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Dr. Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Senior Associate Director at Rockefeller Foundation
Dr. Mary Renwick, Director of the Water Innovation Program at Winrock International

Editor’s Note: This guest post was co-authored by Dr. Mary Renwick, Director of the Water Innovation Program at Winrock International, and Dr. Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Senior Associate Director at Rockefeller Foundation. In their post, Dr. Renwick and Dr. Rumbaitis del Rio discuss the advantages of Integrated Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) and describe SolutionMUS, the implementation methodology developed by Winrock International to scale up this integrated approach to water service provision. On November 13, they’ll be presenting a funder webinar on ways to sustainably improve people’s health and livelihoods through investments in integrated water services. For more information and to RSVP for the event, contact Ryan Leeds at RLeeds@rockfound.org.

For over two billion people living in absolute poverty, water is everything. Access to safe and sustainable water increases peoples’ resilience and improves their health and livelihoods by supporting their basic needs -- from drinking, hygiene, and sanitation to food production and income generation. Unfortunately, the way in which policymakers and water sector architects design and deliver water services to poor communities is often disconnected from the way these communities actually use water. 

A woman displays her local beer brewing process in rural Burkina Faso. Increased access to water means that women are able to expand their income generating activities. Credit: Winrock International

A woman displays her local beer brewing process in rural Burkina Faso. Increased access to water means that women are able to expand their income generating activities. Credit: Winrock International

The current approach to water service delivery usually focuses on providing water for a single use -- typically drinking or irrigation. Not surprisingly, once the water is available people begin using it for all their needs. This means that drinking water systems are used for watering livestock, producing food and supporting small water-dependent enterprises such as brickmaking or beer brewing. Likewise, irrigation water is used for drinking, bathing and other unplanned uses such as watering livestock and home gardens. The use of single-use systems for unintended purposes is a widespread phenomenon that often leads to inadvertent yet serious consequences including the spread of disease, overuse of resources, user conflict, and system breakdown. Ultimately, this gap between planned services and actual needs undermines the intended goal of water service provision -- improved health and livelihoods -- and leads to sustainability problems for water services and resources. 

SolutionMUS

SolutionMUS is a tested methodology for putting MUS into action. Water--Integrated water services provide water for drinking, other domestic needs, and livelihoods. Health--Hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition programs deepen health benefits. Livelihoods--Crop, livestock, and enterprise programs increase income, food security, and resilience. Environment--Source protection, ecosystem, and waste management programs boost environmental sustainability.

Integrated Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) support transformative change by providing water services that meet peoples’ multiple domestic and productive water needs. MUS use communities’ self-identified needs as a starting point to plan, finance, and manage integrated water services. In addition, MUS take into account all potential water sources (rain, ground and surface water) to design financially and environmentally sustainable water services that meet actual consumer needs and preferences.

In the past 15 years, a growing body of evidence indicates that planning and managing water services for multiple uses can enhance health, improve food security, increase incomes, and reduce workloads for women and children (Loevinsohn et. al., 2014; Evans, et. al., 2013; Hall, et. al 2012; Renwick, et al., 2007; van Hoeve and van Koppen, 2005;  van Hoeve, 2004; Waughray, Lovell, and Mazhangara,1998; VanDer Hoek, Feenstra, and Konradsen, 2002;  Molle and Renwick, 2004). Results from on-the-ground programs in Burkina Faso, Nepal, Niger, Tanzania and other locations suggests that MUS provide the following significant advantages over single-use services:

  • More income and benefits (improved health, nutrition, time savings, food security and social empowerment) for a wider range of people;
  • Decreased vulnerability and increased resiliency for households through diversified livelihood strategies and increased food security;
  • Enhanced reduction of poverty using methods that address the multiple dimensions of poverty simultaneously such as poor health, inadequate resources and lack of skills; and
  • Increased sustainability of water services through productive water use that generates enough income to cover on-going operation, maintenance and replacement costs.
A woman uses a treadle pump at a collective garden for women in Niger. Credit: Winrock International

A woman uses a treadle pump at a collective garden for women in Niger. Credit: Winrock International

Interest in MUS has accelerated as more implementers, governments, and donors design, invest in, and implement integrated development programs. Correspondingly, the demand for a well-defined, evidence-based implementation methodology has grown. Winrock International has addressed this methodological gap by developing SolutionMUS, an open initiative to scale-up multiple-use water services (MUS). SolutionMUS provides a clear conceptual framework, step-by-step implementation guidance and a range of illustrative examples from different contexts. SolutionMUS draws on internationally recognized best practices and builds on and complements the efforts of other early MUS innovators. The approach extends beyond integrated water services by using targeted, cost-effective programs to amplify benefits in health, nutrition, food security, income generation, livelihoods diversification, and environmental sustainability. Since 2005, Winrock has worked with local and international organizations to develop, test and refine the SolutionMUS approach in partnership with local governments, local and international non-governmental organizations, and the local private sector. Our efforts in seven countries have improved the health and livelihoods of 500,000 people.

SolutionMUS is flexible. It does not need to be a stand-alone approach, but can add value to ongoing efforts to provide water services to people living in poverty. Major features of the approach include:

  • A clear, consistent conceptual framework, technical standards, and step-by-step process;
  • Impact-boosting programs that enhance people’s health and livelihoods, and contribute to environmental sustainability;
  • Rigorous field testing and evaluation;
  • An active learning and sharing platform to encourage continuous improvement; and
  • A growing package of technical support and training products for implementers, funders, policymakers, and researchers.

Want to learn more?

Join us on Thursday, November 13 at 11:30 ET when Rockefeller Foundation, along with Winrock International, will host a funder webinar on integrated water services. The webinar will explain how you can:

  • Achieve a higher return on every dollar spent on water services;
  • Ensure the sustainability of your investments; and
  • Tackle the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty, improve health and nutrition, increase food security, diversify livelihoods, and protect the environment.

Please RSVP here to participate in the webinar or contact Ryan Leeds (RLeeds@rockfound.org) for additional information. 

Editor’s note: This post was authored by Seema Shah, director of research for special projects at the Foundation Center. She leads the multi-disciplinary, multi-talented team responsible for developing and maintaining WASHfunders.org.

WASHfunders.org turns one today! And what a year it has been. Over the past year, we’ve seen our reach grow steadily, attracting more than a thousand site visitors a month from foundations, NGOs, and think tanks across all corners of the globe. Our funding map of data on foundation grantmaking for WASH is constantly expanding, with more than 400 new grants added to the site since its inception. We have posted over 50 blog entries, with contributions from a range of emerging and established funders, thought leaders, and rockstar NGOs, lifting up lessons learned from WASH projects on the ground.

We’re confident this is only the start. With support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, we are forging ahead with ambitious and exciting plans to make WASHfunders.org a critical resource for data and information in the sector.  It’s not about data for the sake of data, though. Our hope is that easy access to good quality data and information can guide strategic decision-making, foster new collaborations, and help make the most of limited grant dollars.

In that spirit, we have recently added several new features to the site:

  • Funder Toolkit – For funders new to this line of work, it can be hard to know where to start. Designed especially for new and prospective funders in the sector and developed in partnership with WASH Advocates, the toolkit directs funders to essential data, reading material, videos, and web sites to help them learn, collaborate, and act. 
  • Funders’ Forum – The forum is a password-protected space for funders to communicate exclusively with one another and share strategies, ideas, and lessons learned with fellow funders. 
  • Site Registration – Many users have told us they would like to react to blog content. Our quick and easy site registration process allows users to comment on blog posts to keep the conversation going and stay up-to-date on new site developments.

As excited as we are about how far we have come in a year, we are even more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. A major focus for us will be integrating additional data streams into the funding map to help paint a more complete picture of funding flows and projects on the ground. Among the data streams we hope to incorporate are government funding data, grantmaking from foundations outside of the U.S., and more detailed project-level information, including progress reports.  

On behalf of the Foundation Center team working on this project, we thank all of you for your support, feedback, and engagement over the past year. As always, keep your comments coming so we can continue to improve the site.

In the meantime, to commemorate our first birthday, we’ve put together an infographic about where we’ve been and where we are headed. Click the image below to view the full infographic. Enjoy!

Click to view the full infographic.

The Rockefeller FoundationContext Partners, and NextBillion invite you to hear first-hand from NGO leaders about how their organizations leverage networks to build and maintain their capacity to innovate. This webinar is especially salient to WASH sector organizations interested in learning about the best practices of NGOs, like Winrock International, who are paving the way forward with holistic and innovative approaches to water solutions.

Tuesday, October 2nd (1PM – 2PM ET)

The free, hour-long webinar, “Engaging Networks for Systemic Impact,” will include the following panelists:

  • Kippy Joseph, The Rockefeller Foundation, Associate Director, Innovation
  • Erik Hersman, Ushahidi, Co-founder
  • Mary Renwick, Winrock International, Innovation Program Officer
  • Mark Frohardt, Internews Center for Innovation & Learning, Executive Director

The discussion will cover tools and tactics to build and grow your organization's network, approaches to increase on-the-ground impact, and source solutions and resources beyond your staff.

For more information and to register, click here. To participate in the conversation on Twitter, follow the #EngagedNetworks hashtag. 

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.

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