We recently had our tenth birthday. But what does it mean when a tiny multinational like Akvo reaches the age of ten? For us, it meant the opportunity to reflect on where we come from, where we are at, and where we are heading.
If you recently landed on our website, you may have noticed that we look a bit different. We’ve got a new logo, new fonts, a new and reduced colour palette, and new imagery and videos. We’ve streamlined our brand to better reflect our world view, provide more clarity on what we’re good at, and fine tune what we have to offer for the coming decade.
Yet, we’re still the same. In fact, we’re even more Akvo than ever. An arrow always needs to be pulled back in order to be redirected with force.
So here are six things you need to know about Akvo in 2019.
1) We are more than just software tools. We have a unique approach to data for development: the data journey.
Above: the data journey in a nutshell. Design, capture, understand, and act.
I’m with Hans Rosling when he said “the world cannot be understood without numbers. But the world cannot be understood with numbers alone.”. Numbers are only good if you can extract insights from them, combine them with stories, and use them to improve the outcomes of your work. Over the past decade, we created a set of tools (Akvopedia, Akvo RSR, Akvo Flow, Akvo Openaid, Akvo Caddisfly, Akvo Sites, and Akvo Lumen) to help people capture, understand and share data. It’s no surprise that some still perceive us as data tool providers. However, over the years, we’ve learned that a good use of data goes far beyond a tool and a few training sessions. And this is where our unique approach to data for development comes in.
Along the way, we’ve developed a unique methodology to help our partners design their programmes so that they can capture and understand reliable data which they can act upon. We call it the data journey. Each partnership is unique, requiring different levels of engagement to ensure success in their projects and programmes. Sustainable change isn't about technology, the data or the numbers. It's always about the people. We have invested, and continue to invest, a great deal in our teams so that they can help partners with the skills, knowledge and processes necessary in working with data. This is essential in supporting our partners to achieve lasting and inclusive impact. Nowadays, these data services make up the majority of our work. They range from helping partners to analyse the context of a programme to defining their data needs. From cleaning, transforming and analysing data to acting upon the insights generated to make data-driven decisions. Our business is at a unique crossroads of people and technology, and the people part is more important than ever.
2) We want you to start off on the right foot and with the end result in mind
Above: A glance at our Ebook "Design data-driven programmes that deliver results effectively."
Since 2008, we’ve helped over 20 governments and 200 non-governmental organisations become more effective through our unique approach to development. Yet, we are not interested in helping our partners collect the wrong data faster. Making sure our partners succeed at every step of their data journey is our biggest commitment. So how do you ensure success, align distributed teams and bolster co-ownership of your programme right from the start? How do you achieve clarity and oversight on every aspect of your programme? We firmly believe that taking the time to think deeply about the final goal before starting the work provides the best results. We call it the Design phase and aim to help partners set up data-driven programmes that deliver results effectively and set you up for the most favourable start.
3) We work with you in two main ways
With this recent brand refresh, we are now introducing two overarching ways of working #withAkvo. Rather than offering separate tools with ad-hoc services, we’ve had a good look at how we already work with our partners, what our partners need, and how we can best support them. This results in a combination of several data services and tools from our data platform through which we emphasise the need to zoom out and see the data journey holistically.
Capture and understand data that matters
Collect, combine, analyse and visualise high-quality digital data from the field and boost the impact of your development work.
Improve and showcase your results
Improve your programmes based on aggregated and reliable indicator results, and share your results with the people who need to see them.
4) Sustainable and scalable partnerships in two key impact areas: water quality and sustainable farming
Above: A spring well and a small holder farm in Indonesia, November 2018 (Photo by RGB Collective)
Since its inception, Akvo has grown a trusted network with a wide range of partners in multiple sectors, ranging all the way from small, midsize and big NGOs to private companies and national governments. We’ve decided to focus on nurturing scalable partnerships in the sectors that demand fast and sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most urgent problems. We will keep offering our software as a service to smaller partners in other sectors but will put a strong focus on the execution and support of larger engagements in our key impact areas.
Towards safe water for all, because over 40% of the world’s population face water scarcity and many are also affected by contaminants like E. coli, fluoride, and arsenic. We have a water quality testing solution which is robust and scalable for large scale baselines, does water quality testing at an affordable cost and provides real time monitoring at national level.
Sustainable smallholder farming, because around 90% of the farms globally are small (less than two hectares in size) and cultivated by 1.5 billion of the world’s poor. They often lack secure access and rights to land, productive resources, knowledge, markets and opportunities. We have an information services solution to provide farmers with the information they need to sustainably increase their yield while protecting the environment.
5) Multiregional, multilingual, and responsible
Above: Fruits and vegetables from a street market in Indonesia, November 2018 (Photo by RGB Collective)
Data should be like food in the market. Fresh and local. A thorough understanding of local context is key in providing partners with the best possible support. That’s why we have regional hubs in five continents, to provide local knowledge and expertise to our partners at arm’s reach. Last year, we introduced regional pages and started telling the stories of our partnerships in the Americas, West Africa, Europe, East Africa, South Asia and South East Asia and Pacific. Now, it is time for us to also go multilingual and continue the conversation not only in English but also soon in Français and Español.
6) We are still the same, we still believe...
Above: The Akvo team.
The markets we work in have transformed, our partners’ needs have changed, and what we have to offer has evolved. Yet we are still the same, and we still believe...
- That sustainable change will happen faster if governments and non-governmental organisations become more effective, accountable and collaborative.
- In looking for ways to disrupt and rejuvenate development aid.
- In operating on a “not-for-profit, not-for-loss” basis because we only want to create sustainable change.
- In creating open source software because we still value collaboration, which saves money and there’s no costly lock-in effect, as you can reuse the tools.
- Data security and responsibility should be taken seriously. We always store data securely, ensure that data is safely encrypted, and don’t share your data with any third parties.
- In equal access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone.
As we continue to evolve on a strong foundation defined a decade ago, we’ll be connecting with our current network to update them on where we are, so that we can all move faster towards equal and sustainable access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone in the next decade of sustainable work.
We hope you’re as excited about the future as we are. Have a look at our website, spot the differences, and get in touch if you want to embark on a data journey #withAkvo.