Basic Information on Water and Sanitation Issues

This post originially appeared in – another blogging project I’m involved in with the folks from World Vision Australia. To see the original post in all of it’s glory, please go here. 

One of the biggest issues facing countries struggling with endemic poverty is the states of their water sources. In many countries, such as in Iraq and Zimbabwe, many people lack basic access to water and sanitation infrastructure. This week, Pay Drechsel from the International Water Management Institute (IMWI) guest posted at the blog about the issues facing communities using polluted irrigation water. He posted a video (below) which describes the problem very well which is well worth a watch.

According to the World Health Organisations Guidelines for the Safe Use of Water and Excreta and Grey Water, sufficient achievement of the Millenium Development Goals 1 (Eliminate extreme poverty and hunger) and 7 (ensure environmental sustainability) require the use of water. It then goes on to stress that despite the desperate need, use of water should be done safely so as not to endanger human life.

A farmer moulds his irrigation channels

This is why we like Pays’ video and thoughts posted on – because they take in to account that in developing countries things we take for granted (such as money for capital works, infrastructure such as aqua-ducts and dams and organisational bodies to manage our water) often don’t exist.

Thus, we thought the following list may prove useful for you.

Key Information when thinking about Water and Sanitation

  1. Water is required for agriculture and development of sustainable economies in developing countries.
  2. Often, however, this water will be mixed with excreta, grey water and various other detrimental matter.
  3. Roughly three quaters of the worlds countries only 10% of the population are connected to sewerage systems, making capital investment in creating an integrated system incredibly expensive and unrealistic for many communities.
  4. However, with good community engagement and support, practices can be put into place to lower the amount of water born diseas present in agricultural water at low cost.
  5. The leading cause of disease, despite the poor health of many communities water pipeline, is still born in the preparation of food.

Open House for Social Entrepreneurs in Melbourne, Thursday

Just a quick one from me today, to let you all know about the amazing project which is starting on Thursday. If you’re in Melbourne, feel free to come on down and have a look around the new Donkey Wheel building. The details are as follows.

Time: 4pm-7pm

When: Thursday, 18th of December, 2008.

Where: 673 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC. 3000


Donkey Wheel is a non-profit Trust, which focuses on giving funding to social initiatives which otherwise would find it very difficult to operate. They fund the ‘unfundables.’ The people doing truly cutting edge work. I’ve met the people behind it, and they are truly energised about creating something of immense value in our city, of which I feel immensely proud and excited. Col Duthie, from the Ergo blog, is also heavily involved. As part of this vision, they have purchased a building in the old ‘West End’ area of Melbourne town. (Above)

Their vision for this building is truly inspiring, which is why I’m blogging about it to let you all know. They plan to turn the building into a melting pot of social ventures and start-up ventures, allowing for a truly unique mix of the like which is close to impossible to find anywhere else in the world. Thursday’s open house is the first day on the journey to realising that vision. I will be there from 4pm till about 5:30pm but the building will be open till 7pm, with tours operating through-out every half-hour. I hope to see you there.

I'm participating in Blog Action Day – are you?

I got very excited this morning when I stumbled upon this little beauty whilst reviewing my RSS feeds. The concept is the Blog Action Day, and it’s happening again this year on October the 15th. This years theme: Poverty.

I’m Participating, are you?

As most of you would be aware, I work at World Vision Australia, which focuses on providing life in all it’s fullness for children all over the world. We aim to help alleviate global, endemic poverty and do this through a number of ways, namely Child Sponsorship. Whilst I don’t always love the place, and at times find my ‘Brand Me Personality’ keen to escape to more naturally innovative pastures, I really enjoy my time here being a part of an organisation that plays a huge role internationally in making stuff happen to combat poverty and it’s terrible symptoms. There are some amazing people around who are literally saving the world, and working in that environment is pretty fascinating.

Which is why I’m really pumped for the Blog Action Day on October 15th. I plan to use the day to hopefully open a dialogue about how NGO’s in the poverty alleviation space can work in innovative ways to further leverage their advantages and resources towards making poverty history.

I’m not quite sure yet what my plan is for the day, but I’ll let you know what will be happening on this blog in due course. Until then (wait for the sizzle), keep thinking about what you can do on the day to contribute to a huge buzz about how we can fight poverty together from our keyboards. You can get involved here.

A great giving proposition. How 'made to stick' meets social gifting.

How do you get a product to appeal to a certain market, get your brand to stick at once, and then make people proud to wear it? One of the better reads I had this year was the book Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, who also write in Fastcompany monthly. The book focuses on how to make ideas ‘sticky’ and memorable. The authors would love the business model being followed by the company, TOMS Shoes.

The company sells great looking shoes, but then again, so do many cobblers. The key ingredient in the success of the TOMS Shoes brand, is the great social affirmation that comes from buying a pair. For every pair of shoes purchased, the company’s owner, Blake Mycoskie, delivers a pair to a needy child.

Simple. Emotional. Concrete. Winner.

Buy these shoes, and a poor child no longer walks barefoot. It is incredibly sticky, and a great badge of honour for those walking around in the Western world sporting a pair of TOMS.

We deal a lot with the idea of ‘badges of honour’ at World Vision – trying to find a way to give people a feeling that they belong to a tribe when they support one of our causes. The white armband is a good example of this, as ripped from the Lance Armstrong ‘Livestrong’ from years ago. (Do you know they sold 52 Million of those LIVESTRONGS!!!! amazing!). The TOMS messaging will re-appear I’m sure in a world where social conscience is a key pillar of a persons image. By social gifting, in return for purchase of a product, companies can allay their customers world guilt whilst at the same time, create a tribal community feel to their brand. ‘I’m a TOMS wearer…therefore I am.’

Livestong…52 million times!

NPV and the Non-profit world

If you we’re following me on Twitter earlier today, you would have been barraged with thoughts and ramblings about using Net Present Values to gauge how successful a program may be in non-profit world. (Now THATS blogging gold, I hear you say!).


Regardless, I thought I would give it a shot. Of course, Net Present Values are essentially the value of the cash flows that stem from money invested today. Simply, the NPV helps understand whether spending x amount on one venture is worth the expense now, for the future gain.

Of course, that’s pretty hard to quantify in NGO Land. Most programs we run here at WV are not set up to profit, and so the amount of cash flow generated from the activities is not the most appropriate measurement. So…what did I come up with?

Eyeballs (groundbreaking…huh). By valuing how much it costs for us to get our message across using different programs, we can give a rough estimate of how much cash we would need to bring in to break-even. By using that figure, we can then get a better feel for whether the funds we spend on one program will provide a ‘return’ on that investment (i.e – more people knowing/caring about poverty…in this case).

Anyways, I’m experimenting with it at the moment…any other thoughts about how to measure the effectiveness of proposed investment in different programs which collect no cash and by definition cannot be profitable?