The GSF and sustainability

Date: 5th June 2016

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The Global Sanitation Fund supports Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which ignites and sustains change in sanitation and hygiene behaviour within whole communities, rather than constructing toilets through subsidies. In this photo, a rural community in Cambodia participates in a triggering session facilitated by the GSF-supported programme. Photo: WSSCC/Javier Acebal

The Global Sanitation Fund supports Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which ignites and sustains change in sanitation and hygiene behaviour within whole communities, rather than constructing toilets through subsidies. In this photo, a rural community in Cambodia participates in a triggering session facilitated by the GSF-supported programme. Photo: WSSCC

The GSF is well aware of the critical importance of sustainability in water, sanitation and hygiene programmes – a GSF and WASH sector-wide challenge. As highlighted in the GSF Progress Report, the Fund focuses on delivering high quality and sustainable results through collective behaviour change approaches. Sustainability is core to and incorporated in the design, mission and implementation of GSF-supported, country-led programmes. Furthermore, the GSF is aware of the need to make long-term commitments to support national sanitation and hygiene programmes and ensure sustainability.

The following points highlight various ways the GSF is addressing sustainability. Much of this information is also available in the GSF Progress Report:

  • The GSF is aware that implementing large sanitation and hygiene programmes that result is sustained behaviour change is highly challenging. As GSF-supported programmes grow and mature, the Fund is still very much learning by doing. Much of this learning and reflection has been centred on the sustainability of outcomes, the extent to which households and communities climb the sanitation ladder, limitations of programme approaches to sanitation marketing, and equality in accessing services. Read more about the GSF and sustainability on page 15 of the Progress Report.
  • The GSF continues to develop its theory of change, demonstrating the interconnection between various interventions that lead to the goal of universal access, including efforts to strengthen the enabling environment and improve the sustainability of national institutions. This has led to a clearer description of the overlapping phases that country programmes pass through over time – from programme design, to demonstrating results at scale, to transition, to national coverage. Read more on page 13 of the Progress Report.
  • As a fund for collective behaviour change, the GSF considers the achievement of open defecation free (ODF) nations a crucial step in achieving sustained sanitation and hygiene access and use for all. In some of the countries we support, sustained ODF is required for official ODF certification. In Senegal, hundreds of communities supported by the GSF have been officially recognized as sustaining ODF status since 2013. Supply-side activities focused on supporting the continuous improvement of facilities built by communities themselves, and the steady progression towards improved sanitation are important elements of long-term success and use. The GSF will continue to strengthen these aspects of its work. However, based on the belief that sustainability is as much, if not more dependent on how well households can sustain and habituate their new behaviours, the GSF’s core focus will continue to be on changing and sustaining behaviour patterns. Read more on page 15 of the Progress Report.
  • The GSF focuses its resources on supporting collective behaviour change approaches, most notably through Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). CLTS is a proven and internationally-recognized approach to achieving and sustaining ODF communities – a first step towards improved sanitation. CLTS focuses on igniting change in sanitation and hygiene behaviour within whole communities, rather than constructing toilets through subsidies. Through CLTS, GSF-supported programmes also aim to facilitate peoples’ own desire to climb up the sanitation ladder.
  • The GSF is investing on multiple fronts to address the very real challenges of sustaining ODF status and addressing ‘slippage’, which relates to communities returning to previous unhygienic behaviours (see ‘key terms and concepts’ on page 8 of the Progress Report). One key consideration is to better understand the levels of slippage, how these relate to the learning that occurs within communities, and how they influence and are influenced by dynamic processes to ingrain new or changed behaviours. A GSF reflection paper on slippage and sustainability will be published shortly. Read more on page 15 of the Progress Report.
  • Within the GSF network, significant progress was made in better understanding how to address challenges related to sustaining ODF status and behaviour change. In collaboration with CLTS pioneer Kamal Kar and building on experiences from Madagascar, Nigeria and Togo, the GSF identified a number of strategies to address slippage. One such strategy is the ‘Follow-up MANDONA’ approach, designed to help communities rapidly achieve and sustain ODF status. The approach is detailed in a field guide available here.
  • Implementing partners have developed other methods to address sustainability. For example, the ‘U Approach’ builds on the social norms of CLTS by engaging actors at every level in planning, triggering, and scaling up. This systematic approach first uses institutional triggering to identify strategic communities, builds a strong base of communities that constitute sources of peer-to-peer learning, and uses this base to reach scale and sustain results. Furthermore, ‘Local Community Governance’ transfers the leadership and technical capacity for maintaining and sustaining sanitation improvements from the implementing partner to the community and local governance structures. Read more about some of these approaches in the case study here.
  • A common desired outcome for all GSF-supported programmes is to contribute to universal access to sustainable and equitable sanitation and hygiene, as envisioned in national strategies and the Sustainable Development Goals. Programmes aim to achieve this by catalyzing the creation, demonstration, and replication of nationally-owned, results-based models for sustained sanitation and hygiene behaviour change at scale. Read more on page 13 of the Progress Report.

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