Published on: 22/01/2018
The first WASH Talk of 2018 concentrates on a discussion around adopting a systems approach to reach SDG 6.
WASH Talk host, Andy Narracott and guest speakers Angela Huston of IRC and Harold Lockwood of Aguaconsult talk about how the systems approach came about, current evidence of its importance and possible challenges for its adaptation in the WASH sector.
When we refer to a "WASH system", we mean all the moving parts that are required to provide sustainable services, from infrastructure to user. A systems approach starts with becoming comfortable with this complexity. In one of Angela's blogs you can read about the building blocks needed for a strong WASH system.
As Harold Lockwood explains, the systems approach has already been successfully implemented in other sectors, such as urban transport and health. There are also examples of early adopters in previous WASH projects and initiatives, such as the Triple-S project in Ghana, the SWA Collaborative Behaviours initiative or USAID's Sustainable WASH Systems initiative. However, a sector shift towards a systems-based approach needs further convincing by policy makers and practitioners. In order to reach Sustainable Development Goal 6, the sector as a whole has to turn towards increased collaboration. It is clear that no one actor can do this alone.
Limitations and possible risks for applying a systems approach include the challenge in getting NGOs to let go of organisational incentives or their potential failure in realising that they also are part of the system. Thinking about and understanding the whole system should help avoid repeating failures and anticipate different elements that prevent or promote sustainability.
Angela Huston is a Programme Officer at IRC. Her work is centered around the monitoring and sanitation portfolios, particularly in Francophone West Africa. She is a significant contributor to the research and methodological development of the IRC systems change approach. Angela has a B.Sc. in Environmental Chemistry, an M.Sc. in Civil Engineering, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. with McGill University that uses systems thinking to explore and monitor the efficacy of WASH programmes and services.
Harold Lockwood is the director of the UK consulting firm Aguaconsult and an international expert in water supply and sanitation. He has over twenty-six years of experience focussing primarily on the rural sub-sector in areas including institutional reform and sector policy development, decentralisation of governance functions, service delivery arrangements and sustainability of services. Harold holds an M.Sc. from Cranfield as well as a BA in Geography at Sussex University.