Wednesday 17 April 2013

License to Play (Part II): Sustaining the Gains of WASH in Schools

by Jacques-Edouard Tiberghien for BPD

In our last blog post, we set out some of the issues discussed at the
WinS project, El Salvador. 

Credit: BPD/ J.E. Tiberghien

“License to Play” WASH in Schools (WinS) session held by BPD at UNC Water Health and Policy Conference 2012. Acknowledging that sustainable WASH in Schools (WinS) programmes require effective local-level partnerships, we suggested that a dedicated ‘WinS partnership toolkit’* could help stakeholders build and manage stronger relationships.

Here we discuss the steps taken during the same workshop to start reflecting on what a WinS ‘partnership toolkit’ could look like. This process involved working through three simple existing partnership tools used by BPD:

  1. Listing and categorising stakeholders at local and district levels
  2. Identifying stakeholders’ incentives to be involved
  3. Defining stakeholders’ potential respective functions

(*By ‘WinS partnership toolkit’ we simply mean using tried and tested WASH partnership tools in a WinS context, as well as training and facilitation processes. For examples of such tools and related learning, see BPD’s website.)

Step 1: Listing the vast array of WinS stakeholders

As a group, participants identified an array of stakeholders and institutions operating at both the local and district level and grouped them into five broad categories - School, community, district, private sector and external support.

  1. School: Students and teachers trained as hygiene educators, school caretakers, school management committees, student clubs, parents and Parent Teacher Associations.
  2. Community: Mothers’ groups, local entrepreneurs (e.g. soap/toilet paper suppliers), local water boards, government institutions (e.g. the Ministry of Environment or municipal mayors).
  3. Private sector: At community level this included private health institutions, community health workers and local benefactors.
  4. District: Local civil society, research centres, health facilities and the Ministry of Education.
  5. External actors: NGOs, governmental agencies, funding institutions and the media

Although identifying possible WinS stakeholders was straightforward, it was an eye-opener for many participants who had not previously realized how numerous these can be and the wealth of resources they potentially bring to WinS programs. Not being context specific made the exercise useful for comparing the types of people and organisations involved from one country to another.

Step 2: Identifying stakeholder incentives

Participants were then split into groups representing each of the categories. Their task was to identify the incentives of each stakeholder group. These were seen to include:

  • School level: Improving the overall health and wellbeing of students and the school environment, and promoting gender equality (by increasing female attendance).
  • Community-level: The desire to have a ‘good school’, where students can actually learn and achieve their full potential and the need to cultivate a sense of security within the community and promote good health.
  • Private sector: Profit, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and in some instances long-term core business development.
  • External agencies: Reputation, existing relationships with schools, and grant/ donor requirements.

The limited time made it impossible to separate the incentives of the various stakeholders in each category, which led to some generalisations and imprecision. However, the systematic identification and ranking of stakeholders’ incentives was something new for many and was found to greatly help understand some of the dynamics at play in local-level WinS partnerships.

When carried out on the ground by local stakeholders of WinS programs, such a process (which will be much more accurate when context-specific) should make partners’ behaviour more predictable and help stakeholders understand the fundamental reasons often underlying greater, lesser or shifting engagement. Partners will get to know each other better and the partnerships they form will become more self-reflective and responsive.

Step 3: Defining roles and responsibilities

Having identified potential WinS stakeholders and listed their likely

UNC WinS workshop. 

Credit: BPD/ J.E. Tiberghien

incentives, two groups went on to determine their likely respective functions. One group focused on hardware functions; the other on software functions of a typical WinS partnership. Simply put, hardware functions were defined as the operation and maintenance of water supply (pipes, toilets and treatment devices), solid waste management and oversight of water quality. Software functions referred not only to the provision of consumables (soap, detergent, toilet paper etc.) but also to the monitoring of WASH standards. Relative contributions of the different stakeholders to each function were then discussed.

Reviewing the wide range of activities necessary to achieve a basic level of sustainable services enabled participants to clearly grasp the complexity of WinS work. Defining stakeholder functions shed some light on a possible range of scenarios, roles and responsibilities and the resulting negotiation needed.


Compliance and accountability

Obviously it was not possible in the short timeframe of the session to go into depth or consider context-specific cases. A number of critical points could not be covered, such as the issue of partners’ compliance. While formal attribution of specific roles and responsibilities will clarify the ‘rules of the game’ for partners, clearly it will not dissipate all tensions between partners nor guarantee their compliance to what has been agreed. Accountability is another important issue: Getting local partners to agree on viable accountability mechanisms (i.e. ways to foster compliance, transparency and responsiveness) generally proves very difficult. BPD’s experience suggests that this process will be more productive if discussions about stakeholders’ incentives accompany the development of these mechanisms.

Understanding and addressing tensions

WinS project, Nicaragua.
Credit: BPD/ J.E. Tiberghien

This mini-workshop allowed participants to grapple with the unique nature of WinS partnerships, focusing on the local level (school, community and district), where stronger and more accountable partnerships are particularly needed. In addition, by identifying the respective incentives of the numerous and diverse stakeholders to engage in WinS work, the group started to envisage the sort of tensions that could potentially arise in these partnerships. Acknowledging, and understanding such tensions from an incentive perspective enables ‘interest-based’ negotiations, which are far more productive than ‘position-based’ confrontations.


Using tried and tested participatory partnership tools with more local-level WinS programmes could lead to better managed and more effective partnerships on the ground – an essential step towards sustaining project gains.

Continuing the conversation

BPD found the UNC session very thought-provoking and is keen to stimulate further conversations on this topic.

Join the conversation on the LinkedIn SanCop (Sanitation Community of Practice) group.

Download BPD’s SWASH+ WinS evaluation (executive summary and recommendations) of this IDB/ MWA initiative in Central America.

See more partnership tools, tips and resources from BPD

Watch a short video on the SWASH+ WinS programme in Kenya, highlighting the need for collaboration among parents, students, teachers and governments to improve WinS in the long term.

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