Sanitation options for sustainability: reflections from the UNC Conference, by Lillian Mbeki, Social Marketing and Private Sector Development Specialist Consultant at Water& Sanitation Program.
I am attending the 2016 Water and Health conference organised by the Water Institute at University of North Carolina USA. The conference whose theme is ‘where science meets policy’ focuses on safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and water resources. Participants and presenters include members of academia, governments, development banks, donor agencies and WASH implementers.
When thinking about ODF sustainability and moving up the sanitation ladder an important consideration has been introduction of sanitation options/products. A number of organisation s have to date tried many product options and intervention strategies with varied levels of results. iDE had some lessons to share on what they have learnt from implementing sanitation marketing in Cambodia.
What is the ideal product for households? What is stopping you?
The discussion started with this simple question. The core message being that most programs design products based on some defined assumptions and then invest in changing behaviours of communities to adopt that product. When in essence a consumer centric approach has been seen to be more effective. The iDE experience in both toilet and water filter product development and marketing, led to the conclusion that listening to the consumer’s voice, obeying it and correctly interpreting the consumer’s desire results in much higher program success even at the BoP. So the question is, if we know this, why are we not doing it? Answers to this question include: fear of risk by private sector, lack of data, difficulty in building consensus, limited funding, affordability and lack of appropriate solutions.
If we identify the barriers to developing and designing the ideal solutions for households then we can identify possible solutions to removing the bottlenecks. This is usually the point at which different partnerships with various strengths are identified and the strategy becomes how to leverage their capabilities to make the ideal happen.
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