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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What are the biggest barriers for WASH innovators?

Thu Do

The problem we saw

The WASH sector is a highly fragmented field, but one that has great potential for innovation to improve people’s health and lives. There is ample evidence that the best solutions to challenges in the developing world are being designed by innovators and entrepreneurs that live within those communities. But these local organizations face numerous barriers. At Results for Development Institute (R4D), we wanted to better understand the shared barriers across the WASH sector, and how to support organizations in overcoming them.

To do this, R4D formed the WASH Impact Network. We worked closely with our partners, Dasra in India and Millennium Water Alliance in East Africa, to form a cohort of over 120 organizations operating across 17 countries to share good ideas and lessons across continents.

Through the Network, we aim to learn about how the learning and innovation process occurs for organizations across two diverse implementing environments, while transforming that information into beneficial skill-building opportunities for the organizations in the cohort. We are seeking answers to how innovation spreads and what are the factors that accelerate or impede uptake using the following approach: 

Listening as the first step towards solutions

We asked local organizations in India and East Africa - “what are your greatest organizational needs in order to increase your impact?” – to understand barriers to innovation and how external actors can best support innovation in WASH. The top needs of organizations found across India and East Africa were:

1. Operational financing - Programs need access to funds to support their core activities and/or expansion.

  • “We need funding for research and development. Money given by donors goes into implementation but often doesn’t go into research and development, making it difficult to develop new innovations. Donors like when money goes into printing posters and booklets but not the brainwork.” - Sanitation organization in India using educational behavior change
  • "We need [money] to invest in equipment used in order to improve the product and production process.” - A menstrual hygiene management organization in Kenya

2. Technical Expertise - Programs need increased technical knowledge or research-based evidence to improve their interventions.

  • “We want to learn about new technologies that would reduce construction costs and increase durability, which can be linked to waste management.” - A school sanitation and hygiene organization in India
  • "[We would like] assistance and advice on managing a rotating fund [microfinance] for small-scale innovations.” - Sanitation organization in Uganda

3. Networking - Programs need connections and peer network opportunities for knowledge sharing with other WASH organizations.

  • “In sanitation, organizations seem to work in silos and do not share information… we wish there was somewhere we could go to get inspiration and ideas.” - Commercial public toilet organization in India
  • “We want to be connected with other NGOs who are working in water and sanitation, including working with them to sell the filters to consumers. We would like to team up with these other organizations and teach people how to use the filters.” - Ceramic water filter organization in Ethiopia
The methodology at a glance

The R4D WASH team conducted the needs assessment by collecting qualitative information from organizations during phone interviews with the director or relevant program manager from each organization, learning more about the innovative aspects of the program, and also focusing on “what are the top three organizational barriers to increasing your impact?”.

Responses were recorded and coded to create 12 categories of needs that emerged and are intended to be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive across the responses we heard from all organizations. The top three needs were operational financing, networks, and technical expertise, but also important to our cohort were monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning and organizational development, among others.

The cohort

These needs come from a cohort that is made up of organizations that range in size from one-person organizations to larger and more established entities that have multiple programs serving several communities or entire regions. The geographic coverage of East Africa and India, combined with the differing organizational profiles, provides a cross section of many types of innovators at different stages of maturity.

Top needs of WASH Innovators by WASH sub-sector and funding model

Operational financing was most demanded by hybrid organizations. Perhaps this indicates that there is a gap in financing for the “social enterprise”

Among the 3 types of organizations, non-profits have the highest need for monitoring and evaluation. Perhaps this indicates a need to dig deeper into what are the incentives – do organizations see value in M&E to improve decisions or only for reporting, and why is it lower among hybrid and for-profit organizations?

Fundraising is not voiced as a top need, despite operational financing being the highest identified need. Do organizations have dedicated fundraising staff already? Is there a gap in the donor market? We explore these questions at regional workshops and through baseline surveys

Using the needs assessment to examine how innovators learn and share solutions

We believe systematically identifying needs in the WASH Impact Network is the preliminary step in an exciting learning agenda. By listening and co-learning with this cohort, we hope to provide a platform for innovators to promote their work more widely, creating a two-way channel for innovation that connects programs to sustainable funding and donors to innovative programs.

Lessons and innovations that emerge from the WASH Impact Network will be used to inform the larger international development community on what factors accelerate or impede idea uptake in the WASH sector, which also apply to innovators in the health and education sectors as well.

We are conducting follow up interviews with a sub-section of our cohort at regional workshops and through focus groups to better understand the barriers to implementing new ideas. This will include the operational environment, and how implementing approaches can be learned and improved on across organizations. Our participatory and iterative learning and capacity building approach is described in Figure 1:

Staying engaged

Please continue to follow the WASH Impact Network newsletters for more grassroots driven insights on the barriers to the uptake of new ideas and learn about the best approaches to supporting local organizations designing local innovations.

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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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