
By partnering with Kiva, we are overcoming an important hurdle -- access to finance -- and are creating a grassroots, sustainable solution to provide critical sanitation services.
3. How do you work with local communities to promote project ownership and sustainability?
All 161 of our Fresh Life Operators -- each of whom has invested their own savings in Fresh Life -- are from the Mukuru community. They are critical to the sustenance of our business and are key players in effectively tackling the sanitation crisis. One such operator is Agnes Kwamboka who has a remarkable story of the transformation that she was able to make as a partner with Fresh Life. Tired of having to bribe policemen so that she could run her unregulated brew business, she closed it down and had two Fresh Life Toilets installed. Now, she earns a good income, which enables her to sustain her family and no longer worry about the police. She has also reinvested the profits by purchasing additional Fresh Life Toilets and in literacy classes for herself. Testimonies like these show that we are positively changing the community and changing people’s mindsets about their role in society.
The other significant way in which we gain community buy-in is by hiring from the community. Sixty percent of our 135-person team is from the local community and over 60% of our staff is between 18 – 25 years old -- the age bracket with the highest unemployment in Kenya. The residents know how the lack of adequate sanitation can have disastrous effects on their lives and this makes them extra-determined to change their communities for the better.
4. Tell us about an emerging technology or solution that excites you and that you think will make a big impact in the WASH sector over the next 5-10 years.
One great initiative to emerge is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Re-invent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC). Institutions and researchers have received generous grants to come up with innovative approaches for the hygienic provision, collection and treatment of waste. The initiative has really catalyzed the entire sector and, moreover, broken down taboos to bring the sanitation challenge to the center of any development conversation. Through the RTTC, Sanergy has benefited significantly. We have partnered with The Climate Foundation to develop biochar -- an organic soil conditioner. We have worked closely with Agriprotein in South Africa to develop a protein-rich animal feed made from maggots that consume only human waste. These technologies have the potential to be massively important for the agricultural input industries. In creating value from waste, we give incentive for everyone to participate in the sanitation value chain.
5. There are lots of great WASH resources, ranging from striking data visualizations to good, old-fashioned reports. What’s caught your eye lately besides WASH funders, of course?
Lately, we have read a couple of compelling papers from the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program about what a toilet’s worth, from ID Insight about IDE-Cambodia’s work with microfinance, and Dean Spears’ research on the effect a lack of hygienic sanitation has on children’s height.
We strive to make the WASHfunders blog a forum for thoughtful reflection and conversation on the challenges, successes, and innovations taking place in the WASH sector. Indeed, this year our blog featured a range of topics, including market-based solutions to the world’s water crisis, lessons learned from monitoring and evaluation of projects, and considerations for long term sustainability in the sector. Here’s a look back at the top five most popular blog posts from 2013.
2013 marked the first official World Toilet Day formally recognized by the UN, though the World Toilet Organization (WTO) has celebrated the occasion since its founding in 2001. In this post, Anirudh Rajashekar, business development manager at the WTO, describes the organization’s market-based approach to sanitation and points to the creation of SaniShop, a program that trains local masons in Cambodia and India to build and market toilets in their communities, as an example.
Dr. Kerstin Danert at the Skat Foundation reflects on the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium she attended in April and observes that, while country-led monitoring is paramount to the sustainability of WASH projects, developing country governments and ministries are infrequently involved in this process. In her post, Kerstin compellingly argues that this fragmentation in ownership and monitoring of WASH projects undermines accountability and democracy and highlights possible solutions.
How have partnerships been successfully leveraged in the WASH sector? In her blog post from March, Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network, provides one such example in describing her organization’s H20+ program. The initiative -- which employs a multi-sector approach by incorporating interventions in WASH, health, and education -- brings together stakeholders from local NGOs, the private sector, and local government. Lisa describes some of the coordination challenges that arise when working with a large group of partners and provides some lessons based on the experience.
In July, Catarina Fonseca, Senior Programme Officer at the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, wrote about adapting IRC’s life-cycle cost methodology to assess the true cost of projects focused on WASH in schools. In her piece, Catarina provides interesting insights into the numerous considerations involved with assessing cost, such as establishing standards and indicators to determine what constitutes an acceptable level of service.
The most trafficked blog post on WASHfunders in 2013 came from Jim Chu, CEO of dloHaiti. In his post, Jim calls for more private sector and business involvement in the provision of WASH services to ensure long term financial sustainability and reduce the incidence of WASH technologies that, once installed, break down and remained unfixed. He highlights the role that the philanthropic sector can play in supporting market-based innovations that can be adopted and scaled up by the private sector.
Leave a comment to let us know what WASH topics you would like to see covered in 2014. Interested in contributing a piece yourself? Contact us at email@example.com. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the piece, Brian challenges the notion that high-tech solutions for WASH are inherently more impactful than simple innovations and offers examples of low-cost approaches in sanitation that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports. The post originally appeared on the Foundation’s blog, Impatient Optimists.
For many, the name Bill Gates is synonymous with high-tech. They figure if Bill Gates is involved in a project, it must involve complex advanced technology, in which case it’s probably expensive.
But the fact is that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t look for the flashiest solutions, it looks for the ones likely to make the biggest impact on the most people possible.
Those of us focused on Water, Sanitation & Hygiene know that we’ve got our work cut out for us. With 2.5 billion people lacking access to adequate toilets and another 2.1 billion of the urban poor using sanitation services in which waste is disposed of poorly and ends up contaminating their communities, the need for solutions is huge.
So when someone says they can build a plastic toilet pan for just $1.50 to keep latrines more hygienic, we listen. And when someone else comes up with a way to charge cell phones with urine, we listen to that too.
American Standard’s SaTo toilet pan is a simple plastic device that fits into latrines. When water is poured in, a trapdoor at the bottom shuts before all the water flows through, sealing the edges. This contraption not only keeps out flying insects that spread diseases like cholera, it also makes the latrine smell better for users. In fact, Popular Science just picked the SaTo as one of the “Best of What’s New” products of 2013.
A very different innovation is being driven by a group of British scientists who've found a way to produce enough electricity to charge a cell phone by using a microbial fuel cell that runs on urine. While this might seem a bit absurd, the reality is that many people in developing countries have limited access to electricity and struggle to charge phones that have become important in their lives. Therefore, a solution that addresses both human waste management and the need for electricity is worth looking at.
When it comes to sanitation solutions, the question shouldn’t be whether to go high-tech or low-tech. The question should be what is going to do the most for people in need.
A few weeks ago, the first winner was announced for the Sarphati Sanitation Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to global sanitation and public health through entrepreneurship. It went to Sanergy, which has developed a novel business model based on building and servicing clean, modular toilets in the slums of Nairobi.
Sanergy franchises its facilities to local entrepreneurs who earn money through fees or membership plans. Every day, Sanergy collects the waste, takes it to a processing plant, and converts it into organic fertilizer and other products. It’s a model that creates much-needed jobs and profits, while also reducing the incidence of deadly diarrhea and disease.
Another finalist for the Sarphati prize was iDE Cambodia, which also works to bring safe latrines to more people. By providing one-stop shopping and simplified construction at a better price, they are offering households in rural Cambodia access to “Easy Latrines,” which provide a healthier environment and a greatly improved quality of life.
Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, particularly in the area of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene. Sometimes it’s about designing new products, other times it’s about creating a new business model. The key to achieving impact will be to listen to the needs and desires of consumers, who are ultimately the ones who will embrace, use, and sustain safe sanitation.
To learn more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy, visit here.
Editor’s Note: This guest blog was authored by Muna Wehbe, CEO of the Stars Foundation in the UK. Last month on WASHfunders, Muna described the Foundation’s annual Impact Awards program -- which recognizes outstanding organizations working to improve the lives of children – and explained the reasoning behind their decision to add a category for WASH. This month Muna is back to announce the 2013 winners in this inaugural category!
Today, I can announce the inaugural winners. But not before I attempt the blogging equivalent of a tension-building drumroll…
The Impact Awards recognise and reward effective, well-managed local organisations working to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Using a rigorous selection process developed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, we assess applicants against criteria that together reflect hallmarks of effective practice in development. This includes administration and finance, governance, innovation, delivery and impact.
And while the process ensures we identify outstanding local organisations improving the life chances of children in the countries with the highest rates of under-five mortality, that can be where the similarities among the organizations end.
This initially seemed true when comparing Stars Foundation’s first ever WASH Impact Award winners:
Water School Uganda (Impact Award winner for WASH, Africa-Middle East) has operated in Uganda since 2007. Its annual income is approximately US$400,000 (our threshold is US$200,000), and there are just 13 full-time members of staff. The organisation uses SODIS technology (solar water disinfection) and ‘Tippy Taps’ to help with proper hand-washing as some of its key interventions.
Gram Vikas (Impact Award winner for WASH, Asia-Pacific) on the other hand, has been working in India since 1971. Its annual income is roughly US$2million, and it has more than 350 staff members. Gram Vikas’ model relies on 100% community participation to change defecation behaviour and hygiene practices, building Indian-style toilets and bathing rooms and piping clean water into every home.
But despite these differences in organisational heritage, budget, size and intervention method, both are doing remarkable things to improve the water access, sanitation facilities and hygiene practices of their communities.
In fact, as you dig deeper, it’s striking just how similar these two organisations are, as they both rely on pillars of community-led development to deliver life-saving results:
Both organisations seek to ensure sustainability of their programmes through engendering community ownership. Water School Uganda mobilises a network of volunteers, Village Health Teams and school WASH clubs. And Gram Vikas establishes committees made up of village representatives, with the expectation that the entire community contributes (financially and otherwise) to the building and maintenance of WASH interventions.
- Environmental context
Each organisation works hard to ensure the programmes they run are responsive and sensitive to the community context as well as the natural environment. Water School Uganda’s use of SODIS solar-powered technology to disinfect water is easy to use and affordable for the poor, rural communities in which they operate. Part of their work includes the construction of composting pits to help with food waste disposal and encourage ground fertility. Wastewater from Gram Vikas bathing rooms is used to irrigate community gardens, and families plant soft-rooted trees like banana and papaya trees near toilet leach pits. In both cases, this has led to better nutrition results for beneficiaries.
- Entry-point intervention
I don’t need to preach to anyone here about the multiplying effects WASH interventions can have on the health outcomes amongst vulnerable communities. But its effects on education are equally felt. Since Gram Vikas introduced piped water into households, limiting the burden of domestic chores on girls, the organisation has seen an 80% increase in school attendance. In a 2010 study of Water School Uganda’s programmes, major reductions in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery were followed by an increase in school attendance of up to 25%.
Access to water is about dignity, and both organisations see safe water and sanitation as a right for all members of their communities. Sixty percent of Gram Vikas’ beneficiaries have been from ‘Scheduled’ tribes and castes – families who have faced social discrimination and marginalisation for centuries – but the 100% community inclusion policy ensures every family, regardless of social standing, takes part in their programmes. Water School Uganda does a great deal of work in secular or multi-faith schools to ensure hygiene and sanitation messages are being communicated to minority groups as well.
Another similarity is that neither organisation has ever received unrestricted funding. Part of the Impact Awards prize package is US$100,000 of unrestricted funding (as well as US$20,000 in consultancy services and additional media and PR support), and both will now begin the exciting work of planning how to direct that funding to grow, to innovate, to strengthen internal systems, and become more resilient against external risks.
This is the part we are always most excited by at Stars Foundation, watching Impact Award winners unlock their own potential through the catalytic effect of flexible funding. I look forward to reporting back here on this blog about the work our inaugural WASH winners achieve.
Representatives from Gram Vikas and Water School Uganda will join winners in the remaining three Stars Impact Award categories – Health, Education, and Protection – at the annual Impact Awards ceremony at Kensington Palace in London on December 14.
Editor’s Note: This guest blog post was authored by Ben Seidl, program director at World Water Relief, an NGO launched in 2008 with the goal of bringing sustainable water purification solutions to people in developing nations. In his post, Ben discusses the push for better monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in the WASH sector and the challenges and opportunities that this trend presents for small NGOs. Ben emphasizes the importance of local engagement as the key to both effective M&E and, ultimately, project sustainability.
As the WASH sector continues to expand and strengthen its role in global health, the sector’s trends and objectives have become more data-oriented and results-focused. Mobile, field-level technology has enabled NGOs to undertake data processing and monitoring of water resources in real-time…a practice that was previously only afforded to large municipal utilities and corporations. While this technological leap has ushered in a new era of transparency and reporting, there are some fundamental building blocks of sustainability that are beyond data.
Human capital is still the true driver behind sustainability and M&E in the WASH sector. Local, dedicated stakeholders are the true source of long-term sustainability and accurate, reliable monitoring and evaluation. Without the involvement of these local community stakeholders, the sustainability of any WASH project will undoubtedly wither over time.
As Program Director for World Water Relief in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, my team and I are tasked with building a responsive and flexible monitoring program to ensure that our projects are creating measurable impact and consistent WASH service delivery. World Water Relief is an NGO with limited manpower and resources. Thus, we are faced with the challenge of producing high-quality WASH projects with a high level of feedback and sustainability on a shoestring budget.
Without the funds for advanced technology and data collection, we are tasked with finding alternative ways to ensure that our WASH projects are meeting these three criteria:
I) Beneficiaries’ needs
II) Industry and international standards
III) Donor expectations
To address each of these criteria in a cost-effective way, we need to craft local, low-technology relationship networks to implement and feed our data and sustainability measures. As an organization of less than ten employees, we depend on the passion, dedication, and involvement of the stakeholders in the communities we work in to be the drivers behind our sustainability and M&E initiatives.
One such program we employ in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic is the Youth Water and Hygiene Club. This type of school-based youth programming has been championed by the WASH sector as an intervention capable of providing youth with leadership training, experiential learning, and an in-depth opportunity to learn and practice water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions firsthand. Our Youth Water and Hygiene Club has been both catalyzing for the participating youth and beneficial to the schools and communities they serve. Students are empowered to be active participants in improving and maintaining the World Water Relief WASH infrastructure in their respective schools and communities. This means helping to clean drinking water stations and hand washing stations, chlorinating potable water holding tanks, initiating trash and recycling collection, teaching WASH principles to student peers, and providing direct monitoring and feedback on WASH service delivery.
The second benefit of a school-integrated program like this is that M&E is conducted on a daily basis at each WASH in Schools site. The Youth Water and Hygiene Clubs provide detailed and dedicated reporting on the status of their schools WASH projects. The World Water Relief program mangers in both the DR and Haiti are in daily communication with the club officers and have frequent regional meetings that feature 82 youth from 16 schools. These meetings provide an excellent opportunity for club leaders to learn from each other and for World Water Relief to continue empowering an inter-connected network of dedicated WASH youth.
The ultimate goal of WASH M&E initiatives is to provide insightful field-level information and analysis that drives accurate and timely project oversight. Ideally, WASH implementers are then able to relay these informative reports to donors and stakeholders in order to prove the efficacy of WASH projects around the world. The rapid progression of technology over the past decades has greatly enhanced the sector’s ability to create and share these important results. However, when we think about sustainability and evaluation, we must remember that data and observation can only take us so far. True sustainability still lies in the hands of the local users and stakeholders.
As the WASH sector moves forward in its pursuit of real-time tracking and evaluation of project efficacy, we mustn’t lose sight of the ability and potential of end-user involvement. Data can inform and guide, but the root of sustainability is still built through long-term relationships, strong personal communication, and direct face-to-face participation.
Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by André Olschewski, water, sanitation and environmental management specialist at the Skat Foundation, a non-profit based in Switzerland. The post builds from a piece that André wrote for WASHfunders.org in June that described the EU-funded WASHTech project and its Technology Applicability Framework (TAF), a decision-making tool that helps users determine if a particular WASH technology will be sustainable in a given context. Here, André introduces the counterpart to the TAF, the Technology Introduction Process (TIP), that guides practitioners in introducing a technology once a determination of sustainability has been made.
The Technology Applicability Framework (TAF) is a tool to assess the applicability of a WASH technology in a particular context and its potential to be adopted on a large scale. Under the WASHTech project, the TAF has been tested in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Uganda on 13 different WASH technologies including the ventilated improved pit latrine, urine diverting dry toilet, rope pump, India Mark 2 Handpump, and solar powered pumps for small piped schemes or sand dams. Since then, it has been successfully applied outside the WASHTech project in Tanzania and in Nicaragua, even without any direct training. Potential users have also expressed an interest to adapt and apply the TAF to other technologies such as water point mapping tools.
WASHTech has produced a short video explaining what the TAF is and how it works. Using the example of a solar powered pump in Ghana, the animated video summarizes how the TAF captures the issues around sustainable service provision. It also features interviews with users of the TAF (such as local government officials) who offer perspectives on the added value that the framework provides.
But what are the next steps if a technology has passed the TAF testing and if you want to introduce the WASH technology for services on a larger scale? To support actors in the WASH sector in planning and management of the introduction of a WASH technology, the WASHTech project has developed a generic guide for technology introduction, the Technology Introduction Process (TIP). The TIP -- as with the TAF -- follows the spirit of the African saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
For too long, efforts to introduce WASH technologies have been led by a few actors, mostly national governments and development partners, or a few isolated innovators. This often happened without proper involvement of other actors, such as the users, local political leaders, or the private sector. Increasingly, approaches such as Self Supply or Community-Led Total Sanitation are being promoted. These put more focus on user investments and the capacity of the local private sector to supply products and provide services. However, due to the limited financial capacities of households, some WASH technologies and services will still be subsidized.
The TIP guide supports the WASH sector in developing a specific process to introduce a WASH technology. At the core of the TIP, the tasks of key actors involved are defined for three phases of the introduction process:
- the invention phase, which includes the development and testing of the technology and the preparation for the launch;
- the tipping point phase; and
- the uptake and use phase.
For each of the phases, the TIP provides a generic set of tasks that should be carried out by specific actors. During the testing, the TAF can be used to develop the introduction process further and to monitor the technology and its performance.
In all three WASHTech pilot countries, government institutions have used the TIP to develop country specific guidelines for technology introduction. To aid this process, we’ve provided the generic TIP matrix, as well as examples of specific matrices that have been developed for two different cost models -- the market based approach (e.g. for Self Supply) and for a model where capital investments are subsidized. All relevant actors have been involved in developing the specific guidelines. The guidelines reflect the country specific policies on WASH service provision, subsidies, and decentralisation.
Our online resource base provides access to all documents on TAF, TIP and reports on results such as technology briefs. All documents are in the public domain. TAF and TIP users are invited to upload their case studies and to share their experiences on the user interface. For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The TAF and TIP were developed under the WASHTech project. The WASHTech consortium comprises: Skat Foundation – Switzerland; IRC International Water & Sanitation Centre – Netherlands; WaterAid - UK, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Uganda; Cranfield University – UK; Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) – Burkina Faso; Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS) – Uganda; Training, Research and Networking for Development (TREND) – Ghana; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) – Ghana.
Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Lisa Nash, executive director of Blue Planet Network,and highlights a recent merger between Blue Planet Network and East Meets West, two global WASH organizations coming together to combine their respective strengths in driving innovation and learning to deliver improved clean water and sanitation solutions to more people worldwide. The post discusses the motivation to merge, lessons learned, and some of the challenges inherent to the process.
After sharing the news of our merger last month with WASH industry leaders, we heard many of the same questions. We thought our answers could spark some interesting discussions:
How did the idea of a merger begin?
From the beginning, Jin Zidell, the founder of Blue Planet Network, has been committed to doing whatever has the greatest potential to bring safe drinking water to the most people. In December 2012, John Anner, president of East Meets West approached Blue Planet Network about merging.
Jin came to see the merger as a natural evolution of his original vision. Having started Blue Planet Network in 2002 with an aim to raise awareness and funds to help solve the global safe drinking water crisis, he considered the merger to be the smartest way to reach his original goal. East Meets West was delighted that Blue Planet Network saw the same opportunities for synergy that had prompted them to broach the subject of a merger.
Why did merging make sense for your two organizations and what lessons can be learned by others?
There are three important lessons we can share about evaluating merger as a growth strategy:
1) You have to be aligned in your goals, there has to be concrete benefit for each organization, and a sense of “magic” doesn’t hurt.
We knew we shared the goal of bringing sustainable safe drinking water and sanitation to people in greatest need around the world. We also shared a belief in innovation, collaboration, and results-based learning.
EMW decided it was time to expand their successful Southeast Asia programs worldwide through partnerships. They also knew they needed a robust technology infrastructure to support their growth. Blue Planet Network’s global community of 100+ member organizations provided deep knowledge of WASH strategies, common cultural practices, and meaningful relationships with local communities. EMW saw the advantage of Blue Planet Network’s online platform and mobile services to support growth.
For our part, Blue Planet Network saw the merger as a way to help us grow as an “innovation hub,” moving from one to two cross-member pilots at a time to 15-20, with all the learning that would result. While we remain a collective impact network, driven by the needs of our members, the merger gives Blue Planet Network the ability to reach new audiences of donors, implementers, and advocates active in WASH and add deep sector experience to our own resources.
The “magic” happened during a long evaluation session, when we couldn’t look at another spreadsheet. We began to talk about our vision of what we wanted to accomplish together. We knew if we kept that “magic” in sight, no amount of paperwork could stop us.
2) In the end, it all comes down to a shared confidence in the partnership.
Shared belief in a combined vision is the fuel that brought the merger to life. We were fortunate to have worked with East Meets West as a member of Blue Planet Network and knew that we had similar values. Having experienced that level of partnership made us confident we could count on each other going forward.
3) Patience and the ability to adapt, helps just as much as big ambition.
You have to invest the same level of effort in a merger as you would in a new venture…and still get your day job done. Bringing together two organizations, two boards, and two sets of systems and processes is a huge challenge. Integrating financial systems, agreeing on how to describe our combined organization, communicating with donors and partners…all took conscious thought and agreement across many people.
After eight months of negotiations, rigorous financial reviews and the approval from both boards of directors, the merger became official on September 6, 2013. We know this merger will be a learning process. Even after months of preparing for the integration, this year will be filled with challenges as we work to retain the autonomy and cultural norms of both organizations, while also bonding together and learning to say “our organization” and “we.” Our work on the merger will continue over the next year — team building, communications, IT integration — but we have agreed on clear success metrics. We need to be just as innovative, collaborative, and results-based about achieving our merger goals as we are about our WASH programs.
One of those metrics is that, by the end of 2014, we will develop a case study on the reality vs. the expectations of the first year of our EMW-Blue Planet Network merger. We hope this can be a useful resource for other nonprofits looking for innovative ways to deliver more value to the communities they serve.