Facilitating local strengthening of WASH systems: Whose understanding counts?
Systems approaches have achieved prominence of late as a means to address complexity in WASH services delivery – situations characterised by conflicting interests between actors and by knowledge gaps and uncertainties – particularly at local levels. In Ethiopia, the establishment of
stakeholder platforms (Learning Alliances) by IRC and Tetra Tech to advance a systems approach
at rural district and small-town levels provides scope for learning on realising change in the WASH
sectors. This paper reflects on experiences in combining the systems approach with the learning
alliance methodology, promoting these with local WASH stakeholders, and working within a multilayered project and programme context. Learning Alliances have the potential to engage diverse local stakeholders, through working and learning together, and to develop the collective adaptive capacity needed to strengthen local WASH systems. The paper sets out the processes followed to establish WASH Learning Alliances, examines some of the associated risks and constraints, and identifies options for making improvements.