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The paper provides background on the concept of complex systems, its applicability to WASH, and some proposed approaches for practitioners to use when seeking to understand and manage complexity within their local contexts.

TitleUnderstanding complexity in WASH systems
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsValcourt, N, Walters, J, Javernick, WA, Linden, K
Secondary TitleAll systems go! WASH Systems Symposium, The Hague, the Netherlands, 12-14 March 2019
Pagination10 p. : 2 fig., 2 tab.
Date Published02/2019
Place PublishedThe Hague, the Netherlands
Publication LanguageEnglish
Keywordscomplex adaptive systems, complexity, dynamics, factors, feedback, systems thinking

Over the past decade, the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and services has been increasingly referred to as a complex systems issue. This discourse has been followed by a call for more systems thinking tools, methods, and approaches to understand this complexity. However, while the WASH sector has a deep and rich understanding of the multitude of interconnected factors that support these services, there has traditionally been a gap in understanding how these factors interact, and how they collectively drive service delivery outcomes. Drawing from the field of complexity science, this paper seeks to provide a theoretical framing through which practitioners within the WASH sector can gain a better understanding of the dimensions of complexity and how it manifests in the delivery of WASH services. The paper provides background on the concept of complex systems, its  applicability to WASH, and some proposed approaches for practitioners to use when seeking to understand and manage complexity within their local contexts. [author abstract]


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