Triple-S Sustainable Services at Scale (IRC, Ghana, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Honduras and India)


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Triple-S Sustainable Services at Scale (IRC, Ghana, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Honduras and India)

Dear Susana Colleagues,

Please find herewith the project information for Triple-S Sustainable Services at Scale, an IRC-led Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant that ran from 2008 – 2014.

I was involved in the monitoring, learning and training activities of Triple-S throughout the project as well as in documenting the initiative’s efforts in Ghana and Uganda to foster systemic change in how the WASH sector delivers sustainable rural water services.

Feel free to contact me should you have any inquiries about the work of Triple-S and/or visit the project page on IRC’s website for more information.

Best regards,


Title of grant: Sustainable Services at Scale (Triple-S)
  • Name of lead organization: IRC
  • Primary contact at lead organization: Deirdre Casella
  • Grantee location: The Hague, The Netherlands
  • Developing country where the research was tested: Ghana, Uganda as focus countries with additional Triple-S co-funded activities in Burkina Faso, Honduras and India.
  • Start and end date: December 2008 – November 2014
  • Grant type: Global Development
  • Grant size in USD: $24,074,261 (as per BMGF grant database )
Short description of the project:
Triple-S (Sustainable Services at Scale) was a six-year, multi-country learning initiative aimed at contributing to addressing the challenge of sustainability of rural water supply. Triple-S pursued a vision of “sustainable rural water services at scale” where all rural people can easily and reliably access water that is of good quality and sufficient quantity, from a source that is reliable and easily accessible. Triple-S sought to contribute to this vision by catalysing a “whole system change” in the WASH sector.

At the heart of this change process is a shift in mission for the sector: away from the provision of new infra-structure and towards the provision of service. The service delivery approach championed through the Triple-S project focuses on long-term provision of water services at scale, as opposed to the implementation of one-off projects at the community level. Sustainable water services require on-going support for service providers and governments in charge of planning and sector coordination as well as a radical shift in the way the main stakeholders, and specifically external aid agencies, operate in the rural water supply sector.

The goal of Triple-S was to deliver change in the paradigm by which rural water services are delivered: from hardware to services that last.

Triple-S had two main objectives related to this goal:
  1. The “What”: relating to “what” the rural water sector needs to do in order to move away from an almost exclusive focus on new investments (putting pipes in the ground to increase coverage) to one that is focused on sustainable services at scale. Triple-S sought to articulate what the elements of such a Service Delivery Approach (SDA) are and communicate about those in a clear and accessible manner;
  2. The “How”: this relates to “how” such a change in approach can be influenced in the context of a “complex system” such as the rural water sector. Triple-S sought to demonstrate that a “whole systems change” approach can work to deliver lasting change, i.e. by influencing the different actors whose actions need to be aligned in order to deliver sustainable services. It also develops a vision whereby a “backbone organisation” (embodied by IRC in this context) supports and promotes a shift in culture, to emphasise learning and experimentation and foster change at sector level.
Research or implementation partners:
Partners included AguaConsult, UK. In Ghana the Community Water and Sanitation Agency. In Uganda the Ministry of Water and Environment , Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS) , Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET) and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation Uganda .

Links, further readings – results to date: Current state of affairs: The project concluded on 20 November 2014.

Biggest successes so far:
In relation to the goal of seeing a change in the paradigm by which rural water services are delivered: from hardware to services that last, examples of noteworthy successes include improved approaches for service monitoring; asset inventories and life-cycle costing; and piloting several interventions around post-construction support in Ghana and Uganda.

The Triple-S End of Project Evaluation , available via this blog post by IRC’s CEO Patrick Moriarty, provides further details about both the project’s successes as well as areas where the project did not succeed to deliver. Insights into where the evaluators thing IRC and the wider sector should focus in the coming period to achieve universal WASH services are also provided.

Main challenges / frustration:
The End-of-Project Evaluation (see here: highlighted the fact that after three years of effort in our pilot districts, project data does not show clear movement on quality of services delivered - this despite numerous anecdotes of increased user satisfaction and real efforts by our local government partners to bring more resources to bear to address issues of sustainability.

Other lingering frustrations are related to the persistence among donors in the WASH sector to fund short project cycles. Typically three to five years in duration, these cycles do not match with systemic-change ambitions that would result in the desired paradigm shift from and which require longer periods of time.

Lastly, the overall insufficiency of funding available for the WASH sector remains a real challenge. It remains critical to mobilize more resources into rural water: leading to genuinely scaled and genuinely sustainable solutions that don't rely on constant new injections of charitable or aid funding.


Deirdre C. Casella
Programme Officer | Monitoring, Learning & Training | IRC
+31 70 304 4017 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. |

External PhD Candidate | Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Technology, Policy & Management | Engineering Systems and Services Department
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