Making Innovation Work through Partnerships in Water and Sanitation Projects

by | Feb 6, 2002

It has become increasingly apparent that conventional models of service delivery are inadequate to meet the challenge of providing water and sanitation services to the vast unserved populations of the towns and cities of less developed countries. Most of those unserved are poor and many live in crowded, unplanned settlements, sometimes far from the existing water and sanitation networks serving wealthier neighbourhoods. There is an urgent need for models that can extend services to the poor at sufficient speed to cope with ever expanding demand and in a manner that is acceptable to the users and technically as well as financially sustainable.This study is one of a series commissioned in 2002 by BPD to explore and illustrate how tri-sector partnerships involving business, government and civil society can achieve more at the local level than any of the groups acting individually.This report sets out the findings of a study of the experiences of the eight BPD focus project partnerships in developing innovative approaches to service delivery that seek to overcome the many constraints in providing viable services to the poor. The term ‘innovative approaches’ has no strict definition here; it simply refers to approaches to service delivery that are substantially different to those used prior to project intervention.The projects have developed a wide variety of innovative approaches, most of which have produced, or are likely to produce, substantial benefits to the poor. Four out of eight involve some degree of technical innovation while others focus on models of management, billing and user payment. All include some element of user consultation and communication and have sought to improve the customer-service provider relationship. The approaches also vary widely in scale, from a small pilot covering just 10 households, to approaches operating within large concessions and serving tens of thousands of people. Given such differences it is difficult to compare the effectiveness of one project against another. It is possible, however, to identify key elements in the design of successful models and to note how partnership may have enabled the innovations to happen.

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