Leadership, Partners, Philanthropy

An Appealing Failure

What a great idea!! Playpumps International has come up with a way for African villages to access desperately needed clean water by rigging a pump with a children’s merry-go-round. As the children laugh and play together they provide life-giving water for their entire community. The perfect photo op is so many ways. It even gathered support from Jay-Z and George and Laura Bush. What could be better? Unfortunately, just about everything could be better. The UK’s The Guardian published a critical article that articulates several ways this appealing project is extremely flawed. It’s worth five minutes to read it yourself. To their credit, Playpumps has recognised the problems and is taking steps to improve. To my mind there are two lessons here: 1) Romance: The idea of the playpump is magical, it’s no wonder it garnered so much support. However it would have taken only some fairly simple research to recognise the inherent problems. Diligence is particularly difficult when the subject so strongly captures the heart. 2) Philosophy: A 14 thousand dollar charitable donation is not a bad thing, but it is limited to a single location and does little beyond the immediate. A more strategic approach involves developing local businesses to build, install, and maintain pumps that are specifically suited to the needs of their own community. What could be better? This.