More and more organisations working in sanitation and hygiene support the vision that equitable and sustainable sanitation and hygiene behaviour change and services at scale should be delivered through locally driven and locally sustained institutions, mechanisms and service providers. This calls for strengthening these institutions, mechanisms and providers at the level where they operate, regionally, nationally and locally, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia.
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council has long called for more effective collaboration and coordination between WASH sector players, in order to ensure higher aid effectiveness, less duplication of efforts, and stronger WASH sector performance. One area with scope for improvement is that of capacity, learning and knowledge management.
A key principle is that capacity development, skills training, knowledge creation, learning and sharing should be processes driven by government and service provider institutions, with (international) organisations and external support agencies acting in a support role, as service providers and knowledge brokers.
In November 2013, a meeting of representatives of key partner organisations active in capacity building and knowledge management in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) found consensus on some guiding principles and commitments to improve coordination and harmonise individual and collective efforts in these areas, for more effective results in the WASH sector.
Organised by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), the meeting brought together partners from agencies such as Plan International, WaterAid, WSP, UNICEF, IRC, SNV, and UNV among others.
While recognising that in the field of knowledge as anywhere else, a certain level of competition and variety are important to promote quality and a broad range of offerings, the partners agreed on a set of ten guiding principles that could become a ‘code of conduct’ of sorts for all organisations working in this sphere:
Each of the above principles comes with its own set of challenges. For example, all organisations with a learning agenda admit to having trouble with ensuring regular, good quality documentation of their experiences and lessons learnt, and closing the divide between the world of academic research and that of practitioners and policy makers remains a challenge across all fields of science and development. However the partners also recognised and agreed on a number of actions setting a course towards the achievement of the principles listed.
These actions include among others the establishment of a sector events calendar to work towards better event coordination and alignment and wider participation of stakeholders; to explore the collective training of national /regional sector consultants; the development of a common list of priority topics and themes for further research, rapid action learning and documentation; a scoping exercise of sector knowledge networks and platforms to explore consolidation and joint fundraising opportunities; and to explore setting up an annual M&E Forum and digest for closer collaboration and knowledge sharing on effective M&E systems, smart indicators and appropriate methodologies.
All these commitments are currently work in progress. This meeting was the first of its kind and focused on a core group of partners involved in these areas of work, but the process will only yield results if more and more organisations and partners work by the same standards and adhere to the same guiding principles. WSSCC is committed to continuing to push these issues and invites everybody who is interested to get in touch to discuss further.
Interested parties can contact Carolien van der Voorden, here: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The event will discuss approaches to ensure good hygiene and health practices across the different stages of life