Picture 28b.png

What happens when users of the world’s hottest new communications tool come together to fund water projects?

We’re going to find out next week.

On Thursday 12th February, over 175 cities will be hosting events called “Twestivals”, which are parties that bring together the communities using Twitter, the hit tool of the moment. Twitter gives people new ways to share deceptively detailed insights and context on eachothers lives, work and networks through 140 character “SMS with links” updates, sent from all kinds of devices including any kind of PC or mobile phone. The power of Twitter is in its ambient nature – it’s only as intrusive as you want it to be, and people get hooked. Like me.

Best of all, the events are all raising money for water projects. Akvo’s getting involved – our founder Thomas Bjelkeman takes to the podium to speak about Water and Twitter at the Stockholm Twestival. (UPDATE: Check out Thomas’s video on the Stockholm Twestival and his speech itself). The London Twestival team has also asked me to contribute a blog on the reasons water is the best way to get people out of poverty fast.

The global network of Twestivals are raising money for Charity:Water, the US-based campaigning NGO. This is a smart move for both sides. Charity:Water’s making a name for itself through creative, inspiring money raising initiatives, such as the 2008 “Born in September” campaign. Its founder Scott Harrison has made mainstream NGOs look slow and out of touch with a new generation of donors by fronting memorable, focused campaigns that feature great video and photographic content. With Charity:Water people feel they are funding a real project, not just an organisation.

It’s smart, too for Charity:Water. Twitter is the most powerful communication tool I’ve encountered during my lifetime* and it’s barely begun to show its potential. In contrast the inward-looking nature of Facebook, which I often think is for people who like being at High School (I hated High School), Twitterers are highly connected, outward looking people that are usually into sharing and acting upon the latest ideas. Educating and inspiring the most connected network on earth about the potential to reduce poverty through funding water projects is a spectacular idea.

I can’t help but think the combination of Twestival and Charity:Water will provide Akvo with a new pool of talented, ideas-oriented do-ers who can help make progress to clean water much more visible online in short, simplified ways. Twitter is without doubt an incredible tool to share progress, observations and ideas online openly. It’s been an important influence on the development of Really Simple Reporting, the system Akvo is right now developing to help field and support partners working on water and sanitation.

There is no better way to share information across a team while making your activity open and discoverable to all those who want to follow or get involved. Don’t believe us? Well try dipping into my Tweets (which now number, I’m scared to admit, almost 4,500) or Thomas, Peter or Mark Westra‘s.

Be sure to support the Twestivals. And dive too into their ‘dev site‘ and see how they’re openly coordinating their events and campaigning teams using shared online tools. This is proper, distributed organisation, where local people are empowered to act. The kind of people who can use Akvo’s tools and become the new participants of the 21st Century. We hope to see you there and benefit from your ideas and energy in the future as we work to tackle global poverty, connecting donors to do-ers, to eventually make progress on many millions of water projects visible to all online.

Mark Charmer is a co-founder of Akvo and director of communications.

*I’m quite serious when I say this. I don’t say it lightly.