Report from Rwanda

Findings of the Learning Tour in Kigali, 4-6 March 2016


Last March Via Water organised a successful Learning Tour in Kigali, Rwanda. An enthusiastic group of 35 participants took a 3-day journey dive deep into VIA Water business requirements, learning from local and international experts, and reflecting on the teasers that are submitted to Via Water.

14 ideas were studied, focusing on three pressing needs:

  1. E-solutions in drinking water
  2. Rainwater harvesting and storage
  3. The grey water issues

During the workshop the teams applied the lessons learned to improve their teasers better clarify the 'grey areas' in their idea. To see the many participants working so hard with an open vision, eagerness to learn and willingness to invite feedback, was inspiring for all experts present. Some of the participants understood that their idea does not have a fit with VIA Water, and some understood their teaser needs significant improvement before it would be eligible for our fund. Others determined that their group needed additional knowledge and were open to invite other organisations to join the development of their plan. A big lesson for many participants was that the trajectory from good idea to implementation is not about quick gains.  It takes time to develop a good idea and there is real value in collaboration to enhance the prospects of success.  VIA Water cultivates this supportive environment.

At the conclusion of the workshop we invited participants submit improved teasers when they felt there was a real fit with our programme and when the ideas were truly innovative and addressing a pressing need in Rwanda. We are proud to announce that two projects are now working on their full proposal for VIA Water, and we believe we will receive several extremely promising Rwandan teasers in the weeks to come.

The Tour provided a useful reflective process for participants and offered additional insight into the VIA Water programme and its requirements. Both local and international experts were involved in the programme, offering useful, immediately applicable advice from which everyone could benefit.  By the end of the 3 day journey it became clearer to participants what needs to happen to turn a suitable idea described in a well-framed teaser into a fully implemented programme. An enabling environment is always an important factor for success, making the valuable support of the Rwandan government an essential condition to realizing initiatives that meet the pressing needs. VIA Water should be a facilitator for potential projects and their government counterparts. The focus on young organizations is evidence of the fact that universities encourage their students to think innovatively.