We believe that the failure to provide adequate and indefinite water and sanitation services is not a failure of technology or management models at the point of delivery, nor even necessarily a lack of financing, rather it is a systems failure. Achieving sustained improvements in services will ultimately only come about by addressing – and strengthening – the weaknesses of local and national systems that support the delivery of such services. Systems thinking is the essential foundation for addressing the scale and ambition of the SDGsand improving the health, well-being and overall life experiences of the world’s people.
At Aguaconsult – along with other progressive thinking organisations – we place an explicit focus on the WASH sector as a complex system delivering WASH as a public service. In March 2019, we co-authored the background paper for a major global symposium on systems strengthening for the WASH sector. This shift recognises the global evidence about what does work, such as professional utilities operating in a well-financed and regulated system in most countries in the global north. Equally, there are examples of successful public utilities and WASH sectors increasingly found in the south and we are working to support them in different ways. In more concrete terms, our systems strengthening work includes:
- Applying tools and approaches to assess the strength of existing systems and identify key gaps and areas of weakness for attention.
- Supporting the design of WASH programmes that take a systems-based approach.
- Developing and operationalising strategies for systems strengthening, including district-wide planning processes, asset infrastructure management and monitoring frameworks.
- Providing systems-based analysis for the development of improved sector policy and regulatory approaches.
- Applying systems strengthening approaches in fragile and humanitarian contexts.
- Working with development partner organisations to strengthen their own internal processes and capacities to be more ‘systems-aware’, including training programmes and developing resources and toolkits for their staff to use.
Aguaconsult is one of the four founding members of Agenda For Change, a collaboration of like-minded organisations working in WASH that believe in supporting government-led processes, with systems strengthening as a key means to achieve more sustainable outcomes.
To find out what we are doing in the area of systems strengthening and how we can help, contact Harold Lockwood or Bill Twyman.