© 2012 Ann Goodman
Q&A: Following UN Women NYC’s “3 Pillars of Sustainability,” May 8, 2012, Ann talks with charity:water’s head of programming, Christy Scazzero, on how awareness of water sanitation affects global sustainability—and the impact it’s had in the developing world.
1. Ann: What does charity:water do to advance sustainability?
Christy: charity: water is a non-profit organization that helps bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries via an online donor platform. We do this through raising awareness about the water crisis and funding non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to implement water programs across sub-saharan Africa, Asia and Haiti.
2. Ann: How do you define sustainability?
Christy: We’re committed to ensuring that communities benefiting from water systems continue to have uninterrupted access to clean water. For the purposes of charity: water, water, sanitation, and hygiene services are considered “sustained” when systems and procedures are established to ensure continued access to improved water and sanitation, and practice of improved hygiene behaviors for all members of a community or institution, forever.
3. Ann: How do you ensure that communities sustain improved standards of sanitation?
Christy: We’re a solution-agnostic organization, and, as such, we’re more concerned about results than prescribing solutions.
4. Ann: What results do you look for?
Christy: The results charity: water seeks from the programs we invest in include uninterrupted access to potable water for every member of the community, uninterrupted access and use of hygienic latrines by communities and 100% practice of improved hygiene. The NGOs we fund are best placed to determine how to achieve those results.
5. Ann: The environment has always been at the heart of the concept of sustainable development, and water has become an increasingly pressing issue in multiple ways–for health, agriculture, food, and the economy. As a donor agency, how do you view the average person as making a difference in water sanitation around the world?
Christy: We believe everyone can make an impact in helping solve the world’s water crisis. Ninety percent of the funds we raise come from individuals and the majority of those funds are brought in through online channels, mainly through individuals in the developed world. Three years ago charity: water built a fundraising platform called mycharity: water (www.mycharitywater.org) with the intention of empowering any individual to give, raise and/or rally their communities around the cause. People have given up their wedding gifts, run marathons, walked across America and given up their birthdays for charity: water.
6. Ann: What has been the impact of that rallying effort?
Christy: The result has been that thousands of water projects have been implemented around the world serving millions of people with clean, safe drinking water.
7. Ann: How does charity:water measure performance, results or success?
Christy: To ensure water continues to flow in these communities, we want to assess whether or not local institutions or organized groups are functional and appropriate.
8. Ann: What questions do you ask to help you make that assessment?
Christy: We ask questions like: Are financing mechanisms in place to ensure small operations and maintenance costs can be covered without recurring NGO assistance? When communities are responsible for water point management, what linkages have been formed (with local authorities, etc.) to support them? Were key stakeholders involved in both technical and soft aspects of the programs design ie: community by-laws around water point management, etc. Have community experts been created to repair, train and facilitate meetings?
9. Ann: That’s a lot of information to track and assess! What’s your ultimate measure?
Christy: At the end of the day, the NGOs we fund are best placed to determine how to measure and achieve those results.