By Bob Wubbena, Rotary Club of Olympia, WA, USA, and immediate past vice chair of the Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag)
Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a three part webinar series hosted jointly by Rotary and Wasrag about conducting more effective water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects. Each of the webinars focused on how Rotary clubs can partner with a particular sector to find sustainable solutions for communities most in need of assistance.
We had eight excellent panelists share insight about building relationships with governments, non-governmental organizations, and private companies to undertake WASH projects. A few tips from our panelists are included below; listen to the full recordings for more advice from our experts:
Webinar 1: Working with Governments on Rotary WASH projects
- Do your homework. Before approaching government branches about a project, familiarize yourself with government guidelines, policies, strategies, priorities and the roles and responsibilities of government departments and ministries for WASH.
- Identify traditional authorities, leaders tied to tradition or custom, and note existing roles in the project area.
- Work with the beneficiary community to develop a long-term sustainability framework aligned with government policies.
- Engage governments at different levels and explore partnership opportunities with decentralized government affiliates which may be important stakeholders (these group may include agencies related to agriculture, health, environment, and more).
- Clarify roles. Confirm with the host Rotary club and, if applicable, international club partner, the roles traditional authorities and other community groups (such as faith-based groups) will assume as part of the project team.
- Form a local committee. A village, community, or water project committee should be established (with both women and men elected by the beneficiary community) as community representatives and point persons for the various external and governmental agencies.
Webinar 2: Working with Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) on Rotary WASH projects
- Partner with subject matter experts. Non-governmental organizations with technical expertise provide subject area knowledge, expertise in implementation, and dedicated full-time assistance.
- Form a local project committee. The host and, if applicable, international clubs should mobilize the community to ensure local insight is included in the project and an elected village water committee is formed. The committee helps ensure that the project is owned by the beneficiary community and the partnering NGO is there to assist in design, construction, and mentoring the committee, ensuring project longevity and sustainability
- Clarify roles. Most NGOs have likely never worked with a partner such as Rotary who may serve as a donor but also wants to play an active role in the project design, construction, training, and longer-term oversight. Develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines the roles for Rotary members, the NGO and the committee during implementation in the earliest stages of the project to ensure that their participation is adding real value to the project.
Webinar 3: Working with the Private Sector on Rotary WASH projects
- Tap into the private sector. Private partners can provide funding, expertise, volunteers, and pro-bono services such as conducting an assessment, measurements and evaluation after a project has been implemented. Some private companies have a non-profit sub group tasked with philanthropic priorities.
- Obtain references. Our vast Rotary network already has many strong relationships within the private sector. Network with fellow Rotary members to obtain company references for the type of work that you want to do. Ask Rotarians or Rotaractors who have these relationships to introduce you and your project.
- Introduce yourself. There are many private sector companies that are more than willing to help Rotary. Do your homework first and then don’t hesitate to contact companies. Be specific about your needs and make sure that have well-defined expectations for each party’s role, timelines, and costs. Highlight how a partner’s supportive efforts will be recognized.
- Sell our impact. When reaching out to private organizations that may be good potential partners, explain our global reach, grass-roots level network, passion, and commitment. These are just some of the assets Rotary brings to the table as a project partner.
Wasrag hosts an annual one-day Water Summit focused on important WASH topics immediately before the RI Convention. The 2015 Summit, focused on WASH in Schools, will be held in São Paulo on 4 June 2015. Visit www.wasrag.org to register.