Unilever, PSI, Betapond, Facebook Turn On Waterworks To Provide Safe Drinking Water

By David Cohen 

Access to safe drinking water is taken for granted, but nearly 800 million people lack it, and Unilever, Population Services International, developer Betapond, and Facebook set out to remedy that with their announcement at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France of open graph application Waterworks.

Waterworks enables Facebook users to partner with “Waterworkers” — real women working toward achieving the goal of providing safe water — by connecting the app to their timelines and pledging a small daily donation to support the effort. Waterworks is one of the first apps to use the subscription billing feature for apps that the social network rolled out earlier this week.

Waterworkers will be given mobile phones preloaded with a custom app that allows them to take pictures and record stories to be shared with their Facebook partners, showing them the impact of the funds they are donating.

Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed said:

In July 2010, the United Nations declared that safe and clean drinking water is a human right. We share this belief and have made a public and ambitious commitment through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to provide safe drinking water to 500 million people by 2020. But to overcome a challenge of this scale, we cannot achieve this change alone: We need to work in partnership.

At Unilever, we believe that small, everyday actions can add up to a big difference, and that the power of social connections can drive real change around the world. On Facebook, nearly 1 billion people take small actions every day — they connect to the individuals and organizations that matter most to them, and they discover new things through their friends. We want to leverage the power of the social graph and the ripple effects that each person’s actions can create, to inspire and enroll many more to make a difference.

PSI President and CEO Karl Hofmann added:

Our Waterworkers will be women from the communities in which they will work– mothers, sisters, friends and aunts who know the people around them and have connections that can start honest conversations about important issues that impact the health of the community. Through participation in Waterworks, they will gain not only a steady income, but also receive training on communication techniques and local health issues, as well as access to clean water for their own families.

Betapond CEO Declan Kennedy said:

By working closely with Unilever and with significant input from Facebook, we’ve been able to develop a timeline app with features and functionality that just haven’t existed before. As a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer, we work closely with Facebook to stay ahead of the curve and make best use of the new opportunities the platform offers. In building the Waterworks app, we have been able to include a number of brand-new Facebook functions, with new personal notifications connecting a donor to a real individual NGO worker on the ground and tighter integration with Facebook open graph. Waterworks is a real breakthrough in how charitable giving will be done in the future — more social, more personal — showing how by combining our small individual effort, we can make a big difference.

And Facebook Vice President and Managing Director for Europe, the Mideast, and Africa Joanna Shields added:

Through Waterworks, the Unilever Foundation is showing that the right combination of people and technology can lead to social solutions that effectively combat some of the largest and most difficult challenges we face. Unilever is a fantastic, highly innovative partner, and we’re excited to help them continue to build their presence on Facebook for both their brands and charitable endeavors. Unilever understands that when people are given the platform to share their experiences and affect change, amazing things can happen.

Readers: Would you like to see more charity efforts take advantage of Facebook’s platform and capabilities?