UNESCO-IHE's Campus in Delft

What a great week. Just twelve working days after Akvo secured its second stage funding, we got together as a team in Delft in Holland this week for the Akvo Sprint.

It was a chance for us to get real about what we’re trying to achieve, in what timescale and in what order.

The aim was to dive deep quickly. For starters, we have just six months to design and build the core of Akvo Really Simple Reporting (RSR), a tool that will use SMS and other short feeds to make project monitoring and reporting a much simpler, more efficient process for funders and NGO partners transforming lives through water and sanitation projects.

We had three aims. First, to give all participants a common context. Second, it was a kick-off for the software development team. Which leads naturally to our third priority – understanding the desired features of Akvo RSR amongst the group, our partners and our investors.

Despite just a week or so of scheduling time, we had great attendance and support. In no particular order, we would like to thank Saskia Geling from Simavi, a partner and investor, and Jan W.K. van der Wal from PRACTICA Foundation, who both helped us understand the essential information required in order to match water and sanitation projects to funding partners. Francois Laureys and Caroline Figueres attended from IICD, another Akvo partner. IICD has unrivalled understanding of the information and communication technology adoption curves we must adapt the system to in regions such as India and Africa.

Akvo Sprint Day 2

Representatives from two key Akvo investors/partners. Nick Dickinson (IRC) and Ivo Haenen (WASTE).

Roy Neijland from the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), the lead investor in Akvo, contributed very helpfully to our work, especially given that Akvo partner lead Peter van der Linde was on development business in India so could not be with us. Ivo Haenen from WASTE provided great input on both days of the sprint as did two key people attending from IRC – International Water and Sanitation Centre, a partner and investor, which is going to help us turn the Akvopedia into a well structured resource full of great content. IRC has a library containing every report and book ever published on water and sanitation so it’s a smart team to have close to us. IRC’s Nick Dickinson proved an enthusiastic proponent of our development philosophy, which is built on 37Signals’ fantastic book, Getting Real. and Jaap Pels, who has seen Akvo grow from its very first concept Delft meeting meeting in Autumn 2006, shared his deep understanding of knowledge management as applied in today’s water sector.

Akvo Sprint Day 2

Left to right: Ivo Haenen (WASTE), Mark Nitzberg (Akvo), Gino Lee – in the MacBook Pro (Akvo). Thanks also to NWP managing director Jeroen van der Sommen, for letting us take over his office for two days.

‘Trust’ was a dominant theme in discussions about matchmaking, monitoring and reporting. Could our tools improve trust, rather than simply calm nerves? Is trust about transparency or track record? If we had the luxury to take trust as a given, what would reporting involve? If trust dominates all reporting, how does this impact on the speed and focus of projects?

It was also great to spend time in Delft, the beautiful home of UNESCO-IHE’s college campus. The place buzzes with students and professionals who have unrivalled experience of making water and sanitation work in the poorest parts of the world. I like to think of it as the water sector’s Google Campus.

In five years' time...

Its entrance hall, which features a huge map of water and sanitation projects, got us thinking, too. Today Akvo is building the tools that within a few years will turn this static map into a data map, showing flows of finance and feedback around the world. We have much to do. We will be writing about our next steps and how you can be involved next week.

Some key insights from Day One, and notes + a rough transcript of Day Two are in the process of being edited and refined here.

You can view more pictures here (alas only of Day Two. Our resident photographer was distracted by debates on trust on Day One).

Updated: 13 April by Mark C – text referring to meeting notes updated to reflect it now covering day one as well as day two.