One of the first steps in taking action on behalf of others is finding an organization whose work is sustainable. Trying hard — even very real effort — is not necessarily resulting in help to anyone; good intentions are not always good deeds.
Charities that are succeeding in the long-term, not just in the headlines, are the ones doing work that is well thought out. This broader understanding creates a moral identity for their actions.
How can good intentions thrive in an increasingly complex world? Clean water is one of the greatest needs and perhaps the most challenging. Over 700 million people worldwide lack access to safe water.
Several charities I’ve explored are working in this complex sector and I am grateful for their work. The highlight result of my research is the excellent track record of the charity called SPLASH. They understand that getting the water to a location is only the start. How to care for wells and sanitation systems after the placement is done is at least as important in making projects sustainable.
My new understanding of good work is that it is long term. Internationally less than 1 percent of water projects have ongoing monitoring, according to the United States Agency for International Development. Consequently, as many as 50,000 water posts installed across Africa by well-intentioned U.S. investors spending upwards of $200 million are no longer operational....at all.
It is obvious that evidence of continued success is clearly under-pursued by water charities. Real change requires continued commitment to sustaining the original operational capacity of every installation. A project that cost $1,000 initially to execute may cost $3,000 more in the three years following. It must be protected by providing training and maintenance until it becomes permanently and realistically secure. The problems not anticipated are exactly what breaks the systems. Having the ability to respond to those problems and create long-term solutions is the commitment it takes to generate sustainability.
SPLASH has it. They are smaller than other worldwide water charities but their excellent record of sharing not just their successes, but also failures or oversights publicly, means they do not continue making the same mistakes. Those that lack follow up are destined to repeat the invisible mistakes in each new effort.
Monitoring and evaluation are not exciting, but they are essential if you intend to change the world.
By installing their systems in existing facilities, SPLASH captures an environment complete with supervision and reporting mechanisms of their own. They target well operated orphanages, shelters and hospitals for children so common care for equipment is part of routine daily practice. Strategic partnerships like this add needed technical support and protection of the equipment.
Follow-up care is not growth, so it does not add to the measurable success of new work, but it is the only way to keep that work relevant beyond the period of creation. Innovation driven by observation will make follow up less essential on future projects. SPLASH is honoring all of these best practices.