Our highlights from 2018
VIA Water is a programme that is permanently in transition: working on and with innovation is never a straightforward path. This year though, transition was our central theme. The programme is scheduled to end in the summer of 2019, meaning that our 63 current projects are finishing up as well. This year, we have been working on helping them transition beyond the scope of the VIA Water fund. We have used several methods for this:
- Training on skills needed to advance and/or scale projects
- One-on-one support and coaching, monitoring and evaluation (including on-site visits)
- Facilitation of connections between project owners and with possible future partners
- Facilitation of knowledge sharing (lessons learned) between innovators, to learn from each other’s’ trajectories
And as for the programme itself, we have also been working on the transition: we focused on getting our lessons learned and method out into the world. For this goal, we worked on:
- Publications on our programme, method and projects
- Presence at international conferences
Overarching, we also connected with several private investors and visited the GIIN impact investors conference, to build a network of investors for the continuation of the programme, Aqua for All as a whole and our projects.
Let us take you through our activities of 2018.
Throughout the year, in all of our focus countries VIA Water Cafés were organised. These country gatherings – often organised by the innovators themselves - give project owners the opportunity to discuss their successes and challenges with their peers. In many cases, project sites are being visited, and valuable connections arise. During these Café’s, we experimented with a Café Carousel. Each Café would ask the next Café to be organised (in a different country) a question regarding being a water innovator in Africa – and answer the question the previous Café had raised. Through video messages, the questions and answers were shared.
To further facilitate direct contact, we have several Whatsapp groups – originating in a live training we organised, meaning everyone in the group has met each other face to face. In these groups, a lot of exchange takes place. People share their highlights, ask for advice and make plans for visits to each other’s project sites.
To work on the skills needed to advance as innovators, we organised 3 online Masterclasses for our project owners: on Marketing, Team Leadership and Business Development. By engaging the participants with online resources and preparatory questions before the actual masterclass, we were able to cater the masterclasses more to their needs.
Two of our project owners visited The Netherlands in September on the invitation of a local Rotary Club. They received tailor-made training and visited several organisations in The Netherlands.
At the Building Skills Seminar in Benin in October, participants from our French-speaking focus countries worked on the Business Model Canvas.
We hosted 12 of our project owners for VIA GO: a week full of training, field visits and a highly-energetic ‘sportsbar’ at the VIA Water Café in The Netherlands. They learned about the investor landscape, marketing and team leadership: all helpful towards bringing their projects to the next level. The field visits they conducted were meant to facilitate useful partnerships that will also advance the innovations. During the Café, the participants were able to showcase their innovation to the Dutch audience.
We took the opportunity to share with the water world which approach VIA Water is taking towards change in the water sector. We did so in Brazil at the World Water Forum 2018 and In April, we did the same in Kenya at Innovate 4 Water 2018, and as well during the African Innovation Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. We participated in AfriAlliance’s Brokerage event in Zambia. We were also present at UNC Water & Health in North Carolina, to talk about 'Collaboration by design: accelerating progress toward sustainable water and sanitation through partnerships’, and we took part in the PLAMA conference in Mozambique. In Kenya, VIA Water participated in the Dutch Embassies Water Partner Day and organised a session on the lessons our projects learned on partnerships.
VIA Water organised a joint session during the Stockholm International Water Week. During the African Spatial Delight meet-up 12 projects (of which 3 from VIA Water) pitched and presented their innovation. All of them were working on IT and data: using the technologies of the future for African development.
Our projects appeared in media and on conferences as well, and participated in many accelerator competitions. Multiple projects were presented with awards and other acknowledgements.
We produced 3 blogs in 2018, containing our lessons learned as a programme: the Spring Blog on discovery versus improvement in development, the Summer Blog on innovation in the modern world, and the New Year’s blog you have found in this newsletter.
VIA Water published 7 Spotlight articles highlighting some of our projects. On social media, we took the opportunity to highlight our projects as well, leading to 360 new followers overall, and much more engagement. The VIA Water innovators themselves also published over 200 messages with updates on their projects. Of course, many of our project owners are also active on social media.
There were articles published about VIA Water and its projects in the Financieel Dagblad (Dutch newspaper), Worlds Best News website, an interview with Steering Group member Victor Langenberg with Next Blue and articles by The Netherlands Water Partnership and on Dutchwatersector.com.
Last but not least: Silas Mvulirwenande is concluding his research into social innovations in the water sector in Africa (with VIA Water as a case study); he has written several papers and presented his findings at conferences.
We will continue our work on water solutions in 2019, supporting ‘our’ innovators.
The VIA Water team wishes you a great year.