Akvo Chum
Our pup Guido. Amsterdam, August 2013. Photo credit: Emily Armanetti.
One of the key things we do at Akvo is help our partners bring their work to life, online. This is exactly what our Akvo RSR tool is designed to do – capture project activity and describe programmes in a dynamic way which can include text, images and videos. Today, more than €1billion in programmes and projects are visible online in Akvo RSR.

We fundamentally believe in transparency. It’s a key principle on which our organisation was founded. We’ve spent years helping organisations achieve this by bringing networks of projects online and improving how they monitor and evaluate their work so that international aid can be more effective. So how are we doing this ourselves?

A few years back, we started by publishing a list of all the programmes we were working on as a blog. We also had a list of strategic partners on akvo.org. We’ve also featured our partner hero stories on akvo.org, but they are first and foremost meant to put the spotlight on the work of our partners. They are also, by design, just a snapshot, whereas our need now is to publish our portfolio of work in a way that allows us to drill down thru many layers of detail. After looking at this more closely,  it became apparent that the scale at which we are working and our expanding global footprint meant we needed to take a different approach.

Eating our own Chum
When we looked at how to remedy this, we realised – it was, as the old cliché goes, time to eat our own dog food. Akvo RSR was simply the best way to bring our portfolio online. So we launched an internal initiative codenamed “Akvo Chum” after the old UK-based brand of dog food, Pedigree Chum.

The result is that we now have more than 65 programmes online and we continue to add to this. We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for people to explore what Akvo is doing and with whom around the world by tagging the information by region or by product. By using RSR, we can tag entries by other keywords or topics, which allows us to group programmes together in all kinds of ways moving forward. This will be particularly useful as we move to show how different partners are working with Akvo to go from data to decision based on certain types of problem solving activity.

Bringing online all of our work with customers around the world in detail is a big deal from a transparency point of view, particularly in a climate where organisations promote “free tools” without defining what “free” truly means. By showing our work in this way, we are publicly setting out what we are charging partners, showing our revenue and where it comes from. This is something that is critical to our openness and as a “not-for-profit, not-for-loss” foundation, we think it’s a level of transparency no commercial organisation would reveal, and few non-profits would either – it seems hard to construct a scenario in which this would happen.

We’ve spent a lot of time helping structure portfolios for partners, but this has also been a great exercise for us internally. One of the advantages is that we’re now thinking about all of the improvements that are planned for the RSR interface – the way maps are rendered, the way other elements are featured. We’d already been looking at how partners feature RSR content on their own websites. This has got us thinking about how we can better feature our own work on akvo.org.

This is now also a great way for our team to post updates on training and other activity they are doing that relates to programmes, which was previously done on Twitter. Akvo team members can post more dynamic updates using the web or the Akvo RSR Up app so we can set out what is going on where. It also helps our partners to see what we are doing to support their programmes and deliver on our agreements.

Check out our full list of programmes or view our programmes by hub region or product:

Full list of programmes: 

Programmes by region:
East Africa
West Africa

Programmes by product:
Akvo RSR

Emily Armanetti is a communications manager at Akvo, based in New York.