Welcome to our house
by Aqua for All director Sjef Ernes
In January 2018, the VIA Water programme office (formally hosted by IHE Delft) moved to Aqua for All. Director Sjef Ernes welcomes the team.
Four years ago, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a great move in enabling a knowledge platform for water-related innovations – the later to be called VIA Water programme. The programme has been set up to create learnings from innovative propositions: learning from the local context and people to see what works and what does not. The knowledge that is thus created is both actionable and practice-proven: quite a different approach to knowledge development.
The VIA Water programme team found a perfect symbiosis with Aqua for All in embedding this approach in a funding mechanism, providing both financial and content support for social innovations, deliberately focussing on Africa to concentrate efforts and results. All of this created a funding desk in 2014 that has now financed over 60 projects. The first promising results were pitched during an overcrowded workshop session at the Amsterdam International Water week in November 2017 where 15 energetic (merely young) social entrepreneurs pitched their value proposition in 2 minutes. Their – often personal – stories were highly rewarded by the audience. And the results are also visible in a Bidbook (project portfolio) that finds its way to alerted partners, private and public, civil society and….financiers.
The symbiosis resulted in a merging of the VIA Water programme team and Aqua for All in 2018, strengthening both parties with their complementary skills and embedding the outcome of VIA Water in a broader context for further development and growth.
The programme fits the broker function Aqua for all provides, by bridging private and public and civil society parties, bringing together ideas, passionate people and money. Innovations always go through the process of 1) blue print 2) validation 3) prepare for market 4) towards scale; which requires a collective programming of finance instruments that fit the phase the innovation is in. A finance strategy that starts with subsidy and ends with commercial finance, using impact investments, philanthropy and MFI-finance instruments, captured in smart contracts and often result based or in bonds embedded is essential. VIA Water, strengthened by the expertise of the full Aqua for All team, is able to offer that.
In short: never a dull moment: it is rewarding to combine passion and mission, profession and vocation, and to create impact through VIA Water. VIA Water, welcome to our house!