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Six Things Organizations Need to Know about WASH Funders

Emily Endres

WASH funders and on-the-ground program implementers—like many of you at not-for-profit, for-profit, and hybrid organizations—depend on one another. On-the-ground implementers depend on funding from foundations, bilaterals, or investors to finance the work that they do. While donors depend on on-the-ground implementers of programs to make sure their money is used to create social impact.

However, while donors seek the most effective organizations to implement programs in their focus areas, and organizations seek funding to make their programs effective and impactful, they often have difficulty connecting. Before an organization successfully wins funding or makes it to a certain stage of the application process, their interaction with funders may be limited, creating uncertainty around what a potential donor is looking for in a grantee.

Results for Development (R4D) and its regional partners Dasra in India and the Millennium Water Alliance in East Africa, saw an opportunity to open a dialogue between donors and program implementers in the WASH sector by holding funder panels during capacity building workshops for qualifying organizations in the WASH Impact Network. These panels brought together funders of WASH programs in each of the geographic regions, and asked them to answer some questions that could provide insight into the strategic priorities of donors, and what they look for in programs or organizations that they fund.

Through conversations held in India and East Africa, the following six attributes were identified as valuable by donors and investors when considering potential programs for funding:

1. Strong partnerships, networks, and connections with other organizations

In East Africa, funders such as Avina Foundation, Segal Family Foundation and the Water Project recognize the importance of working together and seeing the bigger picture when it comes to helping each other achieve the most impact by sharing knowledge and working together. Avina Foundation is especially interested in seeing this trait in organizations as part of their interest in promoting the spread of South-South collaboration and working with programs that are interested in sharing lessons across geographies. Segal Family Foundation even prioritizes giving funding to programs that are working with or have been recommended by one of their current grantees. In India, funders participating in the roundtable discussion highlighted the importance of both programs and donors to be active participants on existing platforms and networks such as the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA), the India Water Portal, and the India Sanitation Coalition.

2. Holistic solutions

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation participated in the funder roundtable discussion in India, and used their illustration of the sanitation value chain to highlight the importance of funding programs that understand how their program fits into the bigger picture, and ensures that their intervention is designed to strengthen or work in harmony with the rest of the stakeholders in the value chain. In addition, funders in India expressed particular interest in funding programs that take gender inclusivity into account, in both their program design and in their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes. Tata Trusts uses incentives to encourage organizations to be more gender inclusive. For example, for every woman that the partner employs, Tata Trusts sponsors one additional staff member. Segal Family Foundation and the Water Project also expressed that their foundations have a preference for funding programs that are holistic. Segal Family Foundation primarily focuses on reproductive health and youth empowerment, and therefore values WASH programs that recognize the role they play in supporting health systems and youth development. For example, a menstrual hygiene management program that contributes to the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls and women, or a WASH in schools program that recognizes how their program helps children stay in school and advance in their lives and careers.

3. Participatory programs designed by listening to the voices of the communities in which they work

Many funders also value programs that incorporate the communities in which they implement programs into the program design and activities. They want to see that programs are listening to the voices of the communities. Social businesses may be positioned to naturally respond to the demands of the community, because if their product or service does not meet the needs or aspirations of consumers, their business will not be successful. For this reason, donors like Aqua for All require “proof of concept”—research or projections based on prior sales—that show that the product or service is valued and needed by the community.

4. Collaborating with the government

In East Africa, several of the funders we heard from required that organizations or social businesses be legally registered with the government, or demonstrate strong government ties - including the Water Project and GrowthAfrica. (Although it’s important to note that other funders at this panel recognize that taking risks on grassroots organizations or small social businesses is part of their mission, and they actively fund and build capacity of non-registered programs. Some of these funders include NetFund, Water Project, GrowthAfrica and Avina Foundation.) Funders participating in the roundtable in India expressed the need for programs to work with the government at both the local level—such as with urban bodies to scale decentralized, non-networked sanitation systems—and the national level to integrate their programs into existing government schemes, and to advocate effectively for important policy changes using existing tools like the shit flow diagram.

5. Open communication and collaboration between funders and grantees

Funders on the panels in both India and East Africa expressed a desire to co-create programs with implementers, and value grantees that will engage in a conversation with grantors about their vision and strategy for the program. In India, funders said that this was especially important when it comes to designing M&E indicators that help program implementers to course correct and adapt when needed, while also helping donors measure the impact of their investment. Donors expressed a desire to work together with implementers to simplify M&E requirements and design common frameworks to use across programs in order to lighten the burden of resource-intensive M&E requirements. A willingness to engage in a conversation in which both donors and program implementers can be honest and contribute their experience and knowledge was expressed by funders across both regions.

6. Ability to tell a compelling story

Funders at the panel discussion in East Africa expressed the importance of programs being able to effectively tell their stories. This not only helps funders understand the vision and strategy of potential grantees, but it also helps donors demonstrate their own value to their stakeholders. It can help show donors that an organization is forward-thinking, and that the program has incorporated planning and thoughtful design. Donors want to see that programs understand their own theory of change and how their program delivers real impact in the lives of the communities in which they work. Being able to tell a story that is both compelling and strategic can help demonstrate to donors that your program or organization shares common values, including those in this list.

While the lessons above resulted from a discussion among a small selection of WASH funders, demonstrating these six qualities in a concept note, proposal, or conversation with potential funders can help highlight your ability as an organization to collaborate, communicate, and be strategic in your approach to addressing WASH challenges.

As a WASH program implementer, what do you think might be important to funders when considering a new program for funding or investment? Tell us what you think by emailing us at 

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What’s Missing from the Conversation on the Private Sector in WASH

Emily Endres

This year at Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW), the conversation on private sector engagement in WASH included a greater focus on impact, but lacked input from grassroots entrepreneurs.

Positive contributions from private sector actors like Unilever, Nestlé and Kohler were heard at many of the panels and presentations. These participants presented examples of public-private partnerships and corporate social responsibility strategies that are making real impact in the effort to make universal access to clean water and sanitation a reality. The active participation and leadership from larger players in the private sector, who are using their distribution networks, economies of scale, and brand name power to extend the reach of life-enhancing products and services is an exciting development as talk of “leveraging the power of the market” becomes a more common phrase in the WASH sector.

While the introduction of these large new WASH players no doubt makes for an interesting discussion around possibilities of scale and efficiency, there seemed to be a hole in the private sector discussion at SWWW—where were the representatives of grassroots-level social enterprises? The advantages these local social enterprises bring to the table are worth noting. They are uniquely positioned to understand the communities or regions in which they work, while also operating sustainably in an environment in which funding is scarce. The fact that they have identified a product or service that those in their communities desire, at an acceptable price, is innovative and likely holds lessons for other international social marketing organizations, donors of social business and social marketing initiatives, and private sector corporations participating in the sector.

For example, Svadha is a for-profit social business co-founded in 2014 in Odisha, India, by Mr. K.C. Mishra and Garima Sahai. Svadha acts as an ‘ecosystem integrator’ for the rural WASH market in India, supporting a network of sanitation entrepreneurs or “Sanipreneurs.” In addition to training the Sanipreneurs and equipping them with ICT tools, Svadha promotes community awareness of the importance of sanitation and ensures a reliable and efficient value chain through coordination with corporations, NGOs, and government actors.

Results for Development Institute (R4D), through its WASH Impact Network, aims to identify, learn from, and build the capacity of social businesses like Svadha, as well as not-for-profit civil society organizations and hybrid organizations, in India and East Africa. One of the things we have learned from them so far is that there is a myriad of hurdles these innovators face in order to scale up and adapt—and many are not able to succeed in isolation. R4D seeks to learn about how the learning and innovating process occurs for local civil society organizations across two diverse regions of the world, while transforming that information into skill-building opportunities for the organizations in the cohort. For example, R4D, with its partner Dasra, conducted its first in a series of capacity building workshops for WASH innovators in India on September 21-24, 2015. To learn more about the activities we’re implementing—including the workshop we will be conducting with partner Millennium Water Alliance in Nairobi for East African organizations in the cohort—visit our website at

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Who are the MHM Innovators?

Morgan Benson

On May 28, 2014, the world celebrated its first Menstrual Hygiene Day. Organized by WASH United, the now-annual event is part of a burgeoning focus in international development on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and its impact on the lives of women and girls. Like Family Planning 2020 (for which the first convening was also held recently, in 2012), this focus on MHM is rooted in the growing movement towards gender equality worldwide.

Within the WASH Impact Network, there are at least 29 innovators (almost one fourth of our total first cohort) working in MHM, each testing different methods of enabling women to manage their periods and have equal access to education, health, and other opportunities in life that might otherwise be at risk. Of these programs, 16 are operating in India, 12 in East Africa, and 1 program (WASH United) works in both. So what can we learn from a look at this cohort?

  1. They are young.  Over half (59%) of the innovative MHM programs in the Network have been founded in the last 5 years. This trend would suggest that innovators either are enabled or triggered to focus on a particular issue, given sufficient prioritization of attention and resources.
  2. They are producing environmentally sustainable pads. Of the 29 programs that focus on MHM, 18 are involved in the manufacturing of sanitary pads, many of which incorporate various methods of ensuring environmental sustainability. It is vitally important to consider the environmental impact of MHM interventions, especially in high population density settings, such as in many regions of India. Without reusable MHM products, roughly 305 million women and girls in India would be throwing away disposable pads into already overburdened solid waste dumps. As disposable sanitary products become increasingly popular over cloth rags or other informal methods, the amount of waste produced will also increasingly become a sustainability issue in itself, and innovators within the Network are experimenting with alternative methods.
    • Many are developing reusable, washable pads, such as Uger Menstrual Pads in India. Jatan Sanasthan partnered with Vikalp Design to offer a new (“uger” in Mewadi language) way to think about and manage menstruation, which takes into account the environmental impact of the harmful plastic options that had been and continue to be on the market. Similarly, some programs, such as Aakar Innovations also in India, produce a compostable option.
    • Some programs also use recycled materials to produce their pads, whether that is through leveraging leftover factory textiles, such as what Eva Wear is doing in Ethiopia, or local agricultural products such as banana tree fiber in the case of Saathi Pads in India.
    • Finally, programs are promoting sustainability by using local production methods. By producing pads in-country, programs not only create livelihood opportunities but also cut down on the environmental impact of transporting the pads internationally. Dignity Period partners with Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, which employs 42 local women to produce 600,000 low-cost, environmentally friendly, washable, and reusable pads per year for girls across Ethiopia.
  3. They are integrating with other sectors. In addition to prioritizing environmental sustainability, MHM innovators are integrating their programs with other sectors for increased impact.
    • The Kasiisi Project Girls’ Program not only addresses the WASH needs of girls in schools as an integral part of their ability to manage their periods, by supporting safe water sources and girl-friendly toilets, but also integrates sexual and reproductive health issues more broadly. Kasiisi employs a local female Community Health Worker to educate girls at participating schools on relevant topics, and to set up peer education workshops, giving peer educators in schools the tools and knowledge to be effective role models.
    •  Like Kasiisi, at least 18 of the 29 MHM programs in the Network integrate their activities into schools. Many stress the importance of girls learning early how to manage their periods, particularly so that they are able to continue to attend classes instead of dropping out due to a lack of the necessary education or products to manage it. Jerusalem Children and Community Development Organization (JeCCDO) in Ethiopia supports school clubs to foster awareness and action on not only WASH and MHM issues, but also health, leadership, agriculture, and other issues relevant to their lives
  4. They are creating livelihood opportunities, especially for women. In addition to many programs creating jobs in the production of sanitary pads, many are supporting livelihood opportunities for community members in the sales of their products as well.
    • Vatsalya in India mobilizes existing female shopkeepers and other potential female entrepreneurs to sell sanitary pads in their communities. ZanaPads in Kenya partners with other NGOs to distribute their pads such as Marie Stopes and Living Goods, who operate networks of door-to-door saleswomen.
  5. They need government and financial support, as well as improved evidence generation. Compared to the Network as a whole, these innovators report the following trends in what their programs need to reach more people with greater impact.
    • Twenty-three of these 29 innovators spoke with the Network about the need for Operational Financing. Despite a trend toward this category amongst all 120+ programs, MHM innovators’ higher percentage suggests what Dignity Period reports from Ethiopia, that “donor funds are critical to reach hundreds of thousands more Ethiopian girls who are eager to stay in school free of fear and embarrassment.”
    • There was also a trend towards improved Monitoring and Evaluation. Nine programs (31%) reported M&E as a top need, including knowing what indicators to track, making sense of data already collected, and strategic planning for how to act based on that information.
    • Finally, 6 programs (21%) reported a need for increased Government Support for MHM, ranging from general advocacy among government officials to improved policy regarding how sanitary products are currently taxed.

The responsiveness of these innovators to the world’s burgeoning focus on MHM is encouraging; however, there is still much work to be done. The WASH Impact Network will be working to connect these innovators with each other and with other resources they have identified as key needs for their programs.

For more information, read the Network’s interview with Kathy Walkling, founder of EcoFemme in India; check out Spot On!, our Regional Partner Dasra’s in-depth look at MHM in India; or contact us at

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Designing better workshops: WASH innovators on how they learn and adapt

Erin Swearing

WASH Impact Network members brainstorm components of the business model canvas with assistance from the Dasra team in Mumbai, India on June 27, 2016. ©Results for Development

In 2014, Results for Development (R4D) started the WASH Impact Network to help local innovators in East Africa and India address some of the challenges they face in doing the important work of improving access to clean water and sanitation, and promoting good hygiene practices. We decided that to really understand how to support these organizations, we needed to ask them what they needed and what’s most helpful. We needed to listen.  

So we conducted a needs assessment with over 120 local WASH organizations in the WASH Impact Network, and we learned (unsurprisingly) that operational financing—funds to support core activities and/or scaling up—was the greatest need. In 2015 and 2016, R4D and our regional partners, Dasra and the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA), organized a series of workshops and focus group discussions for WASH Impact Network members in in Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi, and Mumbai to start addressing this need and to hear more from WASH innovators about their challenges and what helps to overcome them.  

Talking about what’s helpful and what isn’t with local WASH innovators 


Since implementing the WASH Impact Network, R4D has conducted interviews and focus group discussions with network members to learn more about what’s helpful and what isn’t when trying to learn and implement new ideas. Some key takeaways from these conversations are summarized below.


What's helpful:
  • Learning events that allow participants to learn by doing.
  • Surveying participants before the workshop to understand problems they are currently facing, and design content to address challenges and current interests.
  • Distributing “soft” versions of tools that can be used immediately or customized.
  • Setting up reach-back mechanisms for participants to consult with experts and stay in touch with peers at the end of learning events. 
What isn’t:
  • Learning events that are mostly lecture-based and offer no time for collaboration and participant input.
  • Webinars without built-in discussion time. Without a space to chat about research results, webinars do not offer the space to get to dig deep and brainstorm solutions to complex problems.
  • PowerPoints and long written reports. These tools are rarely revisited and require big time commitments to digest and adapt to the specific needs of programs.

After listening to workshop participants, we designed workshops that were participatory, action-oriented, and relevant to the contexts in which they work to address innovators’ need for operational financing. Through the development of an elevator pitch, population of a business model canvas, and the creation of action plans, innovators had the space to create useful tools that they could easily share with their organizations.


Crafting a solid elevator pitch in East Africa


Workshops in East Africa were hosted by MWA. The workshop focused on the development and refinement of an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is an important networking tool intended to grasp the attention of a potential collaborator or funder within a matter of seconds. Because resources are often limited for local program implementers, an elevator pitch can be a game changer in developing a relationship that may generate funding in the future.   


Tailored elevator pitch sessions in Kampala and Nairobi were facilitated by Nyambura Waruingi, a Kenyan creative innovator who possesses over 13 years of experience writing, curating, and producing in the creative industry sector. Participants created their own pitches and received targeted feedback from Waruingi and other workshop participants. They challenged one another to find compelling ways to communicate their organization’s work.  


Participants were advised to:
  • Be personal when telling their stories. There is value in inserting yourself into the narrative. Before you sell, you must connect.
  • Customize your pitch for your audience when selling your impact and vision. Research and understand the audience’s interests and objectives, be specific about your accomplishments, and show where and how the audience can play a role in your organization’s story.
  • Investors value personality. That’s most important. Because it’s about relationships. The business model can change, but the entrepreneurs you interact with cannot.

The workshops also included a funder/investor panel including with foundations and knowledge centers designed to support business sustainability and inclusiveness.  Members of the WASH Impact Network had the opportunity to hear from panelists about the partnerships they seek to build with organizations and ask candid questions about their funding and support needs.


Examining the business model, action planning and using social media in India


The workshop in Mumbai was co-facilitated by Dasra, and focused on identifying their own strengths and areas for improvement, and creating action plans for goals that were developed during the workshop. The main activities included:

  1. Developing the business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page visual tool that summarizes the organization’s sources of revenue, how they intend to interact with partners and consumers to achieve their goals,  and what resources are available or needed to achieve their goals. Innovators were able to populate the canvas after hearing examples relevant to each section of the business model. Innovators were encouraged to share the canvas they created with their teams, ask for input and revisit it every quarter.
  2. Developing action plans: Organizations were encouraged to create simple action plans that would lay out a path to better leverage their strengths or address any opportunities for growth. This exercise allowed participants leave with a targeted action plan they could present to their organizations on “Monday morning.”
  3. Optimizing one’s social media presence: Social media is an important communications channel for sharing an organization’s work and forming connections with consumers, donors and organizations engaging in similar work. Organizations were introduced to social media analytics, innovative website designs and visual messaging examples to increase their presence on various platforms.

After workshops in Mumbai and Nairobi, participants designed their own “reach-back mechanisms” to stay connected with one another after the workshop, recognizing their peers in the room as key resources for the future. Moving forward, participants will keep in touch using social media tools, such as WhatsApp groups, to chat informally and share information on upcoming events, success stories and funding opportunities. Want to know more about what we’ve learned through our conversations with WASH innovators? Click here to see the preliminary results. Look out for the final report, which we will be publishing at the end of the year.

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Telling Stories and Making Models: What the Network has been up to this Summer

Erin Swearing

This summer, the WASH Team at R4D conducted a series of workshops and focus group discussions with members of the WASH Impact Network in Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi, and Mumbai. Workshop content was designed to address gaps in operational financing and that were identified in a needs assessment conducted previously by the WASH Team.

Workshops in East Africa, co-facilitated with partner, Millennium Water Alliance, focused on the development and refinement of the elevator pitch. Afternoon sessions included a funder/investor panel where members of the WASH Impact Network had the opportunity to hear from panelists about the partnerships they seek to build, and Network members had a chance to ask specific questions about topics they were particularly interested in.

In Uganda and Kenya, elevator pitch sessions were facilitated by Nyambura Waruingi, co-founder and chief creative innovator of the Hingston Group who possesses over 13 years of experience writing, curating, and producing in the creative industry sector. Waruingi gave workshop participants the space to think about their stories and provided thorough feedback, challenging them to find ways to communicate about their organizations in a compelling way. 

Real Questions and Their Paraphrased Answers

  • How should I tell my story?
    • Be personal. There is value in inserting yourself into the narrative. Before you sell, you must connect.
  • How do you sell impact and your vision?
    • Remember your audience. Be specific about what you have done and articulate what you need. Show where in your story there is a place for your audience to play a role.
  • What characteristics or criteria do you look for in an organization you might invest in?
    • Impress the investor with your personality. That’s most important. Because it’s about relationships. The business model can change, but entrepreneurs cannot.

In India, workshop participants had the opportunity to craft a business model canvas, a one-page visual tool that demonstrates how resources flow through an organization by examining nine key elements, and develop an action plan to leverage their strengths or identify opportunities for growth. These sessions were co-facilitated by Dasra, an advisory research organization that works with philanthropists, multilateral agencies, corporate foundations, social enterprises, and non-profits in India. Participants also had the opportunity to learn strategies and tools for optimizing their social media presence to share their work and form connections with consumers, donors and organizations engaging in similar work.

Real Questions and Their Paraphrased Answers

  • What do you do with a business model canvas?
    • Constructing a business model canvas provides an honest look at the organization and makes it easier to identify gaps.
  • How do I actually use the business model canvas back at my organization?
    • Share it with your whole team, ask for input, and then revisit it every quarter.

Next Steps with India Workshop Participants

We plan to follow up with workshop participants in the next few months. We would like to know more about their progress on their action plans and any challenges they have had along the way.


During our time in each city, we held focus group discussions with Network members to learn more about their successes and challenges with learning and adaptation.

Quick Takeaways

  • Organizational structures that have the ability to hear and implement ideas from employees working directly with communities or individuals are particularly valued, and many organizations have mechanisms in place to share new findings and ideas internally.
  • Workshops and conferences hold value, but often outside of the meeting rooms. Networking at these events is most valuable.
  • Organizations value donor visits. Visits provide a space for collaborative program input and better conceptualization of program activities, both of which are useful in building strong donor relationships.
  • There is a need for small-scale funding for training and development, but these opportunities are limited.
  • Program timelines are often too short to demonstrate real change.
  • Webinars are not particularly useful, as post-presentation discussions are rare and the times are often outside normal working hours.
  • And SURPRISE! Lack of funds is a huge barrier when trying to implement new ideas.


Want to know more about the results from our focus group discussions? Click here to see the preliminary results. Look out for the final report, which we will be publishing at the end of the year. 

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A Snapshot of WASH Innovators in India

Erin Swearing

India faces several unique challenges to achieving its WASH goals. Currently, India houses the most open defecators in the world,  60% percent of the population lacks access to improved sanitation, and 76 million people are without a safe water source. Stakeholders in India have responded to these large-scale challenges with strong policies and innovative solutions from civil society organizations and the private sector. In October 2014, the government of India instituted the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission in English), under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Swachh Bharat is a national mission aimed at “cleaning-up” India by encouraging citizens to engage in tasks like maintaining clean streets and homes. As a part of The Swachh Bharat Mission, India also seeks to become Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019.

In addition to efforts in the public sector, India is also home to millions of civil society organizations that have achieved a number of social changes in the country in the last twenty years, including progress in the WASH sector. Taking a look at some of the organizations in the India cohort of our WASH Impact Network can lend insight to how civil society organizations are working to transform the WASH climate in India.

R4D works closely with our partner, Dasra--an India-based philanthropy foundation and impact accelerator focused on social change—to support WASH Impact Network members in India with valuable tools, resources, and learning opportunities.

Attributes of WASH Impact Network Members in India

Extensive Geographic Coverage

Fifty-seven WASH organizations in the WASH Impact Network operate in India. Organizations work all over the country, in 19 different states, including Delhi, Utter Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, with thirteen organizations operating country-wide.


                                       Locations of WASH programs in the WASH Impact Network in India


Conventional Funding Models

Programs identify as not-for-profit, for profit, and hybrid organizations. Organizations classified as hybrid generate revenue through the sale of a product or service but are supported by donor funding. The vast majority of the organizations in India are not-for-profit. Only 10%  are for profit, and 5% are hybrid organizations.


Quick Look

Waterlife is a for-profit organization in India working country-wide. Waterlife is a provider of Community Drinking Water Plants that can process water that meet and exceed WHO and India government standards. Waterlife operates the plants for ten years after installation, and utilizes the help of government, NGOs and self help-groups to address issues of access to safe water.

A Mix of Ages and Sizes

The cohort also also varies in size and age. Organizations were established as early as 1968 and as recently as 2015, with 42 of the programs established within the last 10 years. From 2 to 700 plus staff members and budgets ranging from US $2,500 to US $1.2 million, programs in the India cohort also vary in budget and staff size.

Broad in Scope

When it comes to focus area, the WASH programs are even more diverse. Programs in India broadly focus on water, sanitation, and hygiene, but also have more specific focus areas. Some  programs address safe drinking water, menstrual hygiene management, water storage, waste management and disposal, policy and governance, water purification, and groundwater extraction.  


Although there is a lot of overlap, two of the most common focus areas among the India programs include menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and drinking water.

Quick Look

Reap Benefit is a hybrid organization working in Karnataka state focusing on sanitation solutions. They work with schools and government to encourage schoolchildren to problem-solve real-life sanitation issues in their communities. Reap Benefit has also developed sanitation products like a waterless urinal designed with recycled PET bottles and a grey water harvesting system. Their interventions reuse about 40% of water consumed on average.

India currently has the greatest number of people that lack access to clean water in the world. Although access to safe water sources has greatly improved in India, millions are still without the precious resource. Sixteen programs in our network address safe drinking water.

In India, MHM has received a great deal of attention from the national government. Guidelines to address stigma and promote health education for MHM are outlined in the Swachh Bharat Mission. Nineteen India WASH Impact Network members working to address MHM. Expertise ranges from reusable pad production and distribution to advocacy and education.

Quick Look

Aaina is a non-profit organization working in Southern India seeking to improve the health and well-being of adolescent girls through MHM. Aaina works with communities to encourage conversation around menstruation. They empower girls to become invested in their well-being and raise concerns about their reproductive and sexual health. Through meetings with schools, family members, and other school stakeholders, social taboos and stigmas are addressed, and adolescent girls are educated on proper menstrual hygiene practices.


India is in good hands

The organizations in the India cohort of the WASH Impact Network are only a small subset of the millions of civil society organizations working to address the needs of the 800 million people living in poverty in India. India has achieved a great deal of success in furthering progress toward WASH goals in recent years, but it will take time and investment and partnerships across sectors to continue this progress.  

Interested in learning more about programs in the WASH Impact Network? Check out the programs section of our website to see profiles of programs.

The WASH Impact Network also has a cohort in East Africa. Check out this blog post for a snapshot of WASH innovators in East Africa.

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What’s trending in the WASH sector—and are they the right trends to support real progress?

Emily Endres

Imagine if there were a Twitter specifically for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). What would be trending today? And would those trends align with what’s really needed to see progress in the sector?


@ Millennium Water Alliance


At Results for Development (R4D), we started thinking about this as we conducted research on opportunities and challenges within the WASH sector in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. We conducted a literature review that uncovered past and present policies and interventions, and then spoke with experts to validate what we learned.


Through this research process, we noticed a few trends and buzzwords — and not just in these three countries, but in the whole WASH sector. While critically analyzing these trends, a few questions came up that should be considered.


We won’t try and answer these big questions here, but we do hope to offer some healthy food for thought.



By now, we’ve all heard this word so much it has almost lost its meaning.  But when we talk about sustainability, are we talking about the financial sustainability of individual programs (perhaps this explains that other trend #socialenterprise)? Or are we talking about long-term solutions and the prevention of future problems?


Let’s put this into context. Countries like Bangladesh and India face threats to their water sources as a rapidly growing population competes with agricultural, industrial and hydropower demands for water. While demand for scarce water resources are increasing, water contamination is also increasing. Arsenic contamination is widespread in South and Southeast Asia, in addition to untreated residential, agricultural and industrial runoff.


Now, imagine that your organization has begun implementing a project to market water filters in communities without piped water access. At the end of the project cycle, what determines success? If the business is strong enough to support itself on sales revenue alone? Or is it financial health, plus consumer awareness of good water conservation and watershed stewardship practices? Is it sustainable only if the accounts balance, or that plus local communities learn how to advocate to their local governments about piped water access so that water filters won’t always be necessary?



WASH experts (and #globaldev experts more generally) are all about data and monitoring these days, which is good because it’s a huge need.  And most would agree that strong M&E systems are vital to a program’s success, and that it’s smart to design interventions based on existing evidence.


But one question we need to ask ourselves is whether funds for research are always spent efficiently. In the age of information, we’re generally able to access data and evidence about what the needs and challenges are in a particular context, and what has worked in the past (or hasn’t). So if program implementers, donors and governments are accepting their responsibility to seek out and understand this history, our supposedly intelligent program designs should reflect that.


Instead, what tends to happen is that we spend a lot of time and money on formative research upfront and evaluations at the end. We’re starting from scratch every time and waiting until the end of the two-year project timeline to see if it worked. As an alternative to costly and time-consuming formative research, would a better approach be to make educated guesses based off of an existing body of research and past experience, and conduct low-cost, rapid experimentation at the early stages of a program? Are the bulk of our resources being spent on monitoring so that we can course correct as we go? Should we be spending more money building bodies of knowledge for areas that we don’t know enough about?


Fortunately, the experts we interviewed during our research see a positive trend developing in the WASH sector around designing M&E systems that are more cost-effective and more focused on local communities, while also providing more opportunities for course correction throughout the life of the project.


Experts at Dasra and Mahila Housing Trust have noticed more funders discussing sharing “big data” with communities so that their participation in the design and implementation of solutions creates more impact. r.i.c.e. looks at cultural norms that keep people from using latrines. They see an opportunity for experimenting with behavior change communication strategies geared towards promoting latrine use.


An additional area of opportunity, according to the experts we spoke to, is generating more data in typically overlooked subsectors of WASH. There is little data, for example, on WASH in non-household environments like workplaces, and water quality at a community level. Could collecting more information about issues that we don’t have enough evidence on turn into an act of advocacy for more funding and resources?



Ok, so this one’s not really trending … at least not explicitly. But from where we stand, not enough people are talking about the “H” in WASH. For example, despite hand washing with soap being hailed as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, hygiene promotion wasn’t given specific targets in the SDGs. According the the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, the simple behavior decreasing diarrhea by one-half and acute respiratory infections by one-third. Other elements of good hygiene like menstrual hygiene management, personal hygiene and food preparation positively impact not only health, but also nutrition, education, economic wellbeing and equity.


Despite its importance for a life of health, wellbeing and dignity, hygiene promotion lacks official policies in many countries. And even those countries that do have official policies on promotion are often underfunded (perhaps reflecting the historic trend focusing on #hardware over #software solutions like behavior change). Average expenditure on hygiene promotion interventions by national governments is less than 1% of total WASH funding.


To top it off, hygiene promotion interventions are often narrow in terms of target audience and the aspects of hygiene that they address. Experts at the Mahila Housing Trust suggest that WASH programs in schools often only target children with hygiene promotion programs, but fail to promote good hygiene practices in the home where good habits can be further encouraged. The 2015 GLAAS report also highlights the lack of hygiene promotion in health care facilities, stating that only 19% of countries have plans that are fully funded and implemented.


Hygiene promotion is an inexpensive intervention that should be incorporated into all programs aimed at reducing diarrheal and other diseases, increasing economic wellbeing and education outcomes, and addressing inequalities. So again, why isn’t #Hygiene trending?



Don’t get us wrong — we understand why we’re all talking about WASH in urban areas. Urban areas, especially informal settlements, present complicated WASH challenges related to population density, politics and housing laws. And these areas will become increasingly complicated as urbanization continues to rise. The unique challenges presented by rapidly growing cities and informal settlements have produced some really cool solutions like social franchise models designed around portable household toilets, pit emptying machinery that can navigate small alleys, and water kiosk vending machines.


But is this potentially diverting resources from areas of need that might require longer-term investment in tried and true methods? For example, many donors in India are turning their focus from rural areas to urban areas, despite the fact that only 10% of open defecation occurs in urban areas in India, according to the 2015 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report and MDG Assessment. John Oldfield, founder of Friends of Clean India and former CEO of WASH Advocates, suggests that the draw of innovating to develop new technology and new business models in urban spaces is more attractive than the draw of innovating to change behaviors and attitudes in rural spaces. But perhaps the thing that’s most exciting is not always the thing that’s most needed: “Most Indians aren’t focusing on how to manage waste or how to turn it into biogas — they’re not even disposing of it in a toilet.”


While India is unique in the WASH space in many ways, this example caused us to stop and think … are there other ways that the chase for that brand new, never-before-seen toilet is steering us away from investing in those less sexy long-term interventions that have been proven to work?


Through our research in Bangladesh, India, and Vietnam, we learned that looking at trends can help us identify some really important issues. But looking at them critically can also help us understand the appropriate way to engage.


What other WASH trends did we miss? Let us know what you think @Results4Dev.

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Donor Spotlight: NETFUND

Website Submitter


The National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) was established by the Government of Kenya under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) 1999, Sec 24 and the EMCA Amendment Act No. 5 of 2015). It is a state corporation under the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities. NETFUNDs mandate is to facilitate research and publications intended to further the requirements of environmental management; implement environmental awards; build local capacity; and provide scholarships and grants. This is also in line with Kenya’s Vision 2030 social pillar which advocates for “a just and cohesive society enjoying reputable social development in a clean and secure environment”. As a Trust Fund, NETFUND also mobilizes resources for environmental management and social development in Kenya.

The ultimate vision is to see a society empowered and motivated to sustainably manage the environment. Driven by the mission of empowering Kenyans to sustainably manage the environment, NETFUND promotes and supports green growth on a national level. This is mainly achieved through its flagship programme known as the NETFUND Green Innovations Award (NETFUND GIA).

The NETFUND GIA is an annual award programme that identifies, recognizes and nurtures diverse green innovations through upscaling and incubation. NETFUND started running the award programme in 2012. The third phase of the programme is currently ongoing.

Experience Working with Innovators and Entrepreneurs

The NETFUND GIA embraces the principles of inclusivity by conducting a national outreach targeted at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) start ups. These are early stage enterprises run by low income earners whose ability to access capital is further diminished by stringent requirements of financial institutions.

Since inception, NETFUND GIA has supported over 40 innovators and impacted thousands of Kenyans directly and indirectly. For instance, NETFUND-GIA has created over 1200 green jobs; enhanced access to clean water and Energy for over 6000 and managed several tons of waste.

The innovators/ entrepreneurs continue to demonstrate passion and exude confidence in all they do. You cannot fail to notice their resilience. When you get to their workshops you notice that they are quite unconventional and driven by a certain urge to change their surroundings. Their humble beginnings clearly depict a milestone and when one gets to hear their future plans, you clearly see a perfect embodiment of vision.

NETFUND has learnt that all the innovators require is appreciation that they are making a difference and the motivation to keep developing their initiatives. NETFUND therefore does not complete the process with identification and acknowledgement but maintains constant communication and interaction to achieve this. We walk with the innovators and entrepreneurs through the journey. This growth process requires patience, dedication and un-wavered spirit to achieve success.

The programme has had its fair share of remarkable success. One successful example is John Magiro’s hydro-electric initiative. Magiro uses old bicycle parts and simple motors to generate electricity. This innovation has been piloted in parts of Central Kenya-Murang’a and has shown potential in producing over 250KW of electricity. So far 77 households have been connected to Magiro’smini hydro power plant. Through the Linkages component of the NETFUND GIA Mr. Magiro was received additional funding from the Pollination Fund.


















A previous winner, Eric Muthomi used the award money to establish Stawi Foods; a company that creates value addition to the banana through converting it to flour. Eric has employed over 300 direct and indirect employees and improved livelihoods of hundreds of banana farmers who are predominantly women. Forbes magazine enlisted Eric in 2013 as one of the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs to watch.

Challenges encountered and successes working with them

What are some of the innovative strategies that have brought about successes for both NETFUND and innovators/entrepreneurs?

Although NETFUND GIA has made tremendous progress in supporting green enterprises in Kenya, the programme has had its own share of challenges. Some of the challenges include the following:

  • Geographical – the programme is based on the principle of inclusivity hence it targets applicants from all over the country.  Due to our limited resources, we have partnered with various entities to increase our reach and ensure it is representative. In the current phase of the programme we received over 13,000 entries from all the 47 Counties which represents an over 500% increase in applications.
  • Varying levels of literacy and understanding – This poses a challenge due to the diversity of applicants, we have therefore tailored the programme to suit the beneficiary or customer through our network of experts.
  • Limited entries from women – During the previous cycle we received very limited entries from women. The current cycle was therefore structured to ensure this constituency was targeted. A more intentional gender mainstreaming approach through strategic partnerships with women organizations like the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) was pursued to ensure women were fully represented. A special award category for women was also included. Currently over 33% of the entries are from women.
  • Access to adequate funds – This has been a challenge in particular as we offer a wide range of services ( legal , marketing, branding, business development , infrastructure access, product/prototype development) and  at no-cost . The programme is therefore developing various sustainability models including a Green Revolving Fund that will support enterprises in perpetuity.
  • Information gaps – Various information gaps were identified during the previous cycle. This will be addressed through the NETFUND Research Programme. Scholarships will be provided to students to undertake research on particular innovations to inform decision making; an authoritative journal will be established; and a Physical and Online Resource Centre on green growth is currently under development.

It is expected that as we address these challenges, the programme will remain the leader in green enterprise development in support of climate smart technologies and innovations.

To partner with us, contact us through |

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Using Data to Engage Local Governments, and Other Best Practices from Millennium Water Alliance

Anna Pollock

No matter which specific area of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector an organization is working in, engaging with different levels of government is key to the success (or failure) of an intervention or business venture.  The Millennium Water Alliance, an alliance of sixteen large, international non-profit organizations working in the WASH sector believes that government engagement is fundamental to a successful and sustainable WASH intervention.  Below find our pointers for best practices when working with governments:

1.Inform the local government: Sharing information with the local government on proposed projects, whether or not the project plans to use public funds, is key to avoiding misconceptions and ensuring government buy-in. 


2.Capitalize on momentum: Identifying an ally in the local or national government and establishing a continuous flow of information to keep the government up-to-date is key to creating champions.  Once you find a leader who can serve as an ally, keep the person informed and capitalize on their excitement.  Use them as a touchpoint to share information with other government offices and officials, both local and regional.


3.Support capacity-building activities: Even if capacity building is not your organization’s area of expertise, sharing your knowledge is key to making your objectives a priority. Use your expertise as a tool to increase government engagement and participation.  The more the local government understands the problem and possible solutions, the more likely they will consider your focus as a priority area. MWA members actively develop government capacity by establishing, attending, and coordinating committees and forums to support and strengthen local governance structures. One often overlooked opportunity for engagement is to increase interaction between citizens (beneficiaries or customers) and local government.


4.Use data to demonstrate impact: In general, governments like to see solutions in black and white: if it works, how does it work and how much. Creating continuous feedback loops and sharing relevant data is key demonstrating impact Organizations that can demonstrate clear impact are more likely to receive government approval and support in terms of funding or other resources. If you can integrate your internal data collection with local government indicators and commit to sharing that data regularly, this will contribute to long-term sustainability by promoting government buy-in. Ensuring that your data is visualized and user-friendly with maps or graphics can further your chances of increased support and engagement.


5.Improve mutual accountability:  Taking advantage of strong ties with local government is key to improving accountability structures. Strengthening the capacity of the local district governments by training extension workers in sector planning, coordination, resource mobilization, supervision and quality control will not only improve your programming but also improve the sustainability and provision of WASH services for all members of a community.   


Putting it all together

One MWA member, CARE, has excelled working with local and municipal governments. As part of their integrated WASH solution, they have helped to create municipal offices of Water and Sanitation which manage and prioritize WASH projects within the municipality. CARE has provided ongoing capacity building support on technical WASH solutions and governance strategies to ensure transparency and long-term acceptance and financial sustainability of the office.  The WASH Office organizes the NGOs working in the municipality by prioritizing implementation areas based on need and instructing them which communities to work in.  The WASH Office also supports the NGO-trained community WASH committees to oversee their newly installed or rehabilitated water systems.  Overall, this increased engagement with the local government has helped CARE gain credibility as they continue to work in the area. 

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A Call to Action for Menstrual Hygiene Management Enterprises

Emily Endres

Two MHM programs in the WASH Impact Network teamed up to imagine a better way of working together.

While the development sector and private sector may be perceived as operating under two different sets of rules, the “markets” that exist within the development sector create competition similar to that found in the private sector. Development organizations have revenues in the form of incoming funding, and expenses for running an organization and implementing programs. Just like a business, a development organization must have a greater or equal amount of revenue than expenses to stay afloat. Two organizations offering a similar “product”—for example, water filter distribution, behavior change communication programs, or technical assistance services—must compete for limited resources to fund operations and growth. And while “collaboration” will likely be cited as a core value by program managers and funders alike, in reality this can be challenging in such a highly competitive environment. Organizations, therefore, are incentivized to protect their intellectual property in order to maintain a competitive edge.

Two visionary leaders of innovative WASH programs in the WASH Impact Network are calling for a different way of working together in menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Rachel Starkey is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Transformation Textiles, an organization that produces reusable menstrual products and trains women entrepreneurs to sell their products, and Megan White Mukuria is the Founder of ZanaAfrica, an organization that works with community-based organizations to educate young girls and women on reproductive and sexual health and ensures access to disposable menstrual products. Together, they wrote the Global Alliance of MHM Enterprises (GAME) Manifesto. The GAME Manifesto is a call to action for MHM enterprises to partner and share information in order to give women and girls access to a robust market of MHM products where they can choose the option that works best for their unique needs.

Rachel Starkey of Transformation Textiles spoke to us and explained how the GAME Manifesto was created and the problem that Starkey and Mukuria aim to solve.

Results for Development Institute (R4D): How did the conversation between you and ZanaAfrica begin?

Transformation Textiles (TT): Do you know that Dr. Seuss story about the Star-Belly Sneetches and the Plain-Belly Sneetches? That’s how it is with MHM programs. Either you are in the reusable camp, where you think disposables are evil because they’re bad for the environment; or you’re in the disposable camp, where you think reusables are evil because they’re unhygienic or they require access to water. And while this “good guy/bad buy” debate is going on, there are lots of women out there without access to the products they need.

ZanaAfrica is in the disposable camp and Transformation Textiles is in the reusable camp. But we started talking because we realized we both want to help these same girls and women.

We started asking ourselves, why does it have to be one or the other? Women should have choices. Why are we choosing to stay in our separate camps? Why don’t we build a bridge? Why don’t we band together and create a spectrum of choice? I like to go to the supermarket and choose what I want, but can you imagine if you didn’t have that choice? If someone told you what your choice was? We might not be able to offer them everything, but we can offer them some options. That’s dignity.

R4D: What do you want to see change in the MHM sector?

TT: As recently as 2013 and 2014, nobody was really talking about periods. But in 2008—well before it was ‘in vogue’—ZanaAfrica was working with the government of Kenya to write MHM programs into their budget. I learned about ZanaAfrica, and was really impressed with their vision, and the fact that they were on a long-term path. They’re saying, let’s not just give them pads, but let’s talk about communication and education and measuring impact and writing policy and advocacy. It’s about more than just pads.

Transformation Textiles is also on a long path after we realized that underwear is a real unmet need. Everyone is talking about “pads, pads, pads,” but no one is talking about underwear. How do they strap these things to their legs without underwear? We wanted to do it sustainably and affordably, but underwear is taxed at 30% as a luxury item. So they looked for loopholes and found that menstrual items aren’t taxed.

We’re currently writing national standards for reusables for Kenya. They’re not ratified yet, but they talk about the need for undergarments that would be classified as sanitary towels. That will set a precedent so that period underwear will be able to come into the country duty free.

R4D: What were your goals for the GAME Manifesto? What do you want to accomplish?

TT: Let’s say I live in a village and I go to my local store to buy some pads. There are two brands to choose from: A and B. Product A has great branding and marketing, but the product itself is poor. Because I have a choice, it can spur product A to improve their product instead of saying, “this is good enough for them.”

So by building that bridge between the silos, it can help us make better products. We have to start working like an actual market. Like a real market. We can’t just keep our corners of poverty to ourselves. I want ZanaAfrica to sell my products and I want to sell their products. Let’s all offer a lot of different options. Let’s all grow up a little.

In addition, we hope that we can start creating standards for reusable products together. People have been trying to create a standard since 1985, but they always go it alone for their one product—never together. When I went to my first meeting, reusable companies guarded their IP and lab reports. But this is a new day. 2015 did a lot in bridging gaps between silos. In Uganda, on Menstrual Hygiene Day, the different enterprises came together to create a charter. It’s not a standard yet, but it acknowledged the need to work together. I reached out to manufacturers in Uganda and they shared a draft of what they were writing to form the basis of a standard, which we then took and blended with other standards (Canada and the US shared what they did with the Federal Drug Administration in setting standards for reusable menstrual hygiene products). So with all of these shared resources, we have created a draft standard that is being considered in Kenya.

R4D: Who else was involved in the creation of the GAME Manifesto?

TT: When I tried to reach out to other textile manufacturers, I was surprised at how siloed it was. There wasn’t a lot of sharing; there wasn’t a lot of collaboration because we’re all competing for money from the same funders and impact investors. But if you think about how many girls are in need, we need each other. We need the small rural manufacturer to reach those rural women, and the urban manufacturers to reach urban women, and we need people that are thinking about all those other women in between.

R4D: How did the GAME Manifesto spread?

TT: At first, the GAME Manifesto was just an internal document to say that Transformation Textiles and ZanaAfrica want to work together. ZanaAfrica does disposable pad giveaways and uses Transformation Textile’s tie-on underwear in the schools where they provide MHM education for girls. We also shared market research between our two organizations.

Then we then made the GAME manifesto more general and shared it with others to get feedback. It was immediately shared on WASH United’s global website. WASH United has over 300 partners and is a neutral body, so it becomes a powerful platform to create further buy-in.

R4D: What are your hopes for the future of the MHM sector?

TT: We hope that this spurs the recreation of the industry. I hope it will make us more intentional in our collaboration and allow us to create industry standards. It’s not just about products; it’s about education and overcoming taboos and having an industry of shared resources. By having a common watering hole that we all come to, we can share the resources that we create. That’s what an industry can do. We’ve started doing this on EVA Wear as a way to cross-advocate and open up our resources for anyone to use.

The Game Manifesto is a stepping stone that opened the door to say let’s work together.

Find out more and connect with the trailblazing teams at Transformation Textiles and ZanaAfrica by visiting their profiles. For more insights into the innovators in the MHM sector, read our blog here.

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Monitoring for people, not funders

Peter Blair

Program managers often see monitoring and evaluation as a painful process that they are forced into by funders. However, the WASH Impact Network believes that the information programs collect should empower them to make better decisions for the communities they serve. Asking the right questions can unlock answers to questions such as “what matters most to the communities we work in” or “how can we reach more people, more effectively”. Simple monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can be one of the best ways to understand the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) problem your program is trying to solve.

A quick note on definitions - for the purposes of simplicity within this article, monitoring will be defined as a process that answers the question “is my program working the way it is supposed to?”, and evaluation will be defined as answering the question “did my program have the effect it was supposed to, and how big an effect did it have?”. The piece that connects the idea behind what a program manager wants their program to do and why they think that will happen will be called the “theory of change”. A theory of change maps out the different steps a program will progress through to create the desired change that happens at the end of a program – for example, our desired change could be fewer people getting sick from water-borne diseases. By breaking a program into these logical steps, you can create short- and medium-term goals that will eventually lead towards longer-term goals, and even act as a warning signal if something is going wrong that could prevent overall success. Within each of those steps there are certain assumptions – assumptions that can be examined and tested using monitoring. Creating a theory of change as a first step allows you to identify any large assumptions, make changes to the program design to avoid possible mistakes, and increase the chances of your program having the desired effect.

Whether we are talking about impact evaluation, monitoring and evaluation, or theory of change, evidence has become one of the most talked about elements of international development in the last decade. Funders ask for more and more information from programs to make sure their dollars are being well spent. As a result, programs see M&E as one more thing they have to do to get money from funders. There is a clear trade-off – time and money spent collecting data is time that is not spent on implementing programs. However, programs can choose to collect data that helps them to be more effective, rather than solely to satisfy funders. The value of monitoring your program can be the difference between catastrophic results, and a great success.

Imagine the case of a man with a serious chest infection caused by bacteria. The man goes to see his doctor, and she gives him a bottle of twenty antibiotic pills, after which he goes home. In this case, our program is “providing antibiotic pills to treat a chest infection”. After the man visits the doctor and receives the pills, he continues to get sicker and sicker, eventually becoming so ill that he gets admitted to hospital, and dies.

What happened? We know that antibiotics are an effective treatment against bacterial infection – but the man still died. If you are the doctor (program manager), do you stop using antibiotics as a treatment for chest infections? This case provides us with an example of the difference that monitoring can make. Imagine that after the man died, the doctor asked the man’s wife what happened. It turns out that the man only took one out of the twenty antibiotic pills he was given. The doctor had made the assumption that the man had taken all of the medicine as directed, but in reality he had barely taken any of the treatment at all. By not examining the assumption that the patient would take the pills as she has told him to, she could have falsely concluded that antibiotics are not an effective treatment.

What monitoring can help us understand is whether a treatment (or a program) actually happens in the way it is designed. Imagine the man did not like way the pills tasted, or misunderstood how many he was supposed to take – both of these are problems that could be solved with small tweaks to the doctor’s explanation of the treatment, or be used as a reason to design a better tasting pill. But, because we don’t know what happened once he left her office, we don’t know whether the pills were ineffective, or whether something else went wrong. Without monitoring, we cannot say anything useful when it comes to “evaluating” a program as we don’t know whether what was supposed to happen ever took place – making it impossible to know whether or not the treatment worked.

When we apply this to WASH, the simplest example is within sanitation. If the goal of our program is to end open defecation in a particular village, we might build a toilet for every household. But unless we monitor what happens we will never know if anyone actually uses the toilet. Convincing someone to move from defecating in the open to using a brand new toilet can be a complicated and lengthy process – but if we do not think through the “theory of change”, we may miss the very obvious realization that the goal is not to build lots of toilets – but instead to get people to start using improved sanitation facilities.

Monitoring helps us to see whether the good intentions of a program lead to real changes in behavior.  Often, it is easy to lose sight of the real-world people a program is trying to serve amidst the jargon used when discussing monitoring. Inputs, outputs, outcomes, impact, logframes – this language can get in the way of understanding whether an action that a program manager takes is changing something for the better. This is one of the greatest tragedies of how complicated monitoring can feel to program managers. Monitoring should provide a tool to better understand those real people, and whether what your program provides is actually useful to them.  

Program managers might see monitoring and evaluation as an exercise that only matters when it comes to reporting to funders, not in serving the people they wish to help. Data is collected over long-periods of time, and only evaluated at the end of a project, often once funding has run out. This means that valuable lessons about what went wrong, and what could be done differently will never be acted on. A theory of change can help you design your program in a way that answers many of those questions about how to be effective right at the start of a program, and provide a more flexible approach to collecting information that can help you fix things and be more effective.

At its simplest, a theory of change helps you map out what your program is supposed to do (including the assumptions that link each step of the program), and provide you with an idea of what you should measure at each step of your program to see if that is really happening. Monitoring that theory of change can be as simple as asking a few simple questions (Did you use your newly constructed toilet? Why not?), which are then used immediately to run the program more effectively. Monitoring is at its best when it happens early, provides information that can be used to make a decision, and helps a program manager understand how to make her program more effective. If monitoring is made a continuous part of the program, big mistakes can be avoided, and great opportunities can be seized.

Once a program manager knows that her program is being delivered and working the way it is supposed to, then she can think about evaluating it to see how well it worked. This last question is important to know how a program compares to other approaches, and whether it is the most effective, and most cost-effective approach. By focusing on monitoring first, you should be able to understand why your program works, as well as if it works at all.

This approach to M&E can be used to satisfy the questions that funders ask, but it must first answer the questions that the program manager has to make her program better. Program managers need to realize that it is within their power to decide what sort of information they collect, and ultimately whether that information will be useful for more effectively serving the communities they work in. Data is only useful when it is collected for a purpose, analyzed, and then used to make decisions. Using carefully designed M&E not only makes a program better, it can also help a program manager prove that her program is a great success – information that she can use to generate more funding in the future. As the program manager, you are in control of what information you collect – and the first question you ask should be how that information will help you do your job better.

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The Business Model Canvas: A Tool for Social Enterprises, Not-for-Profits, and Everyone In Between

Thu Do

“An accurate canvas helps you communicate the true costs of your operations. Clearly and effectively. Use that canvas to inform the design of your future revenue strategies.” - Byrann Alexandros, The Canvas Kit

The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a one-page visual tool that demonstrates how resources flow through your organization, by looking at nine key elements of any enterprise. Though non-profits do not usually consider themselves “businesses,” they still need to know clearly where their funding is coming from, and how to use it to deliver their social mission. The BMC tool is used to clarify where revenue is coming from, where it is going, and how it is creating the intended impact. It is important to have a quality BMC to convey any organization’s “business” logic so that informed strategic decisions can be made. A strong BMC can be used to show potential funders or investors that your organization is aware of it's current position, and is thinking strategically about the future. 



The nine key questions a business model canvas helps you explore are:

  • Who are your key partners?
  • What are your key activities?
  • What key resources do you need to do those activities?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • How do you interact with your "audience"?
  • How do you reach them?
  • What do your "audience segments" look like?
  • How much will it cost to do your activites and reach your audience?
  • How much will you make, or what is your revenue stream?

The BMC can be used as both a communications and strategy tool. The exercise can help programs think about where they are now, where they want to go, and how they will get there. And the final product can be used to demonstrate to donors your current and future strategies. 


What to do next?

Members of the WASH Impact Network will be able to reach out to experts to get coaching and support when they use this tool. More information on how to access this support is provided in a monthly newsletter distributed to the Network which aims to provide programs with resources and tools to increase their impact.

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The WASH Impact Network: East Africa Launches in Nairobi

Morgan Benson

The WASH Impact Network, in partnership with Millennium Water Alliance, celebrated the official launch of the East Africa cohort of the Network recently in Nairobi, Kenya. The launch ceremony was held at the end of a three-day workshop that was attended by program leaders of 19 water, sanitation, and hygiene innovations. The workshop was designed to respond to the support needs they expressed in the East Africa needs assessment. That analysis highlighted a clear need for organizational financing, and the workshop thus focused on several key areas that prepare an organization to be “funder-ready.” [1]

Day 1 began with a participatory session on Theory of Change (TOC), a favorite of many programs that was led by Katie B. Wren, a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) training expert based in Tanzania. Put simply, a TOC tells the story of how a program believes change will happen based on its activities. It highlights what makes the program unique, and clearly shows its intended ultimate impact. Programs worked in small groups to select and articulate one TOC from a member of the group, including what assumptions and values are held in each step of the program’s logic.

TOC can be used not only for strategic development and planning, but also to communicate the impact that a program generates. This can be a powerful tool to present to funders, and may also serve as a schematic for the M&E of the program as a whole. Day 1 also included sessions on social marketing and M&E to build the ties between these topics for programs, to ultimately better link measurement with external communication and the development of a sustainable financing model.

Day 2 focused on two other key topics for program sustainability: 1) human resources management and 2) fundraising and business plan development. The latter, led by Sjef Ernes of Aqua for All, covered both how to get access to funding (including a variety of funding sources and models to consider) and how to be ready for funding (including understanding different partnerships, risk perception, and value propositions). Programs were also exposed to the several ‘reach back’ resources Aqua for All can provide, such as advising, evaluating, and funding innovative programs like the ones included in the Network.

To promote better financial management within organizations, R4D is also partnering with Accounting for International Development (AFID). AFID, who has previously worked with at least one of the WASH innovators, is a UK-based organization that partners professional accountants with social impact organizations around the world. AFID representatives teleconferenced into the East Africa workshop to present the opportunity and answer questions from programs, and the information and link to AFID will be shared with the full 134-program Network.

Day 3 concluded with a panel discussion with representatives from a variety of funding organizations that support innovative programs in the WASH sector: Aqua for All, Netfund, The Water Project, Segal Family Foundation, Avina Foundation, and GrowthAfrica. Workshop participants had an open conversation with the funders about what they really do (and don’t) look for in an organization to support. Funders shared their overall strategies with the innovators, as well as more specific topics, such as what their grant sizes are, what kinds of relationships they have with their grantees, and what types of soft and hard skills they look for in program leaders. The lessons learned are also being shared with the wider cohort of 134 programs to give those who were not able to attend the same kind of insight into the funders’ perspectives.

R4D is currently analyzing interviews and survey feedback from the 19 programs that attended the workshop, to inform the second East Africa workshop which will be held in early-mid 2016. Participants responded well to sessions on business development and funder insight, which aligned with the intended framing of the workshop around how to get “funder ready.” For more information about the innovators in the East Africa cohort, see a spotlight on them here, or go here to learn more about the first workshop and launch event held by our partner Dasra in Mumbai with a group of WASH innovators in India.


[1] Workshop facilitation provided by: Katie B. Wren; Richard Burns, EXP Social Marketing; Christina Banga; Veronica Aman, Human Capital Synergies; Sjef Ernes, Aqua for All; Charles Ogalo, MWA; Anna Pollock, MWA; and Peter Blair, R4D. Please contact to get in touch with any of these individuals.

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Snapshot of WASH Innovators in East Africa

Morgan Benson

East Africa, particularly Nairobi, Kenya, is often thought of as the ‘innovation hub’ of Africa. IBM chose the city for the location of its first ‘Innovation Center’ on the continent, and the Kenyan mobile money system M-PESA is one example of an innovative new technology that has rapidly spread throughout the country. Through the WASH Impact Network, R4D is partnering with Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) to support the top water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) innovators in the region. MWA has several years of experience in East Africa, including local offices in Nairobi and Addis Ababa and deep connections in the sector through its 16 MWA consortium members.

MWA identified 77 innovative WASH programs to profile and include in the Network’s peer learning and capacity development activities. MWA will be coordinating the Network locally, and recently held its first workshop in Nairobi for 19 innovators from Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia. While the primary criterion for inclusion in the Network is whether the organization is testing an innovative approach in the WASH sector, MWA also focused on finding small-scale, grassroots organizations to participate. Despite this commonality, these 77 organizations in the Network vary widely in the approaches they are taking to extend access to safe water and latrines, and improve hygiene practices for individuals in East Africa.

Comparing the cohort

Geographic spread: The East Africa cohort is mainly located across four countries: Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. A small number of programs also operate in South Sudan, Zambia, and Mozambique. A minority of programs have also scaled across countries or regions, such as Impact Africa Industries, whose Safi reusable menstrual pads can now be found in both Kenya and neighboring Uganda.

Subsector: Programs are fairly evenly split across the three major subsectors of WASH: water (47 programs), sanitation (42), and hygiene (44). A high number of programs (43%) also work across multiple subsectors within WASH, and many operate across sectors other than WASH, such as food security in the case of RiPPLE. Based in Ethiopia, RiPPLE has adopted the Multiple Use Service (MUS) Strategy, which advises institutions to design and implement infrastructure to incorporate both domestic and productive uses of water. RiPPLE includes the promotion of school gardens in its water programs to support local entrepreneurship as well as better childhood nutrition.

Water Sanitation Hygiene

Common Focus Areas drinking water, purification, storage, and agricultural water management.

Common Focus Areas waste management and disposal or re-use, and environmentally friendly toilets.

Common Focus Areas hand washing, menstrual hygiene management, and safe and sustainable cooking.

Program Spotlight Whave in Uganda acts as a model rural water utility, providing a reliable source of safe water. Whave signs reliability assurance and WASH service agreements with communities and builds PPPs to support local cost recovery and sustainability.

Program Spotlight Sanitation Solutions Group (SSG) is a sanitation enterprise that provides affordable sanitation products and services to households in Uganda, including latrine construction, upgrading, and emptying through a market-based approach.

Program Spotlight Irise Uganda couples their menstrual hygiene products (including washable, reusable sanitary pads) with high quality, fact-based menstrual health education. Irise changes the discourse around sanitation into a drive to promote women’s education, health, and rights.

Funding model: Comparable to the cohort of innovators that R4D convenes in the health and education sectors, innovators in WASH also tend to operate non-profit enterprises. However, over a third operate either a for-profit or hybrid (for-profit/non-profit) model, and many of the non-profit programs included in the recent WASH Impact Network workshop in East Africa expressed strong interest in diversifying their financing within that model.

Within those that operate a purely for-profit model, Chujio Ceramics, for example, produces and sells ceramic water filters to the rural poor in Kenya. The use of the filter to treat household drinking water ensures that a family is free from water-borne diseases and has easy access to safe water. This enables them to save money that would have been spent on hospital bills, medication, and fuel, and time that they would have spent in hospital queues and at water points. These savings can be used to improve livelihoods, for girls to stay in school, and for families to engage in meaningful work.

The future of the Network in East Africa

The WASH Impact Network aims to support innovators like Chujio, who are on the forefront of testing the application of a promising for-profit business model for a dual profit-social benefit purpose. Based on the impact that facilitated peer learning has had on many programs who work with R4D’s health platform, we believe that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be shared across programs in the Network. Millennium Water Alliance will lead these activities with the East Africa cohort, including a second capacity development workshop in the spring. Check back here for updates on that workshop and other insights to share from the Network.

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Organizations in the WASH Impact Network Gather for First Workshop in Mumbai

Emily Endres

On September 21-24, 2015, Results for Development (R4D) and its partner Dasra brought together sixteen organizations in the WASH Impact Network to Mumbai, India to connect and learn.

The workshop content was tailored to respond to results from a needs assessment conducted this year. Over 100 organizations participated in the needs assessment, which aimed to identify barriers to innovation within the WASH sector in India and East Africa. Some of the top needs expressed by organizations in India informed the content of the first workshop, including theory of change, monitoring and evaluation, and fundraising.

Here are five highlights from the workshop:

1. Building relationships and setting the stage

The workshop began with a round of ice breakers that helped participants get to know each other, and also understand the way communication works—and often doesn’t work. For example, one game called “Finding Funding” required blindfolded volunteers to find an object by getting directions from two different groups—one that was unable to speak and the other that was unable to see.

Mr. Gautam Prakash from Reap Benefit explained what he learned from the activity: “We need to change our method of communication—that was my main takeaway from the finding funding game. There are gaps between what we hear and what we say and what we assume. Sometimes you have to work with very unreceptive listeners, and then you need to find out a better way to communicate.”

The game and Gautam’s reflection on it set the stage for the rest of the workshop that focused on how to use evidence and frameworks to measure impact, and then communicate that in a concise, clear way that responds to the expectations of funders.

2. Theory of Change

The first step in being able to communicate the impact of a program is to be able to understand the theory of change behind it. Led by Hugh Waddington from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluations (3ie), participants practiced creating a Theory of Change based on real-world examples of WASH programs. Participants were able to work together in small groups to identify the end impact they are trying to achieve, and the building blocks it would take to get there. They looked at the differences between inputs, outputs, and outcomes, and the assumptions they made along the way.

When participants were asked to identify one thing they learned from the workshop that they will implement within their own organizations, fifteen out of sixteen reported that they will create a formal theory of change for their programs.

3. Monitoring and Evaluation

Activities on days two and three built on the Theory of Change framework by designing Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART) indicators to measure the outcomes they chose. Groups presented the resulting M&E frameworks to the room and received valuable feedback from their peers. In addition, Mr. Waddington from 3ie also demonstrated the value of impact evaluations and online resources that can help program managers determine what kind of data is available to help inform their programs.

4. Building Partnerships

One of the aims of the WASH Impact Network is to connect organizations to each other and foster peer learning. Megha Jain from Dasra facilitated two sessions called “Know Your Peers,” which are rounds of quickfire presentations from participants in which they give an overview of the work that they do, and their biggest challenges. Their peers were then able to offer advice or services to the presenters, starting a larger conversation among the cohort on mutual support and peer learning.

5. Getting Funder Ready

One of the top needs expressed by WASH innovators in the needs assessment was operational financing. In order to help program managers address this need, participants created a three-page funder document that expressed their vision and described their program and theory of change. Experts at Dasra coached participants in the creation of these documents, and participants also received feedback from their peers. These documents can be adapted and expanded for a variety of funding applications and proposals.

In order to understand what donors are looking for, representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Arghyam, and HSBC were invited to participate in a funder roundtable where they discussed what they look for in a grantee, what programs they fund in the WASH sector and why, and their visions for the future—insights rarely accessible to on-the-ground program managers in the WASH sector.

Workshop participants will attend a second capacity building workshop in spring of 2016 that builds on the theory of change, M&E and fundraising skills learned in this workshop. A workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2015 will host 15-20 WASH innovators from East Africa, hosted by R4D and its regional partner, Millennium Water Alliance

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