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I tripped upon an interesting blog the other day, Reversing the Flow by Brita Belli in eMagazine (April 2010). In it she talks about the Global Water Network. She says “Earth Day Network’s lesser-known side project is called the Global Water Network. Unlike the much more visible Earth Day—celebrating its April 22 40th anniversary this year with projects that include ‘A Billion Acts of Green’—the Global Water Network (GWN) is only in its second year.

Earth Day Network at work

It’s a means for connecting donors with water projects across the globe—with Earth Day Network (EDN) acting as a conduit, especially in encouraging U.S. schoolchildren to take up collections for children abroad who lack clean drinking water access and proper sanitation. ‘In the U.S.,’ says Beth Larson, EDN’s international education coordinator, ’students don’t feel empowered. But just a small amount of money can go a long way in places like Burkina Faso.’”

Absolutely! Small amounts of money can go along way around the globe, Canada included. We have a project profiled on www.smallchangefund.org right now, for example, that only needs $1250 to upgrade a boat so that the organization, Fundy Baykeeper, can expand the scope of their water monitoring work. A little can go a long way. It’s a great point. It’s also interesting that she’s hit on the issue of connecting donors and empowering students. That’s a big challenge and one we’ve taken to heart at Small Change Fund. How do we engage – truly engage – Canadians in protecting our precious water resources and those of communities around the globe?

Aveda finds partner for change

Brita goes on to talk about the collaborative work between our global partner, Global Greengrants Fund, and Aveda. “Hair and skin-care company Aveda has had a partnership with Global Greengrants Fund for more than a decade, in order to direct money to environmental causes and has seen a ‘dramatic spike in fundraising with the issue of clean water,’ says Katie Galloway, Aveda’s Earth Fund manager. The company itself looks for ways to lower its water footprint, she says, and has expanded Earth Day to ‘Earth Month,’ since 1999.

Through sales of a limited edition ‘Light the Way’ candle, as well as via Walks for Water, Aveda raised some $3 million for environmental causes last year, just over $1.1 million of which went to Greengrants. And the company specifically directs grants to areas of the world where they source ingredients. ‘The best example is Madagascar,’ says Galloway. ‘A lot of our essential oils and aromas are sourced there, such as clove and cinnamon…Greengrants did a grant in the Southeast part of Madagascar where they cleared out a well and installed a solar tank and water tank. As a result, 2,000 people in Madagascar now have access to clean water.” But despite this she says, “Lack of funding is the biggest impediment to fresh-water access in the developing world.’”

Grassroots challenges

We need to celebrate the companies that are putting money back into communities. Like Aveda. Like Lush that recently funded 4 Small Change Fund projects. (Thank you Lush!). What’s more, we need to explore, promote, refine, and celebrate the new tools that provide a gateway for everyone to support water work world-wide to help meet grassroots funding challenges. Organizations like Charity:WaterKivaSmall Change Fund, and Social Actions are pioneering new ways of galvanizing citizen-led action on important social and environmental issues around the globe. But it’s all new. There’s no real road map. We’re all feeling our way along to the most effective, most engaging, most sincere, most transparent means of empowering you, empowering all of us, to get involved. So how do we do it? We need feedback. We need inputs. We need to learn.

Which brings me to one of my favourite authors, the late Donella Meadows of the Sustainability Institute. She was so wise. She said “Working with systems, on the computer, in nature, among people, in organizations, constantly reminds me of how incomplete my mental models are, how complex the world is, and how much I don’t know. The thing to do, when you don’t know is to learn. What’s appropriate when you’re learning is small steps, constant monitoring, and a willingness to change course as you find out more about where it’s leading. That’s hard.”

Small change can be powerful

It’s hard, but it’s necessary and perhaps the only way in this world of social innovation, new media, and change-making. So help us find out more about the engagement question. How do we connect you to global water causes? How do we empower a sea-change in citizen-led action? How do we realize the power of your small change?

By Ruth Richardson, originally published at SmallChangeFund.org

If you want to read about other partnerships in the sector, check out Educational Projects and the Power of Partnerships by Farah Mohamed

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