For Viva con Agua, the Barchecker app is more than just a sales tool. It gives power to the people to really make an impact in the world.
Water is life. It flows naturally from the tap, always available, in drinking water quality. What many of us take for granted every day remains a distant dream for others. Just recently, the residents of Cape Town were faced with “Day Zero,” the day when their taps were expected to run dry. Although the South African city has averted Day Zero for now, the global struggle for this life-sustaining resource continues: 582 million people have currently no access to safe drinking water.*
“All for Water – Water for All” is therefore the clear and simple vision that Viva con Agua has chosen for itself. For the past 12 years, the Hamburg-based organization has been working to give people worldwide access to clean drinking water.
“If you don’t have water, you don’t have anything, it’s the start of any kind of development,” explains Benjamin Adrion, one of the organization’s founders.
To realize its vision, Viva con Agua has mobilized around 12,000 mostly young volunteers. But how did the organization, which itself has around 20 employees, build up such an extensive network of supporters?
Viva con Agua believes that helping others should be fun, and even its name is an expression of this: The Spanish word “viva” stand for vitality and zest for life. The organization refrains from using images of human suffering. Instead, it prefers to attract volunteers through art, sport, music, and anything else that reflects vitality, and creates a positive experience.
“Everyone can contribute their own ideas and talents,” explains Tobias Rau, co-founder and responsible for coordinating volunteers and fundraising. “If you naturally enjoy doing something, then you will do it well, and we want to use this potential to realize our vision.”
There is no limit on creativity; for example, some volunteers go to concerts or sports stadiums to collect empty plastic cups that have a deposit on them. For visitors attending the event, this is an easy way to get rid of their empty cups and donate a euro or two to the organization.
The link to sports is no coincidence. Benjamin Adrion used to play soccer for Hamburg-based second Bundesliga club FC St. Pauli. “It all began at a training camp in Cuba,” says Benny. “It was a turning point for me, and once I got back to Hamburg, I asked myself whether I really wanted to continue playing soccer, or whether I wanted to do something else?”
He decided to quit playing soccer and to travel the world instead. On the same day, his manager offered him a fixed contract with FC St. Pauli. He had two weeks to make his decision, and then he founded Viva con Agua. “It makes sense to use your time not only for yourself, but always try to focus as good as you can on the happiness of other people – if possible the long-term happiness of as many people as possible,” Benny explains. “I think that is a good motivation to start the day.”
The Barchecker App
In addition to the cup collection initiative and other joint projects with musicians and artists from Hamburg, Viva con Agua also sells bottled water that has achieved cult status in trendy bars and restaurants. Sixty percent of the profits go toward international water projects.
To support the sale of this bottled water, SAP developed the Barchecker app, which is based on SAP Cloud Platform, SAP HANA, and AngularJS. The idea behind the app is that the organization’s supporters across Germany can check whether a bar or restaurant already sells “Viva con Agua” water. If it doesn’t, they can use the app to register the business owner’s interest. A professional sales colleague from Viva con Agua will then contact the business.
“The Barchecker app can help us to distribute our water and to give even more people the chance to support our vision – simply by making a low-threshold and easy consumer decision,” explains Tobias.
Viva con Agua runs SAP
Andreas Doelling, consulting manager at SAP Hamburg and initiator of the partnership, sees this an interesting signal from SAP to startup companies. “We want to show that smaller companies can also use our cloud solutions to do business.”
But that’s not all, as Andreas explains: “Viva con Agua needs software, we have software; and the relief organization is well-known for its amazing connection to young people, so it is potentially an extremely interesting source of early talent for us.”
As Juliane Rieck, a senior consultant at SAP and supporter of the project, explains: “We can attract the young talents that we really want and need at SAP by giving them cool and innovative projects to work on.”
Andreas Doelling succeeded in using the Viva con Agua project to attract students, who developed the app largely independently. Five of them have since signed permanent contracts with SAP. Other students on degree and vocational programs are also currently working on the project. “This will hopefully result in another three to four permanent contracts in the coming years,” says Andreas.
His own light-bulb moment in this project was the openness on both sides: “I found it difficult to imagine that an organization like Viva con Agua would want to work with a large, established company. But the openness and positive energy was great, and it is with this attitude that Viva con Agua also engages in development cooperation.”
However, Viva con Agua does not want to be seen as a non-profit organization in the literal sense. Instead, the focus is on the “all profit” idea. The volunteer effort should benefit everyone – the people requiring help and the supporters of the organization. Eye level engagement is the key: “I do not see our support as a donation, but rather as an investment in water projects and, ultimately, in a better future for us all,” explains press spokesperson, Claudia Gersdorf. “We want to contribute to a mindset change in society when it comes to a partnership between the northern and southern hemispheres.”
Tobias also sees the traditional way of running relief projects as a one-way street: “We want to create a real exchange with people in the project countries, for example through local internships or by inviting them to Hamburg.”
The Millerntor Gallery, an annual art festival held in collaboration with FC St. Pauli, is one example of this. During the festival, street art is on display in the Millerntor stadium by artists from around the world – from Hamburg to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nepal and other countries in which Viva con Agua is active.
“The idea is to promote an exchange between artists from different parts of the world and to encourage networking,” explains Lars Braitmayer, who is responsible for HR and water projects at Viva con Agua. Millerntor Gallery events now also take place in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Uganda.
Deborah Mateja wrote her bachelor’s thesis about Viva con Agua while working at SAP. She felt like she was doing the most meaningful job of her entire life. “Because I was doing something significant and had a lot of responsibility, and I knew that if we helped Viva con Agua, we might also be helping a child somewhere in Africa,” says Debbie.
423 million people taking water from unprotected wells and springs
159 million people collecting untreated surface water from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.
Top Photo: John Brömstrup for Viva con Agua