Sanitation for all: Scaling up is hard to do | Source: Jan Willem Rosenboom, Devex, March 22 2016 |
If you invest even a little bit of your time in keeping on top of developments in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, you will have seen at least some of the blogs, reports and articles reminding us all that the world failed to attain the Millennium Development Goals’ sanitation targets — by a wide margin.
The Sustainable Development Goals give us a second chance to get it right, but they seriously up the ante. Instead of “merely” providing half of the unserved population with access to improved sanitation, as the MDGs required, the SDGs tell us we can only declare success once every person, every school and every health facility has — and uses — safely managed sanitation facilities.
We have 15 years to get it right. Given the below-average results we obtained in the past 15 years, it is clear that we should ask some hard questions and examine the evidence emerging from the field, in the hope we can do much better in the next 15 years.
Pilots never fail, and never scale
Anywhere in the world, if we look hard enough, we can find successful, innovative projects changing people’s lives for the better — and not only in sanitation; this is true for every sector.
The assumption that successful pilots will — by some unexamined magic — lead to sustained scale up efforts is mostly false and, as a result, we seem stuck with repeated small-scale successes, rather than impact at scale. In the past I have labeled this observation “Rosenboom’s law on pilots:” Pilots never fail, and never scale.
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