Interview with Erica Gwynn - "Begin with the End in Mind"

Begin with the End in Mind - How to Write a Successful Global Grant
By Carolyn Crowley Meub
( Carolyn is a  former member of the WASRAG Board and Executive Director of Pure Water for the World, an organization started by the Brattleboro, Vermont Rotary Club.)
 
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Gwynn, Area of Focus Manager Water and Sanitation, for the Rotary Foundation about the components of a successful Rotary Global Grant. During our interview, not all of the conversation was about Global Grants.  We spoke during the holiday season, when food is part of many conversations. It was for this reason that Erica and I first launched into a discussion about cooking and favorite recipes.
 
As we moved on to the real purpose for the conversation, we discussed how recipes and Global Grants are similar. Both require time, the proper tools, and a need to have all the key ingredients before you begin. When one cooks or bakes, we envision the end result. When designing a WASH program, there are necessary steps to be taken and key programmatic elements are needed.  We must start with the end in mind.
 
Carolyn: “What is the unique perspective Rotary brings to global WASH projects?” 
ERICA: Rotarians bring a unique perspective to the project that non-government organizations cannot. Rotarians have relationships with local leaders, and they know the needs and the capacity of the community. Understanding the local culture, water sources and availability, and community resources are critical to the success of the program. Rotarians are key to the design, planning and forecasting.  The more we see local Rotarians' involvement, the greater chance for approval. 
 
Carolyn: “What are the key ingredients in a successful and sustainable WASH program?
ERICA: 
1. Engagement with the community from beginning to end…from the needs assessment phase, to post-completion monitoring and evaluation. The Rotary Foundation wants to know “Who,” “What,” “Where,” and “Why.”
> Who: A needs assessment must be completed by Rotarians. The Rotary Foundation wants to know who Rotarians met with at schools and/or in communities to create that assessment.   
> What: What conditions will be addressed in the program, and what results will be achieved?
> Where: Where will be the program be located, and how were these locations selected?
> Why: Why were the selected communities/schools selected over other places? 
 
These are questions that local Rotarians can best address.
 
2. Engage with other organizations and local or regional governments. There needs to be integration with other existing programs. Rotary-funded programs are part of the greater whole, and there should a collaborative effort made with other entities. Rotarian need to be at the table with other organizations to address the WASH needs and the solutions.
 
Rotarians cannot work in isolation. We know that the “Rotary Bubble” is not sustainable.  We need to expand upon other work that has been done in the area so as to not be a “one-off” project.
 
Carolyn: “I have seen the Rotary Foundation change to keep up with the evolution in the WASH sector.  What do you think have been the biggest changes on the application and can you explain thosse changes?”
ERICA: The key reason for failure of many large WASH programs is that there is no provision for post-completion financing. In the past, many programs did not factor in ongoing costs or did not train to build capacity of the local community members. Without financial planning, the system can fall into disrepair or disuse. To prevent this result, the Rotary Foundation requires financials plans to explain the funding mechanism to cover costs of repairs and replacement of parts. We are looking to see what the community will contribute and how repairs will be made; and how and who will pay for those repairs.
 
Another interesting development in WASH in schools is the increase in menstrual hygiene education.  The growth in this important component has been impressive.
 
Carolyn: “Do you see the need and/or the advantage of Rotarians working with other organizations, and if so in what capacity?”
ERICA: As you said in your last question, WASH programs have evolved and so has the Rotary Foundation. We now focus more on education and training as integral components to a sustainable program. And, Rotarians cannot be expected to undertake the entire WASH program. For example, training and education require competent trainers and an ongoing investment of time. The hardest part of a WASH program is behavior change. We all know how hard it is to change behaviors and how many times the messages must be repeated. The same is true with WASH programs. Cooperating organizations are in the position to provide consistent training and support. Four years ago, there was no specific line item for training and education. Now, the grant applications include funding for training and education. And, we realize that co-operating organizations are our partners and play a key role.
 
Carolyn: “Are there any other changes that you have seen?”
ERICA: In reviewing the Global Grant application, I have noted that, in the past, the International Rotary Club has been the driver, as opposed to the Host Club. In the last two years, I have seen this slowly change. This is good, as the Host Rotary Clubs are the ones that need to have ownership of the program and outcome. We look for strong Host Club involvement in the design and implementation of the program.
 
Carolyn: “You have talked about the role of Rotarians in the development of the WASH program. Do you see other roles for Rotary involvement?
ERICA: I believe the strength of Rotary is the advocacy role they offer that can influence decision-makers with making real systemic change in the role of governments. Rotarians are in a unique position, as they have great and extensive networks. Rotarians have changed national agendas.