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The basis for cooperation

It's crucial for any change process to start with a clear vision of the desired end-state - whether the goal is broad-based sector change or a change in a specific policy or practice - and this vision must be shared by all the actors who need to work together to deliver it

At the heart of the sector change that this toolbox has been developed to support is a single clear goal: the sustainable delivery of water and sanitation services, by strong national systems, to everyone (regardless of where they live or how rich or poor they may be). This goal has received powerful support through its incorporation into both the Human Right to Water and Sanitation and Global Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The process of developing a widely shared, clearly defined vision of what its realisation looks like (in terms of the sorts of services to which people are entitled) as well as a realistic time-frame for achieving it is a necessary first step in motivating and coordinating the efforts of the many different actors required.

Several aspects are important when developing a vision that can serve as the basis for effective collective action.

  • Ownership: the vision must be broadly owned. It is not something that can be imposed from the outside, although outsiders can help in its implementation.  
  • SMARTness: the vision must be SMART, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. In terms of WASH services, this means that minimum levels of service must be clearly defined along with indicators to measure achievement and that realistic planning should be in place for the delivery of services to all citizens - plans that take into account the known difficulties of providing services to the last and most difficult to reach segments of the population. 

The development of such a vision takes investment and leadership. Having a dedicated hub or backbone organisation to facilitate the development of a vision and bring actors together can help to speed the process and ensure results. Champions - from the private sector, the public sector, civil society and above all senior politicians -  who own and advocate for the vision of universal access is another critical component in the success of the visioning and larger change process. There is abundant evidence that universal access can be achieved where strong political will exists. By corollary, where it doesn't, there is little chance of overcoming the many challenges.

Tools & guidance

As with other aspects of the "delivering change" section of this toolbox, specific tools can help in developing a vision among a group of stakeholders. But the reality is that this seldom (if ever) happens as a single event, nor is it a one off activity in a linear process. Rather, the development and reinforcement of a shared vision is something that takes place continuously throughout a change process, constantly fed and reinforced (or updated) by new evidence and experience. 

The EMPOWERS approach gives guidance on the technicalities of how to define a vision and ensure that it is SMART (in particular see pages 23 - 28, p. 52 - 54 and p. 63 - 75). It also indicates how visioning can become part of the broader sector change process.

The case on Ghana offers a detailed description of the processes and actions undertaken by IRC and its partners to create large-scale change in Ghana's rural water sub-sector.


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