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Meta Meta

Published on: 30/04/2013

MetaMeta is a group of Netherlands-based companies that works hard to be different and to stand out. MetaMeta means different from different. This summary is based upon an interview with MetaMeta founder and director, Frank van Steenbergen.

MetaMeta at a glance

MetaMeta is actually a group of a private companies. MetaMeta Research provides research and consultancy services in water governance and water management. MetaMeta Circular Economy work on the green development agenda. MetaMeta Management supports the implementation of complex programs. The recently registered branch in Ethiopia, currently with 6 associated staff and 2 young professionals, is exploring a wide range of projects for clients like the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, World Bank and the UK Development Agency.

Key activities: Some current projects include WAS-RoPSS which works to promote wider use of rope pumps, research on the links between road development and groundwater, and the safe sourcing of water in high fluoride areas.

Where MetaMeta work: across the country in both rural and urban settings.

Find out more: MetaMeta have their own website at but as a business with a major interest in communications you'll find links many other websites they support such as and

Contact MetaMeta: 

Interview with Frank van Steenbergen

Water resources management has always been a strong focus for MetaMeta. The company is well known for its work on spate irrigation, important for flood control as well as production, and has helped to establish a local network on this neglected topic. Groundwater management is a related area of expertise, including work on fluoride-related contamination of water supplies in the country. How you can better site safe sources in Flouride affected areas, is the focus of current work with the British Geological Survey. Recently MetaMeta, with Acacia Water, assisted the World Bank in developing the groundwater component of its Country Assistance Strategy (to be published soon). Much of the water resources work is branded as 3R – standing for retention, reuse and recharge – and this proves to be a powerful concept for communicating the issues and potential solutions.

MetaMeta is particularly keen to help important topics move and has developed a broad portfolio of work with a eye for innovation. Some examples include research for the UK Development Agency's UPGRO (Unlocking the Potential of GROundwater for the rural poor) programme on the links between road development and groundwater in partnership with Mekelle University, and the development of the GLoWS (Guided Learning on Water and Sanitation) training approach. MetaMeta developed GLoWS with a range of partners providing a concept (training professionals through on the job learning led by TVETCs), a range of training modules on water and sanitation topics such as water safety planning, O&M and financing etc., and piloting and capacity building to test the approach and train trainers. The programme has been well received and implemented to date in four regions.

MetaMeta are also active in the urban areas that now get more and more focus in the sector. With Vitens Evides International, Waterboards and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, they are working to assist Addis Ababa Water Supply and Sewerage Authority to ensure the security of supply for the Addis Ababa metropolitan region. This project includes developing an education and training centre for short courses related to WASH. A new initiative is with the Water Integrity Network as part of its programme with Dutch funding. The approach being taken in Ethiopia, with partners including SNV, goes beyond an anti-corruption focus to promote the restoring of a circle of trust between citizens, government and service providers. MetaMeta is also partner in the Climate Innovation Centre, which aims to give an impulse to development of green businesses.

When asked what has been important in developing the business and activities, a key turning point according to Frank, was when the Netherlands Water Partnership and the Embassy (EKN) took greater interest in MetaMeta under the Partners for Water program and helped it explore meaningful projects in groundwater, WASH and agricultural water management. MetaMeta also benefits from the young professionals program (YEP) of EKN. Both helped to build up new contacts and networks. Several years on, the company is firmly anchored in Ethiopia, working with a kaleidoscope of projects and international funders.




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