Strategic Approaches in the Provision of Sanitation Services to Informal and Unserviced Areas
Report No 1438/1/05
November 2005

Executive Summary

The Strategic Framework for Water Services (2003) directs that water and sanitation programmes should be designed to support sustainable livelihoods and local economic development. The directive is framed by the following statement: “The provision of water supply and sanitation services has significant potential to alleviate poverty through the creation of jobs, use of local resources, improvement of nutrition and health, development of skills, and provision of a long-term livelihood for many households.”  

If basic sanitation services  is central to development in poor communities in informal settlements then current approaches focused on infrastructure delivery will not meet the challenges of the growing sanitation crisis in burgeoning informal settlements. Most of the current infrastructure delivery approaches are not able to integrate the components of health, infrastructure delivery and effective pro-poor community partnerships in any meaningful way. Moreover, capacity in support organizations is often lacking.

To deal with the complexities of sanitation in informal settlements it is therefore apparent that capacity, in the form of competent support organizations and effective integrated programmes, are prerequisite.

If a strategy is a systematic way of tackling a problem or working towards an objective, a strategic approach in this context should respond to the following.

What are the principles that underlie an integrated programme and capacity for successful implementation?
It is necessary to establish the principles that are fundamental to improving sanitation services and if efforts are to achieve overall objectives and thus be truly strategic in nature.

What are the processes to be followed to plan improvements in service delivery?
Strategic plans need to be flexible and adaptable, with interventions influenced by an understanding of the principles of good practice and knowledge of current practice. This suggests the need for a stepwise approach to setting, refining and working towards objectives.

Establishing the Principles of Integrated Service Delivery
In establishing the principles that underlie an integrated programme and capacity for the delivery of sanitation services, the study covered the following aspects.
Based on the investigation of sector approaches, development sector lessons and the development and a capacity review of the cases studies, the following principles are proposed as fundamental to integrated programme design and capacity for the provision of sanitation services,

1. The strategic actions that guide program design are:
  • Stimulating demand
  • Responding appropriately to demand
  • Sustaining systems
2. The scope for poverty alleviation opportunities in sanitation programme design is indicated by:
  • The extent to which the pro-poor opportunities are identified in programme design and supported by appropriate community-based procurement (CBP) strategies.
  • The extent to which the range of opportunities for community participation are linked to formal skills development.

3. An integrated program for effective sanitation service delivery consists of five models. A general Planning Model coupled with four implementation models specific to the particular technology choice. The four implementation models required per technology choice are:
  • Health and Sanitation Promotion
  • Facility Construction
  • Monitoring and Evaluation and
  • Operation and Maintenance.
4. Organizations develop competence to implement programs in three stages: The three stages are:
  • Capacity to develop and refine service delivery models
  • Capacity to institutionalise guidelines for delivery models
  • Capacity to implement logistics for replication

Developing a process to improve service delivery
With regard to the process to plan improvements in service delivery, the study covered the aspects:
The process for improvement is based on the three steps common to effective strategic planning. What is required? Where are we now? How do we get there?

During the data gathering activities at case study sites, it became apparent that where information and knowledge management practices were inadequate, the sharing and application of knowledge and hence capacity to deliver was limited.

In response, two tools were developed. A review table incorporating the integration and capacity principles was developed as a rapid capacity assessment tool.  Subsequently, a detailed programme assessment tool based on the review table was developed to specify the knowledge requirements, to record the organizational information, especially the tacit knowledge and therefore provide structure for the planning of improvements. Based on the application of the review table and the assessment tool the following process is proposed for planning improvements.

The process for planning improvements in sanitation service delivery consists of the three steps:

  • Developing consensus on the programme and capacity requirements based on the application of the review table
  • The identification and analysis of the organization’s available and required knowledge assets and related processes based on the application of the assessment tool.
  • The planning of actions to improve service delivery


Drawing on the experience in the development and application of the capacity Review Table and the Programme Assessment Tool, the steps and outputs outlined overleaf were used as the framework for the development of the guideline for the application of the project findings.

The guideline provides a practical approach which is simple, yet effective in dealing with the complexities of the sanitation environment. A facilitator by maintaining a focus on the principles and managing processes as outlined in the guideline, can mentor a multidisciplinary team to develop capacity to:
The framework of the Guideline:
Steps Outputs
Initiate the Strategic Approach
  • Facilitator interviews & interprets and prepares Review Table presentation
  • Group reflects and shares and aligns on fundamentals

  • Responsibility for models
  • Organization reflects on programme integration and poverty alleviation agenda, and begins to align on programme status and broad objectives
Detailed Assessment 
  • Assessment Tool applied.
  • Facilitator collates  & presents Assessment Results
  • Group reflects, validates, and aligns on improvements and way forward.

  • Responsibility and details of practice made explicit
  • Confirmation of objectives and actions for improvement
  • Validation of knowledge, agreement on actions and resource requirements
Improvement Actions
  • Respond to gaps evident in assessment tool,
  • Draft guidelines and pilot
  • Collate and confirm tacit knowledge from practice and formalize
  • Develop logistics for induction of new practitioners, KPI’s for reporting and mechanisms for review 

  • Improved planning, integration & poverty alleviation focus
  • Formalized or improved guidelines to implement successfully
  • Capacity to expand & refine programme