- What we do
- Where we work
About the WASH sector
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector is facing serious challenges. First-time provision of services has yet to reach 2 billion people for sanitation and 800 million for water. And when services are provided, too many are unreliable, of poor quality and prone to failure.
Global monitoring indicates that progress is being made with increasing coverage as more pumps, pipes, taps and toilets have been installed. Even so, many countries will not meet the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. Moreover, this MDG-driven investment in new hardware is laying bare the deep systemic challenges in turning capital investment into sustainable services.
Providing sustainable WASH services sounds as if it should be simple, but the process is inherently complex. Drinking water has to be abstracted from sustainable sources, treated and transported to users. Sanitation facilities have to be built, maintained and waste products made safe. Rural populations have to change the customs of generations and adopt hygienic practices when the means to do so are often missing. A large number of different actors have to play their roles and get them right at a range of scales from household and community to district and nation. WASH services are also vulnerable to external challenges like rapid urbanisation, population growth, increasing demand for water and climate change. Providing WASH services to poor people in poor countries against this background calls for a wide range of individuals, organisations and institutions to work effectively together. In practice, this seldom happens. The result is that much investment is wasted; many services collapse for lack of maintenance, management, governance and knowledge; and millions of people suffer unnecessarily.
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) believes that it is possible to remove a major stumbling block to improved access to services if the sector changes the way it perceives its mandate. It has traditionally focused on capital investment and the construction of new hardware, overlooking the fact that the real challenges to service delivery lie in what happens after the hardware has been constructed: in how it is managed and governed to provide sustainable and equitable services. The central goal of our work is therefore to bring about a shift in perception in the sector as a whole – a shift that we summarise as the adoption of a service delivery approach.
It is in the context of these challenges and this understanding that IRC has prepared this 2012-2016 business plan. IRC is a knowledge-focused NGO that works with a worldwide network of partner organisations. Our roots are in advocacy, lessons learning, knowledge management and capacity building; and IRC has a strong reputation for cutting-edge innovation and action research to achieve equitable and sustainable WASH services at scale.
IRC does not provide WASH services, but we work with those who do, helping them to make their investments more effective in delivering services to all citizens and overcoming the challenges that lead to wasted investment. We work with practitioners in our focus countries in participatory action research to identify challenges, fill gaps, and develop robust models for sustainable and equitable service delivery. We learn the lessons from these activities with our partners and we document and share them with a wide audience. We use this understanding to advocate at national and international levels for improved policy and practice.
This is not about presenting success stories or even “best practice”, but about sharing the experiences of those who plan, provide and attempt to sustain services, as well as the testimony of communities who receive them, and then working with key global partners to develop a common understanding and a consensus for change.
During the period 2007-2011, IRC made some key developments in our understanding – notably that delivering services through stand-alone projects would never address the problems of scale or sustainability, and that achieving sustainable services demands a much greater degree of collaboration, joint learning and fact-finding: too little is known about what services cost, why services succeed and why they fail.
IRC also implemented two far-reaching shifts in strategic direction. The first was to start working more intensively in a reduced number of focus countries to become an active sector actor in tackling the challenges to service delivery the second was to develop and lead large programmes aimed at innovating and piloting sector change. Both of these shifts were driven by a desire to achieve a greater understanding and more lasting impact, and both have led to important internal organisational changes linked to considerable growth. These shifts have raised IRC’s impact, effectiveness and international profile.
2012-2016 vision, mission and goals
IRC subscribes to a broad sector vision of a world in which all people are able to enjoy their fundamental human right of access to appropriate and sustainable water and sanitation services that they use and can afford; and where these services are in turn based on sustainable use of water and environmental resources.
IRC’s mission for 2012-2016 is to act as a knowledge broker, innovator and enabler of change within the sector, internationally and in selected focus countries and regions, so that services are extended to the poor and are better attuned to their needs while being more sustainable and equitable, better managed and governed. We aim to enhance our reputation as a dynamic modern NGO that combines high levels of commitment and well-developed social values with the professionalism and flexibility traditionally associated with private sector organisations.
Shaped by our vision and mission IRC has identified four goals for the period 2012-2016.
- Adoption by the WASH sector of a service delivery approach.
- Adoption by the sector of a strong learning and adaptive approach to service delivery.
- Improved aid effectiveness.
- Improved inter-sectoral dialogue and planning alignment.
Scope of work
The aim of this document is to provide a clear statement of what IRC aims to achieve during the next five years and, more specifically, the role IRC intends to play in advocating and supporting a sector wide shift towards a focus on the delivery of sustainable and equitable WASH services.
We will achieve our goals through a mixture of direct intervention in our focus countries and regions through innovation and action research (country and regional programmes) coupled with international level advocacy and policy influencing (international programme). To support this we will maintain our global body of sector information services including Source news services, publications, workshops, seminars and conferences. We will continue to support and contribute to topically relevant international thematic working groups. In our focus countries we will also support and contribute to the creation of channels and tools for enhanced knowledge and information management.
We will adopt a stronger sanitation focus, aiming to address the serious deficit in sustainable and equitable sanitation services, along the whole chain from latrine use to safe disposal or reuse of faecal matter. We will continue to address the huge challenge of catalysing and maintaining improved hygienic behaviour, which is essential to ensuring that improved services lead to improved health impact. To achieve this, we will launch a programme on sustainable sanitation services.
To all this work we bring five primary areas of expertise namely policy influence, knowledge brokerage, thematic innovation, capacity building and training, and monitoring and learning.
As a modern NGO, IRC operates within twin boundary conditions. The first is the need to achieve our vision and goals in as efficient and effective a manner as possible; the second is to remain in good financial health. IRC does not seek to make a profit: but we cannot survive if we make losses. As we do not have a membership base or other means of generating our own income, we are entirely reliant on external finance to fund our work.
With the aim, in part, of attracting interest for a range of different types of financiers, we have divided our work into three main business areas – each of which combines a body of work with a toolkit of proven methods, approaches and ways of working, and matches them to likely source(s) of finance. These three business areas overlap and are mutually reinforcing:
Business area 1
Knowledge management and innovation builds on IRC’s expertise in knowledge and information management, and underpins the role of IRC as one of the WASH sector’s leading think tanks. This business area is largely reliant on non-earmarked ‘core’ financing, which has traditionally come from the Dutch government. It is estimated that government funded knowledge management and in- novation programmes will represent 30% of IRC’s total budget.
Business area 2
Innovation and action research in countries and regions is the primary mechanism for delivering change at scale in line with our vision and goals, through broad programmes aimed at delivering high priority sector change and new knowledge. These programmes are attractive vehicles for external financiers focused on achieving specific outcomes. This work is estimated to represent 50% of the total budget.
Business area 3
Market based, demand-responsive assignments are initiated from outside IRC by, for example, national governments, international agencies and philanthropic organisations. This business area is estimated to account for 20% of IRC’s budget.
IRC will retain our headquarters in The Hague, governed by a Director and a Supervisory Board. However, the focus in the next five years will be on decentrali- sation and internationalisation. An international advisory committee will be established to help guide this process and to advise IRC’s Director and Board.
Staff development will be guided by principles of attracting and maintaining excellence, increasing internationalisation, and increasing flexibility. We will seek to reduce the number of core staff working in The Hague, while increasing the number of staff who work with us in a flexible way in countries.
This business plan and scope of work is based on a total budget of €51 million for the period 2012-2016, the sum required to maintain our level of impact and our work on information management, the programmes in focus countries and regions, and our International programme. Of this total approximately 60% has currently been committed. The other 40% will be acquired by means of responding to tenders, proactive proposal development and strategic acquisition and fundraising.