What does strengthening the enabling environment look like day-to-day?

Plan International | Bronwyn Powell from CSWASH KALM, on 07/06/2017 16:19 AEST

Encouraging civil society organisations (CSOs) to move away from direct delivery of services to strengthening the enabling environment is a core theme of the Civil Society WASH Fund. The enabling environment is defined as the interrelated conditions – legal, organisational, fiscal, regulatory, informational, political and cultural – that impact on the capacity of development partners, including CSOs, but also governments, to pursue development in a sustained and effective manner. For the WASH sector, local levels of government with regulated responsibilities for sustaining services are critical. While CSOs strengthening the enabling environment is a sound approach – leading to more sustained WASH outcomes – the reality of how this looks in the field and can be implemented is less obvious. A recent trip to Plan Indonesia’s project in Eastern Indonesia provides an excellent example of what strengthening the enabling environment looks like when a CSO is supporting existing structures to achieve their mandate. Others aiming to do similar work may find some practical tips from Plan’s experience.

Plan Indonesia’s work is supporting the Government of Indonesia’s Community-Based Total Sanitation (Sanitasi Total Berbasis Masyarakat, STBM) system. For Plan this has involved:

  • ‘Socialising’ the STBM concept and securing commitment from provincial and district government. From the outset, Plan predicated their work with villages on a commitment from government to do an equal amount of work in replication villages. This was formalised through MOUs and a Head of District/Mayor’s Declaration.
  • Supporting government through the subsequent STBM steps of: developing STBM roadmaps and securing budgets; cascading training of trainers with district WASH working groups feeding into sub-district and village training; triggering community led total sanitation (CLTS); verifying STBM; and then monitoring STBM.
  • Helping the formation and function of STBM working groups at every level (provincial, district, sub-district and village).

By supporting the government to replicate the project’s approach beyond the initial target areas, Plan is leveraging improved WASH services for far more people than originally expected. Instead of 85,000 people gaining access to improved sanitation (the project target), 307,500 people are now projected to gain access (185,040 people have already gained access). Plan and government partners attribute this success in part to strong collaboration.

Plan is always present at every activity held by the government, including provincial and district planning,’ says Herie Ferdian, WASH Project Coordinator. ‘We are there when the government leads roadmap and budget planning, triggering, training, monitoring and every step of the process. That way we are able to mentor and help along the way.’

‘We use learning events as training opportunities. We invite villages that are strong in STBM and those that are less successful. This is a chance for the less successful to learn from successful ones. At learning events we train people in the STBM steps.’

On a recent monitoring visit a number of Plan staff mentioned peer-to-peer across multiple levels as critical to demonstrating STBM and motivating peers. Plan has supported village-to-village exchange, sub-district-to-sub-district exchange and district-to-district interaction through village visits, monitoring trips and joint learning events and workshops. These exchanges were particularly motivating for leaders. One Plan staff said that village chiefs in particular think, ‘if they can do it, we can do it’, when visiting a STBM declared village. In that way the project has played to positive competition as a motivator.

Author: Bronwyn Powell, Knowledge and Learning Manager

Photo credit: Bronwyn Powell