Tomorrow I’m heading to Cape Town for the third outing of our WaterCube.tv video studio. Here’s my kit bag, laid out on my desk here in London.

WaterCube is part of our work to bring a new generation of water and sanitation heroes online, share knowledge and achieve more results. Video – especially spontaneous, informal video – is a great leveller. I really believe it helps you pick out the doers from the bureaucrats.

My WaterCube kit. Bermondsey, London. Wednesday 16 March 2011.

In the WaterCube, we record video interviews on low-cost Flip video cameras and edit and upload them right away using simple software – no specialist technical skills are required. WaterCube isn’t about slick production values – it’s about capturing stories, expertise and personalities and getting them online, thick and fast. Anyone can view the content online, and it’s easy to share and embed. In fact, drop by and you can do an interview yourself and we’ll get it online. There’s more on how it looks and works in this blog I wrote in December.


From Sunday 20th through Tuesday 22nd March, we’re landing our distinctive white cube studio in the United Nation’s main event designed to mark World Water Day 2011. I’m grateful for the support of UN Habitat – which has encouraged us to come down to South Africa (and is paying for my ticket and some of the infrastructure), along with SIWI and IRC. I’m also pleased to have a new media partnership in place with TheWaterChannel, who will help us disseminate content around the web and can take on the job of reviewing and uploading the non-interview material we’re being offered, but doesn’t quite fit our format.

Most people think recording video is something best left to the professional video makers. We disagree. Video is just a tool – and one that everyone should feel comfortable using in their day-to-day work. Do so and suddenly knowledge flows around in new ways and creates new kinds of links between people working in international development. I’ve been struck by how WaterCube videos can get everywhere – anyone with a broadband connection can view them, share them through social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, or embed them easily on their own website. For many of those we interview it’s their first appearance online, and it has a powerful effect. The message and insights from events live on, continuing to spread and make an impact for months and years ahead.

In Cape Town, WaterCube will add another string to its bow – Skype. We’re going to connect using Skype to other World Water Day events around the world and record these interviews (using a neat piece of software called ECamm).

Robb Hunter, at the time a design student at the University of Cincinnati, designed the WaterCube logo. Here are his initial design sketches, from summer 2009.

WaterCube is the culmination of people’s ideas, experience and encouragement. I’m grateful to the critical thinking Vinay Gupta provided, time I spent questioning the value of a conference I went to in Turkey, and Thomas Bjelkeman for helping sell the idea and get it off the ground. Joe Simpson helped me develop a video workflow at the Movement Design Bureau, Robb Hunter developed the logo, Anna Norén and Lovisa Selander supported us in Stockholm, Nick Dickinson encouraged IRC to back it and Luuk Diphoorn has pushed the Cube into new places. Oh and Robert Scoble, who I’ve never met, but whose pioneering video work in the technology industry set the tone for our approach.

We start broadcasting on www.watercube.tv from Sunday. You can also follow our Twitter feed at @watercube_tv.

Mark Charmer is co-founder and director of communications at Akvo.