Written by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson 14 June 2018
Above: The evolution of Akvo. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.
This year, Akvo will turn ten. Looking back, we started with an idea and seven people. Now, we are over a hundred, having worked with over 200 organisations and 20 governments. Working together, we have helped these organisations and governments capture and understand reliable data which they can act upon; data that’s being used to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
The last few years have seen rapid growth. Our team has doubled in size since 2015, our portfolio of tools and services has grown, and we’ve expanded into new sectors and regions. Like any organisation that’s growing at this pace, we’ve also faced challenges. How can we ensure that we’re helping organisations become more effective, accountable and collaborative so that they can reach lasting and inclusive impact?
Above: Akvo’s management team and supervisory board on a field visit. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.
Looking back, looking forward
Last year, we took a step back to look at the work we’ve been doing and crafted a Theory of Change (ToC) for Akvo. By looking back over the past ten years, and looking forward to the future, the ToC gave us clarity on what it is we do best, and how we can focus on achieving the biggest possible positive impact.
We believe in equal access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone. We are convinced that this will happen faster if governments and non-governmental organisations become more effective, accountable and collaborative.
We help people in governments and organisations achieve this through solutions based on digital tools, knowledge and processes. We have recently formalised our approach, which we call: Design, Capture, Understand and Act. Our skills, experience, and tools and services lend themselves to a holistic and comprehensive approach to data and development.
We often see organisations and governments operating in isolation with different approaches and different systems for using data. Data gathering and storage is largely scattered and rarely coordinated, and a systematic approach to data is lacking. As we reviewed our work and our impact last year, as well as the crucial need for the effective use of data, we decided to concentrate our efforts where we know we can make the biggest difference.
Achieving lasting and inclusive impact
In order to ensure sustainable service delivery, we’ve decided to focus on large scale, national programmes, primarily in the water and sanitation sector and agriculture. By working with large partners, from UNICEF to the World Bank, we can ensure reliable working relationships with national governments and the resources to really make a change. Going forward, we will be concentrating on offering integrated solutions, such as national water monitoring. We also see a significant opportunity to make an impact in small-hold farmer certification processes and other areas related to agriculture data. We’ll continue to work in other areas, particularly where they touch on our core focus, like disaster response.
With our renewed focus, we will help you evolve a coherent and sustainable approach to data at national scale.
Above: Akvo’s Amsterdam team’s Monday morning call. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.
We have created a solutions team, which incorporates our central professional services teams (trainers, consultants, technical support) and also our software development team. This is so we can better implement coherent solutions that require method, process and technology.
The solutions team is lead by Peter van der Linde, one of the Akvo co-founders who has a very broad set of experiences both within and outside of Akvo. Most recently, he set up and was leading our South East Asia Pacific hub in Denpasar, Indonesia. We are also taking the Flow, Lumen and Caddisfly product teams and putting them under the leadership of one product manager, Jana Gombitova, who was previously the product manager for Flow. The work on the Akvo approach has shown that we need to streamline the development to make for a better user experience with the Akvo data platform and a more effective software development team.
We’ve also created an international operations team, which is lead by Hans Merton. Hans has twenty years of experience as a manager and director of programmes and divisions in the field of environmental and water management consultancy, and will be coordinating and overseeing the implementation of programmes and projects by our hub managers.
We’re confident that these changes will only strengthen the work we do with our partners and allow us to have a larger positive impact on the world. We’ve come a long way in ten years, and are optimistic about the years to come.
If you have any questions about these changes, feel free to reach out to your usual contact person at Akvo. We look forward to working with you for another ten years!
Thomas Bjelkeman is the co-founder and co-director of Akvo, based in Stockholm. You can follow him on Twitter @bjelkeman.