November 20, 2014

WASH Sector Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has transformed fundraising in so many positive ways. Gamers, authors and the music industry have found a radical new funding model that gives these artists more control over their lives and careers. I am a huge fan of the musician Amanda Palmer for instance. Her use of crowdfunding to free herself from a record industry that too often worked against her is compelling, and frankly consistent with her punk roots of going against the grain.

I also believe that crowdfunding empowers “smaller” donors in new ways. I can at times feel like my small financial contributions to worthy causes is pretty insignificant when I read of huge investments from wealthy philanthropists. Large donations matter and my $25 feels pretty insignificant against such might. But crowdfunding transforms this, pooling my donations with others for a specific end. My $25 becomes part of a stream of donations that collectively can reach millions, as was the case with Amanda Palmer.

And finally, crowdfunding has created a new way to engage supporters. Creative people who use crowdfunding cleverly engage supporters in new ways, from letting them beta test new games to giving supporters unique access to products, music and books.

So can crowdfunding be a new way to engage supporters for improved water and sanitation services worldwide? Perhaps.

To date, most water crowdfunding initiatives have been focused on helping a community with a water project, but we know that approach to development is flawed. It has led to failed projects worldwide because successful water service delivery takes years, not months. Too few have the patience to build a service over time. People often remain content to simply bang in infrastructure and offer token training over a short period of time. This approach is not good enough anymore, and crowdfunding can fuel poor work. We must be cautious.

I am much more interested in crowdfunding for emerging social enterprises around the world, like Clean Team in Ghana, TEECs in Malawi and Sanergy in Kenya. Can crowdfunding be an investment vehicle for social enterprises committed to providing long-term services to communities around the world? Perhaps! Any takers?


Related resources
Where to crowdfund device development and projects
A roundup of sites where you can post your projects and attract donations to reach your funding goals.

E4C Webinar | World Toilet Day: Global branding at zero cost
Jack Sim founded the World Toilet Organization and campaigned for UN recognition of World Toilet Day until it happened in 2013. This is his presentation on the work to bring sanitation to 3.3 billion people.

Five questions with Sam Parker
The head of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor tells us about his two years living in a Brazilian safehouse for street kids and he issues a challenge to design a game-changing toilet.

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