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Published on: 03/02/2022

Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership 2016 - 2021

The Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (SWS) was a global United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cooperative agreement to identify locally driven solutions for developing robust local systems capable of sustaining water and sanitation service delivery. Led by the University of Colorado Boulder, SWS emphasised partnerships and learning for catalytic change in the sector. The project was working in four priority countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Cambodia) to meet the rapidly increasing needs of USAID’s partner countries in getting sustainable water and sanitation services.


There were four concept teams within the partnership.

Concept 1 - improve decentralized WASH service delivery by understanding and influencing local systems led by IRC WASH working with Tetra Tech and LINC in Uganda and Ethiopia.

The team worked with stakeholders – in learning alliances - to strengthen decentralized woreda (district) and small-town level systems for water and sanitation services delivery. Comprehensive systems analyses provided a basis for action research to find new solutions to service delivery and sustainability challenges. Emphasis was placed on strengthening the WASH service delivery system as a whole, finding a balance between competing priorities to extend, improve and sustain services, and delivering the capacity development and communications activities that are needed at local, regional, and national levels to scale up successful innovations and outcomes.

Concept 2 - develop a locally led infrastructure to coordinate WASH sector (particularly donor-financed) activities in the implementation of national strategies and action plans led by WaterSHED Asia and LINC in Cambodia.

Concept 3 & 4 - test, revise, and scale up public-private partnership models that improve WASH service delivery led by Whave, UNICEF/Kenya & Oxford in Kenya.

Flagship knowledge products

Driving Change: Strengthening Local Systems in the Water and Sanitation Sectors (Dec. 2021)

This publication is a guide and reference book for those looking to understand how local systems strengthening can really be achieved. It presents three key pillars: understanding systems, learning alliances, and action-research, and demonstrates them through five case studies. The guide concludes with a series of tips, tricks, and nuggets of wisdom from the SWS Concept 1 team.

Driving Change: WASH Systems Academy course (expected publication in 2022)

Upcoming WASH Systems Academy course on facilitating local systems change in WASH.

Journal articles

For all news, blogs and resources on the Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership, check out this link. And more on the other project concepts can be found on

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