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Attending World Water Week? Join us for a seminar examining the role of U.S. philanthropy in solving the global WASH crisis. Detailed information on the seminar’s theme and structure is below.

Stockholm, Sweden — World Water Week conference venue, room K2

Wednesday, August 29th (9AM – 12:30PM)

Follow @WASHfunders for live tweets at the time of the session

This seminar will describe the unique role of U.S.-based foundations in the WASH sector, particularly how philanthropic capital differs from other funding sources, and how those differences can catalyze further funding, support greater advocacy efforts, and spur innovation. Key topics will include: lessons learned and best practices from funded programs; the role of philanthropy in leveraging resources and working collaboratively to increase funding, sustainability, and effectiveness of programs; and a demonstration of WASHfunders.org. Case studies will be presented by five foundations and their grantees through dialogues about opportunities, successes, and challenges of foundation-funded programs.

Programme
09:00 Opening Remarks and Seminar Overview. Mr. Edmund J. Cain, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

09:10 Overview of U.S. Philanthropy. Mr. Brad Smith & Dr. Seema Shah, The Foundation Center

09:30 Foundation Strategies and Grantee Case Studies on Innovation, Advocacy, Learning and Leveraging of Resources in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Sector — Opportunities, Successes and Challenges. Moderator: Mr. Brad Smith, The Foundation Center

  • Innovation & Multiple Use Services

Mr. John Thomas, Rockefeller Foundation & Dr. Mary Renwick, Winrock International

  • Advocacy

Dr. Braimah Apambire, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation  & Mr. John Oldfield, WASH Advocates

  • Scale & Sustainability

Mr. Louis Boorstin, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & Mr. Ned Breslin, Water For People

  • Learning from Partnerships

Mr. Paul Hicks, Catholic Relief Services & Mr. Peter Lochery, CARE 

  • Reporting & Transparency/Social Entrepreneurship

Mr. David Rothschild, Skoll Foundation & Mr. Ned Breslin, Water For People

11:00 Coffee Break 

11:30 Reflections from Panelists/Attendees; Conversations/Additional Q&A, Moderator: Mr. Brad Smith, The Foundation Center

12:00 Demonstration of WASHfunders.org. Dr. Seema Shah, The Foundation Center

12:20 Conclusions and Way Forward. Mr. Brad Smith, The Foundation Center

12:30 Close of Seminar

For the full seminar listing in the World Water Week online programme, click here.

John Oldfield, CEO of WASH Advocates

Editor’s Note: Leading up to the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH seminar at World Water Week on Wednesday, August 29th, in Stockholm, we decided to pose three questions to the panel’s esteemed group of foundation and NGO leaders to give you a preview of their conversation. We will post a new interview each day this week so check back daily or sign up for e-mail updates. In this post, John Oldfield, CEO of WASH Advocates, discusses the need for stronger political will to solve the WASH crisis, as well as the link between WASH and nutrition. In yesterday’s post, John Thomas examined the role that philanthropic investment can play in cultivating innovative WASH solutions.

1. Describe what your organization does and what your role is.

WASH Advocates is a nonprofit, nonpartisan initiative entirely dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge. Our mission is to raise awareness of WASH issues, and convert that heightened awareness into increased financial and political capital throughout the developing world.

The only way the world will achieve universal coverage of safe drinking water and sanitation is if every government (at national, provincial, and municipal levels) prioritizes WASH for all of its citizens. As the CEO, I look for ways to influence WASH-related public policy and country budgets, and I look for advocacy allies from civil society groups, philanthropists, corporations, and faith communities across the globe.

2. Tell us one provocative question or issue you hope to tackle on the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH panel, and why.

People interested in solving the global WASH challenge often ask “Why is there still a WASH problem in 2012?” A recurring answer from many in the sector is: “…because of a lack of political will,” but then the conversation dies since no one really knows what that means. The question I’d like to see this panel tackle is “How does one create political will in each developing country with high rates of WASH poverty, and how can the international donor community help catalyze and convert that strengthened political will into stronger policies and increased budgets for WASH in those countries?”

WASH Advocates works with a number of global, regional, and local partners around the world who are encouraging their own governments to increasingly prioritize WASH. We are looking for ways to strengthen the capacity of country-level civil society groups to work more closely with their elected leaders, because the ‘end game’ for the global WASH challenge is not what we in the international donor community can do, but rather what public sector leaders in developing countries can accomplish sustainably with their own taxpayer resources.

Working with governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is often contentious and time-consuming. However, WASH Advocates contends that the quickest way to true scale in the WASH sector is to involve governments from day one of the design phase of any sizeable WASH programs. This will lead to increased program sustainability in the short-term, and to scale (not just scalability) over the long run.

3. What are you most looking forward to about Stockholm and/or World Water Week?

WASH Advocates is attending World Water Week 2012 to explore the myriad connections between political leaders and WASH across the globe, both in developed and developing countries. Advocacy is not (yet) sexy, and we will be looking for ways to make WASH advocacy more tangible and attractive to civil society leaders, WASH program experts, and the international donor community.

Every political leader anywhere in the developed and developing world wants to prioritize WASH in his or her budget; it is not difficult to garner support for this issue. Our job at WASH Advocates is to help change the political equation, e.g., to minimize the political risk that political leaders must incur if they prioritize WASH among many other equally important development challenges. Political leaders are motivated to act if they hear about a challenge from their own people, and if they understand how the challenge is solvable.

During World Water Week, I am also particularly interested in the linkages between WASH and under-nutrition in children in developing countries. It is under-recognized that unsafe water and inadequate sanitation cause approximately half of childhood under-nutrition. This year’s World Water Week theme will facilitate opportunities for the WASH and nutrition sectors to discuss more integrated programming. 

John Thomas, Fellow, The Rockefeller Foundation

Editor’s Note: Leading up to the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH seminar at World Water Week next Wednesday, August 29th, in Stockholm, we decided to pose three questions to the panel’s esteemed group of foundation and NGO leaders to give you a preview of their conversation. We will post a new interview each day this week so check back daily or sign up for e-mail updates. In this post, John Thomas, fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, speaks about the role that philanthropic investment can play in cultivating innovative WASH solutions. In yesterday’s post, Braimah Apambire discussed the importance of advocacy for the WASH sector.

1. Describe what your organization does and what your role is.

I’m currently a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, where I conduct research and work with our partners and grantees to support the strategic development of various initiatives ranging from climate smart agriculture to fisheries management to water service delivery for poor or vulnerable populations.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission to promote the well-being of people throughout the world has remained unchanged since its founding in 1913. Today, that mission is applied to an era of rapid globalization. Our vision is that this century will be one in which globalization’s benefits are more widely shared and its challenges are more easily weathered.

To realize this vision, the Foundation seeks to achieve two fundamental goals in our work. First, we seek to build resilience that enhances individual, community and institutional capacity to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of acute crises and chronic stresses. Second, we seek to promote growth with equity in which the poor and vulnerable have more access to opportunities that improve their lives. In order to achieve these goals, the Foundation constructs its work into time-bound initiatives that have defined objectives and strategies for impact. These initiatives address challenges that lie either within or at the intersections of five issue areas: basic survival safeguards, global health, environment and climate change, urbanization, and social and economic security. For more information, please visit our web site.

2. Tell us one provocative question or issue you hope to tackle on the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH panel, and why.

One theme of the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH panel is innovation, which is perhaps one of the most over-used words in the English language. While philanthropic funds are often viewed as ‘risk capital’ and in theory foundations should have greater latitude to support ideas, organizations, and people that are pushing the boundaries of accepted practice, in reality foundations often choose the sure bets over the promising new idea, resulting in a critical gap.

I’m excited to chat with Rockefeller Foundation’s partner, Mary Renwick from Winrock International, about her experience as an innovator in the field of water and sanitation, and to really push the foundation community to be clear about what it is we mean by innovation, and how we support innovation in the water, health, and sanitation field.

3. What are you most looking forward to about Stockholm and/or World Water Week?

While there certainly are an incredible array of panels, seminars, and speakers to hear, I’m most excited for the chance encounters in the hallway after the seminars, or the coffee shop conversations where I can learn about interesting new work, and meet people who I haven’t met before, to learn in an unfiltered and informal way about the state of the field.

Braimah Apambire, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Editor’s Note: Leading up to the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH seminar at World Water Week next Wednesday, August 29th, in Stockholm, we decided to pose three questions to the panel’s esteemed group of foundation and NGO leaders to give you a preview of their conversation. We will post a new interview each day this week so check back daily or sign up for e-mail updates. In this post, Braimah Apambire, who leads the WASH Initiative at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, speaks about the importance of advocacy for the WASH sector. In yesterday’s post, David Rothschild discussed funder-grantee relationships.

1. Describe what your organization does and what your role is.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in five priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, caring for vulnerable children, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. Following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants and in 2011 distributed $82 million to organizations in the U.S. and throughout the world. The Foundation's current assets are approximately $2 billion. For more information, please visit our web site.

Since 1990, the Foundation has awarded more than $114 million in grants toward programs in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, India and Mexico. These programs have provided access to safe water for more than 2 million people. The Foundation’s five-year strategy focuses on safe water access, as part of the broader WASH+ (water, sanitation, hygiene, and improved livelihoods) approach, for the poorest and hardest-to-reach populations. Central to the Foundation’s grantmaking approach are long-term partnerships and leveraging resources. Key initiatives of our current work include supporting sustainable and scalable water access, strengthening the enabling environment for WASH interventions, and disseminating and adopting sector-wide knowledge.

I lead the Foundation’s water initiative and spearheaded the development of the Foundation’s strategic plan for WASH programming in Africa, Mexico, and India.

2. Tell us one provocative question or issue you hope to tackle on the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH panel, and why. 

My hope is that participants will get to know the importance of and opportunities for advocacy in the WASH sector. Many people see advocacy as influencing Congress to increase USG funding to the WASH sector. However, advocacy goes beyond that to include engaging local governments, civic and faith societies, corporations, philanthropists, grasstops and grassroots about the issue at hand and how it can be solved.

Why advocacy? Foundations can’t solve the global WASH crisis through direct service delivery by their grantees alone — advocacy is needed to increase the amount and effectiveness of WASH grantmaking.

3. What are you most looking forward to about Stockholm and/or World Water Week?

Networking with colleagues.

David Rothschild, Principal of the Portfolio Team at the Skoll Foundation

Editor’s Note: Leading up to the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH seminar at World Water Week next Wednesday, August 29th, in Stockholm, we decided to pose three questions to the panel’s esteemed group of foundation and NGO leaders to give you a preview of their conversation. We will post a new interview each day this week so check back daily or sign up for e-mail updates. In this post, David Rothschild, principal of the Skoll Foundation’s portfolio team, speaks about the Foundation’s focus on social entrepreneurship and rethinking traditional funder-grantee relationships to drive large scale change. 

1. Describe what your organization does and what your role is.

The Skoll Foundation drives large scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems. Jeff Skoll created The Skoll Foundation in 1999 to pursue his vision of a sustainable world of peace and prosperity. Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents — creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better. By identifying the people and programs already bringing positive change around the world, we empower them to extend their reach, deepen their impact, and fundamentally improve society.

We are now one of the leading foundations in the field of social entrepreneurship. Over the past 12 years, we have awarded more than $315 million, including investments in 91 remarkable social entrepreneurs and 74 organizations on five continents around the world that are creating a brighter future for underserved communities. In addition to our grantmaking, we fund a $20 million+ portfolio of program-related and mission-aligned investments. In 2003, we partnered with the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford to launch the first academic center dedicated to social entrepreneurship, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

The Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship celebrates organizations with high impact innovations that have a proven track record and are poised to scale their impact. Each year the foundation awards 4 to 6 organizations, led by an individual social entrepreneur. The award comes with 3 years of core support funding, usually between $750k and $1.5m total. Along with the award comes significant recognition; the organization becomes part of our family of Skoll Awardees, qualifying it for other opportunities. More information about the Skoll Awards, applications, and criteria can be found here.

Beyond investments and partnerships, we also host the annual Skoll World Forum, the premier conference on social entrepreneurship, and share the stories of social entrepreneurs through partnerships with leading film and broadcast organizations, such as the PBS NewsHour and the Sundance Institute, which help drive public awareness of social entrepreneurship and its potential to address the critical issues of our time.

As a principal of the portfolio team, I manage a variety of key relationships, including funded social entrepreneurs, domain experts, policy makers, corporate partners and co-funders. I develop and structure funding opportunities to drive large scale change in the focus areas of the foundation, with a special emphasis on water and sanitation, as well as tropical deforestation.

2. Tell us one provocative question or issue you hope to tackle on the U.S. Philanthropy and WASH panel, and why. 

How can funders and potential grantees get past the “hogwash?” “Reporting” in the traditional sense goes just one way — from grantee to funder. This often ends up as data for the archives. How can we capture information in a way that’s useful for better decision-making by both funders and grantees?

The organizations doing the work on the ground are the ones implementing WASH strategies — they are the ones testing new ideas and approaches, learning from mistakes, and engaging directly with the communities and individuals that need improved WASH outcomes. Ideally, they are constantly innovating and adjusting. Yet traditional funder-grantee relationships can discourage or even stifle innovation. Funder-grantee relationships can be blurred by the desires of funders to only hear about the “impacts” their specific funding is driving, or by NGOs painting an unrealistically rosy picture hoping that funding may follow. Real world learning that leads to improved outcomes often results from talking openly about mistakes and actually making the big course corrections that can be so hard to do. When a funder and grantee have signed a grant agreement focused on specific activities targeting explicit outcomes, a grantee can become wedded to those activities, even if a course correction would actually improve those very outcomes. And if that is true, then what are the impacts that foundations really reward? What’s the behavior change that could unwind this perpetuation of only rewarding successful short-term implementations? How can funders and grantees use reporting processes productively to inform decision-making and achieve desired long-term outcomes? Can we do more to fund on-the-ground, real-time innovation? What are some of the best practices that ensure funder-grantee relationships that drive large scale change — the high impact outcomes we all want?

3. What are you most looking forward to about Stockholm and/or World Water Week?

I haven’t been to World Water Week for a few years, so I am looking forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues, meeting some new folks, and learning about the latest research, innovations, and progress in the field. 

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Malaika Cheney-Coker, the learning and influencing advisor of the Water Team at CARE USA. Her work includes support on internal and external communications, the application and use of monitoring and evaluation tools, and technical guidance on learning strategies and activities within partnership programs of the Water Team. In this post, Malaika discusses the implications of a school WASH project study on action-research projects.

Latrines, like the one pictured here, and improved school WASH conditions help reduce girls’ absenteeism — just one important finding from SWASH+ research. Credit: CARE / Brendan Bannon, Kenya, 2012

Latrines, like the one pictured here, and improved school WASH conditions help reduce girls’ absenteeism — just one important finding from SWASH+ research. Credit: CARE / Brendan Bannon, Kenya, 2012

In the summer of 2007, SWASH+, a school WASH project in Nyanza Province, Kenya, with a large and complex research operation, conducted a small study. The study was a simple identification of the recurrent costs needed to pay for materials and for labor to maintain and repair water containers, stands, taps, and to re-purchase soap and water purification items. Very different from the larger randomized controlled trials and studies being conducted by the project, this study  cost little and did not require a large research team (it was conducted by a graduate student over the course of a summer) or complex design and analysis. However, the findings of this simple cost research were immediately adopted by the Ministry of Education and resulted in a doubling of the Ministry’s Free Primary Education allotment for electricity, water, and conservancy — a budget line item that schools have traditionally used to pay for WASH costs. 

From this experience, the SWASH+ team gained some important insights into how action-research projects can achieve results:

  • Various forms of inquiry are needed to produce and buttress an evolving story. The simple study on WASH costs was a logical next step after a study on the sustainability of a safe water systems pilot in 55 schools identified adequate financing as one of four domains of sustainability. A problem tree analysis also identified inadequate or poorly planned financing as a key threat to sustainability. Similarly, SWASH+ findings from a randomized controlled trial on the effects of school WASH on pupil absence provided evidence for one of the potential impacts of improved school WASH (an average of six days less of absence for school girls) and helped make the case for increasing investments in school WASH.
  • Research needs to be made available to policymakers in practical terms. The budget for operations costs drafted by SWASH+ offered specific and practical recommendations that could be more readily adopted than a general injunction to the Ministry of Education to increase its funding.
  • To make research available in practical terms, action-research organizations need to be adept at canvassing entry points and opportunities for influence. A SWASH+ review of the national school WASH strategy draft revealed that the cost estimates related to school WASH seemed arbitrary. By having had cultivated relationships within the Ministry, SWASH+ was able to point this out and suggest that these numbers be revised using figures provided by the research.
  • Action-research is an iterative process. While the Ministry of Education endorsed the budget amount for WASH operations provided by SWASH+, it later asked that these costs be expressed as a percentage of the total budget allotment to schools. In addition, the initial research only looked at operations costs for WASH and not maintenance costs for infrastructure repairs. Further research will be needed to address these issues. 
Parent volunteer helps monitor school WASH conditions by ensuring soapy water is available for hand-washing, drinking water is treated, and latrines are clean. Credit: CARE / Brendan Bannon, Kenya, 2012

Parent volunteer helps monitor school WASH conditions by ensuring soapy water is available for hand-washing, drinking water is treated, and latrines are clean. Credit: CARE / Brendan Bannon, Kenya, 2012

Through this experience, the SWASH+ team concluded that by their very definition, action-research projects must be agile and resourceful. Rigorous studies are needed for an evidence base that can be credible to policymakers and present a compelling argument for change. Yet rigorous methods, such as randomized controlled trials or longitudinal studies, can be costly and take years to execute. They are not always responsive to opportunities for influence in the here and now. When the main objective is influence, rather than the accumulation of evidence, action-research projects should use all means at their disposal, including relationship building, advocacy, smaller non-experimental research studies, and audience-sensitive interpretation of research results, to get the attention of those able to catalyze widespread change.

Learn more about SWASH+ research at our new website. Highlights of the site include journal publications and summaries, photo and video galleries, and other helpful resources.

Editor’s Note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued a press release announcing the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Over the course of a year, eight finalists were chosen and Bill Gates announced the winning team yesterday at the two-day Toilet Fair at the Foundation’s headquarters in Seattle. Big congratulations to the winning team and to everyone who participated in this creative challenge.

Bill Gates presenting the first prize award to California Institute of Technology at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012. Photo Credit: ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Michael Hanson

Bill Gates presenting the first prize award to California Institute of Technology at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012. Photo Credit: ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Michael Hanson

Yesterday Bill Gates announced the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in Seattle — an effort to develop “next-generation” toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it. The awards recognize researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.

California Institute of Technology in the United States received the $100,000 first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity. Loughborough University in the United Kingdom won the $60,000 second place prize for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water. University of Toronto in Canada won the third place prize of $40,000 for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and clean water. Special recognition and $40,000 went to Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) and EOOS for their outstanding design of a toilet user interface.

One year ago, the foundation issued a challenge to universities to design toilets that can capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price.

The first, second, and third place winning prototypes were recognized for most closely matching the criteria presented in the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

Bill Gates with a researcher from California Institute of Technology at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012. Photo Credit: ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Michael Hanson

Bill Gates with a researcher from California Institute of Technology at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012. Photo Credit: ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Michael Hanson

Teams have been showcasing their prototypes and projects at a two-day event held at the foundation’s headquarters in Seattle on August 14 and 15. The Reinvent the Toilet Fair is bringing together participants from 29 countries, including researchers, designers, investors, advocates, and representatives of the communities who will ultimately adopt these new inventions.

“Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better,” said foundation Co-chair Bill Gates. “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.”

Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death. Food and water tainted with fecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year. Most of these deaths could be prevented with the introduction of proper sanitation, along with safe drinking water and improved hygiene. 

Improving access to sanitation can also bring substantial economic benefits. According to the World Health Organization, improved sanitation delivers up to $9 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested because it increases productivity, reduces healthcare costs, and prevents illness, disability, and early death.

Other projects featured at the fair include better ways to empty latrines, user-centered designs for public toilet facilities, and insect-based latrines that decompose feces faster.

“Imagine what’s possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead,” said Gates. “Many of these innovations will not only revolutionize sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations.”

Gates added: “All the participants are united by a common desire to create a better world — a world where no child dies needlessly from a lack of safe sanitation and where all people can live healthy, dignified lives.”

The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene initiative is part of the foundation’s Global Development Program, which addresses issues such as agricultural development and financial services — problems that affect the world’s poorest people but do not receive adequate attention. The initiative has committed more than $370 million to this area, with a focus on developing sustainable sanitation services that work for everyone, including the poor.

The foundation also announced a second round of Reinvent the Toilet Challenge grants totaling nearly $3.4 million. The grants were awarded to: Cranfield University (United Kingdom); Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited (India); Research Triangle Institute (United States); and the University of Colorado Boulder (United States).

Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Diane Scott, senior communications officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and originally appeared on their blog, Impatient Optimists. Last year, the Gates Foundation issued a challenge to create a toilet without piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity for less than 5 cents per user a day. At this year’s Reinvent the Toilet Fair on August 14-15, eight finalists will display working prototypes and full scale models, and Bill Gates will announce the winners.

A pit latrine used by members of the community in the Kibera slum, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A pit latrine used by members of the community in the Kibera slum, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

I’d like to think I’m beyond giggling when I see “Synthetic Feces Update” on a meeting agenda. But let’s face it, I’m not. At the foundation’s main campus in Seattle, Washington, we’re talking about “fake poop” quite a bit these days as we get ready to host the Reinvent the Toilet Fair on August 14 and 15. We’ll be featuring toilet prototypes created over the last year by our grantees, some of which will be vying for the coveted “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge Award.” 

The reinvented toilet is the brainchild of our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program that aims to bring sanitation (i.e. toilets) to those who don’t have it and must resort to extremely unsanitary means (open defecation — as in doing it out in the open) to relieve themselves. And, to give these newfangled toilet prototypes a test drive while at the fair, we need synthetic feces. About 50 gallons of it.

Why do we even need to reinvent the toilet? First, there hasn’t been much serious innovation in the flush toilet for nearly 200 years. In public health terms, the flush toilet has improved health immensely; it has done a phenomenal job saving lives by helping safely dispose of urine, feces and nasty pathogens. But, it uses a lot of water, and isn’t a realistic solution for people in the developing world, where pipes aren’t already under neighborhoods to carry away the water and sewage, and there isn’t the money and electricity needed to treat sewage properly. Too many people still do not have access to a toilet. How many people? We’re talking about 2.5 billion people.

Here’s the theory behind the “reinvent the toilet” initiative: Innovation in science and technology has done amazing things to help people lead better lives from  the introduction of vaccines to prevent against deadly diseases,  to the increasingly widespread use of mobile phones in remote areas of the world to share information, transfer money and even pay bills.

Why can’t that same creative thinking be used to solve the problem of dealing with human waste? We believe it can.

Imagine a toilet that isn’t connected to the sewer or electricity — one that takes waste and converts it to energy, is affordable for people in the developing world and is so fabulous that everyone will want to use it. These are the ideas the Reinvent the Toilet Fair is looking to highlight.  

But I digress from the topic of synthetic feces (and yes, I did just write that without snickering). Researchers from around the globe are bringing their reinvented toilet prototypes to the fair, and we need synthetic feces for the demonstrations. (And no, we can’t use real feces). Figuring out how much to order is just one part. The other piece of the puzzle is answering questions from exhibitors who need to know all about the “fake poop”: What’s the density? What’s the recipe? What stool size will you be giving us? Does it contain the right amount of energy? (I’m not really sure what that means, but it’s somehow important.) And, finally, will it have an odor?

We know that these “commode creators” are hard at work right now. We’ll be writing blog posts at Impatient Optimists and at partner publications around the web over the next few weeks about the reinvented toilet to get the perspectives on this fascinating issue from environmentalists, social good-doers, technologists and others, so stay tuned.

And, for those inquiring minds, what are synthetic feces made of? The recipe for the fair is simply soybean paste and rice — there’s a more complex recipe for hard-core research and development work. Finally, no, the synthetic feces won’t be scented — even my great recommendation for rose-scented fake poop didn’t fly!

WASH organizations with independent evaluations

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Susan Davis. Susan is the executive director of Improve International, an organization focused on promoting and facilitating independent evaluations of WASH programs to help the sector improve. She has more than 13 years of experience in international development and has evaluated WASH and other programs in 15 developing countries. A version of this post originally appeared here.

A couple of months ago, we published a blog at Improve International on assembling a list of WASH organizations with independent evaluations. We are working with WASHfunders to incorporate this information into WASHfunders.org, but in the meantime, based on popular demand, we’re sharing the list of organizations with independent evaluations (out of the approximately 550 WASH organizations identified). We understand this list is not complete or comprehensive. Rather, it is a list of evaluations that we assembled using the tools that a regular donor would have — web searches and word of mouth.

Has your organization recently conducted an independent evaluation? Would you like to tell us about it or to be included in this list? Send an e-mail to  sdavis@improveinternational.org or  WASHfunders@foundationcenter.org with a link to the report.

Organization Evaluations found Most recent evaluation found
Action Against Hunger Dutch Water and Sanitation Programme in Bong County 2004-2005. External Evaluation of the Social Approach of the Water and Sanitation Programme

2005

Aga Khan Development Network Social Norms and Social Exclusion. Reaching the Poor: Programs of the Aga Khan Development Network. 1999

1999

The Aga Khan Rural Support Program in Pakistan: Is it Succeeding? Is it Replicable?
American Red Cross Mid-term Survey and Evaluation of American Red Cross Sponsored Community Reconstruction of Water and Sanitation: Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala Central American Operations. February 2001

2009

Evaluation of the Health Impact of the American Red Cross Sponsored Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Reconstruction Program in Communities Affected by Hurricane Mitch Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. February 2002
Evaluation of the Sustainability of Water and Sanitation Interventions in Central America after Hurricane Mitch February 12 – 27, 2006
Evaluation of the Sustainability of Water and Sanitation Interventions in Central America after Hurricane Mitch Second Sustainability Survey February 14–March 5, 2009
AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation) Evaluation of the 2007 Water of Life Projects in Africa

2007

ARBAN (Association for Realization of Basic Needs) – Bangladesh Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

ASD (Assistance for Slum Dwellers) Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

Asian Development Bank Evaluation on Urban Services and Water Supply and Sanitation Sector in Viet Nam 2009

2009

Asociacion Hondurena de Juntas Administradoras de Sistemas de Agua (AHJASA) Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Chlorine Bank Program for Sustainable Water Disinfection in Rural Honduras 2010

2010

BAWPA (Bangladesh Agricultural Working Peoples’ Association) Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

CARE Community Watershed Partnership: Kenya Water for Schools Project. Evaluation Report. 2006

2011

Sustaining School Handwashing and Water Treatment: Lessons Learned and to be Learned. 2008
External Program Evaluation: Water, Sanitation And Hygiene (WASH) Program. In Ethiopia 2008
CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and World Vision Indonesia. Joint Evaluation of Their Responses to the Yogyakarta Earthquake July 2007
Final Pupil Assessment: Changing Children’s Knowledge, Attitudes, Behaviors, and Outcomes. 2009
Assessing the impact of a school-based water treatment, hygiene and sanitation programme on pupil absence in Nyanza Province, Kenya: a cluster-randomized trial. 2011
CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) Evaluation of the DEC-funded CAFOD Health and WASH Project in the DRC January 2010

2010

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and World Vision Indonesia. Joint Evaluation of Their Responses to the Yogyakarta Earthquake. July 2007

2008

External Program Evaluation: Water, Sanitation And Hygiene (WASH) Program. In Ethiopia 2008
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Center for Global Health Evaluation of the Implementation of the Paris Declaration:
United States Government

2011

COCEPRADIL (Honduras) Water Partners International Community Water Systems Sustainability Evaluation Lempira, Honduras. October 2006

2011

Organizational Evaluation of COCEPRADIL: Water & Sanitation Accountability Forum. 2011
DSK (Dushtha Shashthya Kendra) Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

Food for the Hungry (FHI) External Program Evaluation: Water, Sanitation And Hygiene (WASH) Program. In Ethiopia 2008

2008

Global Water Partnership Global Water Partnership Joint Donor External Evaluation. Final Report. 26 March 2008

2008

Hagar International Independent Evaluation of the Biosand Water Filter in Rural Cambodia: Sustainability, Health Impact and Water Quality. 2008

2008

Hope 2020 External Program Evaluation: Water, Sanitation And Hygiene (WASH) Program. In Ethiopia 2008

2008

International Water and Sanitation Center (IRC) Executive Summary of external evaluation IRC Business Plan 2007 to 2011

2011

The External Evaluation Report commissioned by IRC on the West Nile WASH Accountability project. 2010
Millennium Water Alliance External Program Evaluation: Water, Sanitation And Hygiene (WASH) Program. In Ethiopia 2008

2008

Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) External Evaluation of the NCA WASH Programme in Darfur With Special Focus on IDP Camps in Zalingei. 2010

2010

Oxfam International Summary of the Independent Evaluation of the Oxfam International Aceh and Nias Tsunami and Earthquake Response. December 2004 – January 2006

2006

PlayPumps International An Evaluation of the PlayPump® Water System as an Appropriate Technology for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programmes. 2007

2008

Mission Report on the Evaluation of the PlayPumps installed in Mozambique 2008
RoundAbout / PlayPumps International Africa An Evaluation of the PlayPump® Water System as an Appropriate Technology for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programmes. 2007

2008

Mission Report on the Evaluation of the PlayPumps installed in Mozambique 2008
PHULKI Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

Polio Eradication Evaluation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative: Report on the independent evaluation of the major barriers to interrupting Poliovirus transmission in Afghanistan. 2009

2009

PRODIPAN Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

PSTC (Population Services and Training Centre) Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2003

Save the Children CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and World Vision Indonesia. Joint Evaluation of Their Responses to the Yogyakarta Earthquake. July 2007

2008

Mission Report on the Evaluation of the PlayPumps installed in Mozambique 2008
Save the Children Alliance, Tsunami Response Programme in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Somalia Mid-Term Evaluation Report. June 2008
Society for Family Health (PSI affiliate) SAFE WATER SYSTEMS: An Evaluation of the Zambia CLORIN Program FINAL REPORT 26 September 2004

2004

UN-Habitat External Evaluation of UN-HABITAT’s Water and Sanitation Trust Fund. PART 1: Synthesis Report. 2011

2011

UNICEF UNICEF’s Programme for Water and Sanitation in Central America 1996Report of the Evaluation of the Government of Rwanda – UNICEF Water and Environmental Sanitation Programme. January 2001.

2008

Evaluation of the Strategic Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion for Schools. Pilot Projects Nkhata Bay and Kasungu Districts. August 2004
Mission Report on the Evaluation of the PlayPumps installed in Mozambique 2008
Multiple WASH evaluations (not clear whether they are all independent/ external)
United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund Independent Evaluation of ITF Project E3-12b: Rehabilitation of Takia Water Distribution System. March 2010

2010

Ushahidi Haiti Independent Evaluation of the Ushahidi Haiti Project

2011

Water Action External Program Evaluation: Water, Sanitation And Hygiene (WASH) Program. In Ethiopia 2008

2008

WaterAid Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Bangladeshi Slums: Evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh Urban Programme. 2003

2007

Evaluation of the 2007 Water of Life Projects in Africa
World Bank Water & Sanitation Programme (WSP) Multiple evaluations by Independent Evaluation Group

2010

An Evaluation of World Bank Support, 1997-2007, Volume 1
World Vision CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and World Vision Indonesia Joint Evaluation of Their Responses to the Yogyakarta Earthquake July 2007

2007

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