Changing the monitoring landscape is one of Akvo’s aims and it is something I am dedicated and committed to delivering. Although I am involved in many programmes and partnerships, for me the Football for WASH partnership is in a different league.

Maybe it has to do with me. Bridging the different worlds of sport and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene also connects my passion for sport for development. Sport is a universal language and is an enabler for cultural integration and a platform to bring behavioral change.

Mapping and photographing latrine blocks for the first Football for WASH baseline survey in Kisumu. Photo credit: Frodo van Oostveen. 

Last week, the Business Development & Innovation workshop kicked off an exciting new collaboration and co-creation between Aqua for All and Akvo. Jointly we are responsible for the Project Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) of the Football for WASH programme. You could divide this in the following elements:

  1. Define the correct indicators and reference sheets in a monitoring protocol to be able to measure progress and learnings.
  2. Manage the project and determine how to involve and implement PME in Kenya, Ghana & Mozambique and the overall Football for WASH dashboard.
  3. An important aspect of Akvo’s role is to advise on how to measure the indicators with mobile / Internet tools. After having set the indicators we are able to bring this survey into the Akvo FLOW smartphone application. This has been a totally new experience for the partners in the programme and also for myself.

To be able to learn and get the ball moving, we decided to plan an Akvo FLOW workshop directly after the Business Development workshop in the first Kenyan pilot district Kisumu. All of the partners involved are holding activities in this area and have selected 25 schools for 2012.

Perhaps we were too ambitious, but we experienced quite a few challenges to transform the baseline survey into the Akvo FLOW application. The first challenge was the number of questions: 107 (!). The second one was the constant adjustments in the questionnaire. We need to set up a different process for this, and it has been addressed as an important lesson learned.

It all had to do with the great teamwork, energy and passion of Akvo’s heroes Luuk & Francis. They succeeded in training KYFA, CREATA and SANA in achieving their first two school baselines. At the moment, three or four surveys are submitted each day and, at this pace, it is likely that the baseline of all 25 schools for 2012 will be completed within a week. This mapping includes the following items (photo):

  • Number of adequate existing latrines for girls
  • Number of pupils that use soap at hand wash facility
  • Annual budget for maintenance & operations
  • Number of adequate football fields

Above: Map of monitored locations. You can click on the image to see the full interactive map.

So is the smartphone the missing link in a development aid sector that has struggled for a long time to connect the right dots? It’s complex and doesn’t move that easily. I was shocked or positively surprised by the amount of “low hanging fruit” – easy things to change – at the visited schools. Everything is as strong as the weakest link: there wasn’t any soap (aside from some left from global hand washing day…), a connection pipe was missing, a hole in the water storage tank, doors of the toilet were stolen, fence around the school was damaged, there were too many players on the football pitch, no business model or income generating activities, holes for trees to plant – no trees, the hand washing facility couldn’t be farther away from the latrines, etc. And all of the data is more than available in logbooks, piles of paper and papers on the walls in the offices of different departments (management, WASH, football).

I am convinced that by bringing smartphones into the schools, we are able to change the mindset of all of the stakeholders and connect the dots. So far it has been impossible to see the bigger picture and develop a sustainable (investment) plan for the schools. Lets analyse the Kisumu baseline and see how we are able to keep track. It’s valuable to have an overview of the conditions of the WASH and football facilities at the schools – including some data on business development opportunities.

It’s a combination of so many elements but let’s make the network work and make sure we are willing to invest time in this programme to look further than our own objectives. Let’s be innovative and stimulate a new thinking that creates value. Last week enriched me by providing the opportunity to work with a  fantastic group of people, and watch the available expertise in monitoring at work. Football and WASH – our joint mission is to communicate openly and use smart tools to bring everything together.

You can view additional photos from the workshop in Kisumu on my flickr set.

Frodo van Oostveen is a programme manager at Akvo, based in the Netherlands.