Safe water images contribute to campaign success

I’m always baffled why so many of my acquaintances think that I still work for WaterAid. It’s more than 10 years since my last engagement with the UK charity, a volunteer assignment in South India.

It might be something to do the impact of WaterAid’s communications in the UK and beyond. People seem to “get it” that safe water contributes to poverty reduction. And the visuals are so much more positive than those addressing hunger and disease.

The big development agencies have relentlessly copied WaterAid’s message and imagery over the last decade. Our Water and Sanitation Guide reports that “the drinking water target is one of the few success stories of the MDG programme”.

The halo of my association with water is therefore proving hard to shake off. This is frustrating given that the work of OneWorld is far more trendy than WaterAid, engaging with the latest communications technologies rather than ancient pipes and pumps. Just this week we were runners-up in a glamorous San Jose awards ceremony for the Lifelines mobile phone project that we share with OneWorld South Asia.

But while my colleagues were enjoying the Californian glitz, my post delivered yet another reminder of the past with an unsolicited brochure for “The Water and Business Summit 2008”. This appears to be a jamboree for the so-called corporate social responsibility industry, anxious to get its act together on the latest buzz of water footprinting.

I was a little disconcerted to see that the Director of WaterAid, Barbara Frost, is billed to share a platform with Nestle and Rio Tinto for the opening discussion. Mind you, this is a deserved punishment for changing her job title to “CEO”, presumably out of deference to American stakeholders. OneWorld UK has many American friends but I suspect there would be a staff rebellion if our Director started calling herself a CEO.

But it might be a good idea if we could dream up a water project.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK