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22 posts categorized "Water/Sanitation/Hygiene (WASH)"

Weekend Link Roundup (August 16-17, 2014)

August 17, 2014

Conflict_ImageOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Education

Why hasn't the once-booming tech ed sector solved education's problems? Writing in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer, an associate editor for the publication, shares some thoughts on that question from Paul Franz, a former doctoral candidate at Stanford who now teaches language arts in California. Those thoughts, writes Meyer, "mirror my own sentiment that education is a uniquely difficult challenge, both technically and socially, and that its difficulty confounds attempts to 'disrupt' it...."

Fundraising

The "ice bucket challenge," a grassroots campaign aimed at raising funds for the ALS Association, a a charity dedicated to finding a cure for amyotropic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig's disease), went viral this week. Around the country, celebrities and members of the public were filmed being doused with a bucket of ice water and then posted the footage to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. "Multiply this activity 70,000 times," writes William MacAskill, a research fellow in moral philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, "and the result is that the ALS Association has received $3 million in additional donations....[A] win-win, right?" Not according to MacAskill, whose own nonprofit, Giving What We Can, champions the principles of the effective altruism movement. The problem, writes MacAskill,

is funding cannibalism. That $3 million in donations doesn't appear out of a vacuum. Because people on average are limited in how much they're willing to donate to good causes, if someone donates $100 to the ALS Association, he or she will likely donate less to other charities....

***

This isn't to object to the ALS Association in particular. Almost every charity does the same thing — engaging in a race to the bottom where the benefits to the donor have to be as large as possible, and the costs as small as possible. (Things are even worse in the UK, where the reward of publicizing yourself all over social media comes at a suggested price of just £3 donated to MacMillan Cancer Support.) We should be very worried about this, because competitive fundraising ultimately destroys value for the social sector as a whole. We should not reward people for minor acts of altruism, when they could have done so much more, because doing so creates a culture where the correct response to the existence of preventable death and suffering is to give some pocket change....

Before you get too upset, read the entire piece. (MacAskill is a thoughtful young critic who, like many other people in the sector, has grown impatient with the status quo.) Then come back here and tell us why he's wrong — or right.

For an entirely different take on this question, take a look at this recent post by Philanthropy Daily contributor Scott Walter, executive vice president of the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C., which is unsparing in its criticism of effective altruism (and Peter Singer, who inspired the movement).

In a short post on the BoardSource site, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions' Tom Ralser looks at the important distinction between a donor and an investor.

Continue reading »

NGO Aid Map: See More. Do Better.

June 13, 2014

Headshot_julie_montgomeryThere are certain moments in your life that you never forget. Some of mine include graduating from college, buying a home, and having a baby. The same thing happens in one's career, and for me, Wednesday was one of those moments.

For the past six years, InterAction has been using online maps to help tell our members’ story. Wednesday was important because we launched a new global map on InterAction's NGO Aid Map, one that will allow us to tell this story as it applies to all countries and all sectors.

As the world of development actors continues to grow and expand, it is more important than ever to make aid smarter. One way to help improve aid is through data sharing, but in the midst of a data revolution, how does one make sense of it all?

It may sound simple, but gathering up-to-date, standardized data from NGOs is no small feat, even for InterAction — an alliance made up of more than one hundred and eighty individual organizations working to advance human dignity and fight poverty around the world.

Collecting data is one thing, but ensuring that it stays relevant, useful, and accessible is a massive undertaking. That is why we built the NGO Aid Map, an online platform that demonstrates, using maps and other data visualizations, where our members work and what they do around the world. Through data, we can help determine whether we are on the right track to fighting poverty.

Screenshot_NGO_AidMap

Now that you know why Wednesday mattered to me, I'd like to share five reasons why NGO Aid Map should matter to you:

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On World Water Day, Let's 'Toast to Water'

March 22, 2014

Today is World Water Day, the culmination of a week-long series of events coordinated by the United Nations and others to raise awareness of the global water crisis and, this year, the linkage between water and energy generation. Of course, the burden of the crisis is most keenly keenly felt by the estimated 960 million people around the globe – many of them in Africa – who live on less than $2 a day.

To appreciate the full weight of that burden, consider the following statistical portrait, which was put together by the folks at the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), a six-year, $30 million initiative of the Coca-Cola Company that aims to improve access to clean water for 2 million people in Africa by 2015:

Water is a common thread between many of the most pressing challenges facing the world today, undermining development around the world.

Global water and sanitation burden

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene and Health

The water crisis is an everyday reality for millions of Africans.

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The Smartest Investment We Could Make: The Future of Girls

March 13, 2014

(Dr. Anand K. Parekh is an adjunct assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. His family manages the Parekh-Vora Charitable Foundation.)

Girls_in_classroomAs the father of two young girls, there is no greater joy for me than to see them smile and thrive. This is why I often remember former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan’s words: "There is no policy for progress more effective than the empowerment of women and girls. A nation that neglects its children, especially girls, is a nation that neglects its future and development." Given this truth, the Parekh-Vora Charitable Foundation has initiated a focus on two areas particularly important to girls: water and sanitation, and primary school education.

We could have chosen many areas of need to focus on, so why girls, why water and sanitation, and why education?

To begin with, we were struck by the numbers: globally, 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation, while 768 million people lack access to safe water. Every day, 2,000 children die from water-related diseases. And each year, 60 million children are born into homes without access to safe water and sanitation. It's estimated that improvements in these areas alone could vastly improve health outcomes, increase productivity, and reduce healthcare costs – while increasing a country's gross domestic product (GDP) by anywhere from 2 percent to 7 percent. Girls are disproportionately affected by the water and sanitation crisis, given that they frequently miss school or drop out altogether because of a lack of a private toilet in school. Tens of thousands of other girls and women spend hours at a time walking for miles while carrying water on their heads that can weigh up to forty pounds. Simply put, access to water, sanitation, and hygiene enables women and girls to take control of their lives.

The numbers around education are equally alarming: 793 million people worldwide are illiterate. Once again, girls and women are disproportionately affected and account for two-thirds of all illiterate persons. In the developing world, an estimated 42 percent of girls are not enrolled in school, while more than 60 million primary school-aged children of both genders do not have access to education and likely will never learn to read or write. The numbers are confounding, not least because we know that even a few years of basic education empowers women and girls to take control of their lives. Educated women are healthier (an extra year of  education for girls can reduce infant mortality by 5 percent to 10 percent) and earn more (an extra year of education boosts future wages by 20 percent). If every child were to receive an education, an estimated  171 million individuals would be lifted out of poverty.

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Data, Research, and Knowledge Tools — Where and When You Need Them

November 12, 2013

(Lisa Philp serves as vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

Cover_media_impactEarlier today the Foundation Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Media Impact Funders, an affinity group of grantmakers, released a new report titled Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States (20 pages, PDF).

Headlines from the Research

As the most comprehensive and detailed picture of U.S. media-related funding by foundations to date, the research offers a number of new insights:

  • Media-related funding is substantial in size and scope -- 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-11. If treated as a single category, media-related grantmaking would have ranked seventh in terms of domestic grantmaking in 2011, placing it just behind environment and ahead of science and technology, religion, and the social sciences.
  • Foundations increasingly are focused on media funding -- Media-related grantmaking grew at a faster rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-11 (21 percent increase vs. 5.8 percent, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age -- New media investments (Web-based and mobile) outpaced those in traditional media (print, television, and radio) by a factor of four (116.5 percent increase vs. 29.4 percent, respectively).

These findings and many others will be discussed at a Media Impact Focus event on Wednesday, November 13, by a panel of media funders, filmmakers, journalists, and practitioners; analyzed in the coming weeks in blogs, columns, and op-ed pieces written by our project advisors and funders; and updated over time to track the story of how media grantmaking is evolving.

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Philanthropy and the Millennium Development Goals

September 27, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center.)

Headshot_brad-smith2New York has been abuzz this week with the reconvening of the United Nations General Assembly and the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, and in the streets, cafes and restaurants you can hear people from all over the world taking about "the MDGs." Those who circulate in the acronym-laden universe of international development know that "MDGs" are the Millennium Development Goals -- the ambitious blueprint developed by the United Nations in the year 2000 to make serious progress on the pressing challenges of global poverty, health, education, and environment.

By one measure, "MDGs" is hardly a buzz phrase among America's philanthropic foundations. I just did a quick keyword search of three years' worth of 990-PF tax returns for close to 90,000 foundations and found just seven in which the term "millennium development goals" appeared. Then I tried an "only foundations" Google search on Glasspockets and got 3.65 million results!

But what people usually want to know about foundations is how much money they have spent on a cause or issue. It says a lot that only once in the years since the Millennium Development Goals were established has the Foundation Center been asked to map foundation funding to the eight goals. So this being a week where the MDGs are being discussed everywhere, we decided to pull some very quick data for 2011.

Goal Amount No. of Grants No. of Fdns.
Eradicate extreme poverty $770,761,183 1,663 318
Achieve universal primary ed 42,756,909 294 80
Promote gender equality 223,768,315 312 56
Reduce child mortality 456,276,756 337 54
Improve maternal health 211,008,135 215 38
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, other diseases 1,572,823,543 426 48
Ensure environmental sustainability 534,927,086 1,747 224
Develop partnership for global dev 278,124,929 363 109

 

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Dilemmas of a Water Funder

July 29, 2013

(David Rothschild leads the Portfolio Team at the Skoll Foundation. His post below also appears on the WASHfunders.org blog.)

Headshot_david_rothschildWhat a moment! At an April press conference, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, held up a handwritten number and announced, "2030. This is it. This is the global target to end poverty."

That historic moment also served to underscore some of the dilemmas that I and other WASH (clean water, sanitation, and hygiene) funders grapple with. How do we establish audacious -- yet realistic -- goals? How do we announce an ambitious goal -- such as full water and sanitation coverage in a number of countries -- and have confidence that we have a reasonable chance of achieving it?

What should our role as funders be, if not to push boundaries? If we just continue to provide incremental progress, we may never solve this problem. If the president of the World Bank can put forth aggressive goals, then foundation funders can -- and should -- do the same. After all, moving the needle on the world's most pressing problems is a moral imperative.

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The Social Progress Index: Measuring What Counts?

April 30, 2013

Report-cover_SocialProgressIndexThe Washington, D.C.-based Social Progress Imperative made a splash at the Skoll World Forum earlier this month when it launched its Social Progress Index (SPI), an ambitious effort to inform and influence development policies around the globe.

Developed by Harvard Business School professor and competitiveness expert Michael E. Porter in collaboration with Scott Stern of MIT, the index is founded on the principle that "what we measure guides the choices we make." To that end, the index analyzes fifty-two outcome-based (as opposed to input-based) indicators in three dimensions of social progress: meeting basic human needs; establishing the foundations of well-being that enable individuals to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives; and creating opportunity for all to reach their full potential. (For a complete breakdown of indicators, click here.)

While the index and the report (154 pages, PDF) released in conjunction with the launch of the index includes only fifty countries, those countries represent three-quarters of the world's population. Here's a chart from the report that plots their aggregate SPI scores against GDP per capita (PPP):

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 16-17, 2013)

February 17, 2013

Presidents-Day2013Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, James Irvine Foundation president and CEO Jim Canales discusses the foundation's new arts strategy, which has received both positive and negative feedback from the nonprofit community. "I admire those who have stepped forward to criticize aspects of our strategy, whether they believe it is wrong on its merits or they view it as yet another example of 'strategic philanthropy' gone awry, where we are dictating and imposing our solutions upon the field," writes Canales. "That is certainly not out intention.

What is different for us in our new Arts strategy is that rather than continuing with a broad-based approach that funded projects across multiple objectives, we made the strategic decision to direct our finite resources in a way that, in our view, will best position the arts field for future viability and success. In doing so, we are openly expressing a point of view about how we think the field must evolve to ensure its dynamism and relevance. Yet, we are very clear about our willingness to learn with our partners in this effort, to refine our approach accordingly, and to help to advance the field's understanding of the many ways to engage a broader cross-section of Californians (in our case) in the arts....

So, please keep the ideas, observations and critiques coming. It's the best way to ensure we can achieve the end we all agree upon: a vibrant, relevant and successful arts field....

Fundraising

The Mertz Gilmore Foundation and NYU Wagner's Research Center for Leadership in Action have issued a new report, Beyond Foundation Funding: Revenue-Generating Strategies for Sustainable Social Change (84 pages, PDF), that's designed to aid social change organizations, funders, and technical assistance providers in discussing and implementing different fundraising and revenue-generating practices.

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has a few choice words for fundraising consultants who show up at sector conferences with slick PowerPoint presentations designed to shame attendees into contracting their services, but who never, ever reveal whether the campaigns they are so proud of creating actually worked or not.

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WASHME: Making WASH Orgs Sustainable

December 12, 2012

The Foundation Center has been collecting collaboration stories for its Nonprofit Collaboration Database, a searchable collection of 670+ profiles that gets 2,000+ visits every month. And this one just came in. (Have a story you'd like to share? Learn more here.)

"Sustainability is one of the most pressing issues facing the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) sector today. More than 30 percent of WASH projects fail after two to five years." -- Sustainability WASH Web site

In 2011, a group of NGOs, funders, and academics started to ask hard questions about the sustainability of their own programs and those of other organizations in the WASH sector. One result of that effort was Sustainable WASH, an online platform for assessing, learning about, and sharing best practices in the field.

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Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor…Your Grants Data

October 26, 2012

(Jeff Falkenstein is vice president of data architecture at the Foundation Center.)

Data-philanthropyTo say that Jeff Raikes' announcement of the launch of Markets for Good was big news is an understatement. Raikes' call to improve the philanthropic information infrastructure and support the quality of and access to data speaks to the core of the Foundation Center's mission and vision. The center, along with fifteen partner foundations, recently made a big announcement of its own when it launched the Reporting Commitment, a movement to improve the transparency of, and reduce duplication among, foundations through the adoption of common reporting standards and a consistent geographic taxonomy. Needless to say, these two developments have the potential to significantly impact the future of the philanthropic sector.

For over fifty years, the Foundation Center has aggregated information on U.S. foundations pulled from publicly available 990-PF tax returns, annual reports, press releases, foundation Web sites, and other information sources. In addition to offering this data through the Foundation Directory Online, the center features it in its many research reports and issue-based portals, and has taken steps to incorporate it into grants management software as well as reports and portals developed with a number of foundations and other partners. Much of the value the center adds to the information we collect comes from an intensive review of hundreds of thousands of grants made by foundations from around the world. The center also identifies the recipients of those grants: who they are, what they do, where they (generally) work, and which populations they (generally) serve. Additional analysis is done to understand the purpose of the grant, the subject area funded, the type of support provided, the specific population and geographic area served by the grant, and the strategy behind it.

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[Infographic] The Water-Rich vs. the Water-Poor

September 22, 2012

Our infographic of the week illustrates the disparity in water consumption between "water-rich" countries with plentiful access to clean water and "water-poor" countries with little or limited access to clean water. It was created by Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology (h/t WASHfunders.org).

 

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On Building Community Online: A 'Flip' Chat With Paull Young, Director of Digital, charity: water

July 31, 2012

(This video was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Helena Monteiro, executive director of the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support.)

There are currently 800 million people living without the very thing most of us take for granted: safe, clean drinking water.

Founded by former nightclub promoter Scott Harrison, charity: water has helped bring that precious commodity to two million people in the developing world. How? For starters, it has perfected the art of collaborating with local partners who know the language and customs of the target population and have mastered the logistical challenges of working in local communities.

The New York City-based nonprofit is also brilliant at fundraising and, largely through innovative digital outreach efforts like its birthday campaign, has raised more than $60 million for water projects in the developing world since it was founded in 2006.

What explains charity: water's phenomenal success? According to the organization's director of digital, Paull Young, it boils down to the following:

  1. Be positive. Powerful stories with positive messages are more effective than stories that make people feel guilty.
  2. Don't ask for money. What works with direct mail often doesn't work online. Instead of making an ask every time you communicate with your donors and supporters, give people a chance to learn about the "cool stuff" your organization is up to.
  3. Give. Raise. Influence. Focus on building relationships with your donors and supporters that enable them to see how they can maximize their ability to give, fundraise, and influence others over a period of years.
  4. Do it wrong quickly.
  5. Help donors and supporters see their impact. People are more generous if they understand clearly how their money is being used.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with Young before he addressed a 501 Tech NYC event about the organization's birthday campaign, the metrics it uses to evaluate its online fundraising efforts, and a few of the fundraising lessons he and his colleagues have learned over the years.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)

 

(Running time: 8 minutes, 8 seconds)

Have a thought or comment you'd like to share? Use the comments section below....

-- Regina Mahone

Innovation Forum 2012

June 26, 2012

We thought it would be fun (and interesting) to share the livestream of the Rockefeller Foundation's 2012 Innovation Forum, which is supposed to start around 12:45 EDT and is one component of the storied foundation's centennial celebration.

The forum is designed to explore solutions to pressing global challenges and this year will focus on ways of ensuring that the benefits of new technologies do not bypass the world's poor. To that end, the event will showcase cutting-edge inventions, convene thought leaders from different sectors, and feature discussions that explore opportunities to help those who are becoming more vulnerable due to pernicious economic, social, and environmental forces.


Live streaming by Ustream

Later this evening, the foundation will honor Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons Ltd.; Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the UK-based Portland Trust and Big Society Capital; and J. Carl Ganter, director and co-founder of Circle of Blue, an international network of journalists, scientists, and communications experts working to address and raise awareness of the global freshwater crisis, for their innovative work and philanthropy. And you can watch the whole thing from the comfort of your air-conditioned office.

World Water Day: A PubHub Reading List

March 22, 2012

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that examine racial/ethnic disparities in higher education.)

To help mark World Water Day, we searched PubHub for reports that discuss efforts to improve access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in the developing world -- efforts that in turn are linked to progress in the areas of health, education, and economic growth.

While the 2015 Millennium Development Goal target for halving the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water has been met, according to a recent report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, the target for halving the proportion of those without access to basic sanitation has not. Moreover, the aggregate figures mask significant regional variations in the progress achieved to date. The two reports highlighted below explore the complex challenges of implementing and sustaining effective WASH-related interventions.

Wateraid_offtrackofftarget220 Off-Track, Off-Target: Why Investment in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Is Not Reaching Those Who Need It Most (68 pages, PDF), a report from WaterAid, notes that in sub-Saharan Africa the target for access to sanitation is so off-track that at current rates it will not be met for two centuries: "In developing countries, spending on water, sanitation and hygiene services is minimal compared to health and education, and the share of aid flows going to water and sanitation has fallen over the last 15 years." Not only does inadequate investment in WASH initiatives undermine progress in the areas of health and education, it also exacerbates already stark inequities in access to services between rich and poor, rural and urban areas, and for women-led households and other marginalized groups.

What are the reasons behind the slow progress toward WASH-related goals in the region? The report's authors lay the blame at the feet of multiple actors and causes:

Political priorities lead governments to favour other sectors, improve places already served, or exclude poor and marginalised groups. Inadequate information hampers policy-making and planning, and lack of transparency is an obstacle to good monitoring and scrutiny. Aid is not well coordinated, is only loosely targeted according to need, and its effectiveness is constrained by red tape and lack of alignment with government systems. The sustainability of services rarely receives the attention it requires. These factors in turn undermine weak capability to capture, absorb and spend funds effectively, and lead to a vicious cycle of low investment and poor performance....

The report calls on national governments, donors, and civil society to break the WASH-related "cycle of low investment and poor performance" by:

  • strengthening sector leadership;
  • making equity and sustainability the focus of service delivery;
  • substantially increasing funding, including government spending of at least 1 percent of GDP on sanitation programs and donor investments of $10 billion per year in the form of targeted grants (not loans);
  • targeting resources better on the basis of need;
  • using resources more effectively through increased flexibility on the terms of funding as well as coordination and alignment; and
  • improving transparency and financial reporting.

Fsg_washadvocacy220And what can we in the United States do to help improve access to clean water and basic sanitation in the developing world?  U.S. WASH Advocacy: Landscape Report (18 pages, PDF), a report from FSG, notes that while the U.S. government contributed more than $800 million to WASH-related initiatives in 2009, many past interventions have fallen short of their promise. In order to promote efficient, targeted use of funds, more effective advocacy efforts, and improved practice in the field, the authors recommend focusing on five interdependent goals:

  • increase the sustainability and effectiveness of WASH programs and services;
  • direct U.S. government and multilateral aid to populations most in need (sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia);
  • maintain current U.S. government funding for WASH-related initiatives;
  • push for greater funding from non-U.S. government donors (i.e., corporations, foundations, multilaterals, the general public), and highlight sanitation as a sub-strategy of broader WASH-related efforts; and
  • boost the quality of, demand for, and access to data across the WASH field.

According to the report's authors, a successful advocacy campaign targeting USAID, the State Department, Congress, the executive branch, multilateral agencies, foundations, and corporations would require a robust evidence base and experienced high-profile leadership. The report also recommends different approaches for each donor group:

Foundations -- Many foundations that fund in related areas (e.g., global health, environment, women's rights) do not prioritize WASH issues. There may be opportunities for high-level conversations and awareness-raising to increase the number of U.S. foundations that see WASH funding as a priority investment.

Corporations -- As more corporations come to see the alignment between WASH issues and their core business, WASH advocates should be proactive in engaging corporations as partners in WASH-related advocacy and interventions. The Global Water Challenge has done some work in this area, but with deeper cross-sector collaboration, corporations can become exponentially larger contributors to WASH issues in terms of their financial resources, as well as their products, services, and global reach.

Multilaterals -- While multilaterals likewise face funding constraints in today's slow-growth environment, even modest increases in development bank aid have the potential to create large impacts in the WASH field and should be pursued as a critical element of an overall WASH strategy.

The Public -- While awareness of WASH issues among the public is low and the infrastructure for raising funds inadequate, "clean water" is a highly resonant message when paired with effective marketing. The field should encourage and build on the efforts of organizations like charity: water and water.org to build public awareness of and support for WASH issues.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates, Conrad N. Hilton, and Howard G. Buffett foundations, the report's recommendations include strengthening leadership in the field, building and engaging broad coalitions, greater support for advocacy efforts, and improving data collection and dissemination.

If we are to meet the MDG target for access to basic sanitation and continue making progress on other WASH-related issues, governments, NGOs, donors, and local communities need to work together to target resources to regions with the highest need. This won’t happen overnight, but the steady increase in WASH-related support by U.S. foundations would suggest that we are moving in the right direction.

If you're interested in WASH-related issues and would like to learn more, take a look at these reports:

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than 170 reports related to water, sanitation, hygiene, and other global health issues.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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