The team at Asian Philanthropy Forum is pleased to provide coverage of the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Conference in Singapore as a media partner.
Water. We all need it. We can’t live without it. Many of us also take for granted that it is clean, drinkable, and usable. To first-world inhabitants, it is a utility that comes easily to us. For too many in the world, it’s a much greater challenge to get the water needed to survive each day, let alone thrive.
This issue was discussed at one of the workshops at the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network 2013 Conference. How are venture philanthropists and social entrepreneurs engaged in water issues, when it is a problem for so many?
A representative from HSBC’s Climate Change Center of Excellence provided some valuable context. In 2010, almost 800 million people worldwide were without improved access to water and 2.5 billion people were without access to basic sanitation. Climate change makes resource stresses worse: water, energy, food – the inter-linkages are all too clear. The lack of availability of clean water is a local impact. Water disrupts energy by impacting thermal power generation. It disrupts food via diminished harvests. It creates pinch-points that ultimately affects a country’s economic competitiveness. India and China are particularly impacted by these localized stresses.
Venture philanthropy can help at a local and regional level. Lien Aid, an NGO jointly funded by the Lien Foundation and Nanyang Technology University, works across China and Southeast Asia to provide water treatment plants and water storage facilities for areas without access to clean water. These efforts toward safe water and sanitation are helping tens of thousands across Asia. The impact of what Lien Aid is doing is obvious, but what is not so obvious is the success factor: that advocacy and education are necessary, in addition to the clean water itself, to raise awareness and drive demand for access to clean water.
Social entrepreneurs have not shied away from water issues either. Kopernik, based in Japan, is bringing life-changing technologies to the last mile by connecting manufacturers of technology, local organizations (distribution partners), and funders (individuals and corporations). Since launching in 2010, it has reached over 100,000 people in 13 countries.
These and other groups are tackling a large problem, and one that often seems unsolvable. As each community is being reached, more are getting the water they need for life. Ultimately, to get to scale, collaboration with other funders and governments will be necessary. Increasingly, governments around the world are open to collaboration with non-profits and social entrepreneurs. Investing in coordinated relationships with governments, NGOs in communities, and working across related sectors (such as climate change) will open the doors for greater global impact.
About the Author
Andrew Ho is Manager of Global Philanthropy at the Council on Foundations, a national association of charitable foundations, where he is responsible for developing resources and programs for effective global grantmaking. He also works closely with HNW individuals, philanthropists and next generation trustees on strategic planning and thoughtful philanthropy. Andrew currently serves as a consultant for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to develop strategies for public-philanthropic partnerships to benefit Asian American communities across the country.