Published on: 18/03/2014
To deliver WASH services that last, the whole system of individuals, organisations, technologies and the institutions that link them needs to work, and work more effectively.
Providing water, sanitation services that last - as opposed to bit of hardware that fail - calls for a whole complex network of individuals and organisations to work together, guided by commonly held and respected rules of the game. Whether you refer to this group of people, organisations and institutions as a sector, a system or an ecosystem doesn't really matter. What does matter, is that to drive lasting and effective change means that its essential to engage not just with one or other piece of the system (although that can be crucial in the right circumstances) - but to engage with the system as a whole. Easily said, but what does it mean in practice?
At IRC we've spent much of the last decade puzzling this out. And you can read about many of our experiences in the blogs, resources and news items collated in the IRC's approach section of our website. Over the years we've worked with Resource Centre Networks and Learning Alliances, supported Process Documentation and Learning for Change. At its heart, all of it is about providing the mechanisms and resources for groups of people to learn, adapt and change.
We set out the main elements and phases of what we believe is necessary to drive and support change processes that affect the whole system that provides WASH services. But at its heart it's all about people, information and patience. Because it's people who need to change, because information (and evidence) is needed to both drive and support that change; and because change processes that effect a whole sector take time - typically in the order of ten years. Change processes also require someone to drive them - a backbone organisation that convenes participants and feeds the process with evidence. This role, what is referred to in Collective Impact terms as a backbone organisation, is what IRC seeks to do. In our focus countries, but also in the global WASH arena, we seek to drive change that delivers universal access to WASH services that last: to everyone, forever.