Tomorrow, a series of “co-creation” events will take place in eight cities around the world. The 1%Event is being organised by the 1%Club, fellow inhabitants of our recently opened AmLab in Amsterdam. Launched in 2009, the 1%Event (Twitter #1pce) has been growing year on year. It’s designed to give a boost to sustainable projects that stimulate self-reliance and improve living standards. Put simply, it connects people with smart ideas to co-creation labs of young professionals, entrepreneurs and change-makers who give a day of their time and energy to help make them happen.

Akvo is taking part in three cities. Luuk Diphoorn from our partner team will be joining the co-creating team at Nailab in Nairobi, Akvo co-founder Peter van der Linde will be attending the hub event in Amsterdam and I’ll be presenting an Akvo case that we’re looking for some collective brainwork on, from London via Skype to Cameroon. It should be a great experience all round. There’s still time to join in if you’re interested. To join a lab in Amsterdam, Buea, Cairo, Cape Town, Kampala, London, Nairobi or Ramallah, send an email to info [at] or get in touch with me on Twitter @jo108.

Jo Pratt is communications manager for Akvo, based in London.

I spent last week in Ethiopia meeting with project partners involved with two Dutch MFSII consortia, the Dutch WASH Alliance and Connect4Change. Akvo is a partner in both groups and I want to share my observations about the current communication situation, and what we did to help improve things.

Videoing team members and then playing back these interviews on the big screen had a real impact. Here we play back a video of Zemede Abede, a WASH Alliance Ethiopia member being interviewed the same morning. (see the Tweet)

What was immediately apparent is that the new alliance structures back in the Netherlands are not well understood amongst local field partners. Some of the local organisations aren’t sure who to communicate with and how – and the communication process takes too long. At a practical level it meant that several of the projects we visited had barely started. Crucial local planning – such as workshops to agree indicators, baseline surveys pegged to these indicators and training workshops – has in some cases been delayed. As each step is delayed, everything falls back.


By Kathelyne van den Berg, with contributions by Luuk Diphoorn.

For the second time this year we’ve had the chance to join our MFSII Alliance partners in visiting the countries where they will be active over the coming five years. This time we travelled to Ethiopia, a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It’s one of the few countries in Africa that has never actually been colonised. Just as our previous visit to Uganda and Kenya in May this year, we participated in activities linked to both the WASH and Connect4Change Alliances. For a recap of what we did then, you can take a look at the blogs (Uganda, Uganda 2, Kenya) we wrote up at the time.

Photo: UN vehicles gathering at the parking lot of our hotel in Awash, Afar Region, Ethiopia. Photo by Kathelyne van den Berg.

In May the Alliance activities were still in the very early stages, with the focus on partner selection and discussing initial steps that were to be undertaken. Now, beginning October the selection of partners is as good as finalised, with most contracts between Northern and Southern partners in place. The development of programme plans for 2011 and beginning 2012 is in its final stages. Luuk has written separately about some of the problems we came across and how we helped tackle them. For now, here’s an overview by me of what we did and who we met.


Akvo volunteer Winona Azure explores some great sources of water information

Top: fragment of a map in the Africa Water Atlas (page 6).

Water is not just a solitary resource like iron ore or wood – to make use of it, you must understand that it is interconnected. Not only does all of life depend on it, but water’s in a constant cycle of movement and change – and the rights to it are often in dispute. As water resource professionals, it’s our job to see this bigger picture in order to make the best, practical, economic decisions to ensure this resource is properly and fairly utilised. If water extractions are not done intelligently, there’s great risk of depleting a region or people’s freshwater, contributing to economic and military conflict, or creating food insecurity through mismanaged agricultural irrigation.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has compiled three extensively researched atlases that target water resource issues in Africa, Latin American & the Caribbean, and South and South East Asia. With freshwater on the decline, as populations worldwide increase, we could all use such a goldmine of information.


On Friday night we launched AmLab, our new work space in the centre of Amsterdam. It’s a spectacular building, being the former headquarters of the Dutch West Indian Company. We’ve already written about the history of the place, here.

But really the question is what can we do with the building now, and how can we turn it into one of the most important and exciting work hubs for international development. As Peter said in his opening speech on Friday evening, for centuries the building was connected to the world by canals and the sea. Now it’s connected using the internet and mobile devices. The question now is how can we apply this amazing new communications infrastructure, to help people radically improve their living conditions and situation in other parts of the world?

AmLab is short for Amsterdam Lab. The goal is to create a hotspot for innovation and development of new tools and approaches and where people can work together on new ideas. It’s founded by 1%CLUB, Text to Change and Akvo and we want it to become an innovation lab for web and mobile for international development in Amsterdam. Of the group, it’s the 1%CLUB that has the track record in creating innovation spaces – it set up Nailab in Nairobi, Kenya, which is doing really well. So we start right away with another hub to link to, in one of the most interesting innovation cities in the world, right now.

To sum things up (as we see them now) AmLab is a space where:

  • Text to Change, and 1%CLUB host their offices
  • new tools and solutions for international cooperation are being developed
  • we develop open source software solutions together
  • people organise presentations, meetups, bootcamps and hackathons where innovators, change-makers, techies and social entrepreneurs can meet
  • there are great connections to other innovation labs all over the world

Some quick background on the three founding partners:

1%CLUB ( is the online crowdfunding platform that connects people with smart ideas with people, money and knowledge around the world.So far over 500,000 euro was collected online which made it possible to fund over 200 out of the 300 projects in 62 countries.

1%CLUB is the founder of the NaiLab Incubation Space in Nairobi and organizes the yearly 1%EVENT and monthly Co-Creation Sessions where they connect change makers en young professionals all over the world.

Text to Change ( (TTC) combines the increasing growth of mobile telephony with the need for better healthcare projects, innovative education, economic development and transparency.

TTC uses sophisticated mobile phone technology to send out and receive information on such issues in Africa and South America. TTC’s pioneering model is based on interactive and incentive based SMS programmes. Together with their local partners, TTC aims to support change by increasing awareness and enabling citizens to take their health and well being into their own hands.

Akvo ( creates open source web and mobile software, and builds networks of skilled partners that can change the way development aid is allocated and reported.

This is important, because it improves the way projects are implemented in some of the poorest parts of the world, making them more effective, efficient, sustainable and visible. Many of Akvo’s partners focus on water and sanitation, but Akvo now also covers health, education, economic development and IT projects.

I arrived at the party having just shared a stage with Hajo von Beijma of Text to Change, at the PICNIC Festival over at NDSM Wharf, where we both talked about innovation and development in Africa. So already we’re doing more together. For my photos from Friday, click the collage below. For more background on our decision to move, and for photos of the shell of the building, take a look at this piece here. It was also very nice to have people come along from the International Water House, our former home in the Hague, and they did a really touching leaving presentation to a few of us. It meant a lot. I hope everyone there will feel they can come and spend time at AmLab, because they helped make it possible.

Mark Charmer is a co-founder of Akvo.

Photo: Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands, Ben Knapen presenting open aid data. Dudok. The Hague. 13 September 2011.

Today the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands, Ben Knapen, announced that the Dutch Government has started to open up its development data according to the IATI standard – to increase transparency. The information on over 3000 development projects can be found here (IATI – XML). The launch coincided with the launch of a report that describes the results of Dutch development aid for the period 2009 – 2010. The report can be downloaded here (in Dutch).

Ben Knapen presenting open data. Akvo’s Mark Westra explains relevance of the IATI data at the end.

IATI (the International Aid Transparency Initiative) is an emerging standard for aid data that makes it easier to share and compare what is being spent on international aid in countries around the world. The Dutch Government is now the 2nd government donor (after the UK) that has started to publish its data according to this new standard.

To be able to make this data accessible to a large audience we are working together with Zimmerman & Zimmerman in Amsterdam to develop an open source framework that makes it easy to import, search and display IATI data. The new website will be operational before the high level meeting on aid effectiveness in Busan (November 2011). The application can be used or adopted by other donors to visualize IATI data – it will be released under the open source license AGPL, as well as provided as an internet service by Akvo.

Open aid visual

The 1st draft of the visual design for the new website. Akvo is developing this initiative in cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During his speech Ben Knapen highlighted the initial results of the transparency pilot, that was aimed to bring the Dutch Government’s water and sanitation portfolio online. That pilot went beyond just the raw data and provides more context on each project – a map, photos, details of goals, and leaves open the opportunity for partners to add context and updates.

On this map, you’ll find a sample of water and sanitation programmes funded by the Dutch Government. It runs on a test server at the moment.

We will be working closely with the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Open for Change network and our NGO partners to help ease the transition to a new form of web-based reporting.

Peter van der Linde is a co-founder and director at

Akvo x DressHead Chiffon Sexy Leopard Print Dress / Flirty / Plunging Neck Line

Look like a bombshell in this updated take on the classic leopard print dress inspired by akvo x Animal prints will always remain in style, especially when they look this sexy. The spaghetti straps hold the dress farther up in the back, but the neckline plunges gracefully. The top of the dress gaps in the back, allowing you endless layering options. Wear this chiffon dress with a shirt, sports bra, or your favorite lace bra underneath. This chiffon dress could move into nighttime with a fun, fitted jacket or blouse layered over the top. Wear tall stockings with knee-high boots to complete your funky look. Or, pair with flats or sandals for a more casual approach. This dress can move from day to night so that you will be ready for anything!

In late August, just ahead of Stockholm World Water Week, we brought together most of Akvo’s board at Thomas and Anke’s house on the edge Stockholm. It was a great chance to update everyone on Akvo’s progress along with the opportunities and decisions we face during the years ahead.

The following people came along:
Jeroen van der Sommen (chairman of the board)
Sunita Nadhamuni (board member)
Mark Nitzberg (board member)
Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson (engineering)
Peter van der Linde (partners)
Mark Charmer (communications)
Frodo van Oostveen (partners)
Mark Tiele-Westra (partners) – day 2
Luuk Diphoorn (partners) – day 2

There’s more background on our board here, and the management team here.

We were also joined for parts of the discussion by Caroline Figuères of IICD, Hajo van Beijma of Text to Change (via Skype) and Akvo number-cruncher Stefan Kraus (also via Skype).

It was also the start of discussions with the board members of a newly incorporated non-profit, Akvo Foundation USA. Becky Straw, a new member of that board, joined us throughout. Mark Nitzberg also sits on board of the new North American organisation, which is incorporated in Berkeley, California.

Unfortunately Fon Koemans (board member) and Paul Ciandrini (now on the board of Akvo USA) weren’t able to join us. We look forward to seeing them soon.

I’ve published the talking points for each of the main sessions (this is as detailed as our note-taking was). If you want to take a look, they’re in a Google doc here.

We also shot a couple of short video interviews. Here Mark Charmer talks to Mark Nitzberg and Becky Straw about the current state of the US software and international development markets.

Another video here grabs a few minutes with Thomas and Sunita, after the first morning session.

For some photos of the two days, click on the collage below:


We concluded everything with the chance to introduce our board to our network. On the evening of Monday 22nd August we co-hosted a reception for attendees of World Water Week, at the Dutch Embassy in Stockholm. We had a fantastic turnout – some 140 people came along, with a particularly strong turnout from US foundations.

I’d like to thank Anke and Carin for all their help looking after us, and for Thomas and Anke letting us use their place. It was a great week in Stockholm – hard working and team-building. Akvo feels good!

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

Amanda Groty and her fiance Tim are getting married at the end of September and have chosen this project on Akvo for friends and family to donate to in lieu of giving wedding gifts. It’s led by S.Vishwanath (who you can follow on Twitter as @zenrainman) of Biome in Bangalore. Amanda is global vice chair of strategy and marketing at communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton and Tim is the managing director of a technology company. They live in Frankfurt, Germany. We spoke to Amanda about how they came to this decision and their hopes for the project they chose.

Why did you choose an Akvo project for your wedding?

Tim and I thought that at our stage in life, having been really fortunate to be able to provide for ourselves, we don’t need any gifts. We already have a home together and everything we need. But people want to do something for a couple getting married, it’s traditional, and we thought it would be nice to give them the opportunity to make a donation.

Only Akvo gives you the opportunity to follow the progress of your project right through to completion, and that was a very important factor for us. We had quite a bit of feedback, particularly from friends and family in the US, that there’s a lot of scepticism these days about donating to charity because you hear a lot of negative stories – in the media and from people you know – about fraud, and about donations not getting through to where they’re needed. There hasn’t been enough transparency or regulation in the past and so people don’t feel inclined to give so much any more. But with this project on Akvo, because we can see live progress, we feel more confident.

How did you choose your project?

We thought about what’s important to us both as individuals and as a couple. We both have travelled a lot in South East Asia, particularly India, and we feel connected to that area of world. We wanted a small project so that when people donate to it they know they are making a direct contribution to its completion. That way we can ‘own’ it as a group, and really feel like we’ve accomplished something tangible. We talked it over with Avko and whittled it down based on scale, scope, location and our interests.

What is your fundraising target and how are you doing?

It’s only a small wedding with 65 guests, so we deliberately chose something manageable. The fundraising target for the project is €3,000. If everyone invited gives €20 we will meet our target. So far individuals and couples have given between €50-€200 each.

How important is it for you and your guests to see progress updates on your project?

It’s really important. We’ve created our own wedding website with all the invitation details which has had over 300 hits so far. The gift section links through to the project on Akvo. It’s a really clever interface. People can see the background information, the budget and what’s needed and make a donation directly. I’d like to see more project updates though, ideally more pictures. I want to be able to share this link and watch progress through to completion, with updates throughout the project.

You can follow progress on funding here, and learn more about the project and follow updates as they happen here.

Jo Pratt is communications manager at Akvo, based in London.

Sjoerd van der Linde of Commonsites has been making regular, short and punchy photo & caption updates – see them all here – on the Heritage Teachers Handbook project he’s working on in Palestine, showing progress directly from the field in a complex situation.

Joris van Oppenraai took a different approach with his detailed and descriptive status report on the AMREF Kibera integrated schools health project including a professionally produced video and some beautiful photographs.


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