Last week I dropped in to talk to staff at Le Connaisseur restaurant in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It’s the very first of what I hope will one day be thousands of restaurants selling bottled water to fund Akvo projects.

Photo: The Restaurant ‘Le Connaisseur’ in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

This is the result of the latest partnership between Akvo and Earth Water Netherlands. The tools we have developed have made it easy for Earth Water to choose specific projects to fund, in the knowledge that their customers can see the projects they’re supporting online and follow progress. Akvo’s system means there’s no need for Earth Water to set up complicated liaison processes with partners running each project it’s supporting.

At first, Akvo focused on supporting Earth Water’s events – providing in an online form the projects and storylines they needed to raise funds via dazzling high visibility toilet blocks at the 2008 and 2009 Parade Festival, a touring theatre festival that passes through four Dutch cities, including Utrecht.

The chance to extend our work together evolved this summer, when the restaurant ‘Le Connaisseur’ was struggling with a rise in the costs their water supplier was going to charge them. Jorrit van Kooi, a manager at the restaurant, who had spent time in Malawi as a student, came up with the idea that if they were going to charge customers more for water anyway, some of it should also go to a cause. After browsing the web they got in touch with Earth Water and talked their ideas through at the Parade in Utrecht. It was an instant match!

Le Connaisseur is selling Earth Water to raise money for this particular project in Ethiopia. It’s quickly turning into our most intriguing mix of funding partners to date – a great example of what we want Akvo to make possible, via the web. The project, which aims at providing 5000 people with clean water in Ethiopia, was posted on Akvo by our support partner Women for Water (WfW) just before we attended the 5th WorldWaterForum in Istanbul in March 2009.

An Africa Interactive reporter was sent to the field to make this video about the project. In the months that followed, private donations were starting to come through. The first big breakthrough came though when our strategic partner Aqua for All decided they would double all the donations made to the project.

Yet the project was still in need of a substantial amount of money. In September 2009 that changed when Twestival Karlshamn, a party for Twitter fans in this Swedish seaside town, had decided that they would support this project. The Swedes managed to raise about €1,000 Euro.

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Twitter fans supporting Akvo at the Twestival Karlshamn in Sweden

Just this weekend, the project saw the Warhammer for Water fundraisers add another €700 Euro, in a gaming tournament. Now Le Connaisseur is stepping in to take it to fully-funded status.

This month the restaurant started selling bottles of Earth Water to their customers for €2.45 Euro (for each bottle 50 cents goes to the project) to raise the remaining funds that are needed for this particular Akvo project. They also encourage visitors on their website to donate directly through an Akvo ‘widget’, embedded in their website.

Here’s the interview I shot of Jorrit when I visited them (below).

Even though all the necessary funds haven’t been pulled together yet, we now have a solid path to final funding, and have passed 70% of target, which Women for Water Partnership agree is enough assurance for the field partner HORCO to get started on implementing the project. We are expecting updates to come in from the field any day now.

This is a good example of how people can use the tools we’ve developed here at Akvo. In this case a mix of a donor NGO, passionate individuals, Twestival visitors, a water company, Warhammer fans, and a restaurant can all actively fundraise themselves to make a project happen. Everyone can make a difference, easily. So can you! All you need to do is click on the donate button in the project widget below, or come up with your own idea on funding a project:

I really want to thank everybody who has been involved in this one way or another. It’s brilliant stuff.

Luuk Diphoorn is project coordinator with Akvo