Introduction on stakeholder based project development
prepared by TUT/IWA (members of Task 1.3)
Developing water and sanitation systems inevitably means that the type and level of technology must be decided and agreed upon by all key actors relevant to sustainable sanitation. There are several principles that govern technology choice. For example, the technology must be acceptable to the community in terms of providing a level of service that satisfies the demand. The community or household is much more likely to maintain technology when it is felt to make a useful contribution to the quality of life. It must also be culturally and socially acceptable to the user. If not, and in spite of potential benefits, it will simply not be used. Therefore, it is obvious that the community must be involved in decisions concerning technology choice (Millennium Water Alliance 2003).
Partnership for development
Partnership aims at greater programme impact, which can be achieved through integrating the specialist knowledge and skills of a diverse group of stakeholders. However, to be effective a partnership must be formed that combines expertise in health, agriculture, environment, entrepreneurship, and policy development. It is unrealistic to expect one entity to be able to offer all these skill areas. The partnership should consist of external entities such as international NGOs and the private sector; and local partners including government, universities, NGOs and CBOs.
A further aim of the partnership approach is to increase the capacity of local partners. This brings about permanent change through exposure to new methods, formal and hands-on training, and confidence building. It reduces dependency and ensures the right to self-determination. At its core, the partnership approach rests on the assumption of valuing other people’s knowledge and dignity. It affirms the right and responsibility of the stakeholders themselves to lead, not just participate in, their own development process. The role of the external partners is to foster and support that local leadership and facilitate working relationships among the key local stakeholders (Millennium Water Alliance 2003).
Participation and a participatory approach
Participation is a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them. Ownership of a project by stakeholders involves ensuring the widest possible participation of those who are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the project. The essence of ownership is that these beneficiaries drive the process. That is, they drive the planning, the design, the implementation, the monitoring and the evaluation of the project.
The main tenet of participative approaches to development is that the community and stakeholders are collaborators in a project at every stage of project development. Thus, participative methods are meant to generate a sense of ownership of decisions and actions. This is contrary to the model of development where project conceptualisation, objectives and design are imposed on the community by people external to the community who are characterised as experts. Participatory approaches can also challenge perceptions, leading to a change in attitude and agendas. They can also provide new and sometimes surprising insights (WEDC 2002).
In the field of sanitation, it may well be that interventions reliant upon behaviour change may fail if the community was not involved in designing these. However, when communities are involved, such messages are much better understood and subsequently better accepted. A secondary benefit is that members of the community will subsequently be better placed to act as change agents.
It is important that all stakeholders are involved in the development of projects and not just direct beneficiaries. Three levels of stakeholder defined to include beneficiaries can be considered:
- Primary stakeholders such as direct beneficiaries (end users, farmers, urban poor etc.)
- Secondary stakeholders such as intermediaries (e.g. professionals, advisers, practitioners, consultants, experts, etc.)
- External stakeholders such as decision, policy makers (politicians, senior civil servants, etc.)
All three groups are important to have them represented on the project as stakeholders if the necessary commitment is to be achieved. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that when a diverse range of stakeholders are engaged in a project, account is taken of the huge differentials in power relationships which could negate the value of a participatory approach. The danger is in a powerful stakeholder group hijacking the entire project with other groups being relegated to passive bystanders (WEDC 2002).
2.4. Difficulties in implementing participatory approaches
Despite an increasing interest in participatory approach there is much less understanding of, and even lesser agreement on, what community participation means and entails, and under what conditions is it necessary. For example, Khwaja (2004) shows that while community participation improves project outcomes in non-technical decisions, increasing community participation in technical decisions actually leads to worse project outcomes.
There are two potential pitfalls to take into account when implementing participatory approaches. Firstly, engaging the poor is often a far more difficult task than engaging the more powerful stakeholder groups. For example, it is fairly easy to demonstrate to government officials why their participation in a particular initiative would be valuable. It is not the same for the poor and therefore different techniques are required to achieve the objectives. For this reason, participatory approaches usually involve groups working on the ground or on paper. Examples of techniques used include (WEDC 2002):
- Maps, flow diagrams, seasonal calendars, matrices etc.
- Visual techniques are a good way to engage the poor especially where local materials are used for preparation of resources. Visual techniques also encourage creativity and the exchange of ideas.
Secondly, for participatory techniques to work effectively, the implementing agency must itself be prepared to change and learn to accept change. The main changes are (WEDC 2002):
- Loss of power. The agency should be prepared to accept “a loss of power”.
- Learn to listen. The agency should be prepared to listen actively and not pay lip service.
- Loss of control. The agency should be prepared to cede control to the community so that they own the project or initiative.