Measuring Systems Change in WASH Programming: A Practical Application of Two Tools

This report provides a guide to the practical application of two tools to effectively monitor systems change in WASH programming. The USAID-funded Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership built a complexity-aware monitoring approach to measure changes in local WASH systems as part of its performance management framework that includes outcome mapping and sustainability scorecards. Outcome mapping tracks progress in influencing the behaviors and actions of direct partners on the project; Sustainability scorecards measure the status of financial, institutional, environmental, technological, and social components of the system that are expected to influence sustainability.

SWS selected these methods for their complementarity. The scorecards provide an annual high-level assessment of critical factors that contribute to sustainable service delivery. At the same time, outcome mapping allows for the ongoing monitoring of changes in the behaviors and relationships of actors in the system. These methods supplement SWS’s other standard approaches to performance monitoring, such as quantitative monitoring of project activities and outputs and in-depth technical and contextual baselines and analyses. Additionally, SWS requires implementation teams to keep careful project records (e.g., meeting reports, after-action reviews, staff notes) so information can be cross- referenced and fact-checked. SWS is building an evidence base to serve as a resource for implementation teams as they learn from and adapt their activities, and for dedicated research teams focused on learning across contexts for more generalizable lessons and insights. 

This report introduces the methodologies for outcome mapping and scorecard development and how these tools have been applied within SWS. It concludes with recommendations to best apply these tools and detailed examples of each tool. 

Underlying a systems approach is the recognition that social, political, and environmental contexts are complex, with multiple interacting parts. In such contexts, the need for effective monitoring is even more acute because the impacts of interventions are hard to predict in advance and are likely to have unforeseen effects. This resource introduces practitioners to standardized tools that account for the complex nature of WASH systems to effectively monitor interventions for sustainable outcomes.