Monday, November 29, 2010

Wat-San Jobs

Gates Foundation
Position Title: Analyst, Water Sanitation and Hygiene
Foundation Summary: Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing
countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves
out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—
especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to
succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and cochair
William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Group Summary: The foundation's Global Development Program is working with
motivated partners to create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty and
hunger. Within this program, the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) initiative focuses its
efforts on supporting effective, sustainable and scalable ways to assist the 2.5 billion
people who lack access to adequate sanitation. Our grants fund both direct solutions,
such as user-led sanitation, as well as indirect levers, such as improved information on
costing to achieve sustainable service delivery. In all cases, we seek to catalyze action
by others and to leverage the foundation's particular capabilities, such as taking risks to
drive innovation and engaging with a wide range of partners to achieve measurable
Position Summary and Responsibilities:
This Analyst reports to a Program Officer with a large research portfolio but supports the
wider WSH portfolio, and the director in particular, via a variety of short term projects.
The research analyst supports progress towards WSH strategic goals in three key ways:
Gathering, synthesizing and analyzing quantitative data in support of strategy
development, advocacy and policy analysis, and grant development;
Reviewing, summarizing and reporting out on academic literature and policy
reports in sanitation
Desk-based due diligence of partner organizations and critical agents of change
in the sanitation sector.
Tasks and duties will include:
Conduct basic research and analysis using publically available data at the request of
team director and other senior team members
Prepare reviews of technical literature, under the guidance of an economist and/or
engineer on staff, to support the development of execution plans and grantmaking
Provide analysis of policy, technology, and business model developments and
partner organization in the sanitation sector in key developing countries
 Prepare briefing notes, talking points, and presentation drafts in preparation for key
 Support briefing materials development for trip planning by foundation leadership
 Analyze, synthesize, and present data in Excel as well as Stata, Matlab, or other
statistical programs
This position will provide opportunity for a wide range of experiences and professional
 Significant experience with the particulars of sanitation in developing countries is
a must. This may have been acquired in a number of ways including, but not
limited to, a technical degree in science field related to sanitation. Examples of
desirable qualifications include: Civil or environmental engineering, epidemiology,
microbiology, or environmental economics. Masters degree is highly desirable.
 The ideal candidate will have a combination of degrees and experience that
combine technical expertise with strong analytic and writing skills.
 Experience in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia a plus.
 Strong quantitative skills required including statistical analysis; not only the
presentation of data, but its synthesis and analysis, will be required.
 Two to three years professional experience useful as a means of demonstrating
facility in a fast paced work environment.
 Creative problem solver with a rigorous mind and a demonstrated initiative to
solve problems with high energy and a positive attitude.
 Experience in a role requiring collaboration within a team and the associated
diplomacy that comes with that
 A sense of humor.
If you are interested in applying for this position, please visit


Gates Foundation
Position Title: Program Officer, Water Sanitation and Hygiene
Foundation Summary: Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing
countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves
out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—
especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to
succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and cochair
William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Group Summary: The foundation's Global Development Program is working with
motivated partners to create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty and
hunger. Within this program, the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) initiative focuses its
efforts on supporting effective, sustainable and scalable ways to assist the 2.5 billion
people who lack access to adequate sanitation. Our grants fund both direct solutions,
such as user-led sanitation, as well as indirect levers, such as improved information on
costing to achieve sustainable service delivery. In all cases, we seek to catalyze action
by others and to leverage the foundation's particular capabilities, such as taking risks to
drive innovation and engaging with a wide range of partners to achieve measurable
Position Summary and Responsibilities:
The WSH team is committed to the highest standards for evidence-based grantmaking,
rigorous reporting against strategic targets, and a transparent, iterative relationship
between our strategy, measurement plan, and execution plan for grantmaking. Our
approach to investing requires that we creatively develop results frameworks with our
grantees so that they can be held accountable for outputs and outcomes, not only
activities. It also requires that we understand for ourselves the opportunity cost of our
resources as deployed, the cost-effectiveness of the programs that we support, and
"what works" in water, sanitation, and hygiene so that we can continuously work to
increase our impact.
The Program Officer (PO) will support WSH team leadership in making this vision for the
WSH team a reality. The PO will:
Manage and make grants that to measure impact and rigorously test alternative
means of providing sanitation services.
Support the use of measurement and evidence in strategy refinement, reporting,
and advocacy
Support the use of outcome-based metrics for grantee reporting
The PO reports to a senior colleague with extensive experience doing and managing
impact evaluations and program evaluations and will work closely with the director and
other team members closely engaged with strategy development.
The PO will be given the flexibility to maintain a professional profile academically, with
time for independent research made available (up to 10% of time).
Specific responsibilities will include:
Make grants, and analyze results from these grants, in order to sharpen the WSH
team strategy and our ability to report on progress and value for money.
Determining, with team leadership, evaluation priorities, objectives, scope, and
preferred methodology.
Develop strategies and workable plans for using measurement to inform strategy and
reporting on opportunity cost and cost-effectiveness of WSH investment portfolio.
Developing creative and rigorous results frameworks for grantees that allow outputs
and outcomes to be measured and monitored, not only the expenditure of money
and implementation of activities.
Contribute to the larger measurement community of practice at the foundation.
Maintain an active role in the larger field of impact evaluation in both the academic
and policy worlds and function as an effective advocate for evidence based
approaches to WSH financing and development funding more generally.
Supporting the thoughtful use of evaluation methods beyond randomized trials and
other quantitative methods, including outcome mapping and process evaluation, for
grantees and clusters of grantees.
Research and analysis to report out on learnings and policy implications for the WSH
• Advanced degree in economics or related quantitative social science or public health
discipline (e.g., epidemiology, public policy, political science) required; PhD strongly
• Content area expertise in WSH desired but expertise in related areas (e.g., health or
urban economics, public finance, determinants of technology adoption, the
economics of R&D) may be sufficient.
• Expertise and experience in the area of rigorous measurement and evaluation,
including econometrics, strongly preferred.
• Thorough familiarity with logic models, logical frameworks, or similar devices for
framing strategic objectives, articulating key assumptions, and articulating results
• The ideal candidate will have a creative and rigorous bent that allows the deployment
of multiple other tools for assessing impact such as outcome mapping, if not actual
experience with other approaches.
• 7-10 experience working in development and/or evaluation.
• At least several years professional experience in developing countries.
• Strong communication and facilitation skills.
• Ability to work as part of a team with flexibility, efficiency, enthusiasm, and diplomacy
both individually and as part of a complex program.
• Ability to travel up to 25% of time.
• Sense of humor.
If you are interested in applying for this position, please visit


            NRDC Water Policy Analyst

Salary: Salary is based on a nonprofit scale and commensurate with experience.
Master (MA, MSW, etc.)
Santa Monica, California, 90401, United States
Posted by:
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Job Category: Advocacy, Public Policy
Last day to apply:
December 10, 2010
Last updated:
November 18, 2010
Type: Full time
Job posted on:
November 18, 2010
Area of Focus:
Environment and Ecology, Urban Affairs


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a non-profit national environmental organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists. We have offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Santa Monica, Chicago, and Beijing. Our staff of over 300 includes attorneys, scientists, policy analysts, and educators working to protect the environment and public health through advocacy and education.

NRDC's new national Water Program focuses on securing safe and sufficient water for humans and ecosystems in the face of existing and emerging threats. The program involves staff in all of NRDC's U.S. offices and fully integrates our water resources work so that it addresses water supply and water quality, surface water and groundwater, human health and ecosystem issues. The Program's staff is organized into four teams focusing on Green Infrastructure, Water Use Efficiency, Water & Climate, and developing a new water paradigm in California. The four program teams work together to implement a portfolio of strategies that maximize efficiency and minimize waste, prevent pollution, and protect and restore the ecosystem.

Position Summary:

NRDC has an immediate opening for a Water Policy Analyst who will work closely with the director of the Water Efficiency Team. The position will be based in NRDC's Santa Monica office. This person will play an important role in formulating and implementing NRDC's efforts to advocate for improved water use efficiency and water recycling in California and nationally, and will collaborate with a team of attorneys and other staff engaged in these issues.

Essential Functions:

Serve as NRDC's representative in a variety of state and federal regulatory, administrative, and collaborative forums, advocating improvements in water use efficiency and water recycling. Conduct analyses, manage databases, and research and write NRDC reports and media kits on key water efficiency topics and policies. Review and comment on water conservation programs, draft legislation, agency reports, draft rules, etc. Responsibilities include contact with regulatory agencies, the media, and legislative offices.

The job will include:

1. Review and analysis of current state and federal water conservation programs, and evaluation of costs and benefits of new water efficiency initiatives
2. Legislative advocacy on water efficiency and water recycling
3. Promoting increased integration of water and energy policy and planning
4. Advocating at the state and national level for product standards, model building codes, and other regulations that improve water use efficiency
5. Pursuing implementation of water efficiency and water recycling as means to reduce global warming emissions as well as to adapt to the impacts of global warming
6. Advocating for improved agricultural water use efficiency
7. Supervising the work of contractors and interns

Skills & Knowledge Requirements:

• Advanced degree in engineering, water resources, public policy, law, or a related subject
• Minimum of 3 years work experience in the field or a related one
• Familiarity with spreadsheets and similar tools for quantitative analysis and data management
• Knowledge of water efficiency, conservation, and reuse
• Strong advocacy experience on environmental issues
• Excellent oral and written communication skills
• Experience in building collaborations with non-traditional allies
• Strong interpersonal skills

NRDC offers competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a dynamic work environment, and we are committed to workplace diversity. Salary is based on a nonprofit scale and commensurate with experience. For further information about NRDC, please visit

How to Apply:

To apply, please visit Please apply no later than December 10, 2010. No phone calls or faxes. Please reference where you saw this posting. NRDC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


Lack of Engineers is Stifling Development

Lack of engineers stifling development, says report

Christine Ottery

4 November 2010 | EN

Female solar engineers

The world needs more women engineers and technicians

Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia

A shortage of engineers in developing countries, and lack of interest in engineering careers from young people and women, are hampering development, according to the first ever international report on engineering.  

Engineering is vital for raising standards of living and creating opportunities for sustainable prosperity in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to the report, which features contributions from 120 experts around the world.

But developing countries on average have only five engineers per 10,000 of the population — and less than one in some African countries — according to UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which published the report. Developed countries have 20–50 engineers per 10,000.

The poorest are hit hardest by the lack of engineers: 1.1 billion people have no access to clean water, 2 billion have no access to electricity and 800 million go hungry on a daily basis.

"The crucial thing is to address people's basic needs: water supply, sanitation, better homes," Tony Marjoram, editor of the report and head of engineering sciences at UNESCO, told SciDev.Net. Around 2.5 million new engineers are needed only in Sub-Saharan Africa just to ensure provision of clean water and sanitation for everyone, says the report.

Developing countries bear the brunt of climate change, so ensuring sustainable development is also important, he said.

"Engineering is often blamed for pollution but it can create solutions to reduce carbon emissions and make energy use more effective," Marjoram said.

The report calls for developing public and policy awareness of engineering as a key driver of innovation and social and economic development. It also highlights the need to focus educational efforts on the need for more effective application of engineering to sustainable development, poverty reduction and climate change.

Only one country in Sub-Saharan Africa has an engineering academy, the report says. It also makes a link between lagging economic development in Latin America and its lack of engineers.

Pacific islands where cyclones, tsunamis and earthquakes pose a risk to people have an unsustainable and ageing engineer workforce, overly reliant on foreign aid, it says.

"The report makes clear that investing in infrastructure and the education of engineers in developing countries will be hugely important to development," Andrew Lamb, chief executive of the non-profit organisation Engineers without Borders, told SciDev.NetThe shortage of engineers in developing countries is exacerbated by a brain drain, Lamb added.

Women are often the ones to experience problems that can be solved with engineering, Jan Peters, executive president of the UK-based Women's Engineering Society told SciDev.Net. "If women are given the skills to solve the problems they have in their lives, the lives of their families will improve enormously."

The report, 'Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development', was presented at the opening ceremony of the World Congress and Exhibition, Engineering 2010 — Argentina: Technology, Innovation and Production for Sustainable Development, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last month (17 October).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another update: focus switch

I've decided to change the focus of my blog to become more personal. When you come to my blog now, you'll notice a change in the header. It now says that I'll be blogging on new things I'm learning about, and thoughts on work and life. This change reflects the change in my work. I no longer have the time to read as I used to about a variety of things. But I'm learning a lot about management and leadership in my new position. And I'd like a place to archive these thoughts.

If you happen to listen, I thank you for your time and attention. Do lend me some of your thoughts in return. I am always grateful!

Fellowships in Sustainability Science at Harvard

Fellowships in Sustainability Science
Due date for applications: December 1, 2010
The Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University's Center for International Development invites applications for resident fellowships in sustainability science for the University's academic year beginning in September 2011. The fellowship competition is open to advanced doctoral and post-doctoral students, and to mid-career professionals engaged in research or practice to facilitate the design, implementation, and evaluation of effective interventions that promote sustainable development. Applicants should describe how their work would contribute to "sustainability science," the emerging field of use-inspired research seeking understanding of the interactions between human and environmental systems as well as the application of such knowledge to sustainability challenges relating to advancing development of agriculture, habitation, energy and materials, health and water while conserving the earth's life support systems. This year we will give some preference to applicants whose work addresses challenges of innovation for sustainable development, with special attention to innovation in the energy, health and agricultural sectors. In addition to general funds available to support this fellowship offering, special funding for the Giorgio Ruffolo Fellowships in Sustainability Science is available to support citizens of Italy or developing countries who are therefore especially encouraged to apply.

The Sustainability Science Program is directed by Professors William Clark and Michael Kremer, and Nancy Dickson.

For more information on the fellowships application process see Applications are due December 1, 2010.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Deshpande Center Junior Fellowship now Open!

For anyone interested, please contact the lady below:

Are you looking for an opportunity to experience and contribute to the development sector in India?

Are you passionate, enthusiastic and flexible??

The Global Exchange Program Junior Fellowship may be the right opportunity for you!

The Deshpande Foundation has short term opportunities for individuals interested in gaining experience in exciting and growing organizations: The Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship (DCSE) and other nonprofits based in the Sandbox of Innovation (in Hubli, Karnataka). Opportunities available in cost/benefit analysis, teaching, documentation, monitoring and evaluation, curriculum design and more. Time frame between 5-6 months. These opportunities are unpaid, but a very modest stipend is provided in addition to housing. If this is something that interests you, please send an email with your resume and cover letter to, outlining your skills and areas of interest along with the time period. Junior fellowships are available year round.

Allegra Harris

Associate, Deshpande Foundation

92 Montvale Ave, Suite 2500
Stoneham, MA 02180
Phone: (781)-481-9055 ext.36

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A good poo joke

Its hard finding good jokes on poo, but I found one (more like it was sent to me), and it cracked me up. For obvious reasons, I decided to spare you all some pictures.

A Congressman was seated next to a little girl on an airplane so he turned to her and said, "Do you want to talk?? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger."

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, "What would you want to talk about?"

"Oh, I don't know," said the congressman. "How about global warming, universal health care, or stimulus packages?" as he smiled smugly.

"OK," she said. "Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff - grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?"

The legislator, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, thinks about it and says, "Hmmm, I have no idea."

To which the little girl replies, "Do you really feel qualified to discuss global warming, universal health care, or the economy, when you don't know shit?" And then she went back to reading her book.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mo Ibrahim on Good Governance

Mo Ibrahim: Engineer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, African, Activist, Leader (photo source: Mo Ibrahim Foundation)

Mo Ibrahim is one of my heroes. I first heard about him through a friend of mine, also dedicated to Africa's development. "He is one of Africa's most successful entrepreneurs," he said. I was immediately intrigued. Who was this man who had grown up in Sudan in rather minimal circumstances, who had gotten a PhD in computer engineering, and started one of the world's most successful mobile companies with 500 quid??!! How did he do it, and why did he do it??

So I began reading about him. I read about how passionate he was about the development of Africa's leaders...this Sudanese man who always had a big smile. He had started an innovative Mo Ibrahim Prize for Leadership, and was giving out scholarships to young and promising African students. And I badly wanted to meet him.

Two months ago, I finally did. He was invited to be Chief Guest at our School's anniversary meeting. And he did not disappoint.

The day he arrived, the University had a whole day of activities planned out for him. They were thrilled to have one of the world's most successful entrepreneurs in their midst. The school was buzzing with photographers, and all manner of people in suits waiting to make a big deal about him.

In the meantime, the man himself arrived with an entourage of one (his personal assistant) in a rather non-descript car. No one knew that he was there or to run out and take his picture. He walked in and appeared a little lost, found his way to the photo session where he managed to surprise everyone by showing up with little fanfare. And just as quietly and efficiently as he came, he disappeared after.

In the evening, I showed up at the lecture he was to give. In the tradition of my school to put its best foot forward, the lecture was held off-site at a fancy 5-star hotel ballroom. Half of my work-floor (including myself) was there to usher people in fancy suits around. Mo showed up early, again with just his personal assistant and a throng of Singaporeans following him around. All he seemed to want to do was find a reliable men's room where he could relieve himself and then relax. I think he was happy to just be left alone.

His talk was marvelous. Very honest, no BS. I really liked the guy. He had no frills about him and he was unafraid to say what he came to talk about: that we are mucking up our world with crappy leadership and governance, and that there were ways to fix it. I highly recommend watching his talk here (unfortunately it cannot be embedded). Its eye-opening.

I later had the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one, and asked him two questions:

Who are your heroes??
He said that growing up, he had three people's pictures on his wall: Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and someone else who I can't remember (totally my fault...darn!)

What's the best piece of advice he has ever gotten??
He quoted an Arabic saying he had oft-heard growing up in Sudan. He translated it into something like this, "you come into the earth with nothing, and you will die with nothing." So he wants to make and do as much good as he can with what God has given him in the time that he is alive, because come death, he won't take any of this back with him.
Read more about the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Mo.

Friday, September 10, 2010

X PRIZE for efficient cookstoves??

Inefficient cookstoves are a major problem for the poor in the developing world. The soot has serious implications on health and poverty; and population growth, and rising energy costs leave the poor with no choice but to forage for their fuel resulting in environmental degradation, . (Picture source:

One of the organizations I consulted for a couple of years ago, called the X PRIZE Foundation, where I helped develop the Global Development vertical has moved forward with a partnership with IIT Delhi and the Government of India to develop and launch a prize for developing efficient cookstoves.

Approximately 70% of Indian households -- more than 160 million households, comprising about 770 million people – are estimated to depend on simple but polluting cookstoves that burn solid fuel, mainly wood or coal. It also is estimated that approximately 400,000 to 550,000 people – primarily women and children – die of the resulting indoor air pollution each year in the country. This makes the cookstoves problem in India and the potential market for cleaner cookstoves amongst the largest in the world.

The cookstoves competition falls under the X PRIZE Foundation’s Education & Global Development prize group, which tackles major challenges in areas such as learning, hunger, health and water. Addressing the grand challenges of our time, the X PRIZE Foundation generates innovation through incentivized competition. Through the strategic design of ground-breaking competitions with significant, multi-million dollar prize purses, X PRIZE spurs collaboration among the world’s most brilliant minds to tackle the most pressing issues and create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.
More here.

Looks pretty interesting and exciting. Definitely a worthy issue. More about the cookstove problem is here and here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Picture of the Day: Urban Transportation

Desperate needs call for desperate measures. This picture is both amusing and very disturbing. I don't know how authentic it is (i.e. whether that poor baby in the bucket has been photoshop'd in, for example). But I have seen scenes like this play out before me multiple times in the developing world.

Photo credit: Unknown. Someone emailed it to me w/o the credits. I can't find anything inspite of scouring the internet. Do email me if you have anymore information.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Starting a recycling program on my Singaporean campus

I work on this nameless campus in Singapore. Its supposedly one of the best universities in the world.

For all of Singapore's advancement, the idea of environmental consciousness and responsibility have still not made it here. People still eat shark fin soup everywhere, for example, and everything is overpackaged (I've been told its because of the rain...but seriously...
I've lived in some rainy, snowy places, and my stuff remains dry without the overpackaging). Not to mention the waste of paper, plastic and other resources out here.

Among other things, I'm trying hard to start a recycling program at our campus. No one knows what recycling here is. While this is NOT a third world nation, people here just don't get it. Everything goes into the same trash bin and it all ends up in the Singaporean incinerator. What's the big deal, people always ask me!

So I was thrilled when I found out that the University has an Office for Environmental Sustainability (OES). Apparently they do recycling and other stuff. So I wrote them last week, offering to drop by (its a drive away to get between the campuses). There was no phone number, so I emailed. This is what I wrote.

"Hi there,

we are water researchers at XXX at XXX campus. We have been extremely frustrated by the lack of recycling facilities on the campus and would like to start implementing one ASAP.

We'll be on your campus on tuesday, Aug 17 morning. Would you be available for a meeting after 11:30 AM?? We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can work with you to make XXX a greener, cleaner campus.


Two weeks later (and WAY after my first request for scheduled appointment), I got this email from them:

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for writing in to us!

A list of recycling locations on campus can be found at : ------ website

Do you find that it is insufficient for XXX campus? Perhaps you can suggest to us additional locations and we can forward your request to XXX Campus Management Office(XXCMO). OES will support with recycling bins if XXCMO agrees.

Thank you!

Yours Sincerely,

Office of Environmental Sustainability

Wow. Two weeks later I get nowhere. No sorry. No explanation. No "let's meet up so we can figure this out together." So I went to the website. As an afterthought, somewhere at the end of a badly designed excel spreadsheet, our campus of over 2000 folks has four little recycling bins. I went hunting for them in the rain today. It took me a while to locate one of them. It was sitting as an afterthought behind the canteen. And inside the bin, I found one soft drink can (I know the person who threw it in there). Back inside, at the canteen dustbin where I went to dispose off my food remains, there were about 200 aluminum cans sitting under the little food scraps I threw in.

That says it all.

I have a LOT of work ahead of me...

OES has a great website, twitter feed, Facebook profile and godknowswhatelse. My little office has none of those. Not that that means anything.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I've been quiet

A lot of people have been bugging me about my lack of writing on my blog. This is for two reasons:
  • I am in Singapore
  • I am supposed to start a blog around water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues where I work now. Since there was going to be this overlap, I've focused on the other one.

Singapore (where I am at the moment) is a very difficult place to write from...particularly if you like the idea of freedom and have an independent mind (as I do). Say something people don't like, and you get put on a watch list; sometimes punished severely. If you 'google' around, I'm sure you'll find more interesting information on the subject. Essentially, i don't know what will tick someone off and then I end up with my head on a cross bridge (they have a few here!).

On the second, things are moving slowly where I work. There are many reasons for this. They are restructuring, and there is a war about what we can and cannot post, and the process we have to use. And then there is a war about the name, because it has to represent several different institutions at once.

And while these two issues resolve themselves, I'm working feverishly on keeping the rest of my work going. So I've been quiet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Check out GSBI in Santa Clara University, Aug 26, 2010!!

The folks at Santa Clara University asked me if I would post this on my blog. I fully support this initiative (have already blogged about them before) so I'm doing so:


Global Social Benefit Incubator

Please join Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society for business plan presentations by the 2010 Global Social Benefit Incubator entrepreneurs from around the world.

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Locatelli Center at Santa Clara University

7:15-8:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Business Plan Presentations
12:00 p.m.-1:15 p.m. Lunch 1:15 p.m-6:15 p.m. Business Plan Presentations
6:15 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Reception

The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBITM) program at Santa Clara University enables proof of concept social ventures that serve the base of the pyramid to become sustainable at scale. It combines classroom instruction in finance, marketing creation, organizational development, and business planning with case studies, best practices and, most importantly, carefully matched Silicon Valley mentors.
The invited entrepreneurs have demonstrated that their innovations can have a significant impact on alleviating poverty and empowering human development in the most adverse circumstances around the world.

In 2010, the STS Center launched a three-year initiative to focus on “Renewable Energy for the Underserved.” This initiative will explore several segments of the clean energy field including off-grid power and light , second generation bio-fuels, energy saving devices , and related value chain organizations such as technology providers, financial services, and distribution. This year, we have 12 social entrepreneurs that are representing the Renewable Energy Sector in the GSBI class of 2010.
Living and learning together, GSBI participants develop practical know-how and a true sense of community. At the August 26th summary business plan presentations, you will see how the unique GSBI learning environment contribute to the innovative adaptation of technology and models of social change, in combination with validated business plans, to accelerate the potential for social entrepreneurship. We know you will be inspired by the work of the 2010 Global Social Benefit Incubator class and the promise of their innovative business plans.
To RSVP: visit or email us at For further information call the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, Santa Clara University, (408) 551-6027, or email

If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation, please call the Center or 1-800-735-2929 (TTY-California Relay) at least 48 hours prior to the event.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cool collage: Waste into Art

For the past several days I've been seeing a group of students busily doing an "art project" on the side of the building that's on the way from my office to the school cafeteria. (Usually that's not a good sign...but it is can't do too many bad things here!). On closer inspection, I was seriously impressed.

Here's a student working on it. The tools are simple. Used aluminium cans of various colors, a paper background with the design outlined, and some hardy glue, and of course people to do the work :-)

If you look closer, you'll see the remnants of drink cans (many are Asian specific drinks, so you may not recognize them). Some of the white pieces are pieces of Diet coke cans, the red pieces are from coca cola cans, and the black from coke zero!!

The kids were undergraduates in the Law program at NUS. They have to put together a float for their department, during some Uni parade. Low on funds, one insightful person came up with this design. I LIKE!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Watch "Water on the Table"

Filmmakers Maude Barlow and Liz Marshall talk during the filming of "Water on the Table." (Click on the picture for original photo source)

Have you seen Water on the Table?? It is a film by Liz Marshall and Maude Barlow, about the humanity of water. I first heard about it when it was featured in one of my college auditoriums at Lake Forest College in the US. Along with promoting this documentary, the book Blue Gold written by Barlow and Tony Clarke, was also promoted. It is claimed that film director, Liz Marshall, was truly inspired by the book and had decided on bringing a visual aspect to pass on the message.

The message was simple-“water is a human right and not a commodity to be bought and sold like oil and sugar.” This documentary is both beautiful and poetic, as well as controversial and thought provoking.

If you have not seen it, I would strongly recommend doing so.

More links:
Water on the Table main website:
You can also follow them on twitter: @wateronthetable

This is the first in a series of posts by KS, an intern who is working with me over the summer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Links I liked

I'm in the middle of reading through my blogroll after a very long time. I've just been inundated with work, and am finally able to make the time to catch up on my reading. Here are some of the best of the links I've seen so far:

1. Interesting Q&A session with popular development economist and author of "The End of Poverty", Prof Jeffrey Sachs

2. Diagnostics continue to be the bottleneck for most healthcare in the developing world. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that this particular cheap diagnostic test out of Vietnam is causing ripples.

3. Around a fifth of global science papers are now freely available online, a study finds, with Latin America and India leading the pack!

4. Ask a garbologist questions. Fascinating potential discussion and amusing writeup.

5. Belgium is considering resomation...would you want to be resomated after you die??

6. How "easy" do you think this award-winning "easy latrine" is??

7. Alaskan water being shipped to India...(seriously!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

CHECK OUT the BBC World Debate on Water...airing THIS WEEKEND

Panelists debate water issues at the BBC World Debate, filmed live on location in Singapore. Photo Credit: Institute of Water Policy

A couple of weeks ago, my colleagues and I helped put together the first BBC World Debate on Water. Its the first time that such a major network has done such a high profile debate on the issue of water (and might I say, about time!!).

The event was part of our attempt to bring more public dialoguing about water issues into the limelight. We purposely held it during the famous and very international Singapore International Water Week (a week-long conference that brings together almost 15,000 water geeks from all over the world), so that we could get an international and eclectic audience into the room who could then take their viewpoints to others. Only 250 people were allowed to attend the live filming, and they came from around the world...ranging from high school kids to high profile water ministers.

Feedback has been very positive thus far. And we are happy that you can all finally see it too!!

The BBC World Debate on Water will air worldwide THIS WEEKEND as follows. Please note that ALL times listed below are in SGT (Singapore Time). Please check local listings for the exact time in your country or area, (its supposed to be the singapore time converted into whatever your timezone is but I'm not sure):


On the BBC
World News Channel

Saturday, 17 JULY 2010, 17:10 (SGT)

Sunday, 18 JULY 2010, 10:10 (SGT) and 23:10 (SGT)

Should you miss seeing it on TV, you can watch it online starting next week, directly on the BBC site at

Please feel free to forward this around. Also we would love to hear your feedback on the event. Do email us back with comments, questions, and/or suggestions about the event (eg. how we can make it better or other types of events you would like to see us host)!

Do email me at tworque AT gmail DOT com, with your feedback.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sanitation Crisis explored by Current TV's Adam Yamaguchi

Adam Yamaguchi on site in India (

Sanitation crisis documentary

Vanguard correspondent Adam Yamaguchi travels to India, Singapore and Indonesia to understand why people don't use toilets and what's being done to end the practice of open defecation.

An estimated 2.6 billion people, about 40% of the world's population, have no access to toilets and defecate anywhere they can. As a result, more than 2 million people -- including 1.5 million children -- die from complications of chronic diarrhea.

When human waste isn't contained or flushed down the toilet, it's everywhere -- in streets, open fields and, most dangerously, in the very water people drink. Adam investigates how countries are trying to solve an epidemic that few people want to talk about -- the world's toilet crisis.

"Vanguard," airing weekly on Current TV Wednesdays at 10/9c, is a no-limits documentary series whose award-winning correspondents put themselves in extraordinary situations to immerse viewers in global issues that have a large social significance. Unlike sound-bite driven reporting, the show's correspondents, Adam Yamaguchi, Kaj Larsen, Christof Putzel and Mariana van Zeller, serve as trusted guides who take viewers on in-depth real life adventures in pursuit of some of the world's most important stories.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is the World Ready for Waterless Urinals?? Article from WIRED

Gotten from Wired Magazine, July 2010. Credits below


Pissing Match: Is the World Ready for the Waterless Urinal?"

By Joshua Davis June 22, 2010 | 12:00 pm | Wired July 2010

In a laboratory 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, a mechanical penis sputters to life. A technician starts a timer as a stream of water erupts from the apparatus’s brass tip, arcing into a urinal mounted exactly 12 inches away. James Krug smiles. His latest back-splatter experiment is under way.

Krug is an unusual entrepreneur. Twenty years ago, he was a rising star in the film and television business. He served as a vice president of the Disney Channel in the 1980s and ran a distribution company with members of the Disney family in the ’90s. But 11 years ago, Krug became convinced that the world did not need another TV show. What it needed was a better urinal.

His transformation from Hollywood player to urinal evangelist began in 1999 at the Universal Studios Hilton in LA. A business acquaintance of Krug knew that he was interested in exploring new opportunities and arranged a meeting with Ditmar Gorges, a German engineer who fervently believed that flushing a urinal was a waste of water. Sitting in the Hilton lobby, Gorges gushed potty talk. He explained that he had invented a water-free urinal and pointed out that urine was already liquid and a generally sterile liquid at that. Gravity could drain it completely. No flush necessary.

Krug immediately grasped the implications: The German’s humble innovation had the potential to save millions of gallons of water at a time when demand for the natural resource was draining aquifers dry. It would do more than any film or TV show to solve a pressing problem. Krug decided to help.

Drawing on sales skills he’d honed at the Cannes Film Festival, Krug dived into the bathroom business. He formed Falcon Waterfree Technologies with Gorges and explained to anyone who would listen that the water-free urinal would save more than just water: In California, a fifth of the electrical output was consumed by processing and pumping water. Cutting water usage would reduce our carbon footprint.

Falcon wasn’t the first to develop a waterless urinal. A company near San Diego had been struggling to sell them since 1991. But Krug made a conceptual breakthrough: The real profits wouldn’t come from the urinals themselves. They’d come from selling the replaceable cartridges that sat in each of the waterless receptacles.

In a traditional urinal, water pools in the drain after every flush, preventing sewer gases from escaping into living areas. Gorges’ invention employed a plastic cartridge filled with a liquid sealant. Urine could pass through, but sewer gases remained trapped beneath the sealant no water needed. The $40 cartridge had to be replaced after 7,000 uses, turning a onetime urinal purchase into a perpetual income stream. Krug’s business model took a page out of the Gillette playbook: Keep the urinal cost low and lock customers in to buying the cartridges.

He quickly won converts. Cable tycoon Marc Nathanson made a substantial investment in early 2000, and in 2001 Falcon began to manufacture its urinal, dubbed the U1P. Soon Al Gore signed on as an adviser, and in 2006, Jeff Skoll, the first president of eBay, made a significant investment. Krug was sure the world was ready for a better bowl there hadn’t been any major advances in urinal technology for decades but there was something he wasn’t prepared for: the plumbers.

Mike Massey didn’t like Krug’s urinal. As head of PIPE, a plumbing union advocacy group in Southern California, Massey looks out for plumbers’ interests. And as far as he was concerned, the waterless urinal was a threat to public health. Diseases might fester because the urinals weren’t being washed down with every use. Sewer gasses might leak through the cartridge. “People take plumbing for granted,” Massey says. “But the reality is that plumbers protect the health of the nation. That’s how we think of our job.”

Full story at Wired:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Voices are Crying

Musician Philly Lutaaya (photo source)

A friend of mine from Uganda sent me this. I thought I should share it... I agree. DO take a listen...
There was a popular Ugandan muscian called Philly Lutaaya. He went to exile in Sweden in 1979 and returned to Uganda in 1988 to a hero's welcome. Unfortunately he soon discovered he had AIDS. This was a time when most people across the world were still ignorant about the disease. To create awareness, he asked for his last days to be filmed and a wonderful 2 hour documentary of him was shot by the Swedish Red Cross. It was shown in many countries to create Aids awareness.
Philly was an incredible musician, one of my favourite songs that he did before passing on in 1989 was titled "voices are crying". This song is about the suffering of Africa's peoples at the hands of their leaders.
Do take a listen, the lyrics are trully moving


I'm sorry I've been so quiet the past several months. I was in the process of jobhunting, interviewing and finally moving to a new country. I just moved to Singapore to take up a job at a startup water policy think tank. I'm planning on launching a blog for the organization. Lots of good water stuff will be coming up there. Look out!

My blogging here will suffer (no less than it already has!), but I will do my best to be more regular. Thanks for still sticking around...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why I loved being in India so much...

"My dad takes his afternoon nap on his scooter [behind] our room while mom cleans" From Atul Loke's photoessay My Chawl: One Big Family. Photo: Atul Loke

I was in India for the past five months. I just got back a week ago and am settling back into regular life in the U.S. Hopefully the blogging will also pick up, now that I have regular internet access. I have SO many thoughts running through my head about things I should write about, including where this blog is going.

Someone asked me recently why I liked being in India so much. What few knew was that my India trip was supposed to be a six week trip that turned into five months (I only returned because I ran out of money and had to start working again)!! How that happened is something I'll write about later.

India is overwhelming; but if you let it wash over you in waves, rather than be shell shocked, you'll find great comfort in her richness. I found that I could spend hours just watching life bubbling up in the alleys of any city or village I was in. I was reminded of this as I browsed through Atul Loke's excellent photoessay about Life inside his Chawl. (A "chawl" is something like a college dorm facility; a multi-family residential facility constructed to house largely labor classes and their families. A characteristic feature of the chawls is that several families share single toilet and bath facilites).

Firstly, I'm blown away by this man's talent. He is just one of the many silent geniuses spawning across the expanse of India's varied landscape (and the developing world, in general). But more importantly, notice the richness of the life just oozing out of every picture. This is why I couldn't tear myself away from the place...

[hat-tip @yoginisd for pointing me to his work]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gates Foundation Grand Challenges

Got this in my mailbox this morning:

Just wanted to pass along this amazing opportunity from the Gates Foundation - Grand Challenges in Global Health. Applications are now being accepted through May 19th. Learn more here:

Grand Challenges Explorations Seeks Innovative Thinkers for New Round of Funding

Researchers from all fields who can offer fresh perspectives on global health problems are encouraged to apply for a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, which awards $100,000 to test their unique and largely untested ideas. Applications for Round 5 of the initiative are being accepted from March 25 to May 19, 2010.

Grand Challenges Explorations focuses on research areas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed. In this latest round of funding, applicants will be asked to submit proposal addressing these topic areas:

  • Create Low-Cost Cell Phone-Based Applications for Priority Global Health Conditions

  • Create New Technologies for the Health of Mothers and Newborns

  • Create New Ways to Protect Against Infectious Disease

  • Create New Technologies for Contraception
Currently, more than 260 scientists from 30 countries are working to take their innovative ideas to the next level through Grand Challenges Explorations grants. Featured below are some examples of these projects. For a complete list of all research awarded to date, visit the Grand Challenges Explorations web site.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Galileoscope: The BEST Telescope Deal EVER!

If you love star-gazing and have been waiting for a super deal to buy a telescope, well, here's your chance. Its called the Galileoscope. I swear it will change astronomy for the developing world...

I just found out about it (thanks Adam!) and ordered mine just now, so I thought I would share my enthusiasm with you all, in case you don't already know about it.

What is it? Well, its a high-quality, low-cost ($30!!) telescope kit developed for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 by a team of leading astronomers, optical engineers, and science educators.

Why is it important? Well, the telescope changed everything!! Galileo's discoveries literally revolutionized our perception of the universe and Earth's place in it.

But not everyone has a telescope, especially in less developed parts of the world. To enable more people in more places to personally experience the wonders of the universe, these guys developed a remarkably inexpensive, very-high-quality, easy-to-use refractor. With this new instrument, called the Galileoscope, children and adults can learn how telescopes work and repeat for themselves the spectacular observations made by Galileo beginning in 1609.

So the Galileoscope is much more than a telescope - it's a strategic initiative to improve math, science, and technology literacy worldwide. With this easy-to-assemble kit, anyone can explore how optics work and then they can go outside at night to observe the celestial wonders first glimpsed by Galileo four hundred and one years ago!

Think of it as a "one-telescope-per-child" kind of project.

You can find out more about the project on it's website:

For proof, here's a happy Galileoscope owner (soon to be me!)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Letter from the Field: Questions for Leadership

Are we asking the right questions of our leaders?? (photo credit: Tim abbott)

One of my Indian buddies emailed me a set of thoughts this morning. Inspired by a post he read on someone's blog, he wondered about how well he knew his leaders. How well we all know our we well we know our own leadership abilities.

His email really made me think. Parts of it proved to be an excellent questionnaire for myself (good prep for a job interview too!). Anyways, here you go...

Ask your Leader this.

Be it your Boss, your MP or you prime Minister... or yourself, if you
are a leader (we all play leader roles to someone or some people at
some or all times)
[from the blog of Lee Iacocca, the "king of straight talk"]
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Demanding Answers
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Presidential race and the remaining
front runners. Last year, Katie Couric asked if we’d come up with some
questions, based on my latest book Where Have All The Leaders Gone?,
to ask the candidates.

Take a look at the following questions. Do you know any of the
candidates’ responses to them?

1. Leaders are not born; they’re made in times of crisis. Name a
crisis that you have faced, and talk about how you demonstrated

2. Name your two primary models for leadership from the past 50 years.
These are the individuals you call to mind when you’re faced with a
tough decision.

3. The ability to collaborate with those who have different ideas and
approaches is a key factor in leadership. Give an example of a time
(professionally or politically) when you have successfully
collaborated with people who have different views.

4. As a businessman I learned that the best way to fully understand
what it means to be responsible is to meet a payroll every week. In
your life, when have you had tangible responsibility for the
livelihoods of others – and what did the experience teach you about

5. Being President is not a one person job. The team is just as
important. Are you prepared to tell voters who will be on your team so
they can make an educated choice? In particular, who are your
candidates for Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Attorney
General? (If you’re not prepared to name them, can you name
individuals from recent history who have excelled in those positions?)

6. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among
democratic nations – especially for young single adults. What will you
do to encourage young people to vote and participate in government?

7. A leader inspires others to participate fully in the life of
democracy. The words of JFK – “Ask not what your country can do for
you; ask what you can do for your country” – still resonate. Give a
specific example of what you will ask citizens to do, and what
sacrifices you will ask them to make.

Maybe if these questions are circulated to millions by email (just
like the first chapter of my book), the tough questions will get asked
and the candidates will feel obliged to give the American people an


Made me think. How many of our Indian 'Leaders' in Politics can even
begin to understand these questions - let alone answer them.

But then again, how many of us in the corporate/business world - or
across any field of work for that matter - can answer these questions
about ourselves, or our "leaders"?

I for one, would love to ask these questions to a new brand of leaders
in governance and business shaping india's future...


Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Need for Well-Rounded, Holistic Thinking

Above, a typical sight in Indian (or other developing country) toilets. The lack of running water and improper drainage means the toilets clog and don't work. Would you use this toilet?? Below, a woman sweeps raw sewage that is blocking a drain. Right next to it, runs a water pipeline. Both are cases of irresponsible design and engineering.

The "Aid World" (i.e. all the organizations/companies involved with the collection, distribution, and disbursement of international aid) desperately needs more holistic thinking. Without it, little sustainable change will happen.

Recently I was approached by a group of people looking to fund "sanitation schemes' in India. I sat them down to get a better idea of what exactly they were looking for. They wanted to "build toilets in Indian schools that educated the poor," they said. Besides that, I could "let my imagination go." I asked them what budget they had in mind. "Well, I've heard that you are a good person. So just write something that makes sense." (This was my mistake...I should have nailed down a number before moving on...a lesson I've learned since!!) But I was inspired. Finally someone who trusted my judgement!!

So I sat down and wrote something up. I thought about all the problems I had encountered in the field over the years -- random water pipes that either connected to nothing or a a dried up well, toilets that failed because they had no water access, and horrible sewage overflows from badly designed systems. These had taught me the importance of thinking holistically. If I ever got a chance, I had promised myself that I would design differently, more holistically.

The first thing I did was assume that the prototype school had to be in a village with good water access. Regardless of what people say, unless you've been brought up with them, dry or waterless toilets remain unused, particularly when you are dealing with uneducated people.

Then I designed the toilet. And I tripled the number to be built. What people don't realize is that few things in poor areas work. And when something works, the whole village or slum or community starts to rely on it. So even if the toilets were designed for the school, chances are that the whole village will start using them at some point. Better to design with that in mind, rather than have a war break out between the school authorities and the villagers (I have heard about these cases!), atleast until there is money to build toilets in the village proper. Besides, its not such a bad thing to give adults a reason to come to the school!!

The sewage had to go somewhere in a safe way. So I designed a very basic treatment system, that let grey water irrigate the prototypical kitchen garden that the school would have.

Then I designed the water system. A simple one that would incorporate a water filtration mechanism for drinking water (this involved electricity...but i would downsize to something more appropriate depending on local electricity and water conditions).

Thus, I had a good holistic system in place. I did a basic set of calculations and proudly marched over to hand the proposal into the folks I had spoken to. They took one look and turned me down flat.

"What is all this nonsense??" they snarled, "We just wanted to build some toilets. Why are you putting all this unnecessary stuff in?? I know how much building a toilet costs!! And this is too much." I tried explaining where I was coming from and why I had put in the extras. I even offered to cut my fees down. But they refused.

This isn't something new. Even as I speak, several thousands of "aid" toilets are being built around the world without a care to the local geographical conditions, or socio-economic conditions. It is enormously frustrating to be called up later, during a cholera outbreak or some other public health disaster and know why it was happening in the first place.

If we are to build better systems, build more holistically. Its more expensive in the short term, but will pay huge dividends in the future.