Driving Change: Strengthening Local Systems in the Water and Sanitation Sectors

Summary

This guide offers insights, tips, and advice to improve public services like water and sanitation through multi-stakeholder collective action and action research. It builds on 5 years of local systems change processes in Ethiopia and Uganda under the Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (SWS), as well as the authors’ decades of experience around the world. The aim of the guide is to equip the reader with some of the tools and knowledge needed to become a champion and “systems leader” for radical improvements in public services. This is achieved through a series of case studies, including reflections and wisdom from systems change facilitators in each context.

The case studies in this guide were written to demonstrate three main pillars of local systems change: (1) understanding systems, (2) using learning alliances to convene stakeholders and develop a vision and change agenda, and (3) using action research for developing and testing innovations and making direct changes to the system. 

The final section presents cross-cutting analysis of the lessons learned through the case studies. It presents some general principles to adhere to, as well as common pitfalls to avoid, when taking this approach. In particular, contextual considerations and funding and project setup must be considered before choosing to embark on a local systems change journey.