Ben Lamoree of IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, describes, at the recent Unicef fund-raising event, how delivering content via the Akvopedia is now considered part of the core business for IRC.

With second-stage funding secured, the Akvo team can start building the services we have been telling you about since Autumn 2007.

Our mantra for the Spring is FOCUS.

Those of you familiar with the 37Signals ‘Getting Real’ methodology of software development (and business development) will recognise the pattern – short development iterations that are about launching, tweaking and constantly improving. We and the people we work with want results fast so we’re skipping all the stuff that represents real (like long lists of specifications and complicated architecture diagrams) and actually building the real thing instead.

Partners who were able to join us at the Akvo Sprint will already know that we’re committed to doing less – less software, less features, less paperwork – because most of what people think is essential isn’t. We’re aiming to deliver what our partners need – ways to speed up water and sanitation project matchmaking, funding and reporting – and avoiding anything they don’t need from us.

So here are our priorities for the coming months:

Akvo RSR –  We are starting the development of Akvo Really Simple Reporting. The Akvo Sprint helped us define what RSR needs to deliver to support project matchmaking and reporting, expanding on our initial framework. We hope to have a very rough cut of Akvo RSR running by the end of April and will be sharing progress updates as we build it.

Akvopedia –  The Akvopedia is currently the shy person in the corner of the room. We launched it in August at Stockholm World Water Week but since then we have had very limited time or resources to work with partners to bring it to life and help it become more popular. We now have experts like IRC committed who can help us start populating the Akvopedia wiki with more content. The first step on the way is to write a set of initial formal policies for the wiki. These will answer questions such as: What content should exist in the wiki? What are the rules with regards to editing, deleting and adding content? What happens when we find copyright infringing material in the wiki?

After this we need to find those of you who have the knowledge, and convince you to adopt a couple of articles in the Akvopedia. If you are a sanitation expert, consider helping us make sure that the waterless urinal article is kept accurate with the latest information, expand on it and make sure it doesn’t get vandalised. We will ensure you get the support and training if you need it, to use the wiki.

Web site – The current Akvo web site was built as a prototype of what Akvo might look like in the future. It fulfilled its purpose the week we presented it, but now it doesn’t reflect the nine months of work and thinking that has gone into Akvo since then. We are going to redesign it to simplify things and set out what we have to offer today. We are also moving to another content management system, which will make things much easier when we need to change it again.

Peter van der Linde, who is leading our partner relations, will be writing shortly about our priorities this Spring. There are many – as Akvo is far from being financially sustainable today. We have ambitious plans to work with corporate partners as well as arranging the crucial credit line we will need from the development banks.

I’m always keen on feedback, or if you want to help with any of the work above, do please contact me here.

Thanks to Mark Charmer for helping me with drafts of this post.

Thomas Bjelkeman is the founder of Akvo.