• Written by Mark Charmer
    31 December 2015

I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on from Akvo, and do new things in 2016.

I have been involved right from the beginning, since late 2006, and it’s been a tough decision to step away. But I’m very grateful to everyone in the organisation, for being so open-hearted and kind as I navigated the process of stepping out. It’s odd to realise I no longer need to carry in my head the whole picture of a 70-person organisation, in 14 countries, to keep on top of the multitude of things happening, and the details of how they happen (which is the important bit).

I’ve never been part of a founding team before. When you start off you’re not sure if you’re becoming part of something that will last, or just attending another meeting that vanishes in the wastelands of things-we-do-that-go-nowhere-in-particular. Will the people you meet with just pass by? Or will they become absolutely central to your life, connections that will change you for ever, that will endure?

But Akvo did endure. In fact, we’re what Thomas and I have termed a “tiny multinational”, a fascinating kind of business to be creating in this most interesting of eras. Many talk to me about the unprecedented ability to scale a software business today, but I also believe it’s never been easier, or cheaper to scale a people business too.

And that’s what I hope Akvo continues to be, first and foremost. A business about people. About the woman who built herself a toilet (with instructions from the internet). About the Mission Rope Pump. About real people improving lives of others, with the support of information technology. And remixing what it means to be international, not about projecting national interests.

Built on the power of Twitter

Akvo is an example of an organisation built in the Twitter era – it’s been there for most of us as a kind of operating system. So it meant a great deal to me to be given a wonderful book by the team, at my leaving party in Amsterdam on 18th December. This was really a celebration of the role Twitter plays in making it somehow possible for people to feel closer together, to share humour, to express ideas, to project character – and most of all, to build understanding. It’s been great to have the freedom to use Twitter in such an open way, to show how you can make the dynamics of a team visible, make them discoverable for those who want to feel involved, or feel inspired. I’m very grateful in particular to Thomas Bjelkeman, for entrusting me to lead that process, and the Akvo Staff Twitter list continues to be a thing of international wonder to me, that you should all follow. I also really appreciated the blogs by Linda Leunissen – “Reflecting on our top five creative moments” (akvo.org) – and by Alvaro de Salvo – “14 big lessons I learned working with Mark Charmer” (Atomic Grasps) – about our work together. What can I say, guys? Apart from thanks.

There’s a great team who will continue making Akvo amazing and I look forward to now following the adventure with everyone else (I’m especially looking forward to Marketing Akvo – part 2). For PR and communications enquiries please contact Jo Pratt or Alvaro de Salvo, who will be leading that function together for the time being. Or for more general management and partnership-oriented matters, it may be best to talk to Thomas Bjelkeman or Jeroen van der Sommen, or someone in the region you work in. All the contact info is here.

I’m not disappearing – I’ll be out there doing my thing. In addition to following me at @charmermark, why not sign up to my mailing list below? I’ll be writing more on my blog, www.advancedrockets.com too.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and a prosperous and successful future.

Photo (top) by my good friend, colleague, and mentor, Loïc Sans. Texel, the Netherlands. 22 September 2015.

Co-founder and communications director.