We had the pleasure to talk to Tobias Rau, director of “Viva con Agua”, an all-profit organisation committed to ensure access to drinking water for all people worldwide. Tobias was born in Germany, and now lives in Barcelona. After his Bachelor in Sport, he worked as an outdoor trainer and experience educationist in the fields of communication, group dynamic, conflict management and personal development. In 2010 he became the director of “Viva con Agua”.
Tell us about your “Viva con Agua” project; what do you do what is your concept?
All for water – water for all. This is basically the idea and the vison of Viva con Agua. We are an open network, a community which does several activities to raise money which goes into drink water projects all over the world. Apart from “donations” we are running a few social businesses. Everything we do towards the same goal: Provide clean drinking water to the people.
With creative activity’s such as concerts, art exhibitions, festivals or sport events we to raise money for our projects, but also sensitise people to the very important resource water.
So, with fun and joy we try to use the “so called” universal languages music, sport and art to connect people world-wide, get in touch, let the community grow and of course realise our water projects.
How did you come up with this idea?
Well, we started in 2006 with the idea “help must be joyful”, in order to think and be an NGO in a different way. We wanted to do something meaningful, sustainable and doing a stuff we liked to do at the same time.
To be honest, when we started no one of us had could ever imagine what Viva con Agua is right now. We started with a small group and made our experiences by learning by doing.
We had so much support from the beginning. Experts and thousands of volunteers which helped growing Viva con Agua. Viva con Agua is a composite work.
I understood that you raise a lot of money at physical events and festivals – how do you face the actual situation? There must be big loss of donation income!
Oh Yes. That’s right. Last year we had to face big challenges. A lot of money was missing. Especially, in a time were WASH Projects (water sanitation and hygiene) are more important than ever, that was sort of frustrating. Last summer I was very scared we are not able to finance our committed projects. Thank god we could switch a lot of our activities into digital events, so in the end we could hold our financial commitments. Also, we saved a lot of money we normally would have spent on travelling, production and salaries. 7 employees out of 20 were on just 50% for 6 months. Still, at the end, everything went quite good, but as one can see, 2021 will also be very challenging.
However, we are optimists and we see the bottle always half full than half empty. This attitude, hard work, flexibility, support and maybe also a bit of luck in the past, always resulted in something positive.
Do you cooperate with a lot of companies to support them to achieve their sustainable goals? How does this look like in practice?
Yes, we cooperate with companies, from the very beginning. I mean a donation is easy and everybody is free to share some money with people without that financial resources. If we do a deeper cooperation like communicative partnership or something like this, of course we have to check first if there is a brand fit. We want to support companies in getting greener or more sustainable. For sure. But we also have to look if both, we and the companies is a coherent match.
In the past we nearly always found a way to get together. Sometimes the companies do their “summer party” for Viva con Agua and we come to give a small keynote. Sometimes they avoid sending customers “Christmas cards” and the saved money is donated to Viva con Agua. If a company wants to engage for clean drinking water, there are ways. With a bit of creativity and goodwill there are always nice opportunities.
Could you think of life-hack how to make a company immediately more “green”?
Not always- but mostly. The big question is always is the company, I mean the CEOs or owner willing to reduce their profits a bit or invest more money in a more sustainable future.
Being sustainable doesn’t mean being less successful. I belief and hope that sustainability will be a sign for success in the future!
You saw our project ecoRetreat – in what way would you say companies could use it for their own CSR strategy/goals?
The topic sustainability contains environmental, economic and social sustainability. So, if companies offer their employees a possibility to reconnect to nature or for example spending time with colleagues outside the work context than this has a positive impact on mental and physical health. Makes the employees probably happier, healthier => That’s for sure is social sustainability. On top on that I am 100% convinced that if employees feel valuated as human beings by the company, the loyalty to the company increases. I belief there are more aspects than money to get your employees motivated for a good performance. If the companies, see its employees as a complete human being and not just as worker than I absolutely belief companies could use ecoRetreat as employee marketing and within the CSR strategy.
Are you planning some activities within Barcelona / Catalonia in the near future? Maybe together with ecoRetreat.
Since 2011, Viva con Agua is officially established as a Spanish NGO. Unfortunately, since several years there are no activity’s in Barcelona anymore. I would love to reanimate Viva con Agua in Barcelona and Catalonia. As said before, there are many ways to create a positive impact and if in the future we can collaborate with ecoRetreat that would be wonderful. Viva con Agua is always open to write a new chapter and going new ways.
What is your favourite place in the nature of Catalonia?
There are so many. I love the seaside. The entire coast up to France. But definitely also the mountains. Some years ago, I did a small Hiking Tour, starting in Bagà, which was just wonderful.