June 23

Francisco Noguera

Building a Practical Platform for Collaboration: Akvo.org

With this long overdue post I want to direct your attention to an innovative, relevant and icreasingly active platform called Akvo.org. Its topic area is one of obvious relevance to the NextBillion audience: drinking water and sanitation in the developing world. It’s overdue because I learned about Akvo quite some time ago, back when I was working with Al Hammond, Jim Koch and the Global Social Benefit Incubator team on a review of community-scale, enterprise based approaches to these challenges. I choose to write about it today to join them in announcing the investment that of Rabobank recently made in the project and to finally put a check next to it on my list!

Akvo’s platform serves three main purposes: First, it facilitates the flow of funds and resources to water and sanitation projects in the developing world; in Akvo, you’ll be able to find hundreds of projects in many countries with detailed descriptions of their funding needs, executing organizations, etc. Once you donate to the project of choice you’ll be curious to see how it performs and grows over time, of course. Well, project performance metrics is Akvo’s second pillar of work through a methodology called Really Simple Reporting. Finally, through Akvopedia, it facilitates the transfer of skills and knowledge among existing projects and basically anyone interested in learning more about the different technologies and approaches that address the challenges of water and sanitation.

Akvo is a fantastic resource and it’s only beginning to gain traction. Surely, it will continue to gain strength, relevance and visibility in years to come. Nonetheless, there are a couple of things I would like to see happening in the site as it continues to mature. The first is a shift from donations to investments in these projects, or at least that the choice is made available for users to make. It would be interesting to see how different projects (whose goals are ultimately the same) compete for resources in a single marketplace that houses both “pure philanthopy” and social investment alternatives. The second is that the Akvopedia would be greatly enriched if all the entries included two examples: one of “where it has worked” and another one of “where it hasn’t worked” with an explanation of the whens, hows and whys.

Given the open nature of the platform, both suggetions are not for Akvo staff to take on but for users to propose and submit. That said, go ahead and explore this great resource. NextBillion will continue to report on the progress of the “open source for water and sanitation” as it continues to grow and create change.