Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS)

Operational research and technical assistance to enhance WASH programming effectiveness

The Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS) project is a five-year (2016–2021) Task Order working to improve water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming by identifying, researching and sharing best practices for the delivery of WASH services and sustained behavior change. WASHPaLS supports the Agency’s goal of reducing morbidity and mortality in children under 5 as part of the Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths initiative. Through operational research, small grants, and technical assistance, the project works with USAID, governments, key sector donors, and implementers to fill evidence gaps related to rural sanitation and behavior change and support the reduction of open defecation and movement of communities up the sanitation ladder. It also focuses on novel approaches for reducing feces exposure to infants and young children. WASHPaLS is structured around four components:



Offers USAID missions and technical bureaus ready access to thought leaders and analytical expertise across a wide range of WASH themes in response to their needs.


Identifies evidence gaps and generates knowledge to increase the sector’s understanding of and approaches to sustainable sanitation services, focusing specifically on the effectiveness of behavioral and market-oriented approaches to sanitation, and measures to disrupt pathways of fecal exposure to infants and young children.


Administers a small grants program to conduct operational research on novel approaches to hygiene behavior change.


Engages with national- and global-level stakeholders to undertake operational research under Component 2 and promote uptake of WASHPaLS-generated evidence and global best practices by USAID, international sector practitioners and national governments.

Girls Practicing Handwashing in Afghanistan. Photo Credit: USAID / Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS)


WASHPaLS aims to improve USAID’s WASH programming by providing technical support to USAID missions, generating new knowledge about the effective implementation of selected interventions and disseminating learning both within and outside of USAID.

Designed to complement other USAID/Washington WASH technical leadership programming managed by the E3 and Africa bureaus, WASHPaLS focuses particularly on WASH interventions that contribute to improved sanitation access and hygiene behaviors in rural areas. A prime focus is providing sector leadership through innovation and operational research activities that build a rigorous evidence base for new interventions and approaches to address priority problems related to hardware/technologies, behavior change, and the enabling environment for WASH. 

    Activity Status: 

    2016 - 2021

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    *Funding level is inclusive of a $15,000,000 ceiling for Component 1 buy-ins from USAID Operating Units

    Photo Credit: USAID/WASHPaLS



    WASHPaLS results include:

    • Publish literature reviews related to community-led total sanitation (CLTS), market-based sanitation (MBS), and promoting hygienic environments for infants and young children to document the current state of knowledge and identify evidence gaps.
    • Operational research in at least seven countries to address key evidence gaps related to CLTS, MBS and hygienic environments for infants and young children.
    • Active dissemination of research results through peer-reviewed publications, presentations, webinars, national working groups, strategic partnerships and policy-specific knowledge products. 
    • Disbursement of 10 small grants to investigate and generate evidence to support innovative ideas in WASH behavior change programming. Documenting and sharing the results of the grantees work to encourage uptake and scale-up of the successfully approaches. 
    • Application of the learning generated by WASHPaLS by USAID missions, national governments and implementing partners.

    Photo Credit: USAID/WASHPalS


    The WASHPaLS implementation team includes complementary and internationally recognized expertise in WASH programming and research. Additionally, distinguished academics, practitioners, and policy makers from across the WASH sector regularly provide expert perspectives to the project through an internal research working group and an external WASHPaLS advisory board.

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    Tetra Tech Logo

    TETRA TECH has over 30 years of successful WASH sector programming and thought leadership. Tetra Tech provides technical assistance in the areas of rural water supply, sustainability assessments, the sanitation value chain including fecal sludge management, and environmental compliance.

    Aquaya Logo

    AQUAYA INSTITUTE offers experienced scientists and field-based WASH researchers who bring an objective, nimble, and rigorous approach to implementation research. The Aquaya Institute provides technical assistance in the areas of CLTS, water quality, market-based approaches, research design, data collection, and program evaluation.

    FHI 360 Logo

    FHI 360 brings three decades of experience in integrated WASH programming, implementation research, and behavior change approaches. FHI 360 provides technical assistance in the areas of WASH integration including WASH and nutrition, WASH in schools and healthcare facilities, monitoring and evaluation, hygiene, social and behavior change communication and comprehensive behavior-centered programming.

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    FSG offers a formal business analytics perspective to understanding successes and challenges of market-based sanitation interventions. FSG provides technical assistance in the areas of market-based WASH services, market assessments, and inclusive market development.

    Iris Group Logo

    IRIS GROUP brings extensive experience in mixed methods research on women and WASH and gender-equitable approaches to rural and urban sanitation programming. The Iris Group provides technical assistance to the WASHPaLS knowledge management and learning strategy in the areas of gender mainstreaming, social inclusion, and women’s empowerment.


    Gender - Making Soap in Liberia. Photo Credit: Alex Bobor Keimbe, Global Communities Liberia


    USAID/WASHPaLS’ core mission focuses on generating knowledge through partnership with other projects, organizations, and individuals and actively promoting the dissemination and use of the evidence to influence policy and practice both within collaborating country contexts and globally. To this end, the Project organizes webinars, makes presentations and participates in side-events during high-profile WASH conferences, and produces a range of knowledge products including reports, briefs, research summaries, and other materials tailored to local target audiences.  


    Resource Type


    Photo Credit: USAID Afghanistan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) Project Team


    Check out the blogs written by or about the WASHPaLS program.

    Photo Credit: WASHPaLS

    Research Areas

    Through extensive desk reviews, in-depth key informant interviews and field-based implementation research in up to seven countries, WASHPaLS works with implementing partners to broaden the evidence base on the use and effectiveness of sanitation interventions, including CLTS, MBS, and promoting safe hygiene environments for infants and young children.

    CLTS: As guided by the findings of a comprehensive literature review and consultation with global thought-leaders, WASHPaLS implementation research related to CLTS, led by the Aquaya Institute, focuses on three themes: 1) understanding whether targeted subsidies can improve the outcomes of CLTS programs; 2) investigating the relative importance of factors associated with CLTS performance (i.e. identifying a performance envelope for CLTS); and 3) understanding the effect of using Information Communication Technology (ICT) to aid CLTS implementation.

    MBS: Using a similar literature review and consultative process to identify key knowledge gaps, WASHPaLS MBS implementation research, led by FSG, focuses on two themes: 1) Viability: understanding the factors that impact viability of sanitation enterprises, the profile of entrepreneurs who are best suited to act as focal point of sales for the customers, and the types of enterprise capital that are required to improve viability; and 2) Market Rules: understanding the types of changes in market rules (e.g., legislation, government policy, regulation) that can potentially improve viability of sanitation enterprises or increase toilet sales.

    Hygienic Environments: The WASHPaLS Hygienic Environments desk review identified two under-emphasized aspects of Wagner and Lagnoix’s seminal F-diagram that are worthy of increased attention: 1) domestic animal excreta as an important reservoir of disease-causing agents in immediate living environments, and 2) exposure of infants and young children (IYC) to pathogens via ingestion of dirt (geophagy) and/or human and animal excreta as well as through exploratory mouthing behaviors as a critical exposure pathway not disrupted by the traditional suite of WASH measures. Through multi-year research effort led by FHI 360 including aspects of product development, formative research, and experimental trial, WASHPaLS will attempt to understand whether a protective play space (playmat and play pen) significantly reduces exposure of IYC to harmful enteric pathogens.

    Photo Credit: USAID Afghanistan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) Project Team


    In addition to the three research streams noted above, WASHPaLS will investigate innovative ideas in WASH behavior change programming through the management of a small grants program. WASHPaLS will award at least 10 grants to investigate the effectiveness of existing and new innovative and evidence-based approaches to improve and sustain WASH-related behaviors. To date, WASHPaLS has issued three grants that focus on Habit Science and Gender Equity and Social Inclusion. They are:

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    • WASH-in Schools Hygiene Nudges in Ethiopia

    iDE Logo

    • Expanding Women's Role in Nepal's Sanitation Value Chain

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    • mHealth Messaging: an Innovative Approach to Promote Improved Caregiver and Child Hygiene Practices in Bangladesh
    • Household Problem-Solving to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Chicken Feces

    Contact Us

    For more information on WASHPaLS, please contact the USAID Environmental Health Team Lead, Jesse Shapiro (jeshapiro@usaid.gov), or Project Director, Morris Israel (morris.israel@WASHPaLS.org).

    Photo Credit: USAID Afghanistan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) Project Team