Reinvention of the wheel is a common mistake in global development, and the water, sanitation and hygiene sector is not immune. There must be hundreds of prototypes languishing on closet floors and hard drives after failing to reach the market while proven, off-the-shelf filters, chlorinators and so on may be acceptable for the job.
The same goes for choosing the right product for each context. We have to start with what’s meeting (and not meeting) the users’ needs in order to avoid wasted investment. And we have to do it throughout the value chain.
That’s why Engineering for Change has built a new Solutions Library of hundreds of products that meet basic needs. The products cover nearly every aspect of global development, including dozens in the water and sanitation sector.
The Solutions Library is a due diligence resource, a living database of neutral, performance-based information. The entries help answer three important questions for global development technology:
- Which solution is appropriate for the context and constraints?
- What has scaled and what has stalled?
- Does the solution perform as expected?
We have heard from engineers and others in global development that answering those three questions has been difficult. Practitioners are starved for high-quality information. Another thing we’ve heard often from global development professionals is that new, unproven gadgets get as much, if not more, attention as proven products.
Repeated mistakes can slow global development efforts. It has been hard to find information about so-called “prior art,” the wheels that have already been invented. That leads to undeveloped prototypes or, worse, the rusted-out bones of dead projects that were delivered and then failed.
The reasons for failure can be technical, cultural, financial or a combination thereof, but the end result is the same: wasted investment. Our answer is normalized, objective data that is rigorously harvested and reviewed by experts. Practitioners can reduce the risk of failure and spend their money wisely with our side-by-side comparisons of the products that can meet their goals.
That’s why we did this. We believe the Solutions Library is the first stop in the decision for which technology will be the best fit in any given context. It is a work in a constant state of flux, with periodic updates that incorporate suggestions from our network of development engineers and other professionals. As you explore the resource, please share your ideas and tips based on your experience. We hope to include the advice of the WASH community in our improvements.
Please visit the Solutions Library, share it with colleagues and collaborators and contribute. Real working solutions start here: solutions.engineeringforchange.org.