Editor’s Note: We pose four questions to Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network, on how collaborative partnerships can scale the impact of multi-sector programs.
Tell us about the H20+ Uganda initiative BPN helped to launch last year.
H20+ is a multi-sector initiative designed to eliminate the root causes of poverty. We developed the H2O+ initiative to reduce morbidity and mortality rates, and promote economic development in Uganda by integrating five related initiatives: (1) improved access to sanitation; (2) improved access to safe water; (3) improved community hygiene practices; (4) strengthened capacity at district and community health facilities; and (5) increased school enrollment of girls.
H20+ was piloted successfully in Pallisa, a district in Southeast Uganda, in 2012. The program brings clean water solutions and improved capacity to health clinics as well as communities. Five borehole wells were constructed near health clinics providing 6,392 villagers living in these five communities with direct access to clean water. Additionally, those traveling from afar to these health clinics will have access to clean water, which we have calculated as approximately 4,000 visitors per year per health clinic. Because of the strategic placement of the wells, the program will benefit 25,600 people annually in these five communities.
How did BPN set up a private-public partnership to launch H20+ in Uganda?
Once we formed the H2O+ concept, we identified key players at the local, regional, national, and international levels to build a unique collaborative model that could be replicated across Uganda. With a network of nearly 100 WASH members working in 27 countries, we invited one of our members, International Lifeline Fund (ILF), to take the lead on implementing the program. ILF is a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce human suffering through WASH initiatives, fuel-efficient stove programs, and micro-enterprise. They have constructed more than 200 borehole wells in Uganda serving over 150,000 people. Their demonstrated expertise in Uganda and entrepreneurial approach aligned well with the H2O+ model.
H20+ was launched in partnership with ReachScale, a company that brings social innovators, including corporations, NGOs, and governments, together to scale initiatives that increase innovation and impact.
Management Sciences for Health played a critical role in the planning stages of H2O+. They manage healthcare clinics throughout Uganda, and around the world, and implement WASH activities through advocacy, community mobilization, and hygiene and health education.
Local governments in the district of Palissa and community leaders were involved in H2O+ planning, baseline research, and analysis and implementation. Africa AHEAD joined H20+ and will introduce Community Health Clubs in Phase II as the best way to ensure a community-led approach to water and sanitation program development.
What was BPN’s approach to integrating the 5 related initiatives (water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and education) and identifying metrics?
The H20+ initiative recognizes that health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and education are inextricably linked at the local level, as shown in the diagram below. H2O+ partners have experience leveraging their work to solve multiple community issues. BPN asked its partners: “How can we impact multiple aspects of community poverty?” rather than “How can we increase clean water, or how can we decrease visits to the health clinic?” The answers led to H20+, an integrated approach to poverty alleviation. BPN worked with its partners to agree upon the project model, planning, implementation, and monitoring components. H2O+ partners agreed upon a common set of metrics that will be reported and analyzed on BPN’s platform.
What were the challenges, lessons learned, and positive outcomes of coordinating the different stakeholders and getting everyone on board?
Agreeing on how to operate together was the largest challenge of H2O+, given the multi-level commitment of each partner.
H20+ planning was launched with several virtual planning meetings, and followed up with a site visit in Kampala, Uganda with representatives of several H2O+ partners. The program structure, metrics, and roles were discussed virtually, while the in-country visit was essential for building trust amongst district officials and H20+ partners. As Dan Wolf, ILF’s founder and executive director explains, “The lesson always is to lay the groundwork well in advance of beginning operations.” Dan and his team realized that building collaborative relationships with local government officials was difficult without a foundation of understanding. “The problem was a lack of familiarity and trust with a new organization. We learned that we can always do a better job of explaining and leveraging our experience to show the District Water Offices the benefits of our partnership.”
H2O+ partners are now looking at economic development opportunities for women. Empowering women to make and sell clean cook stoves is a unique addition to a traditional water or health program. Carbon accreditation will generate a revenue stream that pays for equipment maintenance and community education. This multi-sector model has attracted funders because they see the opportunity to leverage partner integration for greater program outcomes.
The takeaways are:
- Detail planning and role delineation up front is key.
- Combine the virtual with the physical. Being virtual encourages creative solutions. Getting together in person builds trust that strengthens partnerships.
- Be honest about evaluating progress and results. Always be open to refining the process for greater impact and stronger partnership. Measure, measure, measure.
- Celebrate successes together, no matter how small. Partnerships are hard work, so it’s important to remind people every time you make progress toward your common goal.
Editor’s Note: This post highlights an interview with John Anner of the East Meets West Foundation on how a technology platform and online collaborative network can solve barriers to growth, and scale the impact of their WASH programs. It was authored by Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network.
How do you see technology scaling your Clean Water and Sanitation Program to provide more people in impoverished, rural areas with greater access to safe water and improved sanitation?
East Meets West Foundation (EMW) has partnered with Blue Planet Network since 2006 to plan, manage, and track over 40 WASH projects. We needed to find a partner whose technology services could help us scale and be more effective. We have uploaded nearly $1,000,000 worth of WASH projects on Blue Planet Network’s technology platform, increasing the impact of our projects for nearly 60,000 people in Cambodia and Vietnam. Blue Planet Network programs and services allows us to spend less time inputting our project data and more time planning and implementing sustainable projects and learning from other NGOs doing similar work. Through the technology platform, we track our projects to make them even more scalable.
Can you provide an example of one of your WASH projects and how a tracking and management system is helping to scale your work even further?
One project in particular that we piloted in Cambodia was our Safe Water in Soramarith Secondary School project in the Kampong Chhnang Province, located 90 km east of Phnom Penh and one of the poorest provinces in the country. This is the first EMW clean water and sanitation project in Cambodia. We were able to secure funding for this pilot project and to expand our work further in Cambodia. The project enhanced the quality of life for 4,175 people in this area by increasing their access to clean water and improving hygienic and sanitary conditions. Today, we have four Cambodia projects helping approximately 12,000 people gain access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Being able to plan and track this project on an online technology platform that both our head office and our field offices could access improved communication and sped up our expansion plans without increasing cost.
Uploading the majority of our project data on an open-access system allows us to easily share the impact of our work and critical information on how we are improving WASH practices with international agencies, foundations, and state, federal, and local governments.
How do you see the use of technology helping you launch new initiatives?
Recently, we were awarded a $10.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This grant will enable us to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among the rural poor in Vietnam and Cambodia. The right technology support is critical to our output-based approach and the success of our program. Since our expertise lies in program design and field work, and we don’t have the capacity, know-how, or resources to build our own WASH technology system, we use Blue Planet Network’s tools and services to help us plan, implement, and monitor our international programs.
How exactly will monitoring and reporting help you achieve your Gates Foundation grant goals?
Using a project tracking and management system will help us increase the effectiveness and impact of our Gates Foundation $10.9 million program. We need to be able to track 1.7 million people in 344,000 households and 290 communes in Vietnam and Cambodia on the platform. We need a technology system that focuses on the full life of a project — from planning to implementation, and post implementation/monitoring — not just the final well or toilet. Other data we plan to track includes: region and time period, project challenges and successes, diversity and quantity of people impacted (women, children, low income), water volume and quality, water and sanitation usage, and more. And, we need to deliver ongoing project progress, data, and long-term monitoring reports online for easy access and full transparency to all our funders. This is invaluable data that we can share with stakeholders, and share with other NGOs so they can learn what worked best for us and the challenges we faced. We can even show funders or other NGOs how the communities are actively involved from the start, and empowered to manage everything from maintenance to financing to ensuring all community members live up to their commitments. The ability to customize the platform to meet all these needs will enable us to achieve greater results.
Going forward, we also want to use Blue Planet Network’s SMS reporting service to enable our cell phone-equipped communities, partners, and personnel to monitor and report on all our safe drinking water and sanitation installations. If a problem arises, we will be able to quickly see the reported texts and to provide immediate advice to remedy a challenge. SMS is a practical technology for us because most of our projects are located in very rural and marginalized communities of Cambodia and Vietnam. This service will scale the sustainability of our programs by reaching thousands of children and families living in some of the most high-need villages and empowering them to monitor and sustain their own community-led WASH systems.
How would collaborating with other NGOs benefit your work and increase accountability?
As a member of Blue Planet Network, we participate actively in a semi-annual peer review process to share best practices with other implementing organizations working on similar programs around the world. We have reviewed 34 WASH applications since we joined the network in 2006. This has been a valuable learning experience for us. Additionally, 11 of our applications have been peer reviewed by other NGO members on the platform. These WASH organizations and leaders have included Dr. Meera Smith of Project Well, Lynn Roberts of Agua Para La Salud, and Carolyn Meub of Pure Water for the World. In order to complete the peer review process, we have to answer very technical and in-depth questions about our projects.
During our 2011 Cambodia project peer review, Lynn Roberts noted, “The Andoung Snay and Andoung Chrey Clean Water Project systems seem dependent on electricity. How reliable is the supply and is the cost included in the maintenance?” That discussion made us think more about contingencies on many levels. We welcome questions from fellow experts who aren't too close to our work. They help us make sure our project plans are designed for sustainability and have the full potential of addressing the WASH challenges in rural communities throughout Cambodia and Vietnam.
Our former Water, Sanitation, & Environment Specialist with over 25 years of experience in planning, managing, and evaluating rural development projects, Rick McGowan believes that, “People who have more experience in the water development business have an obligation to help tutor and encourage those who have less experience...” And we couldn't agree more! We know that together — as one network, made up of many minds and sharing one purpose — we can collaborate and share learning to better plan, implement, and monitor sustainable water programs globally.
Editor’s Note: PSI and Unilever announced a new initiative with local governments in Kenya, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe to improve hand-washing behaviors in schools. A version of this story originally appeared here.
Although many people around the world wash their hands with water, very few wash their hands with soap at critical moments — such as after using the toilet, while cleaning a child, and before handling food. If hand-washing with soap became a standard practice, health experts estimate that deaths from diarrhea could be reduced by one half and that one in four deaths from acute respiratory infections would be averted.
This year, a new initiative launched between Lifebuoy (Unilever’s leading soap brand), PSI (one of the Unilever Foundation's global partners), and local governments is focusing on establishing behavior change programs in schools and communities across Kenya, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe — three countries where hand-washing with soap practices are low. In Kenya, for example, 28 percent of school children report washing their hands with water at key times during the day, yet only 1 percent report using soap.
The new Unilever-PSI initiative will help children get into a habit of correctly and consistently washing their hands with soap at critical times of the day. Using Lifebuoy soap products and communication materials, teachers and community health workers will work to change behaviors among school-aged kids through hand-washing programs and activities, such as song writing, comic books, and even hand-washing pledges. When children learn and understand healthy behaviors, they help pass life-saving information to their families at home and to future generations — setting off a powerful ripple effect.
Together PSI and Unilever aim to reach more than 250,000 school-aged children and their families in Kenya, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe over the next year. Through these three pilot programs, Lifebuoy, the Unilever Foundation, and PSI hope to prove the efficacy of this approach, and replicate the program at scale across a number of countries.
PSI joined Unilever and CSRWire for a Twitter chat to discuss the importance of hand-washing. Check out the highlights from the conversation, including questions and discussion from the audience. Continue the conversation with Unilever, PSI, and its partners at #IWashMyHands and become part of a worldwide dialogue to push hand-washing up the global health agenda.
The Coca-Cola Company has announced a $3.5 million commitment to the United States Water Partnership, a public-private partnership launched on World Water Day 2012 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Announced at the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, the partnership is designed to unite American expertise, knowledge, and resources and mobilize those assets to address global water challenges, with a focus on the developing world. Awarded through the company's Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), the funding will support water access programs in countries with the most significant needs, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Somaliland. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola will contribute $3 million toward a wide range of sustainable water access activities in those countries, including efforts to expand water access in informal urban settlements and in hospitals and promote multiple uses of water that empower women.
The remaining $500,000 will support USWP's efforts to transfer additional resources to African countries characterized as high-need in terms of access to clean water and sanitation. USWP also will make learnings from the RAIN initiative available to the global water sector.
"Access to safe water is essential for our company and our world," said Coca-Cola chief sustainability officer Bea Perez. "The sustainability of water resources is a top priority at the Coca-Cola Company. We are honored to support the USWP while being a catalyst for sustainable water access solutions in Africa."
Source: “The Coca-Cola Company Commits $3.5 Million to U.S. Water Partnership.” Coca-Cola Company Press Release 6/21/12.
Global banking giant HSBC has announced a five-year, $100 million partnership with WaterAid, WWF, and the Earthwatch Institute to improve sanitation and access to safe water for more than a million people, tackle water risks in the world's major river basins, and raise awareness about the global water challenge.
The launch of the HSBC Water Program coincides with the release of a report by Frontier Economics, which found that every $1 invested in water infrastructure can deliver nearly $5 in economic benefits over the long term, in addition to social and environmental benefits. Frontier estimates that in some African countries the investment required to secure universal access to water would be paid back within three years.
Potential annual economic gain from improved access
to water and sanitation as a percentage of GDP
The HSBC Water Program will enable the three nonprofit organizations to carry out projects in both developed and emerging markets. For example, WWF will work with more than a thousand businesses and over a hundred thousand fishers and farmers in five river basin areas in Asia, East Africa, and South America to promote the more efficient use of water in their practices. With local conservation partners, Earthwatch will set up research projects to address urban water management issues in more than twenty cities worldwide. WaterAid will work to help 1.1 million people in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana gain access to safe water and to help improve hygiene and sanitation for another 1.9 million people.
"The HSBC Water Program will benefit communities in need, and enable economies to prosper," said HSBC group chairman Douglas Flint. "The people of the world's major river basins currently account for about a tenth of world GDP, but by the middle of the century they could account for a quarter. Yet these are also precisely the same places where water resources are set to come under strain. This has the potential to straitjacket growth, at the same time as causing untold harm to local communities."
Source: “HSBC Invests $100m in Water Projects to Improve Lives and Boost Economic Development.” HSBC Group Press Release 6/13/12.
For additional WASH-related philanthropy news, see the news feed on WASHfunders.org.
Editor’s Note: This is the second post in our “5 Questions for…” series, where we pose five questions to foundation, NGO, and thought leaders in the WASH sector. In this post, Safe Water Network’s founding CEO, Kurt Soderlund, responds to our questions.
1. What is the number one most critical issue facing the WASH sector today?
Though billions of dollars are spent on water projects, very little has been directed at establishing a fact base for what works, what doesn’t, and why. As a sector, we can do more to validate which solutions:
- are most reliable
- meet quality standards
- address behavioral challenges
- are inclusive, and
- ensure local ownership, participation, and buy-in
With this understanding, we can make a clear, compelling case for how money should be spent to develop and replicate the most impactful programs. We will also be well positioned to attract the level of investment necessary to scale up solutions that will deliver lasting benefits to the millions of people in need.
2. Tell us about one collaboration or partnership your organization undertook and the lessons learned from that experience.
Organizing and aligning the capabilities of expert organizations is fundamental to our work and it’s why we have “Network” in our name. And because the challenge of providing safe water is immensely complex, our initiatives involve a variety of sector participants from different functional disciplines. Our collaborations include experts in engineering, public health, finance, and policy from government agencies, foundations, universities, the private sector and NGOs. We are fortunate to work with leading organizations like IBM, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, IFC, Tata trusts, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Merck.
Our partnership with PepsiCo provides a good example of how we apply technical expertise and local knowledge. They are one of our founding partners and they continue to help us develop and standardize low-cost systems and operating models in off-grid areas. PepsiCo associates work alongside our team, addressing technical and operating issues in the field. They are helping us improve our quality assurance and training programs.
Through this work we are collectively gaining a better understanding of what it takes to operate successfully in these challenging markets.
3. How do you work with local communities to promote project ownership and sustainability?
Installing a water purification system is the easiest part; long-term success hinges on ensuring local ownership and operational, financial and environmental sustainability. We start the process by involving the community in every step, from the initial assessment to the design, construction, launch and subsequent operation of the water system.
To ensure long-term success and maximum impact, we focus on gaining participation from as many households in the community as possible. We’ve targeted 75% household participation for those living near a distribution point as a key metric because at that level, there is sufficient participation to make a positive impact on health and – if priced appropriately – sufficient revenue to cover operating expenses.
To reach this goal, we educate families on the benefits of safe water and encourage them to use it for drinking, cooking as well as for their hygiene needs. We do this by taking advantage of the daily contact we have with the village from our facility, which acts as a community center, and with local operators and a network of volunteers, who advocate the adoption and use of safe water.
By leveraging this ‘operating footprint’ we create a critical mass that provides the community the economic and health incentives required to sustain the water station for the long term.
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?
I am very excited about the work IBM is doing with us to deliver real-time reporting and analysis of site performance. Our decentralized water stations operate in areas difficult to access and where skilled labor is scarce. The Remote Monitoring System will upload real-time operational and consumer data through telemetry, working through a local cell phone service to a central location. This makes it much more efficient to quickly identify, troubleshoot, and resolve challenges in remote locations.
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 WASHfunders, of course)?
A new collaborative tool developed by Google called Fusion Tables that allows you to visualize large datasets on maps, timelines, and charts is quite impressive. The Pacific Institute and Circle of Blue worked with Google to upload an enormous amount of global water data. The result is a simple yet dynamic tool that lets users visually compare countries and regions by statistical indicators such as water availability, diarrhea deaths, and GDP per capita. This demonstrates just one example of how knowledge sharing technology can be used to better inform ourselves and the public of deep truths hidden in data.