GSF facilitates global learning event to boost impact and innovation

Date: 6th June 2016

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GSF Learning Event participants. Credit: Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement

GSF Learning Event participants. Credit: Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement

Implementing partners, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) experts, and high-level government representatives from across the globe recently gathered in Madagascar for the 2016 Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) Learning Event.

The GSF focuses on continuous learning at the national, regional and global levels, to boost implementation, innovation and advocacy.

Since 2014, the GSF has supported a growing number of country exchange missions between two to three countries at a time, such as in Nigeria and Uganda. Building on this, the GSF Learning Event was an essential part of the Fund’s ongoing efforts to enhance learning and sharing between all of the programmes it supports, and with the wider WASH sector.

The weeklong event gathered stakeholders to exchange ideas and share best practices for scaling up and sustaining improved sanitation and hygiene through large-scale collective behavior change programmes. Representatives from all GSF-supported programmes, including government officials, managers and implementing organizations participated, together with a range of WASH sector actors.

Learning and sharing with local communities


The first few days of the event included visits to rural communities in the Analamanga, Itasy and Vakinankaratra regions covered by ‘Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement’ (FAA), the GSF-supported programme in Madagascar.

As one of the leading programmes in Madagascar’s WASH sector, the FAA engages tens of thousands of actors in the national movement to eliminate open defecation. The programme works in all 22 regions of the country through close to 30 Sub-grantees, and it is also part of the broader Diorano WASH multi-stakeholder coalition. By the end of 2015, the FAA reported enabling more than 1.6 million people to live in open defecation free (ODF) environments since the start of the programme.

The visits involved observing community-led total sanitation (CLTS) activities facilitated by FAA Sub-grantees, which are local implementing organizations. Participants interacted with local community members, consultants, engineers and leaders, observing a range of innovative methodologies to scale up and sustain sanitation and hygiene behaviour change at scale.

‘Institutional Triggering’ was one of the innovations observed, which involves implementing the methods used in community triggering to ignite change at the institutional level, for example within national and local government entities. Another innovation observed was ‘Follow-up MANDONA’, a CLTS approach for accelerating and sustaining the end of open defecation after initial triggering. Read more about innovations developed within the FAA programme.

Participants discussed the potential of applying and replicating the innovations and technologies they witnessed. They also provided recommendations for the FAA and wider WASH sector in Madagascar.

Launching the core conversation

Following the community visits, participants moved to Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, where the remainder of the event took place. This component of the event was inaugurated by Madagascar’s Minister of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Roland Ravatomanga.

Ravatomanga said Madagascar could eliminate open defecation in tens of thousands of villages, but a large amount of work remained. He added: “It is one thing to achieve ODF villages – the real challenge is to sustain those behaviour changes. Together, we will make Madagascar a model of success in this challenge.”

Welcoming participants, Ravatomanga said: “I hope this event will be a pillar in order to give other countries new ideas for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leaving no one behind.”

The inauguration also included the launch of a new ‘Follow-up MANDONA’ handbook. Read more

Credit: WSSCC/Okechukwu Umelo

Credit: WSSCC/Okechukwu Umelo

Engaging GSF stakeholders around critical themes

Credit: WSSCC/Okechukwu Umelo

Credit: WSSCC/Okechukwu Umelo

The GSF aims to contribute to the achievement of universal access to and use of sustainable and equitable sanitation and hygiene, as envisioned in national strategies and the SDGs. To achieve this, GSF-supported programmes aim to catalyze the creation, demonstration, and replication of nationally-owned, results-based models for achieving sustainable sanitation and hygiene behaviour change at scale.  In the context of GSF-supported programmes, working ‘at scale’ varies and refers to going beyond villages to facilitate sanitation and hygiene behaviour change to a larger extent, such as at the sub-county, county and district levels.

The event provided a platform for participants to explore lessons, conversations and questions around the overarching theme of catalytic programming for scale and sustainability. Among others, sub-themes highlighted at the event were:

Strategies and approaches for reaching scale: Participants agreed that achieving scale with high quality behaviour change interventions requires strategic planning from the outset. This includes building an ‘implementation army’ of diverse actors such as local governments, civil society organizations and networks of community leaders, and aligning programmatic work with national sanitation and hygiene strategies.

Decentralized delivery systems: During the Learning Event, GSF-supported programmes explored how they leverage and support locally-based structures to transform sanitation and hygiene behaviour at scale. Key learning discussions centered around ways to engage and bring together local governments and NGOs, as well as community-based groups, religious institutions, networks of community activists,  champions and other groups for effective decentralized delivery.

Building movements: Participants discussed their strategies and approaches for building dynamic movements involving diverse actors at all levels. This is critical for igniting collective behaviour change at scale, and ensuring strong advocacy beyond the life of GSF-supported programmes.

Monitoring and verification at scale: Systematic and robust monitoring and verification of programme results are necessary for programme management, tracking sustainability, identifying and supporting vulnerable groups, enhancing gender equality, and ensuring accountability. During the Learning Event, participants described how ODF monitoring and verification are operated within their own country, and shared the opportunities and challenges related to implementing these systems at scale.

Tangible commitments from GSF-supported programmes

At the end of the event, all GSF-supported programmes committed to tangible follow-up actions. These include:

  • Promoting sanitation and hygiene improvement through religion (Cambodia)
  • Introducing comprehensive water, sanitation, hygiene, solid and liquid waste management in all intervention villages (India)
  • Accelerate the movement through enhanced institutional triggering (Madagascar)
  • Developing clear local government ODF roadmaps for each intervention area (Nigeria)
  • Strengthening post-triggering monitoring through Follow-up MANDONA (Senegal)
  • Finalizing the design of the CLTS approach in schools (Togo)
  • Empowering emerging leaders to trigger villages within local government areas (Uganda)

A comprehensive report on the lessons, conversations and questions generated during the event, as well as standalone publications focused on some of the key themes, will soon be published on

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