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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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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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WASH Impact Network Launches in India

Peter Blair

WASH Impact Network Launches in India

Bringing together 16 WASH innovators from across India, R4D launched the WASH Impact Network, in partnership with Dasra and Millennium Water Alliance (MWA), in Mumbai, India on September 24, 2015.

Participants came from all across India including Uttar Pradesh, Bangalore, and Maharashtra. The workshop focused on training participants to better understand how to measure their impact - through theory of change, and monitoring and evaluation - and also how to create a sustainable fundraising strategy. The training was delivered by Dasra, R4D and 3ie. Across the four days of the workshop, the participants had opportunities to receive insights from funders, and practice using planning and strategizing tools, discuss common challenges in monitoring and evaluation and fundraising, and to gain practical knowledge on how to overcome those challenges.

"There are so many things I picked up yesterday. Clients often ask me what we should do next, once we have provided clean safe drinking water. The WASH Impact Network will place me in a better position to recommend things to them, such as recommending programs in menstrual hygiene to villages," said Lekshmi Krishnan from Waterlife India.

Following four days of working together, and learning new approaches to increase their impact, the organizations joined together with a range of international funders and organizations to officially launch the Network. Organizations had a chance to meet funders, and hear feedback on what funding organizations look for when choosing to invest in innovative WASH programs.

During the workshop, the R4D team interviewed all 16 participants to better understand how the WASH Impact Network can support WASH organizations. We asked questions to understand what the barriers are to implementing new ideas, and also what sort of relationships they would like to build with other WASH organizations to increase their impact.

The workshop has brought together a group of strong social organizations working in the WASH space to not just celebrate their successes but also discuss the challenges that they face while serving their community. The interaction amongst the organizations in the last 2 days gives confidence that R4D and Dasra‘s aim to facilitate a sustainable community of these organizations by the end of the workshop will be achieved,” said workshop facilitator Megha Jain of Dasra.

Over the next year, the WASH Impact Network will work with organizations in both India and East Africa (partnering with MWA) to better understand the challenges facing WASH organizations, understand how organizations implement new ideas, and create a network of innovators that can support each other to provide improved WASH services and products to those in need.

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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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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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Learning about Learning in the WASH Sector

Emily Endres

Stockholm World Water Week brings together practitioners from across the WASH sector to discuss topics of mutual interest and concern. Attendees at the conference included development professionals working in rural sanitation, water ministry officials from Nairobi, water resource management researchers, and representatives from private sector companies providing WASH goods and services. While these individuals’ daily work looks extremely different, one thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that there is a lack of cross-sectoral learning in WASH, and a desire to learn how to learn better.

At Results for Development Institute’s (R4D) WASH Impact Network, we are bringing together civil society organizations in India and East Africa that are implementing innovative approaches in the WASH sector, and trying to understand how they learn. Here are a few notable conversations that stood out to us at Water Week on the subject:  

Beyond the Basics—Next Generation Solutions for Rural Sanitation

The Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) and the World Bank Group presented best practices for getting buy-in from national and state governments to fast track improvements in rural sanitation. What they found was that the most effective means of doing this was by facilitating peer-to-peer learning through creating knowledge hubs, using peer networks and platforms, and sharing success stories through learning tours and site visits. Download the presentations through the SWWW website.

Addressing the Lack of Trained Professionals to Reach the Post-2015 Agenda








R4D's Peter Blair presents on the Network's capacity building activities.


Dorothee Spuhler, lead for the Capacity Development Working Group of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA), facilitated a session that presented a variety of both in-person and online learning methods aimed at building the capacity of WASH professionals worldwide. These methods included field visits, learning tours, on-site trainings, and site supervision services—methods which have shown particular success in conflict areas such as Kabul, where BORDA is training local craftsmen and small and medium enterprises in the construction and maintenance of decentralized wastewater treatment systems and biogas digesters. Presenters at the session also highlighted online learning tools such as the Cap-Net Virtual Campus, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), and the Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox. There was also a focus on the need for more trained WASH professionals to increase in-country capacity - such as Lund University's Sustainable Sanitation in Theory and Action program to provide support to Master's and PhD students in Tanzania.

Transforming Knowledge Production and Innovation for Sustainable Water Development

At this session, Louise Karlberg, research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), called for a new way of conducting research that recognizes participants as local experts, in which they are encouraged to critique the data, tools, and assumptions used in research, and actually help write the final scientific report at the end of the study. In an atypical panel discussion afterward, panellists were asked a series of “tricky questions,” for example, “How can we know that new knowledge makes a difference?” James Clarke, Director of Communications at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), gave an honest answer to this one—we can’t. But he encouraged WASH professionals to think about how knowledge is delivered by asking “Whom do you trust? Whose information do you consider valid? From whom do you get information from and then want to go back home and do something with it?” 

At R4D, we’re taking these insights and exploring them in the context of local WASH innovators that are faced with a number of barriers to scaling up interventions that work, and implementing new ideas. We’re doing this by first bringing together over 120 organizations working at the grassroots level in India and East Africa into a learning and collaborating network, and continuously learning from these organizations about what their organizational needs are, the challenges they face in scaling up and innovating, and how they learn most effectively.

Taking what we learn, we are delivering tailored training and capacity building resources through our regional partners, Dasra and Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) and other service providers, and feeding those lessons back to other development actors for those focused on transferring knowledge better. Browse our website to stay up-to-date on what we’re learning and sharing at R4D. 

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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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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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