I’ve been continuing to put my efforts towards seeing more toilets rolled out to those effected by the February earthquakes. In that process, there has been a surprising amount of managerial work that has needed to be done.

First, beyond the obvious stuff of bringing the materials to be able to physically build these toilets into the earthquake zone (which was a project itself), we needed to create a poster with instructions on it so people could learn how to use these toilets safely and effectively.

Then, we needed those posters translated into the various languages spoken by those who would use these toilets. We also needed to create audio recordings of those instructions, as some of those whom we’re working with are illiterate and aren’t able to read the posters.

And right now, I’m working to figure out how we can roll out these toilets faster and cheaper, likely by using injection molded plastic in place of the hand-made wood frames that we had originally built, potentially lowering the cost of a toilet by half or more (meaning, every dollar can help at least twice as many people).

There are a few of these tasks that I have the skills to do personally. I wrote the original instructions for the posters in English, and my Turkish is good enough that I could have created an almost-passible translation for the Turkish version (almost 😅). But, the truth is, this project has required the co-ordination and partnership of dozens of different people to be able to make it work! And, as it scales up, it will require the partnership of even more!

Luckily, because of the massive need right now, many people are volunteering their time and labors to help with this. The Arabic translation of our poster was done by a dear Syrian friend who wanted to help. So much of the logistics, the labour to make the toilets, etc. has been done by volunteers who just want to see relief brought to the areas so extremely devastated. I also have a friend with a media/translation company who has been offering their services at a massively discounted rate for any work being done towards earthquake relief, including doing the Turkish translation of the posters.

In spite of all that, some of the skills we are needing in order to be able to roll this out are not readily available or easily accessed. As an example, do you happen to have someone in your friend-circle who just casually knows how to create industrial-grade injection molds and would be willing to volunteer that skill?

Yeah, me neither.

For me this week, that’s where Upwork has come in and been super helpful. If you haven’t heard of it, Upwork is basically a website where you can search for people all around the world with an extremely wide range of knowledge-work skill sets, and hire them for whatever work you need done.

I’ve used Upwork in the past for a number of work projects, from logo and website design, to virtual assistant research tasks, and more. It’s awesome, especially if there’s knowledge work that you need done, where either 1) you lacking the skill to make a project work well and you want to find someone affordable to do that thing, or 2) you do have the skill to do something, but your time is better put towards other things, so paying someone to do that thing makes more sense.

In this week’s case, #1 was my experience. We needed a model for an injection mold for these toilets, and I don’t know how to make one of those. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Luckily, Upwork had a number of people with that skillset who had listed themselves as available to work on the platform. A couple messages and a payment later, and I now have in-hand a model that we can take to a manufacturer here in Türkiye to start producing these toilets cheaper and at greater scale than we were able to before.

It would have taken me weeks or months to learn the skills to be able to properly create that kind of model myself, but with Upwork, I was able to to find someone who was able to create it in just a few hours, while I worked on other things at home.

It’s not quite time-travel, but it saved me so much time and work this week that I’m still going to call it a super power. 🦸🏻‍♂️