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World Water Week participants engage with elements of the WASH system.

Building water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services that last does not happen in a vacuum. The WASH system is a complex network of people and things that deliver WASH services. A strong WASH system therefore requires a holistic approach, one that strives to strengthen all the foundational elements that contribute to effective service delivery. In order to meet sustainable development goal 6 (SDG 6) and to achieve universal WASH coverage, we believe this type of systems-thinking is crucial.

By simplifying the system, we can better track, manage and accelerate progress towards meeting that goal. Here at IRC, we've identified and grouped the main contributors to the WASH system into nine key components, or building blocks. Many of the building blocks overlap and each one's importance can change according to time or context. But one thing remains constant: for any service to be delivered, all the building blocks must be present and working, at least to a minimum level. And strong WASH systems on the other hand, are systems where all WASH building blocks, and the interactions between them, are in place and functioning effectively.

With that context in mind, meet the nine WASH building blocks:

WASH building blocks

If you would like to dive deeper into the specifics, we highly encourage you to read the IRC working paper: Understanding the WASH systems and its building blocks: building strong WASH systems for the SDG.

Stockholm's favourite building blocks

We took advantage of Stockholm's World Water Week 2018 to flaunt our systems pride and encouraged others to engage with the WASH building blocks. Participants chose the building block they related most to in their work and here is what they had to say:

Stockholm interacts with the building blocksStockholm interacts with the building blocks 2Stockholm interacts with the building blocks 3Stockholm interacts with the building blocks 4

This blog was a collaborative endeavour. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all the attendees who participated and contributed to the contents of this blog. 

Disclaimer

At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.