• Written by Mark Charmer
    22 October 2009

Want to see short videos about key people in water-related NGOs? Well it’s amazing how quickly our database of interviews is building up, as we interview people for both Akvo.tv and WaterCube.tv. WaterCube is Akvo’s joint venture with SIWI and IRC, where we place a cube-like studio, laptops, low cost video cameras and WaterCube reporters into water ‘sector’ events. Our first WaterCube was this summer’s Stockholm World Water Cube, and everyone loved it (see the pictures here). We have plans for more.

Photo: WaterAid’s Girish Menon, director of International Programmes, talks with Akvo’s Thomas Bjelkeman. See a video discussion of his work below. Stockholm World Water Cube, Sweden. 20 August 2009.

Akvo’s finance guru Frederik Claasen described WaterCube.tv as like “a video Linkedin for water”. He was fascinated by the way you can capture people talking about what they do, share it online and link to it or embed it for all kinds of purposes. In most cases we’re putting video interviews of people online who have never had that kind of web profile before, and with others, we’re cracking the institutional facade and presenting a more relaxed face, without the PR advisor in the background.

What gets really exciting is the day when WaterCubes also appear in the communities where Akvo partners are running water and sanitation projects. When you connect ‘experts’ at a water conference through video with engineers and managers in a rural community who are building water pumps, you’ve got to ask a big question – who is the real expert? I think we’re a year or two away from being able to create and film that kind of interaction between field teams and water conferences, but be in no doubt – it will happen.

“When you connect ‘experts’ at a water conference through video with engineers and managers in a rural community who are building water pumps, you’ve got to ask a big question – who is the real expert?”

So how does this kind of video help build understanding? Well here’s just one example – WaterAid. This UK-based campaigning organisation and implementation NGO is a big name but it can often seem very hard to get to know. For those keen to learn more about their work, take a look at these videos:

Chief executive Barbara Frost explains WaterAid’s overall goals here. She stresses how the organisation focuses heavily on working with local organisations, and their work in local community education. She also emphasises the need for much more investment in sanitation.

In the video below, director of international programmes Girish Menon talks here about the way the water sector shares knowledge and how it can open up. He explains that getting knowledge into the hands of practitioners on the ground is crucial – and the need to connect non-specialist water organisations with the more focused water groups. We talk about how a new generation is looking for online material, rather than booklets and hard-copy manuals. “They’re immensely curious – and they have the energy to actually do that research and that analysis, but they’d rather do it in a fun way, which is having an online resource.”

We’ve also interviewed WaterAid India’s Dr Isha Bhagwat, who talks specifically about problems such as dry bore wells and flouride contamination, and some of the solutions WaterAid supports to tackle these problems – such as rainwater harvesting and watershed management.

See what I mean? Anyone can embed this video themselves in a blog or on a site – including WaterAid themselves. This kind of video will eventually change how organisations interact, share and interconnect. I’ll be sharing more examples of what I mean in the days to come.

Mark Charmer is a co-founder of Akvo.