Monday 9 December 2013

WASH in Schools Research Blog - Part 2

by Jacques-Edouard Tiberghien for BPD

BPD's WinS research projects launched... continued!

Last month we talked about our experiences with WinS projects but what have we learned along the way? 

As evaluators...

We have recently carried out a number of evaluations of WinS projects and programmes in Latin America and Africa including for the IDB, USAID and AusAid. A key finding is that sustainability of WinS programmes is not wishful thinking. That is a finding, yes! We cannot really take it for granted! The repeated view of latrines cemeteries is a good reminder of it. 

Indeed, in numerous schools, as evaluators find out, brand-new facilities are quickly degrading and about to experience the same fate as prior generations of toilets built under earlier interventions and which are already abandoned in the backyard. That clearly challenges us, our current approach, but does not alter the fact that sustainability is possible, and is indeed achieved by a minority of schools. Yet, our observations show that it often hinges on strong school leadership and proper follow up. Not surprisingly, such conditions occur in a few schools only. Our assumption at BPD is that until governments channel more resources to support WinS work and enforce monitoring, a catalyst is going to be needed comprising a clear combination of incentives and monitoring leading to greater stakeholder accountability.

Figure 3: Ex-post evaluation in Guatemala – A surprise visit to a school in one of the poorest area gives great satisfaction: clean latrines, soap and water at the tapstand, filtered water, toilet paper and detergent available in classrooms!

As trainers...

Abridged sessions of BPD’s WinS Partnership workshop, which we delivered at the UNC conference last year, for FHI360/CARE in Zambia in spring, and at the WEDC conference in Nakuru this summer, consistently highlighted the demand from practitioners for practical, analytical tools and guidance to run the multi-sector partnerships which form the institutional backbone of most WinS programmes.

As marriage counsellors...

We have also provided some ‘PPP guidance’ to the FHI360/CARE SPLASH programme in Zambia. That assignment confirmed that in a number of countries considerable resources are available locally, regionally and nationally to reinforce WinS work. Numerous non-traditional actors, including private sector actors, philanthropic foundations, and organisations such as the Rotary Club and the Lion’s Club, are willing to join forces. There is much benefit to derive from their mobilisation and engagement through well-structured multi-sector partnerships. From that perspective, we suggest that WinS advocacy efforts and partnerships at local, regional and national levels should become a standard component of any WinS programme. Back on the partnership front, optimising the contribution of non-traditional partners requires precisely meeting their respective interests (e.g. core business, CSR, philanthropic). This means that tailored packages must be prepared for each partner. Ideally, each package should comprise a bundle of activities contributing both to the scaling-up (hardware and software components) and sustainability (incentives and monitoring) challenges of WinS work.

Research to bridge the gap and to design solutions on strong foundations

We have gathered very interesting insights from these recent pieces of work. They have already triggered ideas on how to crack the WinS sustainability puzzle, and we are finalising a concept that we will trial as a pilot [please contact us if you have some interest in this]. 

At the same time, we have identified gaps in knowledge which the sector needs to bridge in order to address the institutional complexity of WinS work. We need solid foundations upon which solutions for WinS partnerships can be designed. By this, we mean that we require first and foremost a better understanding of the varied nature of those partnerships: their different shapes, their objectives, their evolution...That is the purpose of our first research project. Then, in order to engage non-traditional actors more strategically, we need to develop a deeper understanding of their input so far, and of the trends in their contribution. That is the focus of our second research project.

Both research teams will share the progress of their work on this blog, including the challenges that such a novel type of research entails, as well as an outline of the key findings as they emerge. Watch this space! And contact us if you have special interest in this research.

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