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About us

We are a think-and-do tank. Our approach is different, and it is transformational. It involves everyone, in every part of the process, thinking and acting in new ways to find long-term solutions to the global crisis in water, sanitation and hygiene services.

IRC is an international think-and-do tank that works with governments, NGOs, entrepreneurs and people around the world to find long-term solutions to the global crisis in water, sanitation and hygiene services. At the heart of its mission is the aim to move from short-term interventions to sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services.

With over 45 years of experience, IRC runs large-scale programmes in six focus countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and projects in more than 25 countries. It is supported by a team of around 80 staff across the world.

We want to cultivate a new way of working: delivering sustainable services through a comprehensive approach to water and sanitation. This involves underpinning services with financial planning that takes into account both the start up and the ongoing life cycle of the service. At the heart of much of this work is the development of people's competency and their capacity to maintain services. We encourage them to learn and continually adapt based on hard evidence of what works, not just now, but in 10, 20 and 30 years.

Our key activities

Supporting governments and WASH organisations to transform the way they work by providing coaching and consultancy.

  • bringing together all those involved – to pool resources in order to identify challenges and find solutions;
  • building people's capacity – to plan, manage and maintain services;
  • using structured approaches to make change happen in policy and practice – locally, nationally and internationally;
  • working together, rather than competing – to make money and resources go further and have far greater impact.

Experimenting to find solutions that work by leading multi-country, multi-million dollar research programmes that tackle complex problems.

WASHCost, our US$ 14.5m, five-year action research project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has gathered and shared information about the true cost of providing WASH services in Burkina Faso, Ghana, India and Mozambique. These 'life-cycle costs' take into account everything from construction, finance, and installation, to maintenance, repairs and eventual replacement. This helps people to make informed decisions, policies and practices.

In Bangladesh, we're collaborating with BRAC, the world's largest NGO, to provide sustainable sanitation services for 35 million people. We're developing an innovative, large-scale outcome monitoring and learning programme to help improve the effectiveness of its nationwide sanitation movement. With BRAC we are generating evidence-led approaches that work at scale.

Advancing effective practice internationally by documenting research and sharing knowledge, through working groups, learning programmes, conferences and publishing.

Our major transformation programme, Triple-S, has been running a six-year learning initiative focused in Ghana and Uganda and is expanding to Burkina Faso, Honduras, India and Mozambique. The programme uses a systemic approach to make services sustainable at scale.

Watch the 'What if?' video

The MUS Group, a partnership of 15 organisations across the world, is helping people avoid the problems faced by water services created for just one use (domestic or productive). Partners are discovering a more cost-effective, sustainable way to work.

Catalysing change in districts by pioneering new tools and systemic approaches to planning, developing and delivering WASH services for life.

Using our WASHCost calculator app, governments, NGOs and funders can now get a true picture of what investments are needed over the lifetime of a service, and how they can be best targeted to give good value for money.

Try the app:


In Uganda, we are supporting the Mobile Phones for Improved Water Access (M4W) initiative, collaborating with Makerere University and SNV Uganda to introduce using smart phones and new technology that monitor services and reduce downtime when breakdowns occur.

Transforming the way global decision makers address WASH challenges by campaigning and advocating, sharing what works, and lobbying for change.

Elements of WASHCost, our life-cycle costs approach for planning and budgeting, have been adopted by more than 70 partners, including private sector organisations such as Coca Cola Africa, universities, and national governments including those of Sierra Leone, Uganda and Honduras. BRAC (Bangladesh), WaterAid, and Water for People are tracking costs and value for money in this way too. We're taking the lessons learnt on the ground into our work with local, national and international policy makers – and they listen.

Quick guides to what we do

Quick guides to where we work


Somalia, Mogadishu 2013 Somali's spread out limes in a field to later harvest lemons, approx. 25 kilometers away from Mogadishu
As well as being engaged in countries where we have an office, IRC is involved with projects across the continent of Africa. Read more


India screengrab
In India, $4 billion are annually invested in the rural drinking water sector. We are working to make that investment more effective


SHAW Indonesia project field visit. Image by Christine Sijbesma
In Asia IRC works with local and national governments, strong non-governmental partners, large-scale implementers, knowledge institutes and the...

Latin America

Music at the opening of a water supply system in Maraita, Honduras
IRC is engaged with projects across Latin America, especially in Honduras where we have country representation

IRC projects

WASH news and events

WASH news and events

Find out about what IRC is doing and what is going on in the world of water, sanitation and hygiene.