Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 1: Understanding the Blockages

With nearly 170 participants registered, 21 countries represented, countless organizations and specialties and the loud buzz of excited conversation, the first ever Unclogging the Blockages got off to a great start.

Jane Nabunnya, IRC welcomes the participants
Today's goal was to Understand the Blockages: an entire day dedicated to informing participants of the challenges faced within the sanitation sector.  Using both panel discussions and rotating group presentations (called the World CafĂ©), individuals and organizations, from microfinance providers to corporations to technical programmers, were able to describe their role in sanitation as a business, and the key challenges they have faced.  Only by sharing experiences and helping each other to understand the barriers we each face, can we then identify the key blockages that are affecting the sanitation sector as a whole.

"We need to be practical, we need to think at scale, and we need to think in context."  Clara Rudholm of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) kicked off the workshop with these important guidelines.  Later in the day, the workshop had the honor to host Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Uganda Minister of Health, who expressed his strong support, and made it clear that the Ugandan government eagerly awaits the findings and recommendations of the workshop.  Recognizing each of the countries present, Dr. Rugunda compelled the participants to share their findings worldwide, particularly with policy makers like him.
Steven Sugden, Water For People, discusses technology
The goal of Day 1 was to make sure that each of the participants had an opportunity to learn about the challenges faced in market-based approaches to sanitation among a wide variety of actors.  Mike Khoza of Plan International described a village level banking project that organizes savings groups for household toilets.  He explained the challenge Plan faced with keeping money moving and ensuring that payments are being made and not simply pooled into an account.  William Lin of Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Corporate Contributions spoke on a panel discussion.  He explained that he's new to the sanitation space, but that he recognizes great potential for J&J to increase its impact and use its corporate experience for social good to improve markets for sanitation.  From a village savings group to a multi-national corporation, the participants at the Unclogging workshop represent a diverse set of experiences.

After many engaging discussions, hard-hitting questions and thoughtful reflection, the first day of Understanding the Blockages was a success.  Participants left with a deep understanding of the challenges faced in the creation of sustainable, efficient and effective businesses for sanitation.  Tomorrow: Loosening the Blockages!

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