Editor's Note: In this post, Brian Banks, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Global Water Challenge at the Global Environment & Technology Foundation, discusses five key ways that funders can use the new Water Point Data Exchange to improve the impact of their WASH investments.
With the recent launch of the new web platform for the Water Point Data Exchange, many funders are wondering what this means for them and how they can use it to increase the impact of WASH investments. For those who aren’t yet familiar, the Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) is the global framework for sharing water point data. Launched in May 2015, this framework is based on the information that is already being collected around the world, ensuring that there is no additional burden on data providers to share information. To date, WPDx has brought together nearly 250,000 records around the world spanning almost 100 years of investment. The new web platform makes it easier than ever for funders to access this data and use the information to improve the impact of their investments. Here are five ways you can start to use the new WPDx platform today:
- Identify partners and local experts
By using WPDx to find who else has implemented projects in a certain area or country, you can easily identify partners for collaboration. This can help to avoid duplication and increase impact through partnerships that leverage the unique skills of different stakeholders. Information on who is working where can also be filtered by date so that you can identify what stakeholders have developed expertise over time in a specific location, or even those that were there in the past. Connecting with these partners can facilitate the sharing of lessons and challenges, allowing your funding to build off of the investments that have come before. You can see an example of the different groups that have shared data over time for Tanzania here.
- By using WPDx to find who else has implemented projects in a certain area or country, you can easily identify partners for collaboration. This can help to avoid duplication and increase impact through partnerships that leverage the unique skills of different stakeholders. Information on who is working where can also be filtered by date so that you can identify what stakeholders have developed expertise over time in a specific location, or even those that were there in the past. Connecting with these partners can facilitate the sharing of lessons and challenges, allowing your funding to build off of the investments that have come before. You can see an example of the different groups that have shared data over time for Tanzania here.
- Explore the sustainability of different types of investments
WPDx allows you to see what types of investments have worked well, and what types of investments have been less successful. This could even be as simple as comparing how well different types of technologies have provided water over time in a certain area. You can also use the WPDx data as a starting point, and compare the impact of different types of policies on sustainability, or even the durability of investments in areas with different geological and socioeconomic conditions. The recent integration of WPDx data into the World Bank’s “Spatial Agent” application allows you to easily and beautifully layer WPDx data directly onto thousands of different data sets. This makes it possible to draw an incredible wealth of lessons about what works well at the click of a button. You can download Spatial Agent here.
- WPDx allows you to see what types of investments have worked well, and what types of investments have been less successful. This could even be as simple as comparing how well different types of technologies have provided water over time in a certain area. You can also use the WPDx data as a starting point, and compare the impact of different types of policies on sustainability, or even the durability of investments in areas with different geological and socioeconomic conditions. The recent integration of WPDx data into the World Bank’s “Spatial Agent” application allows you to easily and beautifully layer WPDx data directly onto thousands of different data sets. This makes it possible to draw an incredible wealth of lessons about what works well at the click of a button. You can download Spatial Agent here.
- See where needs are the greatest
Through the data available in WPDx, funders can target investments to where the needs are greatest and define the type of investment that might be most effective. Does the region you want to fund have a low functionality rate? If so, perhaps your investment will go further by supporting governance, asset management, and maintenance capacity than it would drilling another borehole. Are almost all water points working in a certain area? That might suggest that additional hardware could achieve a lasting impact. You can see a breakdown of functionality by province in Afghanistan here.
- Through the data available in WPDx, funders can target investments to where the needs are greatest and define the type of investment that might be most effective. Does the region you want to fund have a low functionality rate? If so, perhaps your investment will go further by supporting governance, asset management, and maintenance capacity than it would drilling another borehole. Are almost all water points working in a certain area? That might suggest that additional hardware could achieve a lasting impact. You can see a breakdown of functionality by province in Afghanistan here.
- Share your data (and track it)
Funders are making massive investments in water infrastructure. While those investments will certainly create change on their own, sharing the information about that infrastructure can allow for an even greater impact. By providing governments, NGOs, researchers, and other funders with information about water points constructed as a result of your investments, all development partners can work better together. Encouraging grantees to share water point data with governments and through WPDx is a quick and cost-effective way to multiply the influence of your funding. As an added benefit, you can subscribe to updates on these water points, and get a notification any time data about them is updated, even from different sources!
- Funders are making massive investments in water infrastructure. While those investments will certainly create change on their own, sharing the information about that infrastructure can allow for an even greater impact. By providing governments, NGOs, researchers, and other funders with information about water points constructed as a result of your investments, all development partners can work better together. Encouraging grantees to share water point data with governments and through WPDx is a quick and cost-effective way to multiply the influence of your funding. As an added benefit, you can subscribe to updates on these water points, and get a notification any time data about them is updated, even from different sources!
- Engage with governments and other stakeholders
- WPDx should be the start of a conversation, not the end. Discuss the information you got from WPDx with governments, service providers, NGOs, and other funders, and get their perspectives. Ultimately, WPDx is most effective when used as part of a broader engagement with all partners.
Editor's Note: How can we assess the impact of a WASH investment? In this post, Guy Norman, Head of Evaluation, Research and Learning at Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), gives us a snapshot of the findings from their recent pilot analysis of the impact of WSUP’s work in Madagascar.
Providing improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to a community doesn’t just have an impact on health, it can be expected to have multiple positive impacts, including creation of livelihoods. For a slum-dweller, employment and a steady income are life-changing things! And jobs created are likely to have a ripple effect in the local economy—more jobs mean more money circulating around the community.
But assessing the total impacts of a WASH investment by an organisation like Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is far from straightforward. For example, we would expect an improved water supply to have positive impacts on a wide range of things including health, livelihoods, time required to collect water, local environmental quality, the water utility’s revenues, and indeed the national economy. What’s more, a given investment may also have negative impacts; for example, an improved water kiosk may reduce the profits of an existing water supplier. So any assessment of total impact needs to consider a wide range of potential impacts, and needs to “subtract” possible negative impacts from the positive impacts.
Moving towards achieving this, WSUP has recently contracted PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to pilot their Total Impact Measurement and Management (TIMM) framework in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. TIMM is a framework for doing precisely this type of analysis.
More detailed findings of this pilot analysis will be published soon, and this blog gives a “sneak peek” at findings around the impact of WSUP’s work in Antananarivo on employment.
The Antananarivo pilot of the TIMM approach
The pilot focused on a subset of WSUP’s activities in Antananarivo over the period 2012−2015:
1. Water kiosks and laundry blocks: support for construction, including creation of management arrangements;
2. Setting up small community-based organisations (known as RF2s) for street cleaning and drain clearance;
3. Helping the water utility (JIRAMA) reduce its levels of non-revenue water (NRW) (i.e. water for which no payment is received, either because it physically leaks from pipes or because it’s supplied but not paid for, as a result of inefficient billing for example)
Very briefly, the TIMM approach, as applied here, involved first generating a model of the impact pathways. This included many boxes and arrows (WSUP investments in boxes on the left, outcomes in boxes on the right, many intermediate boxes in the middle, and lots of “causality” arrows linking everything together). Data to “calculate” the model comprised existing WSUP data on project outcomes, including householder survey data, some limited additional data collection, and international data derived from a literature review.
The estimated net impacts of WSUP’s investments in the three activities indicated above are shown in the wheel schematic below. Each impact has been converted to a monetised value, but this in no sense implies that people’s lives are just about profit and loss! Rather, an analysis of this type requires a common unit of measurement of different types of impact, and a convenient unit is U.S. dollars. Note the dramatic health impacts (interesting, because previous analyses of this type have often suggested that WASH interventions have more of an impact on time savings than they do on health). Note also some negative impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (garbage rotting on the streets produces less methane than garbage in a landfill). But as noted at the end of this blog, we ask you to take these results as preliminary; these findings may be a good indication of reality, but PwC, WSUP and others are still assessing to what extent we can consider these results to be accurate.
Job creation findings
WSUP-supported water kiosks and laundry blocks need builders to construct them and attendants to staff them; both also provide self-employment opportunities for laundry washers (almost exclusively women). The TIMM analysis indicated that kiosks and laundry blocks not only generate direct employment, but also create work opportunities for suppliers; much of this money is then spent in the local community on goods and services, supporting more jobs. The construction sector gets a demand boost, and the new connections between kiosks and the water network also increases profits and wages for those working at the water utility. Water resellers, who buy water in bulk from WSUP’s kiosks and then sell it door-to-door at a mark-up, are estimated to now have an annual income of around 300,000-480,000 Malagasy ariary.
RF2 teams sweep the streets and empty bins, and each team employs around eight people. These are self-sustaining organisations financed by user tariffs and local government support. The RF2 impact on livelihoods is estimated at almost US $1.5 million, and the spending of those wages generates an additional US $0.4 million of indirect economic benefit.
In order to help the water utility to reduce its level of non-revenue water, WSUP provided the initial funds for a team dedicated to NRW reduction and technical training. Not only did this create jobs within the utility, but the wages that they were paid are projected to have had wider economic effects within the city. WSUP’s work with the water utility led to an estimated increase in profits and wages of US $2 million, with wider economic benefits totalling approximately US $157,000.
The TIMM results show that livelihood impacts make up more than 13% of the total net impact of the WSUP projects analysed. This should have long-term positive effects; the total livelihoods impact for women and men across all interventions from 2013 to 2025 is worth approximately US $3.6 million and US $2.3 million, respectively. Laundry workers (who are 95% female) are the highest earners, and are projected to generate US $2.8 million in additional earnings by 2025.
Particular impacts on women’s livelihoods
Madagascar ranks somewhere in the middle of the global Social Institutions & Gender Index, and while women make up nearly half of the work force they are paid less and hold a lower proportion of skilled and managerial jobs compared to men.
This TIMM analysis indicates that about 70% of the total earnings from WSUP water kiosks and laundry blocks go to women. Each laundry washer earns an estimated 8,000 Malagasy ariary per day (around $490 per year), which is about three times more than before the laundry blocks were built. More earnings for women is socially relevant as women are more likely to invest their earnings in education, nutrition, and health than men.
And finally, a cautionary note
This has been a pilot application of the TIMM approach, based on careful analysis of likely impact pathways, careful collation of relevant data, and reasoned assumptions about likely magnitudes of effect along each of the impact pathways that we examined. But this is complex modelling, the input data is certainly not perfect, and the assumptions about magnitudes of effect are just that, best-estimate assumptions. Modelling of this type can generate very useful information for an organisation like WSUP, but at this stage the jury is still out on whether the current results are sufficiently reliable, and whether the data collection requirements for this type of analysis are manageable. We’ll be releasing more detailed publications soon, so if you’re interested please watch out for them.
Thanks to the PwC team led by Tom Beagent for this excellent work and to WSUP’s Rosie Renouf for help with the analysis underlying this blog, as well as to WSUP’s supporters DFID, TCCAF, and the Stone Family Foundation for their role in this project.
Editor’s Note: This blog was authored by Susan Davis, executive director of Improve International, an organization focused on promoting and facilitating independent evaluations of WASH programs to help the sector improve. Susan discusses how a “services monitoring” approach can help improve and maintain WASH services. A version of this post originally appeared here.
Last month I went to the Sustainable WASH Forum and Donor Dialogues in D.C. A theme of the conversations was roles and responsibilities, especially the roles of governments. One interesting debate was about who should be responsible for monitoring. Some said that governments should be solely responsible. There are some governments who are leading the way on this, but others (myself included) believe that this doesn’t mean that development organizations shouldn’t also be accountable for their own work. If an organization visits water and toilet systems for years after they are built, they can learn from their successes and failures and make their future work better.
Since many organizations only do monitoring & evaluation (M&E) during development programs (see my thoughts after the Learn MandE conference), I think we need to use a new term like “services monitoring” to refer to the need for a way of confirming that water and sanitation services are still available to people.
Why is services monitoring important?
- 783 million people without access to improved source of water[i] 3 billion without access to safe water[ii] 4 billion without access to safe, permanent, in home water[iii]
- 2.5 billion people without adequate sanitation[iv] 4.1 billion lack access to improved sanitation[v]
- 35-50% water and sanitation systems that fail within a few years of construction[vi]
- Less than 5% water systems that are visited at least once after they are built
- Less than 1% water systems and toilets that are monitored regularly for the long-term after they are built
Long-term services monitoring is critical for the ongoing improvement of implementing organization practice and understanding, as well as donor policies. Beyond helping individual organizations learn from their experience, services monitoring could reveal geographical or sectoral trends. What if each year, USAID, other government aid agencies, development banks, and major foundations pooled a portion of their funds for water and sanitation projects? (In fact, USAID’s recently published Water and Development Strategy indicates that USAID “will seek investments in longer-term monitoring and evaluation of its water activities in order to assess sustainability beyond the typical USAID Program Cycle and to enable reasonable support to issues that arise subsequent to post-completion of project implementation.”) These funds could be used to ensure services monitoring for all (or a sample of) previous water and sanitation systems funded by those donors in a country or region.
With this information, they could identify region-wide problems and solutions. For example, declining amounts of water available from spring-fed systems in a geographic region could point to a need for investing in water source protection and installation of household water meters to reduce leaks and wastage.
A way forward
To remove some of the barriers to ongoing services monitoring, we recommend a way forward below.
- A percentage of funds (perhaps 3-5%) of each donor’s funding for water, sanitation, and hygiene programs is contributed to a pool for services monitoring each year.
- The funds could be used to monitor a sample of past programs funded by the donors. For example, programs that are 5, 10, and 15 years old. That way we get the learning now and can use it to change programs moving forward.
- Keep the monitoring indicators very basic and in line with government monitoring protocols, where present.
- Development organizations should be responsible for ensuring that services monitoring happens, but should not have to use their own staff. For example, where governments have a robust system of national monitoring, the organization could pull recent, relevant government data.
- Engage an independent auditor to verify a sample of results.
As more services monitoring data become available and accessible, we’ll get past the statistics to specifics, leading to learning, and more effective performance. Thus, people in developing countries will have a better chance at reaping the life-changing benefits of safe water for life.
Editor’s Note: We pose four questions to Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network, on how collaborative partnerships can scale the impact of multi-sector programs.
Tell us about the H2O+ Uganda initiative BPN helped to launch last year.
H2O+ is a multi-sector initiative designed to eliminate the root causes of poverty. We developed the H2O+ initiative to reduce morbidity and mortality rates, and promote economic development in Uganda by integrating five related initiatives: (1) improved access to sanitation; (2) improved access to safe water; (3) improved community hygiene practices; (4) strengthened capacity at district and community health facilities; and (5) increased school enrollment of girls.
H2O+ was piloted successfully in Pallisa, a district in Southeast Uganda, in 2012. The program brings clean water solutions and improved capacity to health clinics as well as communities. Five borehole wells were constructed near health clinics providing 6,392 villagers living in these five communities with direct access to clean water. Additionally, those traveling from afar to these health clinics will have access to clean water, which we have calculated as approximately 4,000 visitors per year per health clinic. Because of the strategic placement of the wells, the program will benefit 25,600 people annually in these five communities.
How did BPN set up a private-public partnership to launch H2O+ in Uganda?
Once we formed the H2O+ concept, we identified key players at the local, regional, national, and international levels to build a unique collaborative model that could be replicated across Uganda. With a network of nearly 100 WASH members working in 27 countries, we invited one of our members, International Lifeline Fund (ILF), to take the lead on implementing the program. ILF is a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce human suffering through WASH initiatives, fuel-efficient stove programs, and micro-enterprise. They have constructed more than 200 borehole wells in Uganda serving over 150,000 people. Their demonstrated expertise in Uganda and entrepreneurial approach aligned well with the H2O+ model.
H2O+ was launched in partnership with ReachScale, a company that brings social innovators, including corporations, NGOs, and governments, together to scale initiatives that increase innovation and impact.
Management Sciences for Health played a critical role in the planning stages of H2O+. They manage healthcare clinics throughout Uganda, and around the world, and implement WASH activities through advocacy, community mobilization, and hygiene and health education.
Local governments in the district of Palissa and community leaders were involved in H2O+ planning, baseline research, and analysis and implementation. Africa AHEAD joined H2O+ and will introduce Community Health Clubs in Phase II as the best way to ensure a community-led approach to water and sanitation program development.
What was BPN’s approach to integrating the 5 related initiatives (water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and education) and identifying metrics?
The H2O+ initiative recognizes that health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and education are inextricably linked at the local level, as shown in the diagram below. H2O+ partners have experience leveraging their work to solve multiple community issues. BPN asked its partners: “How can we impact multiple aspects of community poverty?” rather than “How can we increase clean water, or how can we decrease visits to the health clinic?” The answers led to H2O+, an integrated approach to poverty alleviation. BPN worked with its partners to agree upon the project model, planning, implementation, and monitoring components. H2O+ partners agreed upon a common set of metrics that will be reported and analyzed on BPN’s platform.
What were the challenges, lessons learned, and positive outcomes of coordinating the different stakeholders and getting everyone on board?
Agreeing on how to operate together was the largest challenge of H2O+, given the multi-level commitment of each partner.
H2O+ planning was launched with several virtual planning meetings, and followed up with a site visit in Kampala, Uganda with representatives of several H2O+ partners. The program structure, metrics, and roles were discussed virtually, while the in-country visit was essential for building trust amongst district officials and H2O+ partners. As Dan Wolf, ILF’s founder and executive director explains, “The lesson always is to lay the groundwork well in advance of beginning operations.” Dan and his team realized that building collaborative relationships with local government officials was difficult without a foundation of understanding. “The problem was a lack of familiarity and trust with a new organization. We learned that we can always do a better job of explaining and leveraging our experience to show the District Water Offices the benefits of our partnership.”
H2O+ partners are now looking at economic development opportunities for women. Empowering women to make and sell clean cook stoves is a unique addition to a traditional water or health program. Carbon accreditation will generate a revenue stream that pays for equipment maintenance and community education. This multi-sector model has attracted funders because they see the opportunity to leverage partner integration for greater program outcomes.
The takeaways are:
- Detail planning and role delineation up front is key.
- Combine the virtual with the physical. Being virtual encourages creative solutions. Getting together in person builds trust that strengthens partnerships.
- Be honest about evaluating progress and results. Always be open to refining the process for greater impact and stronger partnership. Measure, measure, measure.
- Celebrate successes together, no matter how small. Partnerships are hard work, so it’s important to remind people every time you make progress toward your common goal.
Editor’s Note: This guest post chronicles one organization’s commitment to transparency and accountability through the development of an exciting new platform. Eric Stowe, founder and executive director of a child’s right, shares the story of Proving It and the lessons learned along the way.
In recent years a voice has become increasingly audible within the WASH sector — a voice calling for honesty about failure, transparency in reporting, and sustainability of solutions. It didn't emerge because failure swiftly became popular, but because failure appropriately became relevant.
When water interventions fail, they fail people. While we can and do discuss failure rates, we’re really not talking about “rates” at all; we’re talking about children and adults whom we have failed, collectively.
In the work of A Child’s Right — cleaning contaminated water to make it safe for drinking, for kids — we take failure as seriously as we take success. Our gold standard is this: we will not serve a glass of water to any child that we wouldn’t serve to our own children. If it isn’t water we would like to drink, then it isn’t water we should be serving to others. For this reason, we simply must have the technical tools — and the organizational culture — to support identification of failure and effective responses.
We therefore aspire to vigilance in monitoring, maintenance, and success. To these ends, we set about devising a means to monitor progress at every site where we work. We envisioned a day when every project we undertook could be tracked online — starting with a GPS point on a map, continuing with recurring verification that safe water is flowing, and culminating in the display of all monitoring and maintenance activity, as well as of updated photos and field notes. In short, we came to view “the big day” when water first flowed clean as the beginning of our work — not the end of it.
We realized our vision in October 2011, when we rolled out the first iteration of this new online platform called Proving It. (To learn more about Proving It, read the overview here.) It allows donors, and the public, to see systematically updated water quality test results, service records, comments from beneficiary communities, and more. In one place, interested parties can now track well over five hundred sites, a number that is growing steadily. With operations projected in sixteen countries, on two continents, within eight years, such tracking is both an urgent priority and a distinct challenge. We are proud of where Proving It stands, currently, but it is only a start. We are actively ideating on 2.0, and beyond.
Proving It was first developed for internal management purposes — to allow us to monitor, evaluate, and measure our own performance. Midstream in development, we asked ourselves: “What would happen if we made our internal database fully viewable to the public?” which then led us to consider: “What if donors learned of problems or failures at the same time we did?”
These questions stayed with us, and forged our commitment to rigorous honesty. If a project fails, the donor now learns at the same time we do. And if a water system goes down, it stops issuing water that a “beneficiary” could unknowingly drink. We have found this to fundamentally reframe conversations with donors — and even our shared view of philanthropy itself. Now that donors can track their gift over time (i.e., minimum ten years) and learn of the challenges we face in real time, they can participate in the act of insisting that water solutions are only solutions if they continue to work over time.
It is our vision that Proving It will be created in open source, and ultimately be white-labeled for use by anyone in the sector who shares a rigorous commitment to transparency. We are currently working on plans to make it so. Ultimately, we see Proving It as bearing promise for both the WASH sector and for many charitable aims.
It sounds a little funny, but we don’t want to fail at failure. We’d like to get failure right. To us this means being open to learning, as well as being rigorous in our honesty, transparency, and mutual accountability. To that effect, we welcome feedback, as well as long-range partners who would like to have conversations about Proving It and its potential for the sector.