2019 Highlights

I – ROCKBlue’s new utility partnerships

This year we added partnerships in Mozambique (10 under the mandate of AIAS), Zimbabwe (4 municipalities) and Malawi. Hence, since 2018, we grew 650 percent by adding to our first two partnerships in Lesotho and Zambia. And, whereas our partners served 2.7M in 2018, this year they serve 4.4M, a 63 percent increase!

II – Non-Utility Partnerships

ROCKBlue added several new partners during the year and looks forward to working together with them in order to achieve mutual goals. These partners include:

  • Operation Water in Mozambique (see video ROCKBlue’s Assistance in Mozambique)
  • Veolia/Seureca in Tanzania
  • Burson Cohn & Wolfe internationally for marketing and communication support
  • Girls4Girls in East Africa
  • World Bank (WB) – facilitation of PAWS Workshop #1
  • Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) – use of their AguaRating platform for benchmarking Initiative
  • USAID WASH-FIN support for our PAWS Workshop #1
  • International Water Centre – WULUW Initiative
  • American Water Works Association (AWWA) – support of our partnerships in Zimbabwe
  • Centre for Applied Research (CAR) – for future work in Botswana
III –  ROCKBlue’s Utility Specialist Roster

ROCKBlue serves as both a mentor and connector for our partner service providers (utilities and municipalities). We can offer this help because of our Roster of now over 100 dedicated and highly experienced utility Specialists. This represents a 67 percent growth rate over the number of Specialists in 2018. Some additional facts about those in our Roster:

  • They have (collectively) helped over 350 utilities in the developing world
  • They have capabilities in 25 unique areas of utility management
  • Over 14 percent are women
  • Over 15 percent are ex-senior managers or directors of utilities
  • They primarily come from Africa, Europe and North America
  • They have robust experience with development partners: European Investment Bank (EIB), African Development Bank (AfDB), Inter-American Development (IADB), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Commission, Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), USAID, GIZ, KfW, CIDA, DFID, JICA, USAID, MCC, OPIC, etc.
  • Language capabilities include Arabic, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili
IV – Supporting Initiatives

ROCKBlue has four Initiatives described below that serve the following purposes:

  1. support our ongoing utility partnerships, and
  2. give back to the urban WASH community.
ROCKBlue Utility Workshop in Maseru, Lesotho

ROCKBlue facilitated a Workshop on the 25th of February, held at our partner WASCO’s office in Lesotho, to address the most challenging aspects of running a utility and how to mitigate those challenges. Representatives from six countries (Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria and the USA) participated in the Workshop including current and past utility executive directors and senior management officers.

The challenges that came out of the Workshop were grouped into five priority categories: non-revenue water (NRW), cash flow/P&L, human resources, planning, and institutional development. Some of the challenges addressed included non-revenue water reduction, capital financing gaps and personnel accountability.

The utilities in attendance are using the mitigation plans they developed as part of their Partnership Tracking Forms as well as to target ROCKBlue’s assistance.   ROCKBlue is strongly results focused. A key tool we use for this is our Partnership Tracking Form (PTF). Among other elements on the PTF, it registers benchmark data, quick wins and intermediate results for key goals set by each utility partner

Performance Achievement Workshop Series (PAWS)

PAWS Workshop number 1 was a resounding success. ROCKBlue is pioneering a proven approach towards the end goal of helping our partners. We do this through a series of three PAWS workshops. The PAWS Initiative is a “tool” to drive results. And, the PAWS workshops parallel our results-orientated Partnership Tracking Form (PTF). They also parallel our Benchmarking Initiative. A key approach of PAWS is, with the PTF, having utilities commit to Quick Wins between Workshop #1 and Workshop #2. They also commit to Intermediate Results between Workshop #2 and Workshop #3. Then, they will continue that goal-oriented momentum forward after Workshop #3. We have monthly check-in points between workshops, via SKYPE, to drive progress.

For Workshop #1 the seven invited utilities committed to over 100 “Quick Wins”. These wins will improve their performance before Workshop #2 – in early 2020. They will also begin to have a dramatic impact on improving water and sanitation to five million people. The utilities also committed to over 100 Intermediate Results by Workshop #3. Again, for the ultimate goal of improving performance.

The PAWS Workshop #1 21 Delegates also listened to technical and practical presentations. These were on subjects of direct importance to their goals. Our Specialists generously volunteering to attend Workshop #1 and offer these presentations. These were Aldo Baietti, Jeremy Gorelick, Francisco Cubillo and Satish Menon. They presented on the topics of capital finance, performance improvement planning and benchmarking.

Women’s Urban Leadership in Utility WASH (WULUW)

With WULUW is the understanding that when women take leadership positions – including those in urban WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) – the organizations to which they are associated benefit. Unfortunately, often cultural and historical obstacles block women from reaching leadership positions in urban WASH services providers. Women are underrepresented in urban WASH and hold few leadership positions.

The following video shows how WULUW overlapped with our PAWS Initiative ROCKBlue Workshop 1 Interview Dr. Mkandla.

WULUW’s goal is to assist and significantly increase the number female leaders in urban WASH. This is done through four activities:

  1. collecting/ disseminating informational /motivational stories/examples about female leadership in urban WASH,
  2. mentorship between existing female leaders and aspiring future female leaders,
  3. professional career guidance, networking and cross-linkages, and
  4. connecting aspiring future female leaders with educational opportunities and resources.

We coordinate those women associated with WULUW on our WULUW LinkedIn group.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is offered though our website’s practical tips/blogs (ROCKBlue Knowledge Management Blogs ). We asked our utility Specialists if they would be willing to be interviewed to share their knowledge and the response was overwhelming – we have disseminated 20 blog posts to date.

Due to the number of interviews, ROCKBlue required a dedicated individual just to transcribe them all and polish the interviews to be ready for posting.  We could not do this without our Knowledge Management Transcriber, Katlego Sibanyoni, who was appointed in October this year. Her assistance has been invaluable to ROCKBlue’s knowledge management outreach.


Benchmarking, using AguaRating

Agua Rating is relatively new and is rapidly gaining prominence as a tool for utilities to use, particularly in the developing world. The Inter-American Development Bank developed this in close collaboration with the International Water Association. Agua Rating involves a self-assessment of eight evaluation areas (e.g., service quality and operational efficiency).

There is a rigorous process of validation of results as well as independent certification. The certification cycle includes planning, self-assessment and preliminary rating that leads to an improvement plan; next comes the auditing and certification.

While Latin American utilities had primarily used this so far, utilities elsewhere are starting to use it, including in Africa.