Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Happiest Room in the House, and Ending Open Defecation in India by Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday

Think about it:

When we come out of the bathroom, we are much happier than when we went in (with very few, but notable exceptions). So, according to Jack Sim of the World Toilet Organization, the host of last week’s World Toilet Summit in New Delhi, that makes the toilet the "happiest room in the house!"

Hundreds of delegates at the Summit spent two full days vigorously discussing and debating approaches and steps needed to accelerate progress toward the ultimate goal of universal coverage of sanitation in India and across the developing world. Sanitation is the most off-track of the Millennium Development Goals, and stands to gain the most from the world’s commitment to universal coverage by 2030, as espoused in the draft Sustainable Development Goals.

A key theme throughout the Summit was the balancing act between hardware and software. One cannot have too much hardware/infrastructure and not enough software/behavior change, or vice versa. The balance is important, as is the timing between the two; both tracks need to be pursued simultaneously. On this note, the inventor of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and the Founder of the CLTS Foundation Dr. Kamal Kar told a story about the many times he has seen people around the world talking on their cell phones while defecating in the open, then hopping up and riding away on their motorcycles. Clearly these people are not the poorest of the poor, but have rather made a conscious decision to defecate in the open, manifesting the need for behavior change. But once they do change their behavior, or at least express a willingness to do so, the supply chain for sustainable technical solutions to their sanitation challenges needs to be strong enough to respond quickly and appropriately.

This balancing act between hardware and software promises to be prominent in India over the next five years, and I found the World Toilet Summit in New Delhi particularly well-timed for three reasons:

  1. The Government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, late last year committed loudly and publicly to universal coverage of sanitation in India by October 2, 2019, the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. To succeed, this Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) will need to solve the problem of 600 million Indians who continue to defecate in the open, and do so in an appropriate, sustainable fashion.
  2. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have recently partnered with the Government of India on capacity-building for sanitation in urban areas across India.
  3. And last but not least, sanitation was a key component of the late 2014 summit between U.S. President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Modi, and is likely on the table during President Obama’s current visit to India as the Chief Guest of Prime Minister Modi as India celebrates its Republic Day (January 26, 2015).

So considering the success (and excellent timing) of the recent World Toilet Summit in New Delhi, and the warm relationship between the leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, how about we throw a Global Block Party for Swachh Bharat, just as whole neighborhoods come together to clean up a river on a sunny weekend day: let's all pitch in and help India end open defecation and achieve universal coverage of sanitation by October 2, 2019, and wish Mahatma Gandhi a Happy 150th Birthday. How about a Global Friends of Swachh Bharat to provide additional financial and technical inputs to the Government of India’s already impressive commitment? It won't be easy, but with every single Indian involved, per the suggestion of Prime Minister Modi, and working together with many of us from abroad (perhaps a big push from the Indian diaspora), it is possible. India has killed polio; it's ready to move on sanitation now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WASH Advocates - looking for a great Communications Manager

Please let all of your communications friends know! 

Thank you! 

NVF Project Name: WASH Advocates
Position: Communications Manager  
Location: Washington, DC
Status: Exempt, Full-time (Temporary for one year)
Reports to: CEO of WASH Advocates

Position Summary: WASH Advocates (WA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan initiative dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge. Our mission is to increase awareness of WASH challenges and solutions, and to increase the amount and effectiveness of programming and grantmaking devoted to those solutions throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. WA seeks a Communications Manager to help develop and implement our overall communications strategy, with the goal of increasing the visibility, understanding, and reach of the WASH sector and our work.

The Communications Manager will strengthen WASH Advocates’ presence as a resource for the WASH sector and act as a main point of contact for those wanting more information on the global WASH challenge and sustainable solutions. Activities will align with and support WASH Advocates’ three main focus areas - WASH sustainability, strategic communications, and in-country advocacy.

·         Develop and implement a 12 month (2015) communications strategy that will raise the profile of the WASH issue and its linkages to related development challenges; this will include key objectives, target audiences, specific opportunities, timelines, and messages;
·         Draft, refine, and disseminate WASH advocacy materials, including talking points, press releases, blogposts, case studies, Tech Notes, congressional briefs, sample letters and social media messages;
·         Build and maintain relationships with other communications experts in the sector and participate in relevant working group meetings, increasing coordination of partners active in WASH advocacy;
·         Coordinate WASH Advocates’ external communications with an independent, sector-wide voice, including a newsletter, website(s), social media outreach, and one-on-one grasstops outreach;
·         Cultivate new spokespersons for the WASH sector and maintain relationships with current spokespersons;
·         Cultivate relationships with journalists to pitch WASH stories and generate and respond to incoming media requests;
·         Develop and maintain a communications style standard for all external messaging; and
·         Plan and support events that raise awareness of the efforts of WASH Advocates and its partners, including for World Water Day (March 22), Global Handwashing Day (October 15), and World Toilet Day (November 19). 

Minimum Education and Skills
The successful candidate will have:
        Masters degree or commensurate experience in mass communications, advocacy, marketing, journalism, or a related field;
        5+ years of experience in communications and/or advocacy-related work;
        Strong understanding and experience in communicating international development and ideally WASH issues;
        Strong writing skills, particularly for web-based content, email action alerts, and press releases;
        Excellent computer skills, particularly in using mass email platforms (Email Now, Constant Contact, MailChimp) and social media tools (Facebook, TweetDeck, HootSuite, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr); and
        Experience with developing and managing websites, ideally on Wordpress.

Necessary Competencies
To be successful, the Communications Manager will:
        Have strong and persuasive oral and written communication, facilitation, advocacy, and stakeholder engagement skills;
        Be able to work well in a small and highly productive team and foster collaboration among a diverse set of stakeholders;
        Engage partners to actively participate and contribute to the WASH sector with time and resources;
        Exercise creativity and opportunism in raising the profile of WASH issues;
        Build relationships and networks, linking appropriate spokespersons within the WASH community with specific opportunities and needs.

• 2-3 years of experience with international WASH issues;
• Existing relationships and contacts with media.

How to Apply: Please send résumé and cover letter to John Oldfield at joldfield@WASHadvocates.org.
This is a one-year position, available starting immediately through December 31, 2015. Salary range is $45,000 - $55,000 per year. Successful completion of a writing test will be required. No phone calls please.
New Venture Fund Careers
WASH Advocates is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that incubates new and innovative public-interest projects and grant-making programs. The New Venture Fund is committed to attracting, developing and retaining exceptional people, and to creating a work environment that is dynamic, rewarding and enables each of us to realize our potential. The New Venture Fund's work environment is safe and open to all employees and partners, respecting the full spectrum of races, ethnicities, national origins, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, beliefs, religions, faiths and ideologies, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and levels of physical ability.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Water for the World Act Passes! Next stop, White House.


WASH Advocates
Cecilia Snyder, 202-293-4003

Congress Passes Water for the World Act with Strong Bipartisan Support
Legislation is Key to Solving the Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Crisis

Washington, DC (December 15, 2014) - In an extraordinary bipartisan effort, the U.S. Senate tonight approved the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014 by unanimous consent.The bill was sponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Corker (R-TN), cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and led by U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ted Poe (R-TX)in the House of Representatives.   

The Water for the World Act will build upon the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, which established access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a priority of America's foreign policy. Today's vote reaffirms the legacy of Senator Simon's lifelong dedication to global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and its importance as a fundamental building block to alleviate poverty and improve health.

Patti Simon, wife of the late Senator, celebrated: "It's been almost a decade since the passage of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, and this year's bill is an important step toward increasing the impact of that original legislation. Paul would be proud of the momentum we're seeing to get safe, sustainable drinking water and sanitation to more and more people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America."

The Water for the World Act is a cost-free approach with enormous positive impacts on health, food security and nutrition, environmental quality, girls' and women's empowerment, and economic development across the globe. It calls for an increase in monitoring and evaluation of projects, particularly after the implementation phase, and ensuring that programming is targeted to help the world's poorest.

"This phenomenal bipartisan effort shows that water issues, particularly safe drinking water and sanitation, resonate with Americans, and they understand how they can tangibly help solve this problem," noted John Oldfield, CEO of WASH Advocates. "Our Representatives and Senators are following the impressive lead of their constituents around the country - church groups, Rotary Clubs, elementary schools, universities, and nonprofits - who are working to help solve this global crisis once and for all."

The Water for the Poor Act has made a tangible difference in the world. Every year, U.S. WASH programs bring better WASH access to millions of people across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In FY11 and FY12, USAID provided almost 7 million people with improved access to drinking water supply, and almost 3 million with improved access to sanitation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GLAAS Report 2014 - The most important WASH report you haven't read (yet)

The most important report that you have never heard of, and why and how it should change the global water and sanitation sector

For months, millions of people have been eagerly anticipating the release of the latest UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report.
Well, that’s not entirely true. In fact, it’s not even mostly true. But it should be. The biannual GLAAS report is one of most important reports in the global water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector. 

So what does the 2014 GLAAS report – released today – actually mean? What are its most important findings and recommendations, and how should we respond to them?

The 2014 report - using data from 94 countries and 23 donors - shows increasing momentum, political commitments, and financial support for WASH. It also highlights the huge regional disparities that remain, the continuing challenge to attract more and smarter money to the sector, and the relative lack of attention paid to sanitation. Implicit in the report are a number recommendations that the international nonprofit and donor community should take to heart.

What are the report's most urgent findings?

  • There is a need for more, smarter, and better targeted money in the sector, the vast majority of which will need to come from the public sector (domestic tax revenues). 80% of respondent countries indicated insufficient financing for the sector, and 70% of countries reported that tariffs do not cover the costs of operation and maintenance. Extra credit assignment: read this article from IRC about public finance in the WASH sector.
  • There is an imbalance between where the money is going, and where it is most needed. For example, rural sanitation expenditures comprise less than 10% of total WASH finance. This is particularly germane on World Toilet Day.
  • There is a noted lack of human resources in the global WASH sector, leading to problems in monitoring and evaluation, pro-poor (viz. rural) targeting of programs, and operations and maintenance of systems. There are simply not enough professionals engaged in water and sanitation.
  • It’s not just about households. Schools and health facilities also have a dire need for sustainable WASH systems, as manifested recently by the outbreak of Ebola and by the ongoing challenges of childbirth and increasing the enrolment of girls in schools.
  • And perhaps the scariest findings in the report: 
    • “…most sector decisions are not evidence-based due to the widespread lack of capacity for monitoring, inconsistent or fragmented gathering of data and limited use of information management systems and analysis. . . ” and
    •  “…less than half of countries track progress in extending sanitation and drinking-water services to the poor.”
With limited capacity for ongoing monitoring and evaluation, the sector runs the risk of continuing to repeat mistakes and make decisions based on inadequate evidence.

So what? What can I do about these findings?
I urge you to read the report or at least its highlights and digest some of its impressive country profile work. Second, use the report to help you identify gaps in your corner of the global WASH sector, mismatches between supply and demand, and opportunities for your organization to help rectify some of those imbalances and misalignments.

No, seriously, what can I do about it?
Since you asked, here are some concrete ideas:

Nonprofits and implementing agencies:
  • Focus more on local government and community capacity-building; on the poorest of the poor (predominantly rural); on sanitation and hygiene as key components of an integrated WASH program; on enabling environments including policy advocacy; on sustainable financial models appropriate to local contexts; on monitoring and evaluation (particularly long after the ribbon-cutting ceremony); and on converting the high levels of political commitment we see in the GLAAS report to tangible country-level action.
  • Work alongside or within government (national and local) systems in your program countries rather than in spite of the local government; support those governments’ efforts to develop and strengthen their own capacity to monitor and evaluate WASH efforts rather than imposing your own.  

Private, corporate, and government funders:
  • Think less about how many wells you can buy, and more about how to have a transformative impact in your program countries and communities. Start with a problem, and fund the appropriate solution set, not vice versa.
  • Seek out and fund efforts as outlined above; ask your potential US and local grantees tough questions early in the proposal process about technical and financial sustainability and appropriateness. Are you helping to transform a community, or just creating/deepening dependencies?
  • Support programs designed to leave behind capacity, not holes. Some of the best/promising initiatives we are following most closely now include:

o   Water For People’s Everyone Forever campaign
o   Water.org’s Watercredit
o   WASH policy advocacy efforts at various levels, including the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership, End Water Poverty, and the WASH Advocacy Challenge
  • Focus less on the low hanging fruit (e.g. large drinking water projects in dense urban environments) and more on the most difficult people to reach as identified by the GLAAS report (e.g. small rural or per-urban integrated sanitation programs).  
  •  Think beyond the household: fund WASH efforts in healthcare facilities and schools, in part to prevent the next Ebola or cholera outbreak from becoming an epidemic.

 Bottom line: Make sure the right people across the globe read the 2014 GLAAS report. When more people read it, and act on its findings, the WASH sector will see both higher levels of political and financial commitments, and better designed, implemented, and targeted WASH programming. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Water for the World Act to be marked up this World Toilet Day / Rally at noon

 Look forward to seeing you all Wednesday: 

United States House of Representatives
For Planning Purposes only

Blumenauer, Leading NGOs Call for Swift Passage of Water for the World, Push for International Sanitation Improvement
WHAT:    On Wednesday morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will conduct its markup of H.R. 2901, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act authored by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ted Poe (R-TX). This is one of the final steps in a long journey towards passage for this incredibly important, bipartisan bill. At noon, following the markup, there will be a rally/press conference at the House Triangle.

The purpose of this Act is to strengthen and refine the implementation of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act to ensure that WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) programming is not only elevated in a way that helps leverage the impact of other development assistance, but to ensure that our WASH programming is targeted to help the world’s poorest, is more effective, with long-term, sustainable impacts; and, to codify, with strengthening revisions, the good work currently being done by USAID and State on WASH.    

And the legislation could not be more timely.  There are over 260 river basins that cross at least one international border, making the management of this finite resource – without conflict – one of our greatest national security challenges.  Without greater leadership from the U.S., these challenges will only grow more acute.  We need only look at the very recent history in Syria for proof, where severe droughts played a key role in the initial uprisings.   

Dirty water directly affects every area of development, which is why water and sanitation are the best investments our country can make.  This legislation will positively affect the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people, disproportionately women and children, and represents a successful bipartisan effort from conception until now.  Nearly 800 million people lack access to clean water.  Every day, women and girls spend a combined 200 million hours collecting water, keeping them from school.
In a stroke of luck, Wednesday is also World Toilet Day, and we will have the opportunity to hear from experts in the NGO world about how the US can better help the 2.5 billion people worldwide without access to proper sanitation.

WHO:    Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
WHERE: House Triangle, U.S. Capitol, southeast side 

WHEN12:00 pm, Wednesday, November 19, 2014