About the WASH Impact Network at R4D
Worldwide 748 million people do not have access to clean, safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation. These basic services need to form the bedrock of all other forms of development. More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. Every year, children lose 443 million school days because of water related illnesses. These facts draw into stark relief the importance of supporting innovations in the WASH sector, making WASH an essential component of other development programming.
Since April 2015, R4D has been working to better understand the needs of WASH innovators in East Africa and India, and what factors accelerate or impede new idea uptake. We are bringing together a diverse group of these innovators and delivering resources and learning opportunities tailored to their unique needs.
There is ample evidence that the best solutions to challenges in the developing world are being designed by innovators and entrepreneurs that live within those communities. The unprecedented (and under-reported) African response to the Ebola crisis is just one example of the importance of understanding local context when approaching development challenges. Our goal is to find and empower those voices, and help them access the resources that help magnify their impact.
We believe a connected community of innovators who can push in the same direction will be able to exercise a collective force on development challenges that individual entrepreneurs, bi-lateral or multi-lateral efforts cannot achieve on their own. We believe that listening to those local innovators should be the first step when working to identify solutions in any sector – and that will form the bedrock of our approach in WASH.
We believe that the best WASH innovations come from the communities affected by inadequate WASH provisions, but there are often barriers innovators face in implementing new ideas. Our goal is to understand these barriers, connect innovators to each other for peer learning, and connect them with other resources and learning opportunities to help them increase their reach.
To do this, we first DEFINED BARRIERS to innovation through a needs assessment that identified organizational gaps preventing grassroots organizations in the WASH sector from implementing new ideas successfully. The top three needs identified were operational financing, networks, and technical expertise.
The next step is to GATHER INSIGHTS on the learning and innovation process for organizations in the Network, focusing on how they attempt to overcome the barriers that prevent them from implementing new ideas, and the ‘active ingredients’ that lead to their success.
Building on those insights, we will SHARE SOLUTIONS with the members of the Network and the broader international development sector. We will connect programs to resources and learning opportunities according to the needs they identified during the needs assessment, testing methods based on our insights into how organizations learn. We will feed those lessons back to international development stakeholders interested in effectively sharing knowledge in the WASH sector and beyond.
Finally, we will TRACK PROGRESS within the Network to evaluate the extent to which the content and delivery method of learning opportunities led to greater uptake of innovative ideas among organizations in the Network.
The WASH Impact Network is made up of 120 WASH not-for-profit, hybrid and for-profit organizations in India and East Africa, that are implementing programs in a wide range of subsectors. Learn more about each of the programs by browsing their profiles here.
To accomplish our end goal of supporting innovation in the WASH network, we are working closely with regional partners, Dasra in India, and Millennium Water Alliance in East Africa. You can read more about our network of regional partners here.
Connecting Smart Research to Practitioners
A great deal of research already exists on what works in the WASH sector, but the fragmented nature of how that information is collected and shared means that often it does not get turned into practice. At R4D, we are engaging leading thinkers in the WASH community, academia, and research to connect their work to the entrepreneurs working to make a difference in their communities. Through partnerships with other thought leaders like International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) and others we hope to increase access to the latest approaches for measuring impact and learning for WASH programs in our Network.
The Future of WASH Innovation
We are extremely excited to be working with such a talented group of individuals who are coming together to form a global community focused on addressing the tough development challenges in the WASH sector. The Network we forge will have tangible impacts on the lives of those who lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. It is our privilege to help tell the stories of the innovators working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of the poor and connect them with the people and resources that will help them have the largest impact they can.