We’ve just put together a formal agreement with IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, to work together for the next three years.
We know IRC well already. They shared our first two homes – first at the UNESCO-IHE campus in Delft and later at the International Water House in the Hague. Along with SIWI, IRC helped us conceive and run the WaterCube video project, which has now seen more than 450 short interviews come online, featuring people working around the water and sanitation development sector.
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre is an independent knowledge centre for the global development sector. It focuses on two areas – water supply, sanitation and hygiene behaviour (“WASH”), and integrated water resource management (aka “IWRM”). WASH issues can be really complex, and IRC helps lots of organisations analyse, understand and navigate them. The goal is to improve the sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene services, to dramatically improve the living conditions of people worldwide. It’s a leader in its field and has done big work for partners such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It’s become clear to IRC that Akvo’s open source mobile and internet tools can change the way development aid is allocated, reported, monitored and evaluated. Currently more than 530 organisations are using the Akvo platform to visualise projects with a total value of over €32 million, reaching more than 1.9 million people. In 2015 we expect that at least $1.5 billion worth of projects will be managed in Akvo, impacting the lives of over 50 million people.
There are some specific things we’re focusing the partnership on:
We are cooperating on several projects and programmes in different countries, particularly in West Africa. With the increase of transparency in development projects there will be an increased focus on sharing knowledge and information between the many partners in often complex projects. Here Akvo’s tools and social media approach can be valuable additions to IRC core competences.
2. Akvo FLOW
FLOW stands for Field Level Operations Watch. Akvo’s latest product is an integrated platform to collect, manage, analyse and display geographically-referenced monitoring and evaluation data. There is an urgent need for these types of monitoring and reporting tools and to develop them further into robust field operating systems with user-friendly reporting and analysing capabilities.
The team at Akvo sees a clear role for IRC in this development. Monitoring is not an easy task and requires much more than collection of data only. In the current situation organisations tend to rush into data-collection without having the capacity to design monitoring strategies and analyse the results. IRC has the authority in the sector to highlight this and find a way around the problem.
We’re going to look into bringing together funds that allow us to jointly kickstart the use of better monitoring tools in some large-scale knowledge and research programmes in water, sanitation and hygiene.
3. Knowledge sharing
One of IRC’s main goals is to share knowledge of the WASH sector. Akvo tools already collect lots of field-related data and this will increase dramatically in the coming years when the potential of Akvo RSR and Akvo FLOW are fully realised. IRC is a solid knowledge partner that can help “mine“ these datasets and combine it with existing knowledge. Together IRC and Akvo can open up existing knowledge data sets, field experience etc. making use of Akvopedia (Akvo’s open water and sanitation wiki focused on smart and affordable technical solutions and effective approaches) in order to reach out to a larger audience. The combination of wash-knowledge, field experience with Akvo FLOW and RSR data can have an important impact on the wash sector and lead to new business models with the emphasis on the local.
4. Marketing and promotion
IRC and Akvo’s complementary networks among donors, NGOs, the private sector and governments can have mutual benefits in the fields of marketing and promotion. This can be done through joint initiatives such as events (WaterCube), seminars, publications and joint presentations. At a more strategic level IRC and Akvo might jointly develop a regional approach to the water and sanitation sector in an area such as West Africa. Already IRC and Akvo work fruitfully together in US marketing activities.
5. Sharing of resources
In key regions such as West Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso), East Africa (Kenya) and Asia, we will explore possibilities to share local resources such as offices and training facilities, trainers and materials.
Here’s a short video interview with myself and IRC’s Nico Terra, where we talk a little about why we’re working together.
We’ll keep everyone informed on the progress we make.
Peter van der Linde is a co-founder and partner director of Akvo.
Updated on Wednesday 14 March: Added interview with Nico and Peter.