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Partners launch a district-led programme in Ghana built on the vision of universal access.

Gloria Badu collects payments at a private tap-stand in Wamahinso, Asutifi North

This blog was co-authored by Chris Dunston, Senior Programme Officer, International Programmes Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Just under a month ago, on Friday 16th March, the Asutifi North Ahonidie Mpontuo (ANAM) - or Clean Asutifi North Initiative - was launched during a colourful ceremony in the district's function hall.  Most of the April 2018 issue of our newsletter Amplify is dedicated to ANAM. Asutifi North is IRC's principal partner district in Ghana, as it is for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Safe Water Strategy.  ANAM is the district led programme to deliver resilient WASH systems and universal access to WASH services by 2030.

We think the launch of ANAM marks a milestone and inflection point in our work on strengthening WASH systems. This blog examines why.

The first thing to say is that ANAM represents an evolution of previous work. Work like IRC’s Triple-S initiative, Safe Water Network’s small water enterprise model, and World Vision’s years of deep experience bringing water (and sanitation) to the rural poor. Asutifi North was chosen after a rigorous search process and is amongst Ghana’s best governed and performing districts. 

ANAM is underpinned by a strong and diverse partnership, a prerequisite for effective collective action. The participants at the event included representatives of national, regional and local government among them four paramount chiefs; the Regional Minister; the Asutifi North MP; and the District chief executive, coordinating director and planner. Alongside this local leadership were representatives of local civil society and external partners including IRC, the Hilton Foundation, the Aquaya Institute, World Vision and Safe Water Network. All of these actors are committed to working together to achieve the common vision of universal access to WASH services by 2030.  

Within this partnership, IRC will act as a hub or backbone (another requirement for effective collective action); supporting the entire partnership with coordination, knowledge sharing, learning and a common framework for monitoring progress. 

While ANAM builds on earlier IRC work supporting WASH systems strengthening in Ghana, it is also qualitatively different. Most important is the explicit adoption of a vision of universal access by both the district and a group of supporting external organisations with complementary skills. The role of the Hilton Foundation in this as a co-creating donor is also rather unique. Under their new Safe Water Strategy the Foundation is explicitly aligning funding to supporting ANAM, whilst channeling their support through a series of stand-alone grants to individual partners.  By doing this, they are avoiding a more typical “prime and sub” type consortium funding approach. This allows a more flexible model where each partner maintains a direct relationship to the donor and is free to contribute their expertise to the shared initiative, and where the partnership itself can evolve over time. The Foundation's role is, equally, not limited to financing, but involves being a thought partner, technical support and collaborator. This reflects the Foundation's belief that the challenges of providing sustainable services cannot be met by one organisation alone, but calls for collective action by multidisciplinary groups who together test and strengthen new approaches.

The launch of ANAM was an exciting event. It represented the end of a year of intense work to develop a strong partnership and a shared vision of success. At the same time, it is only the beginning. By the time of the first annual review, it will be crucial to have identified and implemented some quick win activities to build confidence among all partners. That said, we are confident that the unique multi-year partnership supporting this initiative has the potential to make significant progress in demonstrating that bringing universal access to WASH services to Asutifi North is possible, and in so doing contributing to identifying the path to achieving the same goal for all of Ghana.

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