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University College Utrecht, alumni magazine Post: Development Work 2.0

Naomi Becht (’10) :::

After completing his Bachelor’s degree at University College Utrecht and doing a Master of European Studies at Cambridge University, Wouter Durville (‘01) worked as a manager at Heineken and Bain & Company. But he wanted more.  And he wanted it better. “I wanted to do something I could be proud of. Just earning lots of money did not give me that feeling,” Durville says. In November 2010, he launched ONEforONE (www.oneforone.nl), an organisation that uses the buy-one-give-one principle. The colourful shoe brand TOMS, for example, gives a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country whenever a more affluent customer buys a pair of shoes. ONEforONE uses the same concept on a different level, applying it to energy and water.

To provide people in developing countries with energy, ONEforONE teams up with Greenchoice, a Dutch energy company supplying electricity purely generated from renewable sources. Every new customer that signs up for Greenchoice via ONEforONE automatically supplies a solar panel, lamp or charger to someone in Kenya. But how can we provide another person with such things without paying more ourselves? As far as I’m concerned, money does not grow from trees.

Unfortunately, money does not grow from trees indeed. But there is a way to play around with supply and demand, and Durville did it. When he approached Greenchoice with a mass of potential customers, Greenchoice was able to offer him a substantial discount. Part of that discount benefits the ONEforONE consumers themselves, while the other portion of the savings is funneled to ONEforONE’s partner organisation ToughStuff for the development of solar energy in Africa. Durville remarks, “We wanted to do what we’re good at, which is Dutch marketing, and let others do what they’re good at”. As such, ONEforONE is not just another NGO, but a buying association that efficiently links supply and demand and channels its profits to those who are in need of things we have come to take for granted. Call it Development Work 2.0.

In the same way, ONEforONE partners with Pump Aid, an organisation that establishes sustainable supplies of clean water and safer sanitation provisions in southern and eastern Africa. This time, however, ONEforONE has designed its own product: a water bottle made of stainless steel, recyclable, light but strong, and available in different sizes and colours. And most importantly, with each bottle sold a lifelong of clean drinking water is sponsored for someone in Africa. From the revenue made by the sale of the bottles, a minimum of €2,50 per bottle is transferred to Pump Aid who builds water pumps that can be maintained by poor rural communities without any assistance.

All of this fits well into ONEforONE’s two main goals, namely to fight poverty and stimulate social entrepreneurship. From the very start, Durville was concerned that his aid would not disrupt local markets. As everyone who read Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty or any other book on development aid already knows, giving out products for free is often detrimental to the local economy of developing countries. But in ONEforONE’s energy and water projects, local entrepreneurship and independence is fostered instead. The money raised with Greenchoice is particularly directed towards Tough Stuff’s Solar Village Entrepreneur (SVE) programme which provides micro loans and training to people who want to establish small, profitable solar businesses in Africa.

It seems ONEforONE is faring well. Although the Dutch government wants to cut down on development aid by 900 million euro’s, the interest of the Dutch population in helping other people nonetheless continues to be there. With already more than 4,000 Facebook fans (www.facebook.com/oneforonenl) and hundreds of followers on Twitter, ONEforONE’s popularity is growing strong.

So what’s next? “We are currently working on ONEforONE Insurances. Like energy, insurances are ongoing and can create a steady stream of funding for our development projects,” Durville notes, “but for now, it would be really great if our UCU alumni also switch to ONEforONE Energy, drink tap water from our bottles and help to spread the word.”

Naomi Becht (’10) is now studying Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

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