Creating lasting impact with our partner Made Blue

Story: Frank van der Tang (Made Blue) & Selma Hilgersom (Simavi)

Utilising entrepreneurship for clean drinking water. The story of Simavi and Made Blue illustrates how collaboration with corporate partners can create lasting impact.

The unique partnership between Simavi and Made Blue has been characterised by a shared ambition to focus on people. We want to bring innovation and learning to the WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) sector and support local solutions that work – and that will continue to work. As an entrepreneurial foundation, Made Blue uses its business model to generate income to invest in safe water. Simavi and Made Blue have been working together since the founding of the latter in 2014.

Students of Kraugaya Primary in Uganda walk to a well 2 kilometers from school

Sharing innovative ideas

Simavi’s vast expertise, long-term vision, and reliability are reasons for Made Blue to keep the collaboration going today. According to Frank van der Tang, co-founder of Made Blue, his organisation trusts that when Simavi is involved in a project, sustainability and longevity are always considered. This in turn results in structural impact rather than short-term outcomes, which both Simavi and Made Blue value. 

Furthermore, the collaboration between Made Blue and Simavi goes well beyond only financial contributions. There is regular contact about the programmes, and innovative ideas and advice are shared to make the programmes the best they can be. This co-creation aspect is what makes this partnership so successful for both Made Blue and Simavi.

The collaboration is built upon the agreement that all changes should arise from local contexts to create a sustainable impact. The role of Simavi is also to inspire, ask questions as a ‘critical friend’ and guide processes to enable system improvement on the local level. Van der Tang emphasises that local communities already possess a wealth of knowledge about water. ‘We just have to support them to set the flywheel in motion.’

Strengthening local structures

Made Blue sponsors Simavi’s WASH & Learn programme in Uganda and Tanzania. The goal of this programme is to increase access to water and sanitation in schools, specifically focusing on the needs of girls. With WASH & Learn, Simavi wants to help strengthen the structures that already exist within the countries. ‘By inspiring local stakeholders, but also giving them the responsibility to find solutions to problems themselves while continuing to support them, you create a more equal basis on which to collaborate.’ 

Selma Hilgersom, Programme Manager for WASH & Learn at Simavi, explains how this programme embodies the Shift the Power strategy. ‘Rather than telling local organisations and communities what they should do, we want to take them with us in a learning process on how things can be done better.’

Frank van der Tang Co-founder of Made Blue
‘When Simavi is involved sustainability and longevity are always considered’

Cost recovery methodologies

A successful example of how WASH & Learn has transformed local circumstances is the use of cost recovery methodologies. In this process, schools and communities work together to raise funds to cover water and sanitation facilities at schools – to achieve long-term functionality. These cost recovery schemes are locally led initiatives based on a learning-by-doing approach. Within the programme we have seen the set-up of substantial ‘kitchen gardens’ using wastewater to grow fruits and vegetables, which was made possible by the increased water supply, as well as crafts that are made and sold by women groups. These activities are not only meant to raise funds but also to develop skills that deepen climate resilience amongst communities and within school environments.

But the WASH and Learn programme goes further than the work in communities and schools. We partner with activists who advocate for human rights to WASH, and with research organisations to learn how to have more impact. We also run interactive radio campaigns in partnership with TRAC FM to actively engage and accentuate the voices of the people in remote places.

The success of the joint programmes of Made Blue and Simavi has been made possible by shared ambition and a strong basis of trust. That means we are not hindered by rigidity in achieving our goals. We are confident that our partnership will keep evolving and bring innovation and water to communities wherever we work.

Esther Oeganda

Everbody has the human right to safe water and sanitation.

Take action