Billions of people lack access to safe, reliable, and affordable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. This has profound consequences for their health and welfare, especially for children under the age of five. Conventional ways of addressing this challenge, which focus on installing hardware such as taps and toilets, often fail to deliver sustainable WASH services or to reach the people with the greatest need.
To address this challenge, the Osprey Foundation supports WASH initiatives that deliver effective, sustainable, and scalable services in underserved communities. We support organizations that work to strengthen the local systems for delivering sustained WASH services through integrated, multi-pronged programs. We also take risks on innovative models that are at too early a stage for many other funders but have the potential to create game-changing improvements in the way WASH services are delivered. Complementing these efforts, we advocate for change within the WASH sector through collaboration with other funders and by challenging the sector to adopt approaches with the potential for greater impact.
Our Partners in Action: Safe Water Network
Safe Water Network (SWN) uses market-based approaches to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water to communities in need. SWN helps establish small, local enterprises that operate water purification stations that sell safe water for an affordable fee to nearby residents. Since 2008, SWN has worked in more than 300 communities in Ghana and India, supplying safe water to areas with more than one million people.
SWN provides training, tools, and support for the small enterprises in its network. It also continually seeks out ways to serve more people and to strengthen operations by testing new technologies and services and by developing better systems for monitoring and reporting station performance. In addition, it works to build and promote the emerging safe water enterprise sector, including in other countries, by developing standardized, open-source tools, metrics, and training programs to enable replication at scale; building the evidence base on the affordability, effectiveness, and sustainability of the enterprise approach; and supporting model policies, funding arrangements, and public-private partnership structures.
The Osprey Foundation has provided grant funding to SWN for several years. Our recent grants have supported improved analytics that SWN can use to optimize its operations and promoted sector-building activities. In particular, Osprey has supported SWN as it has helped to establish working groups for safe water enterprises interested in improving operations. We also provide advice to SWN’s management team on strategy, financing, and sector development. In addition, the foundation has extended a long-term, low-interest loan to SWN to test the financial viability of several water stations in Ghana.
What We are Reading
This background note for the WASH Systems Symposium, which was held this March in The Hague, the Netherlands, provides an overview of the field’s current understanding of WASH as a system and how systems thinking has evolved.