Consultancy work for Blue Tap Water Filtration

This summer, myself and 2 KITE Dar es Salaam (KITE DSM) members of the WaSH Project have been exploring new avenues of work, in light of the project’s aims to handover its successful simplified sewerage project. The team, known internally as the Innovation Team, has been making use of our Tanzanian contacts to do some consultancy work for Blue Tap, a Cambridge-based start-up.

Blue Tap is a technology company that creates products to improve access to high quality drinking water in low resource settings. They came to CDI and KITE DSM’s WaSH Project this summer looking for a partner in the running of a feasibility study in Dar es Salaam. Through the promotion and sale of 50 water filters licensed for use in Tanzania, valuable lessons can be learnt regarding microfinancing and making filters affordable, distribution channels, how to incentivise vendors, the best way to advertise and promote filters, and how to convince community members that clean drinking water should be a priority. These lessons will be invaluable when Blue Tap comes to launch its novel water treatment product in the near future: a 3D printed chlorine injector.

Due to the extensive work that the CDI and KITE DSM WaSH Project has carried out in the informal settlement of Vingunguti through its simplified sewerage project, our organisations have developed good working relationships with the chairperson of the district and local community members. Consequently, getting permission to conduct surveys with the residents, and run and publicise workshops, is relatively straightforward. Our Tanzanian KITE DSM counterparts can help give local knowledge on the best districts to target certain market segments, give guidance to ensure we respect cultural etiquette and local laws, and speak Swahili to the locals and Tanzanian organisations. These links and contacts made us especially appealing as a partner for Blue Tap. The project also dovetails with our own interest in pursuing other clean water initiatives in the future. Although any future projects are still in the ideation stage, gaining a deeper understanding of the current situation will enable us to come up with the most effective solutions to tackle the challenges facing community members at present.

So, what exactly have we been doing this summer? The first thing we did was conduct a questionnaire to community members living in Vingunguti. This helped us to better understand their current drinking water situation, money saving habits, and attitudes towards investing in water filtration technology. We realised that due to CDI’s previous involvement in Vingunguti (running health workshops and implementing the simplified sewerage system), this area might not be entirely representative of other informal settlements in Dar es Salaam. To make sure our results would be applicable to a wider target group, we’ve put in applications to conduct questionnaires in other districts too, although we are still waiting to find out if permissions have been granted.

The second main task was researching microfinancing organisations in Tanzania. This is something that CDI has always been mindful of as it is very relevant to the work we do with lower income individuals. Through microfinancing loans, lower income individuals can invest in products and projects to improve their WaSH standards which they would otherwise have been unable to afford. Contact was made with several microfinancing banks, and the meetings we’ve had have shown great potential, with Blue Tap keen to collaborate with them.

Research was also done into similar water filtration companies operating in Tanzania and elsewhere in East Africa to try and predict the challenges Blue Tap might face during its feasibility study, and when rolling out larger-scale distribution of its chlorine injectors. Through the exchange of emails and phone meetings, we were able to learn about the strategies these organisations had used to make their filter distributions financially sustainable, methods of engaging the community to purchase water filters, and how to ensure continued proper use of the technology. This helped inform our decisions when planning a workshop to raise awareness on the importance of drinking water, that was held this Saturday at a venue in Vingunguti. We had a doctor in preventative medicine come in to explain the dangers of unclean water to give the workshop more credibility, we had a live water filter demonstration to show how crystal clear water can be produced from ‘muddy sludge’, and we collaborated with a microfinance organisation who came in to speak about the loans available if people want to invest in a water filter or other WaSH projects. We had 75 people attending the workshop and one lady that came forward to say she wanted to become a vendor of the water filters in her area. Fingers crossed, we’ll be seeing some sales in the next few weeks, with added publicity from our instagram campaign, posters and whatsapp presence! We’ve also been contacting hardware shops and retailers in advance to see if they’d be interested in stocking our filters if sales take off and scaling up proves a viable option in the future.

The Blue Tap feasibility study has been a really exciting project to be a part of, and I’m learning lots about business development and marketing which will be extremely useful when I begin work as a technical consultant in October. My handover report for CDI will ensure the information I’ve gained won’t be lost, and CDI can continue to build on the knowledge and contacts made this summer in future projects. Perhaps this will be the start of a new CDI specialism: consulting for external companies!

The Innovation Team 2019

By Natasha Wilson, WaSH Project Volunteer 2018/19
Natasha is fourth-year studying Engineering at Emmanuel College.

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The role of ‘non’ students in a proudly student-run organisation

Just over two years ago I joined our CDI Board of Trustees. I had just started a job as a Management Consultant and was pleased for an opportunity to continue to work with an organisation I love. I first joined CDI 5 years ago when I applied to be a volunteer with the Entrepreneurship project. And, after quickly falling in love with the ethos of CDI along with Tanzanian culture, I volunteered to lead the team as project director in the following year.

A lot of CDI’s energy and, it’s unique selling point, comes from being a student-run organisation. CDI not only recognises this but is also proud of it – we splatter our banners with it. So what role do I and the other trustees of CDI play?

In most organisations, the Board of Trustees acts as a governing body since it has responsibility for the management of the organization. In CDI, it’s a little different. Our Board, which consists of seven members, seeks to provide guidance and advice, to support our volunteers in their work, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation. This last point becomes particularly important when your entire workforce is replaced every year!

Out of our trustees, four of us are slightly closer in age to our student volunteers. Patrick and Kelvin (CDI’s two founders), Raj (CDI’s Education Project Director in 2015) and myself. We work closely together in what we call the Junior Board (or ‘Baby Board’ as our Whats-App is labelled). Despite having less wisdom or field experience than the rest of the Board, I like to think we are more in touch with the students and the sequence of the Cambridge terms. We work closely with the Director and the Executive Committee by running training sessions at the start of their tenure, coaching them through the year, and being on call to discuss any pressing issues.

As many directors and committee members have experienced, being in a leadership position within CDI is one of the toughest and most challenging ways to spend your summer months as a student. Whilst your peers reside in air-conditioned investment banks aligning boxes on PowerPoint slides, you are with little to no guidance, leading a team and managing a fully-fledged project in a foreign country on a topic on which you may have limited experience. You are running on goodwill and a common purpose with little or nothing material to give in return to any volunteer, donor or stakeholder. It is without doubt, the toughest challenge I’ve undertaken to date in my career.

For those who volunteer for these positions, there is an enormous personal development journey ahead of them. Without doubt the largest joy of my role as Trustee is being able to watch the incredible development that our committee members and in particular, our directors undergo. I hope that in my role, I can in some way support our committee members in this journey where possible, whether that comes in the form of mentorship, coaching, guidance, advice or simple a poorly worded but well-intentioned pep talk. I am strongly of the belief that one of the largest impacts CDI can have is developing a network of global citizens of its volunteers. If we are able to support volunteer growth and development through a challenging and yet unrivalled experience, then our volunteers will go on to bring more of the ethos of CDI into their future career and where possible share our ethos with others. I therefore hope that CDI forever remains a proudly student-run organisation!

By Georgia Ware, Member of CDI’s Board of Trustees

What the internet can’t teach you – realities of working on the ground, and the importance of learning from Tanzanian counterparts

In purely numerical terms, I reckon I’m a prime contender for qualifying as CDI’s Most Keen Volunteer 2019. As we come back to start work on the CDI and KITE projects after our mid-trip break, I’ve already been in Tanzania for over a month, and in East Africa for a good six weeks. Owing to the logistics of timing a backpacking holiday in neighbouring Kenya (as well as a touch of incompetence on my part about dates!), I arrived the day before the CDI committee, with around ten days to spare before the other volunteers landed. As the Director, Deputy Director Project Directors and Treasurer busied themselves with the necessary meetings and logistical arrangements before everything got properly underway, I found myself with quite a bit of time on my hands. This was despite my best efforts – even after pootling around the local markets, killing some time on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and getting to grips with some rudimentary Swahili grammar, I was still at something of a loose end! So I decided to get stuck in to a bit of preparatory reading. The focus of the Health Project this year is on raising awareness of sexual and reproductive health among youth in Dar es Salaam, which, as the resources I found on the internet quickly made clear, is an area in which there is significant scope for awareness to be raised, myths dispelled, and services made more readily available. I learnt about how sexual and reproductive health fits into a positive, holistic understanding of health, as a universal human right, and about the specific barriers to the realisation of this right in the Tanzanian context.

And so it was that, at the first meeting of the Health Team, I came armed with a mental list of what I took to be our most urgent priorities, the most efficacious ways of tackling the issues at hand. But of course, it didn’t take long to realise that this theoretical, rights-based approach to interventions couldn’t simply be copy-and-pasted onto the context we were dealing with. From day one, my Tanzanian counterparts helped me to realise that we had to work within the realities of the Tanzanian situation, and that meant adapting some of the goals and tactics I had identified. When I suggested partnering with companies and stakeholders who would be willing to supply us with contraceptives to hand out to students, my colleagues responded with a definite no. ‘We can’t just hand out condoms in schools!’ they told me. ‘The parents would be horrified, and we’d never be invited back!’ Certainly, this has sometimes proved frustrating: how can we make the most necessary, impactful changes if we’re barred from delivering practical advice and resources in certain areas? Isn’t it precisely these taboos, this reticence towards discussion, that is what we’re trying to change? But as time goes on, the more I realise the importance of working within the framework in which we find ourselves, of taking small steps to tackle issues that are within our reach, without jumping the gun, jeopardising our work by provoking negative responses from the community. To do otherwise, to focus on the bigger picture and try to completely redraft the society we’re working in, would be utterly counterproductive. And let’s not forget, when we’re talking about sexual health, we’re dealing with areas that are pricklier than most, more likely to provoke strong feelings and sensibilities, and to challenge deep-seated beliefs. We, as volunteers from Cambridge and hence outsiders, are all relying on our Tanzanian colleagues to help us to negotiate these views with sensitivity, to navigate the realities of the cultural and social situation and deliver an impact that is both meaningful and acceptable.

Knowledge of the local context has also repeatedly been invaluable in other ways. When it comes to logistical matters, for instance, to the day-to-day practicalities of operating the project, some understanding about how things function in the country is indispensable. I personally, when faced with the conundrum of how actually to set up a workshop in schools, would have drawn a blank, scratched my head and perhaps fired off a few tentative emails, which would almost certainly have been ignored. But fortunately, the KITE volunteers in my team were much more clued up; they wasted little time in making sure we had the documents we needed, then jumping on a bus and heading off to ask the appropriate schools in person. The headteachers were more than happy to speak to us, and mostly proved very co-operative, readily inviting us to work with their students. This knowledge of how to open the necessary doors has served us well on many occasions: for example, I was amazed when I learned that our team’s publicity manager had somehow secured a spot to talk about the project live on morning television, and had connected more than hundred local youths in a WhatsApp group to start discussing the issues we’re focusing on. It’s a kind of know-how that would take me years to acquire, but that is vital in moving forward the pace of our project’s activities.

All in all, my weeks volunteering with CDI thus far have been a fascinating, and at times intense, learning process. Much of this has been about learning to view the theoretical principles and guidelines in new ways, through eyes more attuned to the intricacies and sensitivities of cultural context. As I move on to a postgraduate course in Development Studies, I hope to deepen my theoretical, academic knowledge of key issues in the field – but this more practical, pragmatic understanding of how development work unfolds is one that I will not leave behind. I now realise the value of reconciling both approaches, combining cognizance of certain contextual realities with a broader, more long-term view of the universal goals towards which we are working. And for that I will remain indebted to these experiences working in Tanzania, and to all the colleagues and friends with whom I have shared them.

By Kitty Chevallier, Health Project Volunteer 2018/19
Kitty is a fourth-year student studying Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) at Emmanuel College.

Realities of being a student-led organisation: challenges and rewards

As fans of this blog (and CDI) may know, CDI is a student-run organisation based at the University of Cambridge. This means that students lead, ideate, implement, and evaluate the projects – all in collaboration with (you guessed it) more students from universities based in Dar es Salaam.

Being a student run organisation comes with its challenges and rewards:

Being based in Cambridge

CDI volunteers are Cambridge-based for most of the academic year leading up to the 2-month project summer, because of academic commitments (and mysterious University residence requirements).

This sometimes limits our understanding of how we can align project activities to the local context before the two month summer.

As an example we can refer to the publicity for the Into Business (ITB) Seminar Series. In Summer 2018, the Entrepreneurship Project piloted the ITB Seminar Series which consisted of stand-alone seminars during which high-profile Tanzania-based businesspeople teach business skills from writing a CV to business registration law.

To advertise each seminar, the team initially relied heavily on paid Facebook and Instagram adverts – few attendees found out about the seminars through these. Instead, most found out through WhatsApp. This may be down to how WhatsApp dominates Tanzanian communication. Had the Entrepreneurship team more time in Tanzania to pilot social media publicity strategies, they could have realised this sooner and streamlined publicity earlier.

Experiencing genuine cross-cultural collaboration with KITE Dar es Salaam

CDI’s volunteers collaborate very closely with KITE Dar es Salaam (KITE DSM) – another student-run charity consisting of university students at university across Dar es Salaam. Together, both CDI and KITE DSM ideate and implement the summer projects.

The level of cross-cultural collaboration between UK and Tanzania based volunteers is very unique and rewarding. Yes, your standard 3-month corporate internship will probably see you working with people from different cultures and countries. However, we are a student-run organisation. When something goes wrong during the summer, we can’t turn to our ‘line manager’ to fix the problem – we are our own managers. When we visit high-level stakeholders such as government ministries, we do it together, without the safety net of a ‘supervisor’ watching us in the corner. What’s more, we are working on high-stakes issues: during the summer we aren’t simply doing ‘presentations’ or ‘secondary research’ or ‘consulting’ from a desk like you may find even in the most competitive internships – we work with real people every day and their welfare is at stake. This level of responsibility creates a genuinely collaborative working relationship between us, as the pressures of the situation make us genuinely rely on each other to make things work. What’s more, this often creates genuine friendships between UK- and Tanzania-based students.

The Education Project is based on a foundation of collaboration between CDI and KITE DSM volunteers, as well as with local partners. Since its inception, the project’s direction and strategy have always been defined as a team – whether a school visit or survey is being conducted, you can be sure to find both UK and Tanzanian volunteers standing side by side to achieve the goal of radically improving the impact of education for young children across Dar es Salaam.

Annual changes in Executive Committee and volunteers

Every year, almost all of CDI’s volunteers change as we recruit a new Executive Committee (August-September) and new volunteers (December-January). This is because, inevitably, us students will go on to do other placements or graduate from university.

Doing our best to make sure that the next volunteers know the history of their projects (a process we call ‘handover’) is therefore crucial, and is taken very seriously as many handover documents meticulously detail previous decisions, meetings, recommendations for the next year etc. (my handover document was a total of two months in the making!)

Ensuring a seamless handover can be difficult because of its time-consuming nature, especially during the busy end-of-summer period when we are interviewing Executive Committee candidates, ramping up the Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MEL) of projects, and doing other necessary preparations to make sure our projects can continue running after the summer.

However, we always find a way to make it work, through the help of our peers and sometimes a coffee (or two, or three…) from our favourite cafe haunts in Dar es Salaam.

A steady supply of innovative thinkers

Student turnover, however, brings a major advantage to CDI as an organisation: annually, we recruit new cohorts of volunteers with fresh perspectives. Beyond bringing in unique project ideas, it allows us, as an organisation, to retain objectivity and clear judgement about how projects can be improved and when they should be decommissioned.

For example, in 2015 the WaSH team piloted the Flexigester, a flexible biodigester. The idea behind this was to produce biogas from waste produced by the simplified sewerage system. This biogas would be stored and sold back to the community as cooking fuel, while the sludge output would be processed into biofertiliser that could then be returned to the land. This was the world’s first integrated simplified sewerage and biogas network; in December 2015 we confirmed that a small amount of combustible biogas was being produced by the Flexigester. As successful as it was at that time, the 2018 team was also aware not to be swept up in focusing too much on the novelty of the combined simplified sewerage-biodigester system without considering the real benefits it brought for the community, and, in light of such an assessment, the Flexigester and the Biogas Project itself were decommissioned in Summer 2018. 

The ability to take risks and learn from them

In being run by students who are guided by advice from experts and stakeholders and who have not yet been jaded by the world that exists around them, CDI as an organisation has the ability and the nerve to take risks. Through the monitoring and evaluation inherent in our organisation’s model, we have the ability to continually improve our project and shift our focus year on year to better impact the lives of the beneficiaries and communities with whom we work.

For example, in 2016 the Health Project implemented the Afya Yetu project, which aimed to improve the health of the Vingunguti community by providing access to health products such as sanitary pads, water-purification tablets, and fortified flour at subsidised prices. However, in 2017, we found that Afya Yetu did not make the health products significantly more affordable than those which could already be bought at local markets and government pharmacies. Some health products offered by Afya Yetu such as sanitary pads were already easily affordable or distributed for free by the local government. 

But that’s okay – now that the Health Project team knows this, it has begun to narrow its focus onto areas where it can make a significant impact, like non-communicable disease awareness: in 2018, following recommendations provided by volunteers on CDI’s Research Team, the Health Project launched a non-communicable disease TV and radio awareness campaign with Tabibu TV and Sibuka FM.

In 2019, the project decided instead to focus instead on female sexual and reproductive health, as the KITE DSM team felt that this was a better route to follow this year. Although the project has changed its aims many times, the Health Project is a good example of one of CDI’s strengths in being a student organisation – considering voices on the ground in Tanzania, shifting the focus to accommodate the findings, and implementing a project that will have the largest positive effects that we can achieve.

Limited time to train volunteers

Being very (very, very, very…) busy with academic commitments, CDI’s volunteers can commit only little time to volunteer training before the project summer. This restricts opportunities to learn new skills that are immediately crucial for project implementation from day 1.

Sometimes, volunteers can feel overwhelmed once they arrive in Tanzania, maybe even unprepared. However, many quickly find that what they learned in the volunteer training workshops is useful in equipping them with prior knowledge and skills that is useful to navigate them through their first few weeks in Tanzania.

Leveraging the University of Cambridge

CDI volunteers, being University of Cambridge students, have access to an impressive network of contacts within the University of Cambridge. We have been able to leverage these contacts for fundraising and consulting purposes.

For example, the founders of CDI worked with Cambridge Judge Business School to produce the Entrepreneurship project’s flagship initiative – the DAREnterprisers course. Also, Trinity College Chapel has also kindly allowed CDI to host its epic annual fundraising concert there!

The willingness of these other University bodies to collaborate with us in part stems from a belief in the power of students to drive forward positive changes in society. Indeed, in the words of the founders of CDI – ‘university students…can offer more than free labour – they can bring fresh solutions, kickstart new initiatives and become a reliable partner for governments and communities in the developing in the developing world’.

In conclusion, what can we learn from my long (and bracket-laden) ramblings? Yes, we face challenges as an organisation, and yes there are limits to what students can do. However, we have no shame in admitting this; we run on a culture of honesty. Nevertheless, the rewards are far greater than the challenges because as young, driven, and ambitious students we have a certain energy and determination to push through these challenges that (at least I believe) is unfortunately lost as time goes on.

In a world that seems to pessimistic nowadays, be it about climate change, politics,  whatever, perhaps it takes the starry-eyed optimism of students to see us through the darkest challenges society faces.

CDI is just one example of the power of students to do this.

By Anand Talwar, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Officer 2018/19
Anand is a second-year student studying Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) at St. Catherine’s College.

Meet the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Officer 2018/19

My name is Anand Talwar, the CDI Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Officer 2018/19.

As a humanities student (in Politics and International Relations) with a scientific brain (having dabbled in Psychology and Mathematics) I developed an interest in international development during my first year of university. Ironically, I knew that didn’t want to pursue a career in international development by becoming a politician. Therefore, my inner scientist was drawn to the field of MEL.

At the same time, I’ve always wanted to live and work in a multicultural environment. This stems in part from the multicultural world that I grew up in, and my keen (and amateurish) interest in foreign languages (before coming to Tanzania I was shamefully trying to learn 5 languages at once… Which inevitably failed… I have now limited myself to 2…). CDI therefore appealed to me as a development organisation because of its operations in Tanzania and collaboration with Tanzanian university students.

Lastly, I admit that I’ve been involved in some pretty ‘voluntouristic’ charities in the past which have involved flying out UK volunteers to a developing country to take away local labour then disappear after a few weeks, leaving nothing behind. CDI is completely different to what I have experienced, given its much more sustainable model of creating projects that are then handed over to Tanzania-based partner organisations for them to run all year round.

So, you’re probably wondering: what does being a MEL Officer actually involve? At the beginning of the last academic year I, alongside my awesome KITE Dar es Salaam MEL Officer counterpart, had to come up with a focus for MEL this year. We decided to give MEL a long-term focus which meant following up on previous cohorts of beneficiaries to see if the impact of previous projects has lasted. This involved a lot of research into appropriate theoretical frameworks to guide this follow-up. We decided on a nifty technique called Outcome Mapping – I will not bore you by describing in depth the function of progress markers or boundary partners or contributing factors and actors… (an example of our approach can be found here)

Each of CDI’s projects has a volunteer focused on the MEL of the project – in advance of the summer, I helped the MEL volunteers develop their MEL frameworks. The beginning of the summer has involved checking a lot of surveys and interview questions. This is much more complicated than it sounds. You have to think really carefully about the comparability of the answers to the questions – can we compare the response to this question to responses of future questions that assess the same outcome? You have to exercise a lot of cultural humility – is it culturally appropriate to ask certain questions? Will there be a perceived power dynamic that will make participants give ‘expected responses? How can we overcome this? You have to remain focused on long-term projects whilst at the same time be ready to think on your feet when things escalate quickly. This happens a lot: People can be unpredictable, and respond to your surveys and interview questions in ways that you completely did not expect. Whether that be through not completing a tick box system as you expected or not having as much time for an interview as they originally anticipated or a survey getting no responses. In these situations, I have to think and work rapidly with MEL project volunteers to think of ways to modify surveys and interviews to fix these errors in good time to allow information to roll in.

Despite these difficulties I really do love my role because I’m always thinking on my feet and responding to unexpected challenges. These situations also give me insight into the culture and worldviews of our beneficiaries – what they deem appropriate to talk about, their daily challenges which prevent them from being able to dedicate time to complete surveys, etc. There is so much more to the role than sitting behind a desk and rolling out an ‘on a scale of 1 to 10’ survey in 5 minutes!

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in development, and my experience with CDI so far has given me the confidence that I can actually be effective in responding to the challenge of working in a development career abroad. I am now eager to find a development job overseas whereas before CDI I honestly lacked the confidence and courage to work abroad. Admittedly, I think graduate job overseas is an unachievable dream. But hey, isn’t the whole field of development built on a bunch of dreams of a better future that, with a little hard work and patience, slowly become reality?

By Anand Talwar, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Officer 2018/19
Anand is a second-year student studying Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) at St. Catherine’s College.

Meet the WaSH Project Director 2018/19

I’m Micheala and I have just graduated with a MEng in Engineering from Trinity Hall. I am the current Project Director for the Cambridge Development Initiative’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) project. I first joined CDI last year as a volunteer on the WaSH Project, working on the now-decommissioned Biogas Project, and continued because of the core beliefs and mission of the WaSH Project.

The WaSH Project was built on the idea that entrepreneurship in WaSH can produce multiple knock-on benefits. A special report on Engineering a Better World from the New Civil Engineer (April 2017) noted the positive multiplier effects of investment in WaSH in rural areas and urban slums: “if you spend £100 per family on water and sanitation infrastructure, it increases literacy by 30% and doubles family income within five years.” [Priti Parikh – Director of the MSc in Engineering for International Development at UCL].

Simplified sewerage, the central vein of the project, has been shown to be a success in other developing contexts such as in South America and Pakistan. This utilises systems more appropriate to informal settlements, in which the infrastructure and layout are unplanned. Using smaller diameter pipes buried less deep underground than conventional sewerage, this system is cheaper and thus more applicable to the community-focussed project run by CDI. From here, the idea expanded to include a biodigester, which would produce biogas from the sewage. This biogas would then be stored and sold back to the community, providing funds for the expansion of the simplified sewerage networks. A further addition to the cycle was a solar cooker, which would dry out the waste exiting the biodigester, producing a substance which could be used as a fertiliser. This model (as seen in the image below) produced a cycle in which waste losses could be recuperated as economic benefits to the community.

The SimpliSafi model was the original plan for the WaSH Project but it has undergone many changes over the past five years to reach the point where we are now.

The thing about the WaSH Project is that it takes risks where no other CDI project ever has. It aims to tackle issues not only on the community level but also on a structural level. Through regular conversations with the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA), CDI and KITE Dar es Salaam (our partner organisation based in Dar es Salaam, also known as KITE DSM) bring to centre-stage the issue of sanitation in informal settlements – areas not generally considered by a government that is sometimes accused of enriching themselves off the backs of the poor. Unlike other NGOs, CDI endeavours to engage all stakeholders, especially the government, in fashioning a world in which we are all responsible for bringing about positive, sustainable change.

Studies have found that Tanzanian officials don’t proactively build water facilities in areas where water is not yet available and I believe this is also true of sanitation facilities. Currently, around the world, 4.5 billion people are still without safely managed sanitation and 892 million people still practise open defecation. These numbers reflect the situation in Dar es Salaam. I remember walking into Vingunguti, the informal settlement in which the WaSH Project works, for the first time and noticing the raw sewage running in the streets in areas not yet served by the WaSH Project. These are the very conditions under which diseases like cholera can thrive. Cholera is caused by bacteria and spreads very rapidly under the right conditions (over-crowding, poor sanitation and hygiene) and can cause severe diarrhoea and death within hours if not treated. With 3 to 5 million cases of cholera per year causing between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths each year, it is clear that this is an issue that needs to be solved, not necessarily by external NGOs like CDI but by the local government who bears responsibility for the well-being of their people. In all surveys, interviews and questionnaires carried out by the project, community members of Vingunguti have always maintained that they are happy to be connected to the network, having seen a decrease in waterborne diseases – in fact many more wish to be connected in the future. This is a clear demonstration of demand, one which DAWASA has been keen for us to address in the future.

In a stakeholder meeting recently, Eng. Wilhelmina Malima – the Tanzanian National Coordinator for the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) – asked if the WaSH Project’s beneficiaries (latrine users) were customers of DAWASA. It was at this point that it became clear to me what another benefit of our project is – generally, people in informal settlements are not considered as legitimate residents and they do not own the land that they live on. In fact, some people may prefer to think of these people as non-existent instead of tackling the issues they face head-on. However, in being users of CDI’s simplified sewerage networks, these people became customers of DAWASA and thus gain a new level of recognition from the government. This may be just a small detail to some but can mean the world of difference to the one person whose life has been changed.

The WaSH Project is the first project in CDI to fully hand over a current project stream to KITE DSM. Last year, the network team (which constructed the of simplified sewerage networks) was comprised solely of Tanzanian volunteers, something which has remained the case with this year’s team. Operationally, this is strategic as a Tanzanian university education in engineering provides the practical know-how to efficiently carry out construction of latrines and networks (unlike the more theoretical and general approach taken by the one at Cambridge). Moreover, the year-round presence of the team in Tanzania facilitates maintenance and monitoring of the networks even when the CDI team is back in the UK. This year marks the first year that the Community Engagement team has been a KITE-only team and I hope that future WaSH Project Directors will recognise the importance of Tanzanian voices in this endeavour. Since many community-members do not speak English, it is strategic for the Tanzanian volunteers to be the ones carrying out workshops, surveys, focus groups, etc. with the CDI volunteers supporting from the background. Further, the WaSH Project wants to dispel the myth that progress only happens when “the mzungu” (how foreigners are referred to in Swahili) are present.

These are lessons I learned from my predecessor, Yasmine Shafiq, who regularly still guides me through decisions and I am lucky to still have such an engaged team of alumni behind me, offering advice, context and a generous ear through what sometimes are tough moments.

My two years working with CDI have allowed me to better understand that although life is all about the big picture the magic is in the details. I’ve worked with many people from all over the world who have all brought to the table brilliant ideas, enthusiasm and a genuine passion about the issues we work to tackle. These people are constant reminders of who we are working for, why we started doing what we are doing, and why we will never stop trying to change the world.

I feel honoured and proud to have been able to be part of this initiative which gives students and young engineers the ability to change the world, one latrine at a time, leaving no one behind.


If you’d like to get involved with our fundraising, visit our JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cdi-wash or email wash.director@cambridgedevelopment.org for more information!

By Micheala Chan, WaSH Project Director 2018/19
Micheala is fourth-year studying Engineering at Trinity Hall.

Find your belief

“What do you know about development, exactly?”

“What do you know about Tanzania or its people?”

“What do you know about the domain of Education / Entrepreneurship / Health / WaSH?”

“What do you know about managing projects?”

“Can you really run an organisation of 30 people?”

If there’s one feeling that characterised my CDI experience, it was disbelief. This came from all sides – development professionals aghast at our ignorance about development, business leaders doubtful about our experience and competence, academics disappointed by our nosediving grades and desertion of their discipline, friends confused by our disappearance from social events, and family anxious about our safety and our future career.

Worst of all, this feeling of disbelief came from within myself. What if they’re all right? What if I’m really driving into a car crash in slow motion, and destined for failure: in CDI, in my degree, in my early career – and therefore in life?

Coping strategies

First, it’s worth stating the obvious here – none of these issues can be resolved overnight. You can’t just ‘know’ about development, Tanzania, or project management tomorrow. These skills or pieces of knowledge typically take years to develop or acquire. So at the time we could only resort to coping strategies in response to criticisms like these, of which several come to mind.

The first: the stonewall. Ignore all of them, and trudge on. Yes, they have a point, but whatever. I’ve already been doing this for the past year, so I’m going to just keep doing it. Because that feels more comfortable. Kicking the can down the road, and hoping the can will roll into a bin by itself.

Clearly, not an effective strategy. But a surprisingly common one among all of us, dare I say, when faced with difficult problems. And certainly one we frequently employed ourselves.

Another strategy was to admit defeat and throw in the towel. I know I certainly wasn’t alone among past CDI leaders to have given serious thought to just quitting. It just seemed like such a beautifully easy way out – if I just stop, I will be free! There will once again be balance in the universe.

But some part of me wasn’t willing to go down so easily. I’d done so much already. Giving up now would erase all my previous hard work. Plus, I’d be letting down so many – all the volunteers I recruited to my team + promised a summer opportunity, our donors, our partners, stakeholders who generously supported us.

Mostly, I trod somewhere in the middle of all this. I knew these were legitimate criticisms, and we even tried to address some of them e.g. did reading, organised some training, found mentors. And then afterwards we would carry on business as usual (“right, that’s Project Management training done. Project Management skills: checked.“). But deep down I knew these were cosmetic fixes, so I’d continue to let the feeling of inadequacy gnaw away at my existence.

This is otherwise known as Imposter Syndrome. And it was exhausting.

Let your belief co-exist with criticisms

So what to do about this all? In the face of such difficult questions, it’s easy to forget that the absence of criticism isn’t a precondition for belief. It’s possible to both accept criticisms as legitimate and believe in yourself.

Enough of this self-help BS, I hear you say.

Here’s how I think about belief. In my experience, it can come from three sources (not an exhaustive list by any means):

1) Success stories / role models, especially those who were once in a similar position

“If he or she did it, and I’m just like them, then I can do it too.”

Seems to make perfect sense, right? It’s a powerful line of thinking – it’s why biographies can be so inspiring, and why exposure programmes for the underprivileged can be so impactful. Having successful role models, who once struggled just like us, can work wonders for our belief.

And in CDI, we can lean on a reservoir of ~200 alumni role models. They’re all just like you, and it’s worked out OK for them. Find a way to be on the phone with the team member in your position in the last few years!

2) Small wins

“I’ve already done this thing, which is just a smaller version of this bigger thing, so I can probably do this bigger thing too.”

Statistical sampling, if you will. Perhaps your project is divided into a series of weekly goals, and you find yourself worrying about whether you will actually make an impact by the end of 7 or 8 weeks. One way to proceed is to focus 100% of your energies on delivering on your goals for this week only. Or, scope it down even further and just focus on delivering on your goals for today. Check in on yourself at the end of day, and you’ll probably feel a good deal more confident about delivering for tomorrow.

Confession: I didn’t do this. At least not intentionally. When we ran the DAREnterprisers entrepreneurship course for the first time, I had minimal confidence about whether we’d really be able to help Tanzanian students launch viable businesses. It was only after we started running day after day of workshops, and found the participants genuinely engaged with our exercises and style, when my confidence started to grow.

If even that seems daunting right now, then aim for even smaller wins. Start your day by knocking out a few of the easier tasks that are on your plate – maybe a quick phone call to a stakeholder, a short message to a teammate, or coming up with an agenda for the next meeting – and feel your newly gained momentum pulse through your veins.

OK, this won’t solve all your problems. And there’s a fine line between chasing after small wins and procrastination. For me, though, there were many a day when I woke up feeling totally helpless, but after a few small wins, started to gain some confidence to take on the bigger challenges.

3) Moral belief

“This is the right thing to do for the world, so I’ll keep doing it no matter the result.”

Sounds like something Elon Musk would say, and that’s probably where I got it from. Probably a bit hard for many of us though, if we haven’t developed this level of conviction about anything yet.

But there’s a smaller version of this that could work. Go and talk to one of CDI’s supposed ‘beneficiaries’, and try to understand how (if) our work has impacted their lives. Of course, don’t go in with the assumption that it has – it may not have – but if it genuinely has made their lives better in any meaningful way, I promise that’ll make your day.

At this point it’s worth noting that none of these sources of belief should be categorised as blind faith (i.e. “I want this to be true, therefore I believe it’s true”) – that would be some real self-help BS. There’s an element of logic within them, and that’s why they can work.

Yeah, but about those criticisms…

I know none of this actually directly resolves the fundamental criticisms that are sometimes levelled at CDI. Some of these fundamental criticisms will never be resolved. But the thing is, you have chosen to commit at least 2 months of your life to this work, and you’re planning to see it through no matter what. What’s more useful – to employ flawed coping strategies like I often did (and probably be quite miserable most of the time), or find a source of belief that sustains you through this journey?

To me, it’s perfectly possible to accept those criticisms as legitimate, and yet believe that it’s still possible to make an impact. After all, that’s what others like you had done before, what you’ve already started doing, and the right thing to do for your target beneficiaries.

So, go forth and find your belief!

By Kelvin Wong, CDI Co-founder and Member of CDI’s Board of Trustees