Sarah Ford | March 13, 2015

Coffee Meets Water: Restoring Clean Water Through Crowdfunding

By Nellie Kim and Sarah Ford

Can you imagine not having access to clean water?  The truth is, not having access to clean water is truly incomprehensible for most of us; we take it for granted. The closest many of us have ever come to not having access to water is when a damaging storm has hit or the community water system has been contaminated and everyone runs to the nearest store to stock up on water bottles.  Even in those cases though, we know it will only be a temporary nuisance because there’s a system in place and professionals dedicated to restoring our access. 

But for nearly 750 million people around the world this isn’t the case. 

Accessing Water At Any Cost

1 in 9 people do not have access to clean water, and half of those people reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa loses an estimated 4.3% of its GDP each year due to lack of adequate water supply and sanitation. Because water impacts everything from food and health to energy, education and urbanization, these people will go great lengths to access any water despite the risks and lasting effects on their family and community. In many developing countries, women and children are tasked with walking miles every day (sometimes several times a day) to collect water from nearby rivers or streams, using the same water for drinking, bathing, laundry, and animals. As a result of such regimes, “Half the hospital beds in the world are filled with people suffering from water-borne diseases,” according to the UNDP. This is a resolvable issue though.

When a water well is built in a community, the impact is immediate–health can be improved dramatically, children can prioritize attending school, and women can seek income-generating opportunities, which can lead to an investment in their families and their community.  The World Health Organization estimates that, on average, every $1 invested in water and sanitation provides a $4 economic return.

But without proper maintenance, tools, or parts, water wells can break down over time for a number of reasons, stripping away a community’s water source.  This forces families to resort to the “old” way of collecting water, again compromising their health, education, and opportunity to develop their community–the very things they were fighting to protect.

These problems can be fixed fairly easily with a little funding and collaboration through campaigns like Good Neighbors USA’s Coffee Meets Water.

Good Neighbors, America's Charities

Repairing Broken Systems

Good Neighbors, America's CharitiesGood Neighbors, an international humanitarian organization, has been raising public awareness about development problems and solutions, and advocated for change since 1991.  When Good Neighbors recently examined the water well situation in the community of Sidama, one of Ethiopia’s leading coffee-producing regions, they found a staggering 22 out of 38 water wells were broken, meaning the coffee farming community had little to no access to clean water. So Good Neighbors set out to fix this problem by raising awareness and money to repair the wells using a crowdfunding platform called Indiegogo

Good Neighbors’ Indiegogo campaign, Coffee Meets Water, was a success and in January 2015, Good Neighbors traveled to Ethiopia to repair broken water wells in Sidama with a partner organization, Let It Flow, founded by professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston.  Over the course of six days, Good Neighbors and Let It Flow’s repair team directly involved members of Sidama’s community in fixing nine broken water wells. As a result, clean water was immediately restored to nearly 2,000 people (320 families) throughout Sidama. Furthermore, Good Neighbors and Let It Flow provided tools, parts and training to teach local community members how to maintain and fix the wells, so they can be self-reliant in the future, ensuring sustainability and ongoing access to safe water for their community.

Using Technology and Teamwork to Teach and Solve

Two primary things were integral to the Coffee Meets Water campaign’s success:

1. Technology:

Good Neighbors has its own website, but instead chose to utilize Indiegogo’s crowdfunding platform to bring attention to the water well issue in Sidama. Indiegogo’s platform is designed to make it easy for people to join forces around a common goal and is democratizing the way ideas and issues get funded, with 15 million people from all over the world visiting the site each month. Indiegogo’s multiple funding models and payments options, fundraising goal tracker, and social sharing features made it easy for Good Neighbors to share videos, facts and narratives about the people in Sidama all from one centralized location, and provided Good Neighbors’ campaign with amplified exposure to meet its goals.

2. Collaboration:

Indiegogo made it easy for Good Neighbors to reach the right target audience, uniting a diverse network of supporters and funders around repairing Sidama’s broken water wells. For instance, several Southern California based coffee roasters – Groundwork Coffee, Demitasse Roasters, Copa Vida, Cognoscenti, and Los Angeles Coffee Club – have all sourced coffee beans from Ethiopia. Realizing the importance of clean water, especially its impact on high quality coffee beans, each jumped at the opportunity to join Good Neighbors’ Coffee Meets Water campaign and lent their support to a cause they new would resonate with their customer base. 

Good Neighbors also expanded its capacity and reach by working in partnership with another non-profit group, Let It Flow.  Let It Flow’s sole focus is bringing clean, safe water to extremely poor communities. Rather than compete with another organization for resources, Good Neighbors joined forces with Let It Flow, leveraging their expertise to help solve a shared interest.

Good Neighbors, America's Charities

Bringing Impact Closer to Home

Developing communities like those in Sidama may seem like distant places with little impact on our lives, but the water crisis is growing, and it is projected that two thirds of humanity will live in water-stressed areas by 2025.  Gaining a better understanding of how water impacts political and social stability around the globe and knowing how to solve these problems is vital to addressing the growing water crisis.  And we can learn a lot by supporting collaborative models like Good Neighbors’ Coffee Meets Water campaign.

Good Neighbors has been building on its success with Indiegogo so funds can continue being raised for additional broken water well repairs in Sidama. In an effort to share the project’s impact and support World Water Day, Good Neighbors is hosting a free exhibit of photos and film, on Thursday, March 19th in Venice, CA, documenting the journey to restore clean water in Sidama.  To join Good Neighbors for this inspirational event, visit for more information.

In addition to Coffee Meets Water, Good Neighbors has several other projects built on a similar model of collaboration, including Water For Life, which is focused on building water wells in developing countries like Chad and Malawi.  You can contribute to Water For Life by clicking here, and learn about additional Good Neighbors campaigns like Project Cookstoves, Food For Kids, and Project Bright Lights at

Good Neighbors, America's Charities

Good NeighborsNellie Kim is the Campaign Manager for Good Neighbors USA, an international humanitarian organization focusing on community development.  She oversees partnerships and campaigns, and loves talking to anyone who wants to create change in their communities, local and abroad.

Sarah Ford is Associate Marketing Manager at America’s Charities, a mission-driven organization that connects public and private sector employers with charities to engage employees in greater giving. She coordinates America’s Charities’ digital media, provides marketing support to workplace giving clients, and enjoys blogging about charities, corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and social responsibility.

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