This year’s 5th annual WASH Sustainability Forum will take place from June 30 to July 1 at the RAI in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. While previous WASH Sustainability Forums focused on concepts underpinning sustainability, this year’s Forum is oriented around the application of sustainability principles to WASH projects.
To introduce this theme, the WASH Grantmakers Network (WGN), together with Xylem Watermark, will host an orientation dinner in advance of the Forum, on June 29th. The dinner will provide guests with an overview of the Forum and offer tips on making the most of your attendance.
WGN is coordinated by WASH Advocates and is an affinity group for philanthropic organizations focused on WASH issues. To RSVP for this free dinner, contact Ben Mann at bmann@WASHadvocates.org or +1-202-293-4002. Registration for the Forum is also available online here.
Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Sue Dorsey, chief financial officer at Water For People. In the post, Sue identifies several issues with current funding mechanisms in the social sector and proposes solutions that will support rather than hamper organizations in building resilience and realizing bold visions. The post originally appeared on Water For People’s blog.
In a sea of social entrepreneurs, I am a rather unique voice. As the CFO of Water For People, I am part of a team that makes our vision of ensuring Everyone around the world has access to safe water and sanitation, Forever, a reality. Our Everyone, Forever initiative spans 30 districts across four continents reaching more than four million people, and we are proving that ending water and sanitation poverty is possible in our lifetime. Behind every bold vision is a “reality team” working to bring it to life. Being a member of that team is a huge responsibility and incredibly inspiring.
I believe that a critical component to making a world free of social, cultural, political, and economic barriers a reality is building strong nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government institutions. Our vision is the spark, and resilient organizations with appropriate funding mechanisms and a regulated environment is the engine that will get us there. But as it stands, current practices in the nonprofit sector won’t get us there. Here’s why, and what needs to change:
1. Funders offer small short-term commitments forcing organizations to create short-term solutions for long-term challenges.
#ChangeThat: Funding streams need to adjust their timelines to fit long-term solutions and outcomes.
2. Nonprofits struggle with success indicators, putting too much focus on overhead ratios that are easy to calculate but also easy to manipulate, leading to misdirected philanthropic investments.
#ChangeThat: Making outcome-based grants requires nonprofits to focus on long-term sustainable outcomes.
3. Funders generally resist financing capacity-building, and only focus on tangible projects.
#ChangeThat: Financing monitoring and evaluation, talent acquisition and IT investments would actually increase efficiencies and reduce overhead.
4. Out of control donor restrictions lead to soaring overhead costs and trumps appropriate and necessary programmatic changes.
#ChangeThat: What if funding under $1M or less than five years could not legally be restricted under FASB rules?
5. Lack of public transparency for the true costs to run a nonprofit organization.
#ChangeThat: What if we got rid of the functional allocation and asked NPOs to report on a full cost recovery basis on their 990, educating and sensitizing the public on the real costs to change the world?
6. Limited to no communication between donors and NPOs about organizational pain points.
#ChangeThat: Donors should ask and nonprofits should offer insight into what they need to succeed from a programmatic and operational standpoint.
There is an exciting opportunity to bring the reality teams from behind the curtain to be a voice for change in the nonprofit sector, by educating donors and effecting change in organizations. We have seen examples of this - InsideNGO has created a community of international development organizations to advocate for effective funding from USAID and other institutional funders. They are currently working on a database of information around the true costs of running an effective organization. And Dan Pallotta has been a strong voice on this issue for years. His TedTalk about the way we think about and execute charity has over three million views and growing, which shows there is an appetite to reinvent the nonprofit sector so we can actually change the world.
If you peek behind the curtain, you will find “reality teams” around the world poised to lead this change.
I see a nonprofit sector stepping up and making investments in data collection and analysis to allow for more data-driven decision-making. I see nonprofits sharing indicators and data across sectors to align us around a common set of benchmarks, providing a clearer picture of what success looks like and progress made towards that success. Greater transparency and accountability will build trust and collaboration with the funding community, and this will lead donors to reduce burdensome and unnecessary restrictions that only serve to increase overhead and reduce programmatic outcomes. I see government regulation pulling back from functional allocation to ensure nonprofits show the public a true picture of what it costs to run an effective, sustainable philanthropic organization.
Reaching our vision where Everyone has access to safe water and sanitation Forever is something we take very seriously. Anything less would just not be good enough.
Earlier this month, the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) was hosted by the World Bank in Washington, D.C. The partnership’s third convening -- watched closely by those involved in the WASH sector -- brought together ministers of finance, health, and WASH from developing countries, as well as donors and other development partners to discuss specific commitments to achieve universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
An important outcome of the HLM was the endorsement of 265 new commitments addressing a range of issues in WASH -- from increasing the availability and efficiency of financial resources, to improving access to services and strengthening the institutions responsible for the delivery of water and sanitation.
In a short video report posted to SWA’s website, Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid, discusses her impressions of the meeting and lauds the group’s open dialogue about sector-wide challenges -- such as addressing donor fragmentation and balancing the involvement of the private sector with the human right to water.
A webcast from the 2014 meeting has also been made available on the World Bank’s website.
Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Libby Plumb, Senior Communications Advisor for WaterAid America, who has recently returned from visiting WaterAid’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs in the slums of Kampala, Uganda.
Mariam is the only child of 22-year-old single mom Rehema. On the way to and from the local spring, near the Rubaga slum in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, she toddles behind her mother. It’s a journey they make four times a day to bring home enough water for drinking, cooking and washing.
Even little Mariam carries a jerry can of water: while Mom struggles under the weight of two 22 pound (10-liter) yellow jerry cans, Mariam follows behind carrying a bright red 11 pound (five-liter) jerry can – quite a feat for such a young child.
Rehema knows the quality of the spring water is questionable and could be risky for her daughter’s health. Kampala’s poorly constructed pit latrines and a high water table are a lethal combination as feces can easily contaminate the water supply. It’s not just water quality that is an issue. Accessibility is also a major challenge. With hundreds of people relying on the spring for water, crowds build up, with long waits common in the morning and evening when the heat of the sun is not so fierce.
Rehema commented: “It’s very difficult to collect water from there. At 8 or 9 p.m. it is so crowded that it can take more than 30 minutes.”
Tensions often flare at the spring. Alongside women and children collecting water for their own domestic use are water vendors, usually men, who come to the spring to fill four or more jerry cans with water that they attach to bicycles and take to customers who pay for delivery service. Women and children are often pushed out of the way by vendors forcing their way to the front of the line.
The need for safe, affordable, accessible water services in Rubaga is clear, but there are challenges inherent in extending piped water services into low-income neighborhoods.
In other areas of the city where the National Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) has granted water connections, it is common for landlords to sell water to their tenants for four to eight times the official rate. Poor families who are unable to afford the inflated rate continue to use polluted springs, even where there’s a tap right next to their home.
A pilot program of pre-paid water meters being rolled out by NWSC and donors aims to tackle this problem. The meters are operated by an electronic key, known as a token, that is pre-loaded with credit. Anyone, landlord or tenant, can buy a key and refill it with credit. As water is dispensed, the meter deducts credit from the token at the official rate. In this way, consumers deal directly with NWSC and there is no scope for middlemen to inflate the price. Consumers benefit from safe, affordable water, while NWSC benefits from knowing that by paying upfront, consumers are unable to default on payment of water bills.
The system is not perfect. Vandalism has been known to damage meters, causing them to malfunction. Another concern is whether all tenants, particularly newcomers to the area, are in the know about how to buy and use tokens. But it’s a system that shows promise and offers hope to areas like Rubaga that are still unserved with water.
Farahilh Masane is a resident of the Kawempe Division, where prepaid meters have been installed by Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), with support and funding from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and WaterAid. She told us: “I walk across the road to the prepaid meter because it is cheaper there: 100 Shillings [4 US cents] for four jerry cans. There is a private tap right here but it is too expensive for me: 200 Shillings [8 US cents] per jerry can. Before the meter was installed I collected water from a spring, but so many people near it have pit latrines, the water was contaminated.”
Back in Rubaga, Rehema is hopeful that she will be able to benefit from piped water soon too. “It would change my life to have clean water and live in a better environment.”
Last week, USAID released Water and Development Strategy: Implementation Field Guide. The document serves as a reference tool to help USAID Operating Units understand and apply the agency’s 2013-2018 Water and Development Strategy.
Design and implementation of the strategy is guided by a results-oriented approach, using a set of standard indicators on water, sanitation, hygiene, and agriculture. The Field Guide lifts up the following key points about USAID’s strategic approach:
- Geographic focus areas for WASH for health programming are determined by country needs and vulnerability; opportunity and potential; and strategic considerations. Priority countries for water for agriculture are those identified by the U.S. Government's Feed the Future initiative.
- Monitoring and evaluation should be applied as mutually reinforcing, but distinct, tools. It is also recommended that Operating Units develop and implement a learning plan around the program cycle.
- To achieve the greatest sustainable impact on health, WASH programming should aim for a balance of: access to hardware, behavior changes, and enabling policies and institutions.
- The principal legislative driver of USAID WASH funding is the Water for the Poor Act. Global Climate Change Initiative, Biodiversity, and other water- and food-related discretionary programs are also funding sources that can be leveraged.
By sharing the document publicly, USAID aims to ensure coordination of their efforts with the wider water sector. The Field Guide will be updated periodically. What do you think of the Guide? Feel free to share your reactions in the comments.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and India's Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council have announced the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: India.
Six organizations were awarded grants totaling $2 million to develop innovative "next-generation toilets" that can deliver safe, affordable, and sustainable sanitation solutions in India. A collaboration between the Gates Foundation, BIRAC, and the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology, the competition is funded by investments of $1 million each from the Gates Foundation and the ministry's Department of Biotechnology.
Announced at the "Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India" in New Delhi, the grant recipients are Eram Scientific Solutions, which, in partnership with the University of South Florida, will field test a solar-powered modular electronic toilet that is integrated with a mixed-waste processing unit; the Amrita School of Biotechnology, which will test the use of viral agents to kill pathogens and odor-producing bacteria in fecal waste; Pradin Technologies, which will test the viability of using ultrasound to reduce water use in toilets; the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, which, in partnership with Fresh Rooms Life Sciences, will develop a single-household container that uses human feces to incubate black soldier fly larvae, which can be processed into marketable products; the Institute of Chemical Technology, which will evaluate the concept of using fine sand-like material and an air blower to create a water-free toilet interface free of odor and flies; and BITS Pilani K.K. Birla Goa Campus, which, in partnership with Ghent University and Sustainable Biosolutions, will design a septic tank that uses electrochemistry to reduce organic pollutants and improve the quality of discharged effluent.
"Effective and comprehensive sanitation seems an impossible dream for India," said BIRAC chair K. Vijay Raghavan. "Yet today we see a congruence of new and applicable science and technology, its affordability, and sustainable implementation. This congruence is a great opportunity, which we cannot afford to let slip. By implementing effective solutions in each kind of social context, big problems can be dealt with in small units and be catalysts for scaling up."
The Gates Foundation also announced a partnership with South Africa's Department of Science and Technology to field test technologies developed as part of the global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The foundation and DST will invest $1 million and approximately $2.76 million (30 million rand), respectively, in the effort.
"By applying creative thinking and new approaches to sanitation challenges, we can improve people's lives. And we have no doubt that these new partnerships with India and South Africa will help us achieve this," said Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene team at the Gates Foundation. "We believe that with governmental leadership, new business models, and innovation, we can dramatically increase the progress made in tackling this global sanitation crisis."
"Indian Researchers Selected to Develop Next Generation Toilets." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 03/22/2014.
The International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) in The Hague has announced a $3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in support of efforts to provide access to clean water in rural Ghana.
The grant will support IRC's work with the Ghanaian government to bring national and local partners together on efforts to provide sustainable water services for 1.3 million people in thirteen rural districts. The project, which is focused on building the government's capacity to deliver and maintain water services rather than taking the more conventional approach of installing hardware, will scale earlier efforts by the IRC in partnership with Ghanaian government agencies and communities in three districts.
"IRC believes strongly that strengthening the ability of governments to lead the provision of services is not only the best route to scale, but the only viable exit strategy for charitable giving," said IRC chief executive Patrick Moriarty. "By supporting our work in Ghana, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is giving strong support to the achievement of our vision of providing everyone in Ghana with water services that will last forever — without the need for endless charitable donations."
"We have been working with our partners in Ghana to increase access to safe water for more than twenty years," said Steven M. Hilton, board chair, president, and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. "We're teaming up with IRC to build on our experience and focus on improving how water systems are managed. This grant will help contribute towards providing reliable safe water into the future."
"Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Backs IRC With US $3 Million for Work in Ghana." International Water and Sanitation Centre Press Release 03/18/2014.
The Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Asian Development Bank, has awarded three grants to help provide safe sanitation facilities in urban and rural communities across Asia.
Created in 2013 with $15 million from the Gates Foundation and administered by ADB, the fund will leverage more than $28 million in financing over the next five years for non-sewered sanitation and septage management projects across Asia. Grants announced by the fund include $2 million for ADB’s Facility for Pilot and Demonstration Activity, which will test and validate pilot approaches to new sanitation management and water services delivery policies, technologies, and business models, with the goal of replicating and scaling successful approaches across the region; and $1.6 million for pilot innovations in septage collection and treatment systems in eight coastal towns in Bangladesh. Part of a planned ADB loan to Bangladesh for infrastructure improvements, the grant also will support efforts to improve septage operation and maintenance, and to promote private-sector participation in septage management.
In addition, the fund awarded a grant to the South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub (k-hub), a network of four research and training institutions in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka supported by ADB that works to facilitate information and learning exchange among city managers, utility staff, policy makers, academics, and the private sector.
"We will continue to work with the governments in Asia-Pacific region to make countries open defecation-free and complement their efforts by providing options for small-scale sanitation systems in urban and rural communities," said Amy Leung, director of the Urban Development and Water Division in ADB's Southeast Asia Department. "We are proud to support new testing and pilot implementation of innovative solutions to hasten access to safe sanitation for Asia’s urban poor."
"Open defecation and inadequate toilets, sewers, and wastewater treatment systems lead to massive amounts of untreated human waste in the environment, harming the health and well-being of children," said Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene team at the Gates Foundation. "We are delighted to have new partners like the ADB applying creative thinking to more effectively managing human waste to improve people’s lives."
"Three New Projects Receive Funding Across Asia to Improve Safe Sanitation." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 03/11/2014.
"ADB, Gates Foundation Launch Initiatives to Spur Sanitation Innovation." Asian Development Bank Press Release 03/12/2014.
Editor’s Note: This post was co-authored by Carlos Hurtado, Manager of Sustainable Management of Water, and Priscilla Treviño, Head of Evaluation, Strategic Planning and Research, at FEMSA Foundation. FEMSA Foundation is the corporate foundation of FEMSA, a conglomerate that operates throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Philippines and is the largest independent bottler of Coca Cola in the world, the owner of a fast-growing convenience store chain in Latin American, and a shareholder of Heineken.For over five years, FEMSA Foundation’s approach to corporate social investment has supported projects and research in the water and nutrition sector.
Investing in the social and environmental sector is not only a responsibility of the business sector; it is also strategic. This guiding principle provides the basis for FEMSA Foundation’s approach towards social investment.
Decision-making for increased effectiveness and efficiency
A corporate foundation has an interesting asset: familiarity with business-based practices and skills. Many of these skills and practices are useful for reducing uncertainty, increasing the likelihood of success, and identifying risks and opportunities for improvement for project design. Drawing on these strengths of the business sector, over the last year FEMSA Foundation has developed and piloted various tools to improve the decision-making processes related to its work in the social sector. One of the most useful has been an outcome and impact forecast methodology that the Foundation has developed for WASH projects.
In the WASH sector, as well as in many other social sectors, anticipating and quantifying the effects of a project is challenging. Diverse intervention strategies are deployed in different and evolving contexts which makes comparisons difficult. However, by making use of forecasting techniques similar to those employed by the business sector, FEMSA Foundation has found that the expected effects of WASH interventions over time can be described and quantified.
As a result of this methodology, FEMSA Foundation has identified triggers of success and social value for WASH projects. One of those is the social insertion component of a project which, based on data, impacts the sustainability of an intervention in the field. Specifically, community participation in decision-making processes, economic contributions from water users to install and sustain water access and infrastructure, and the training of water committees are now part of FEMSA Foundation’s strategy. Over 75% of the Foundation’s total investment in 2013 -- channeled towards various partners such as the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA), Habitat for Humanity and the Avina Foundation -- is now backed up by a strong social insertion component. This has led to important efficiency gains. Under the enhanced social insertion strategy, average costs associated with community fieldwork have increased by 23%, but economically valuated benefits have increased by more than 60%.
Collaboration within the social sector
The gap between NGOs, with experience getting things done on the ground, and institutions with technical expertise useful for planning, implementing, and assessing an intervention can be wide. The Foundation is working towards narrowing this gap between the social sector and other actors interested in tackling social and environmental problems.
Over the past year, FEMSA Foundation has worked closely with social sector organizations, academic partners and business leaders to unify visions and to leverage strengths and expertise for the improved design and management of social projects. One of these projects is Water Links, FEMSA Foundation’s flagship program for WASH service delivery. Water Links is co-financed by MWA and Coca Cola Latin America and operates in México, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Nicaragua, where it will benefit more than 110,000 people by 2015.
As a regional and inter-institutional program, Water Links is an outstanding opportunity for exploring various approaches towards WASH-related challenges. Initially, the evaluation strategy for Water Links was set around traditional reporting back to the donor. However, because FEMSA Foundation is committed to improving its decision-making processes, there was strong support for the translation of the initial evaluation model into a framework that was sufficiently sound to identify solutions for WASH-related challenges and yet appropriate to deploy in the field. FEMSA Foundation facilitated this change of vision by mapping information needs for comprehensive learning, providing guidelines for data analysis based in business-oriented practices, and offering technical expertise to enrich the evaluation model. Water Links also engaged with academia to address the benefits to the WASH sector and redesign instruments for data gathering. Finally, technical insight from MWA, the organization that works most closely on project implementation, ensured that the strategy proposed considered the challenges and realities faced in the field.
As a result of this collaboration, Water Links now has a sound monitoring, evaluation and learning model (MEL Framework). The Framework aims to capture relevant findings from the ground during the lifetime of the program through a continuous cycle of activities and instruments that will document the effectiveness of various WASH models of interventions, revealing good practices and pointing out implementation challenges.
The MEL Framework, which is set to begin its activities on the ground in May, 2014, has turned Water Links into much more than the materials and activities paid for and implemented on field. It is now a program that is able to evolve to ensure sustainable benefits as well as an instrument to learn from and transform the way FEMSA Foundation and other interested actors work for the better.