If you use WASH as a noun, rather than a verb, you gotta be working in the humanitarian field. WASH stands for “WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene”, one of the key sectors in the field of aid and development.
As with any nonprofit area, advocacy, information dissemination and project discussions are key to the WASH sector, so it was to no surprise I recently came across a whole bunch of WASH-related blogs (see bottom).
Now, it’s not the first time I stumble upon a series of interconnected blogs around a common theme. Often these blog projects start with a lot of enthusiasm, migrating into a general frustration about the amount of time it takes to update all of them.
They often end up in the waste bin labelled “Abandoned Blogs”. Not so with the WASH blogs-“family”, which have been updated regularly since the past three years.
That stirred my interest, and I took the opportunity to have a chat with the man behind the WASH blog initiative: Cor Dietvorst, the editor of Source Weekly at the IRC (International Water and Sanitation Centre).
Blogtips: Cor, a social media professional, it seems?
Cor: (laughs) Well, I am an information specialist at IRC in Holland, where I have worked for over 25 years. I originally studied chemical engineering but my interest soon shifted via information management to providing news services.
At IRC I am also a member of the South Asia regional team and the Transparency and Accountability thematic group, with a special interest in the “right to information”. Recently I also facilitated a workshop on social media and web writing in Nepal.
Blogtips: “IRC” – Not the International Refugee Committee, as I know it, but International Water and Sanitation Centre… What is the IRC?
Cor: We are an independent knowledge centre dedicated to the field of water supply, sanitation, hygiene and integrated water resources management. We focus on improving livelihoods for the poorest since 1968.
IRC has three main programmes: a core programme funded by Dutch development aid focusing on innovation and information services, and two large multi-country research/learning programmes funded by the Gates Foundation – WASHCost on life-cycle costs and Triples-S on sustainable water services.
We have over 60 staff mostly based in The Hague, and probably about the same number contracted in-country for programmes and projects. Our focus countries are Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Honduras
Blogtips: Where does social media fit within the work you do?
Cor: We work with a wide network of partners, so blogs are an easy way to keep everyone involved, and to dispatch information.
The more so as one of the key purposes of our organisation is to ensure water hygiene and sanitation services are not only delivered, but also maintained with the necessary skills. Thus training and capacity building is a key element for our long-term sustainability strategy. And once again, blogs are an easy way to assemble this information, stimulate discussions, and disseminate the information we collect. Better than a dusty library in The Hague! (laughs).