Strengthening the WASH enabling environment: lessons from the Fund

Bronwyn Powell on 21/06/2017 17:18 EST

Over the course of the Civil Society WASH Fund, CSOs have been implementing four year programs across a large diversity of contexts and geographies. A community of practice across the Fund has prioritised the following three themes for exploration and reflection:

  1. Strengthening the enabling environment
  2. Gender and social inclusion
  3. Hygiene behaviour change

At this juncture, as projects come towards the end or final year of implementation, the Fund is hosting an online learning platform to capture and share project achievements and lessons and CSO approaches across these three topics. These discussions will contribute to the face-to-face Fund Learning and Reflection Event (FLARE) to be held in August 2017. These topics will be explored over three weeks of e-discussion along with a webinar on hygiene behaviour change.

Strengthening the WASH Enabling Environment

Week 1 e-Discussion (26 June – 2 July, 2017)

Throughout implementation, the CS WASH Fund has worked with CSOs and sector actors to better understand WASH enabling environments, explored ways of strengthening local government and the private sector in particular, and developed a tool to enable CSOs to map their enabling environment, or contexts, and the approaches they use in WASH programming. A guiding theory of the Fund has been to encourage CSOs to work with and strengthen change agents, or WASH duty bearers, with the view that this will help to sustain WASH services beyond project timeframes. The extent to which this is possible depends on the extent to which legal, organisational, fiscal, regulatory, informational, political and private sector systems support WASH services, something which varies significantly from location to location and across national and sub-national levels. In the lead-up to the next Fund Learning and Reflection Event (FLARE), we are seeking inputs from CSOs and others on the challenges and successes in their work on strengthening the enabling environment to ensure WASH services for all.

Successful CSO engagement in the strengthening of the enabling environment is often based on a combination of: demonstration and replication of successful approaches; evidence of service delivery shortfalls; analysis of systematic bottlenecks; CSO legitimacy within the sector; political support (often underpinned by opportunity or crisis); collective action; pre-existing momentum or under-utilised capacities.

This e-Discussion is seeking to learn from your CSOs experience of supporting the delivery of WASH services and the strengthening the enabling environment. In this respect:

  1. How have you assessed strengths and weaknesses of your project context/enabling environment? Did you find any tools or analytical frameworks particularly useful for this type of analysis?
  2.  What have you found to be the most powerful ways to influence change agents and the WASH enabling environment (be they public, private or community actors)? How has this translated to improved service delivery and beneficiary access to WASH?
  3. What have been the most significant factors contributing to the success (or failure!) of your efforts to strengthen the WASH enabling environment?

Facilitation: Week 1 e-discussion is facilitated by Mark Ellery and Bronwyn Powell.

  Mark is an independent water, sanitation and local governance consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the water sector.                                                

 Bronwyn Powell's picture   Bronwyn is the Knowledge and Learning Manager of the CS WASH Fund. 


Anonymous's picture
The monst significant factor that contribute to strengthen the WASH enabling environment in Punjab Province of Pakistan is the coordinated efforts of WASH sector actors and continuous engagement with the local government departments. The trust needs to be built between civil society and public sector departments that together we can do and both have strengths.
Mark_Ellery's picture
Many thanks for kicking off this discussion Asim,
The building of trust over a period of time does appear to be a critical factor in gaining the validity for CSOs to engage with the public sector in strengthening the enabling environment for WASH. This validity is essential to bring new analysis and insights, models and approaches to enable improved services.

We are looking forward to hear other insights from other CSOs on the effectiveness of tools for analysing the enabling environment and means of engagement for strengthening the enabling environment.
Anonymous's picture
Strengthening WASH enabling environment is depend how the polices, strategy are being implemented.
Anonymous's picture
It is learned by CDI2 WASH Program in Bangladesh that Government/local government involvement in creating enabling environment for sustainable WASH service delivery.
Molly_Goodwin-Kucinsky's picture
All of iDE’s WASH programs take a market-based approach, however implementation looks different in each country context. Across our global portfolio, we use Human-Centered Design (HCD) as an essential tool to understand the needs and motivations of stakeholders ranging from the customer to the sanitation entrepreneur to the local/national government level. By understanding the aspirations and challenges of different actors within the enabling environment, we can design interventions, products, and methods of service delivery that fit the local context and lay the foundation for programming at scale.

Another factor that makes this approach successful is drawing on the expertise of local staff: 96% of our global staff live in the countries they support and 93% are citizens of that country. We invest significant effort in making sure we hire entrepreneurial staff with a good understanding of business and markets (not just WASH experts), so they can speak the language of business when they engage with the private sector. This is critical to successfully strengthening market systems, and has helped iDE facilitate the sale of over one million improved WASH products through the private sector. Below are some examples of how this works in practice in our various programs.

Engagement with the enabling environment is different in each country where we work and informed by the level of market development, involvement of local and national government in WASH, and influence of other community actors. Vietnam was the first country in which iDE implemented a market-based approach to WASH; today, our Vietnam team leverages the national government’s strategy of engaging the private sector in WASH to motivate local government agencies as they promote market-based approaches to WASH. In conjunction with building the capacity of local WASH businesses, iDE Nepal uses the national push towards ODF as a way to encourage village development committees to promote market-based WASH approaches. Our flagship program in Cambodia works with last-mile entrepreneurs to help them understand the market opportunity of selling high-quality, affordable, improved WASH products. In Bangladesh, where the market is more mature, our program connects lead firms and last-mile businesses to ensure poor households and hard-to-read areas still have access to WASH products; we also engage with the government to recommend subsidies be reserved for those without the ability to pay, rather than disbursed indiscriminately.
herie.ferdian's picture
Plan Indonesia have been implementing the STBM : Sanitasi Total Berbasis Masyarakat/Community Based Total Sanitation (Sanitation and Hygiene National Policy in Indonesia) through the CS WASH Fund 2 for the past 4 year. The project is aimed to improve community sanitation and hygiene condition in 5 Districts in East Nusa Tenggara Province through strengthening the local government (provincial and district). Our main objective is to ensure local government is able to implement STBM in demonstration and replication villages using government budget. To achieve this objective our strategy is described generally as follows :

1. WASH Situation Analysis : The objective of WASH Situation analysis is to asses community sanitation and hygiene condition and to asses government’s skill, knowledge and commitment on STBM. This include commitment on time, resources and budget for STBM. WASH Situation analysis also to identifying and mapping government cycle on annual development planning that we can influence for budget advocacy particularly on STBM issue

2. Budget Advocacy : To ensure government allocating budget for STBM, Plan Indonesia conducted step by step budget advocacy which was conducted from sub district level process to legislative negotiation process in district level. From our experience on budget advocacy process we found the key to successful budget advocacy process is through engaging partnership with District WASH Working Group during the budget advocacy process. District WASH Working Group is an ad hoc government organization from multi sector agency who work with WASH issues. Involving District WASH Working group on budget advocacy process has a very powerful influence as they have access to budgeting process in their own agency.

3. The Significant Change : The budget advocacy approach which have been conducted in Plan Indonesia’s project have been contributing a significant change on STBM budgeting in district level. Before the project intervention, 5 district government only allocated USD 11,250 (for the whole 5 districts) which was very low. Currently after the budget advocacy approach has been conducted, 5 district government now allocated USD 294,082 to cover STBM implementation in 205 replication villages.
Bronwyn Powell's picture
Hi Herie. Thank you for describing the steps and systematic approach Plan Indonesia has taken to identifying areas for influence, particularly in budget advocacy. The USD figures you cite as the increasing district budget for STBM is clear evidence of increasing prioritisation of hygiene and sanitation. For those would would like to read more about Plan's budget advocacy approach their resource on this is here: Another thing that I was struck by in Indonesia is the policy consistency from national through to provincial, district and even village level. Whilst there might be some local variations on approaches (CLTS for example) the consistency in messaging (5 pillars of STBM) makes it more straightforward for CSOs like Plan to support the national approach. The approach is documented in the Step-by-Step Total Sanitation implementation manual:
Biplob Kanti Mondal's picture
Under the CDI2WASH Program implemented by BDRCS, government agencies (Department of Public Health and Engineering, Department of Education, Department of Education Engineering, Department of Social Welfare etc.), local government bodies (UP WASH Committee), Community Development Committee, Community Disaster Response Team, Teachers and School Management Committee were involved actively in planning, implementation and monitoring WASH interventions. For creating the enabling environment following initiatives were taken through the project.
• Involvement of government in designing and construction water points and latrines
• Beneficiary selection by UP WASH, Community Program Committee, Community Disaster Team
• Building capacity of change agents through providing training on sanitation marketing, monitoring and evaluation, Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation transformation, Children Hygiene and Sanitation Training, sanitation system assessment, planning and monitoring etc.
• Capacity development of Commercial Service Providers for sanitation marketing who are doing sanitation business in and around the community
• WASH interventions are monitored by government and community change agents
• Strategic guidelines are developed for UP WASH Committee, Community Development Committee, Community Disaster Response Team for well functioning of their activities.
• Government and community change agents have participated annual reflection workshops and provided feedback for further improvement
• Relevant government department have been equipped with Filed Level Arsenic Testing Guideline and testing tools
• Government department have visited school toilet blocks constructed under the project and they are incorporating menstrual hygiene management and disability features into their design and programs
• Participations of change agents in learning events and provide feedback on achievement and challenges
All the above initiatives but not limited could create the sustainable WASH enabling environment in this program. Most important thing is to involve change agents in all stages of project management cycle and building their capacity based on the assessment for creating the enabling environment. Besides, their feedback should be addressed properly into the programs to create ownership and maximise the results.
Andrew_Jalanski's picture
Dear All, one of World Visions main objectives in PNG is to establish and support the Western Provincial Department of Health (PDH) to drive the Provincial WASH Plan. The PDH has been invited to a number of meetings and workshops, but they have declined due to the funding freeze caused by the ongoing court case of corruption in the WP governors office. This has affected PDH operations and their ability to travel and undertake activities.
Following discussions with Bruce Bailey our MERP and good working partnerships with the district level health teams, we changed our focus and decided to support the Middle and South Fly District health teams to establish and help facilitate District level WASH committees for both the Middle and South Fly. Unfortunately a severe 9 month El Nino event, the death of the South Fly administrator who would chair the committee and a large outbreak of multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis, again delayed the establish of a WASH committee.
So our main focus has been on a community based approach which is endorsed and eagerly supported by the National Government of PNG, known as the Healthy Islands Concept (HIC). The HIC has a strong focus on community participation and ownership and based on the Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion. Communities have fully engaged with this approach and have taken their communities health and well-being into their own hands and run with it.
Bronwyn Powell's picture
Hi Andrew. The World Vision project in Western Province in PNG is a great example of where you have adapted an approach to working with the enabling environment to suit contextual limitations. The various challenges faced by the project when trying to work with Provincial health department, and then also with the District level WASH teams give a flavour of how difficult it is to work in a remote locations in PNG. Where local and district governments, who would normally be considered the duty bearers and WASH service providers, are not performing this function, strengthening community systems directly is clearly a good option. Do you think that the communities that have adopted the Healthy Islands Concept to community WASH will be able to carry the approach forward beyond the project and sustain the gains that have been made? How might the HIC approach reach other communities, and how do you measure its effectiveness?
Md_Keramot_Ali's picture
Under the CDI2 WASH Program in Bangladesh, provision of WASH facilities in school increased attendance particularly of girls. CHAST lessons improved hygienic practices and clean environment in school. It is created a supportive environment – for adolescent girls to manage their menses hygienically, safely, in privacy and with dignity in schools and in homes. Student leaders carried out as change agent established linkage between school and communities. Student leadership and decision making capacity increased. Community acceptance is very high on Students leaders’ activities. For construction of WASH facilities in school, involved SMC ensured quality construction, better use and maintenance.
Anonymous's picture
Just to add with Mr. Keramot regarding school toilet construction, Government organizations like education engineering department and Department of Public health Engg, were involved from the beginning of designing school toilet block, preparing BoQ etc. They also involved in selecting contractors, monitoring construction work. This process helped the project in two ways: Develop relationship with government agencies and reporting project activities what we are doing through CDI 2 WASH.
Mark_Ellery's picture
Dear all,
Thanks for all your inputs & especially:
- Tanoy, Biplob & Keramot from ARC who have emphasized the importance engaging GOs in CSO project implementation to leverage change in government processes .
- Molly from iDE who has highlighted the differences in the private sector in Vietnam and Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh to tailor the form of public sector engagement.
- Herie from Plan Indonesia who has emphasized the role of WASH Situation Analysis in identifying sanitation service delivery gaps as the basis for budget advocacy.
- Andrew from World Vision who emphasized the need for programme flexibility to respond to challenges and opportunities within the enabling environment.

We would be particularly interested to hear more from colleagues in those countries where there have been major shifts in the enabling environment leading to significant improvements in access to WASH services.

Is it possible to explain the genesis for some of these successful shifts in the enabling environment?
Anonymous's picture
In Nepal context, the WASH sector policy environment is already existed with institutional frameworks from the centre to the local level. Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) has been recognised by the Government of Nepal as one of the key player in WASH sector and NRCS sits as a member in the National Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee (NSHCC), National WASH cluster, WASH DRR task force and water quality task force and is playing key role in formulation of various policies, strategies and guidelines in WASH sector.
The similar enabling environment also exits at district and village level where NRCS is also a member of WASH related coordination committees, forums and alliances such as District Water Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee (D-WASH-CC), Village Development Committee WASH Coordination Committee (V-WASH-CC) and Ward WASH Coordination Committee (W-WASH-CC). In addition, there is also a provision of child-club at school and community level which facilitates the implementation of WASH projects.
While, above strengths have well facilitated and created an enabling environment for NRCS to implement CS WASH project in Bajhang, there has also been some issues in terms of having proper backing up support and implementing the policy frameworks, monitoring and quality control due to the geographical hardship, technical issue due to topography, climate, different water needs and its availability as well as lack of enough and qualified human resources in Bajhang in WASH sector. However, while selecting the communities for the CS WASH project in Bajhang, NRCS received full support from the D-WASH-CC who also wanted some CSOs to intervene and facilitate them in meeting the WASH related needs of the vulnerable communities and fulfil the gap of their district WASH plan. There is also a joint monitoring mechanism established for CS WASH project at district and VDC level where the officials of district drinking water and sanitation, women and child development, health and education offices, district federation of disable network, local NGOs/INGOs, journalists etc. participates and provides feedback to the CS WASH project.
The district and VDC WASH plan (including ODF plan), the joint monitoring mechanism established at district and VDC level, the establishment of linkages and coordination with different governmental and non-governmental agencies, regular meetings, capacity enhancement and provision of having community mobilizers from the same community have also greatly facilitated the CS WASH project to smoothly implement the project and influence the change agents.
The community participation and engagement in CS WASH project right from the beginning of the project including their key roles in WASH related decision making during planning, implementation and monitoring contributes towards the success of the project. In addition, participation and inclusion of women in different WASH committees and their enthusiasm and learning attitude have greatly influenced the successes of the project.
Alex Grumbley's picture
It has been very interesting to read about everyone's context, thanks for sharing. The WaterAid Timor-Leste team have been reflecting on the WASH sector’s progress against six sector strengthening building blocks with our government partners, as well as reviewing the SWA’s collaborative behaviors. The team have also found a Political Economy Analysis tool useful for thinking about where the momentum for change in the enabling environment might be.

We have found working at the district or municipality level to influence and demonstrate effective approaches while keeping national government engaged as much as possible effective. The WASH sector in Timor-Leste has now instituted Municipality-wide Open Defecation Free initiatives and we have seen the Community Scorecard process inform government systems to increasingly plan for ongoing service delivery for rural water supply infrastructure.

One important success factor has been establishing a constructive dialogue and understanding between communities, civil society organizations and the government in Timor-Leste for some of the initiatives we have been supporting due to high-level engagement. O the other hand one ongoing challenge with other initiatives, such as the Association of Water User Groups, has been working on overcoming some of the Government’s reservations about collaborating with civil society or community based organizations for sensitivity to criticism.
Paul Tyndale-Biscoe's picture
Greetings from Zimbabwe. I have been visiting Welthungerhilfe's project and was struck by the complexity of the enabling environment here. The project works with local councils in towns and small urban centres to break a deadlock that existed whereby councils could not provide WASH services due to low capacity and defunct infrastructure. As a result residents did not pay their rates which meant the councils could not provide WASH services, which then meant residients did not pay their rates...and so on. By strengthening the councils and seed funding some key pieces of infrastructure whilst also improving relations between residents and councils through initiatives such as clients charters and better communciation channels, residents are now seeing services being delivered and most councils are reporting increases in their revenue streams.

However countering this is a volitle and unhelpful national level government that deliberately or unwittingly undermines local authority functionality, by eroding their revenue base, restricting their ability to be efficient through regulations, and in the extreme case, cancelling council debt as an election ploy.

Residents in the target communities here are seeing improvements in access to water, better sanitation and a cleaner environment. At a local level the enabling environment was ripe for engagement. We can only hope that the broader enabling environment does not undermine it.
Mark_Ellery's picture
Thanks Amar. Nepal presents a stunning example of how well aligned changes in the enabling environment at the national, district and village government level identifying roles in the establishment of open defecation free (ODF) jurisdictions can completely transform sanitation service delivery at scale.

Thanks also to Paul for your comments on how the seed funding of infrastructure and the strengthening of citizen engagement can reform the local enabling environment of low revenues and poor WASH services, in spite of (yet subject to) changes in the disabling environment at the central level.

Thanks Alex particularly for highlighting the range of knowledge instruments deployed in your context to change enabling environment (EE) incentives (i.e. building blocks identifying EE challenges, the Safe Water for All (SWA) identifying the EE commitments, the Political Economy Analysis identifying EE opportunities for change, Municipal ODF targets prioritizing urban sanitation services & Community Scorecards prioritizing rural water services).

As this week’s discussion draws towards a close, we would be interested to hear from anyone else about their experiences in deploying tools to analyse and influence the enabling environment for WASH?
Anonymous's picture
Greetings from SNV Bhutan. The current Rural Sustainable Sanitation and hygiene for All (SSH4A) project in Bhutan began by developing a national scaling strategy. The scaling strategy was developed by assessing the programme strength and gaps using the WSPs Enabling Environment Assessment ExpandNet/WHO framework. Some of the strength identified were: sanitation and hygiene prioritised as government’s key sector result areas in its 11th five year plan, pro-subsidy free approach, high commitment from lead agency, clearly defined roles, good programme approach, and scalable methodology tested and built on participatory methodology including monitoring tool.
Nonetheless, the following major gaps were identified: programme scale is limited to district level and scaling at national level demands adequate technical capacity of the implementing agencies and financial resources, lack programme strategy and guidelines, limited coordination amongst key WASH stakeholders including private sectors, short of clear programme implementation cycle, absence of progress reviews and evaluations including capacity assessment of the implementing agencies both at national and district levels.
Over this project period, the critical programme scaling shift from district to national scaling as designed has been a great success expanding from 2 to now 9 of the 20 districts. The biggest achievement so far is the declaration of 24 sub-districts not only ODF but access to 100% improved sanitation facilities. These achievements are due to putting in place the programme strategies and guidelines, intensive capacity building programme for the implementing agency both at national and district level with quality, enhancing national stakeholder coordination through establishment of Bhutan WASH Cluster (2nd Cluster Workshop will happen on 27- 28 June 2017) and multi-stakeholder workshop at district and sub-district levels, progress evaluated through mid-term review meetings and annual performance monitoring tools.
In Bhutan, the combination of many factors have contributing to the success of strengthening the WASH enabling environment. It includes, peace, stability and strong governance system of the country, programme approach buy-in by other development partners (e.g. Unicef, SWISS Red Cross), dynamic leadership qualities and committed stakeholder representative to sustain and take the achievements forward beyond the project period by mainstreaming the WASH activities in sector plans. Besides overall national coverage, the gender and socially inclusive WASH and further adaptation of the existing programme approach to meeting the higher WASH related Sustainable Development Goals will be the stronger area of focus in future.
Discussion *REQUIRED

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