By Susan Davis, Executive Director
This blog is based on a brief talk I gave at a Stockholm World Water Week session called “Turning errors into actions: continuous improvements“.
“Innovation” is a big buzz word in development these days, but many people and organizations have a mindset that limits innovation to technology, or, occasionally implementation. I believe the innovations we so desperately need and want in water and sanitation service delivery require innovations, if not a fundamental overhaul, in funding and financing. Finances – at the community, district, and national level – have been well identified as barriers to sustained services. Inflexible funding can prevent adaptation during implementation, trying new ideas, and improving practices post-implementation. Many talk about needing enough funding and finance to get to universal access, but we must also find ways to contribute to lasting water and sanitation services.
We surveyed development organizations last year. Respondents identified barriers such as short-term funding cycles, lack of focus on and funding for post-implementation support, and limited funding for overhead or staff time.
There is no black and white answer to what works. Achieving sustainable water and sanitation services can be as complex as painting a masterpiece. We need a broader pallet of funding mechanisms.
The good news is that in response to failed and poor services, some WASH donors have been creative in how they fund. Some highlights of artistry in funding:
Avina Foundation funds listening forums and professionalization of community water management in Latin America; now taking this approach to Africa.
charity:water has established a Pipeline Fund, which funds organizations to establish systems of local leaders, promote innovative technology and train mechanics. They have supported “hello monitoring” through NEWAH in Nepal, “borehole banking” through Water for People Malawi, and Circuit Riders through REST in Ethiopia.
Open Road Alliance provides fast, flexible contingency funding. They work with other funders to adopt risk mitigation and contingency grant making practices. (Check out their report “Risk in Philanthropy: Funders Don’t Ask & Non-Profits Don’t Tell“)
Osprey Foundation has funded advocacy for better implementation, systems change, service delivery approaches, and innovative sanitation businesses.
Wallace Genetic Foundation has funded advocacy for funding WASH, promoting the Circuit Rider approach, and research into post-construction support and resolution of problems with water systems.
Do you know of creative funding mechanisms or donors? Please let us know in the comments section.