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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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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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Monitoring for people, not funders

Peter Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu Do

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

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



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

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

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


What to do next?

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

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

Emily Endres

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


@ Millennium Water Alliance


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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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

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