Almost a billion people live without clean drinking water. Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause more deaths each year than all forms of violence, including war. But clean water changes everything. Safe drinking water alone can reduce water-related deaths by 21%. Families with enough clean water to drink, bathe, clean and grow their own food can become self-sufficient households, less affected by external conflict, famine or inadequate government services.
Various organizations, including charity:water, UNICEF and Water For People, have lead the way in using social media to advocate for improved access to safe, clean water for all. Below, we explain why.
Charity: water: Twitter Fundraising Trailblazers: When Twitter first emerged into the social media scene just over six years ago, so too did a rather small organization called charity: water. The nonprofit, created by former NYC event planner Scott Harrison, was one of the first charities to successfully use social media (coupled with simplistic and powerful imagery, a compelling story, and 100% donation-driven projects) to garner millions of supporters. The organization used Twitter as a core strategy – not just a simple tactic – and the results are astonishing: millions of dollars have been raised to support nearly 6,185 projects in 19 countries, providing clean water to over 2.5 million people worldwide. Charity: water also recently launched a new site and campaign about birthdays. You can now pledge to “give up your birthday for clean water” — meaning your followers and friends’ gifts will go toward helping the 2.5 million people affected by charity: water projects around the world.
UNICEF Takes Volunteering Online and Off: Through numerous fundraising and volunteer activities (both online and off), the UNICEF Tap Project celebrates the clean water we enjoy on a daily basis by giving its celebrity, restaurant, volunteer, corporate, and government supporters an opportunity to give water back to the children around the world via the concept “When You Take Water Give Water.” During World Water Week in April, restaurants across the United States encouraged patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free. In past years, nearly 1,000 restaurants and more than 4,200 volunteers from all 50 states participated in the national campaign, making it the largest volunteer mobilization effort for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. This year, supporters created custom fundraising pages with personal videos and stories, and donated via a text-to-give program.
Water For People: Tracking On-the-Ground Progress thru Mobile Devices: Water For People is using social media and technology for more than advocacy and fundraising. The water organization is developing a tool called Akvo FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch), currently in Beta, to monitor global water projects around the world. The program uses Google Earth and Android operating system to track and collect data at wells and pumps, showing users whether sites are functioning, broken or in need of maintenance. The system was designed to provide accountability and transparency to donors and the public through fast data collection, survey flexibility, analytical tools for data-driven decision making, and map-based reporting of results.
What other companies, charities and individuals are successfully tapping into social media for clean water?
This post is part 3 of the “Rio+20: Social for Sustainability Series” on ArmchairAdvocates. This week, world leaders and thousands of participants from all cross-sections of civil society will come together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to discuss seven critical issues: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans, and disaster readiness. ArmchairAdvocates will be sharing and discussing how organizations, businesses and individuals are using social media to make an impact in sustainability.