Holistic Comprehensive Systemic Change or Piecemeal Solutions?

  • Moritz
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Re: Introduction to theme 1: Holistic Comprehensive Systemic Change or Piecemeal Solutions?

Dear all,

I found Giacomo`s post very inspiring.

From what I experienced, holistic change needs to come through work by city councils, municipalities, national sanitation utilities, ministries, regulations, etc. who have the mandate for urban sanitation. The “sanitation sector” (development organizations, NGOs, consultancy companies etc.) can facilitate this process (not project) (e.g. awareness raising, capacity building, technical support, business development). Good examples are the National Water and Sanitation Utility (ONAS) in Dakar or GIZ/SNV who (among others) sit in ministries, municipalities for many years to facilitate change (in polices, regulations, market development, and implementation of sanitation systems).

However, I feel the discussion about “systemic change” vs. “piecemeal change” is as misleading as discussions about sewer/wastewater treatment vs. FSM, only both will do the job. We have no successful case of a fully functioning sewer/wastewater treatment and FSM system in urban areas of cities in development. This means we have to investigate what works best through piecemeal solutions which can be integrated into long-term systematic solutions. However, I feel that systematic change will only come through work of the above mentioned “local” authorities.

Cheers,
Moritz

Moritz Gold
PhD student ETH Zurich & Eawag/Sandec
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  • Freya
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Re: Introduction to theme 1: Holistic Comprehensive Systemic Change or Piecemeal Solutions?

I agree with both sides that systemic change is necessary to achieve sustainable service delivery and the clear need to incorporate all aspects (FSM/off-site), reach everyone and encompass the entire service chain. However I feel that the piecemeal programs are also needed to trial options and work through the gaps and barriers and create a working platform that is ready to implement the holistic approach.

While Indonesia already has some of the components of systemic change (thanks to the work of a number of organizations over many years which has led to Government support, domestic financing, some institutions and existing infrastructure), many programs focusing on the city strategy, overall planning or funding major infrastructure appear to get stuck on the various gaps in institution and service delivery. During a recent study by WSP World Bank on improving on-site sanitation and increasing connections to sewers, it was found that although the DFAT out-put based grants for connecting low income households to sewerage had a piecemeal approach, they provided a means and incentive to bridge some important gaps in governance and service delivery and a step towards systemic change.

In summary: DFAT provide grants to local government for an agreed number of low income household connections to sewer (around 500 connections in a year), but only after the local government has financed and built them and they have been verified. While it relies on local government ability to finance up-front and requires existing planning documents, institutions and originally in areas with existing treatment, the benefits seen from this approach include: improved planning, the mechanisms and technical skills to build and manage a system, established marketing methods to create demand, and leveraged additional local government investment (to connect more households or cover the gap between cost and grant). Once the city had proven its implementation ability they often received additional national government and donor financing to expand their coverage. Additionally the DFAT program expanded scope to include building decentralised treatment and sewerage where no treatment plant exist, and the National Government is considering setting up its own similar funding program and potentially applying this approach to improve on-site systems and FSM.

While I appreciate each country is different, when some of the sector support and governance aspects already exist, such as in Indonesia, to achieve the huge improvements needed (currently 1% wastewater and 4% sludge safely managed), this small project scope with a focus on actually achieving service delivery appears to be a beneficial step towards systemic change. Leveraging from this successes and a functioning service provider, there is now an opportunity to increase momentum from the other end with sector support (coordination, collaboration, institutional development) and governance, to systematically expand the scope to ensure that the entire area and non-sewered households are included.


Freya Mills
Independent consultant (the above comments are my own and do not represent those of WSP World Bank)
Background: I was the lead researcher on the above mentioned WSP World Bank study “Improving On-site Sanitation and Connections to Sewers in Southeast Asia – Insights from Indonesia and Vietnam” and have worked on various urban sanitation programs in Asia Pacific.
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  • dietvorst
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Re: Summary of discussion week 1, theme 1: Holistic Comprehensive Systemic Change or Piecemeal Solutions?

Summary of discussion week 1, theme 1: Holistic Comprehensive Systemic Change or Piecemeal Solutions?

The discussion on the SuSanA forum was organised from 13 to 23 October 2015. During the first week we had a total of 13 contributions. For those who have missed it, the discussion will run for one more week concurrently with the discussion on the theme for the second week. Note that the introduction to the first week’s theme can be found on the SuSanA website. http://forum.susana.org/forum/categories?func=view&catid=219&id=15395&limit=1000

The guiding questions of last week were:
  1. What are your views on using the systemic change approach for addressing the (urban) sanitation challenges?
  2. Is it justifiable to continue focusing on onsite containment of human faeces and thereby ignoring all the other links of the sanitation chain?
  3. How can we balance the need for systemic long-time change with addressing some of the immediate urgent needs?
Dorothee Sphuler kicked of the discussion by saying that she agreed “that a for a strategic planning level, a systematic view and planning approach is required in order to support more integrated and potentially more unstainable sanitation plans. This was followed by a but, after which a number of challenges were listed:
  1. Systematic approaches are often larger projects and it is difficult to implement such approaches incremental. Institutional arrangements for systematic planning, cross-sectoral dialogue and human and financial resources need to be in place.
  2. Change has to take place simultaneously at different levels from the individual to the organisation. As it is not easy to break down systematic approaches to the impact level of an individual this may lead to piecemeal solutions.
  3. A systematic approach must be linked to the communities in order to ensure participation of all stakeholders leading to ownership and uptake. This requires flexibility so that the approach can be adapted to the needs of the communities.
cmaredkar agreed with Dorothee’s third point by saying that a systematic approach needs to be flexible as per the demand of the community as well as for other stakeholders whose roles keep changing. He further mentioned that it requires good leadership “who can create a revolution within the existing system.”

David Crosweller agreed that a systemic holistic approach may be necessary “I think systematic is great... but it has to be done properly so we have to take as much time as we need”. “It is important to engage the relevant authorities from stage one, but we need to start somewhere and to try and solve everything from day one could be very daunting.”

Avanagthoven fully agreed “with the fact that systemic change is needed to fully solve the issues. However, I don't think it is realistic to get such programmes off the ground as "a systemic whole" due to the way things work in practice. He suggested breaking up the work in “managable pieces of work” and prioritise where to start. There has to be a common view (a clear vision) on what the final situation should look like so that different actors can work at different parts of the same big puzzle. This vision and the leadership for others to buy into that vision is often missing.

Muchie wrote that adopting a systemic change approach is the way to go. While referring to a study by UNC Water Institute (2013) he explained that focussing on toilets will not bring lasting solutions to the sanitation crisis. The entire sanitation chain needs to be investigated to avoid that untreated wastewater and faecal sludge end up into the environment. It must be recognized however that the problem is complex and challenging. Countries which have made good progress in improving sanitation coverage have high prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases largely attributed to poor sanitation. Piecemeal solutions that do not address all the parts of the sanitation chain therefore do not work.

Giacomo Gali wrote that if we are to talk about 'systemic change' rather than 'piecemeal solutions', we should move away from the idea of 'projects' how difficult it may be. Urban sanitation is not the problem of NGOs, consultancy companies etc. instead it should be the problem of the local authorities. They should be the ‘drivers’ of the change process. There is a need for an urban masterplan, with different approaches for different neighbourhoods, to be able to address sanitation throughout the city. The challenge is to see systemic change not just as a 'larger project', but as different way of working. The challenge is to change what is actually 'being done', while changing 'how we do it'. This may include changing our own organisations. Any change process can be broken down in different phases. Establishing a vision and clearly moving away from fragmented project based interventions is a first step.

Responding to Gali’s contribution, David Crosweller wrote that progress can be made in a city “that joins up the dots and works as a cohesive whole.” It is up to us to prove the authorities that the system can work by showing a working, sustainable and a profit making system or model. Once that is done you can think about citywide schemes and upscaling.

Reza Patwary ended his contribution by saying that a carefully designed chosen number of piecemeal solutions can contribute to fixing the sanitation chain. The term 'holistic' is a visionary one but that it often lacks operational level understanding. Reza seems to agree with David when he writes that piecemeal solutions are in actually fact micro demonstrations which over time may lead to a holistic solution. The timespan of 10 years to go through all the three phases was seen as too optimistic. Reza provided the context by introducing the programme he is working in (south Bangladesh) with a strong emphasis on faecal sludge management. Our programme reality is that we are working in every phase simultaneously but with different speed. An example he gave concerned the fixing of human waste containment versus collection and transportation of faecal sludge. Whereas the first intervention is expected to take the longest time, they were able to make greater and bolder steps when developing business models for small entrepreneurs.

Marielle Snel started as follows: “clearly there are astronomical WASH challenges especially in the mega cities around the world in terms of coping with their sanitation issues.” She argued that only through a whole systemic change approach will we able to address the sanitation challenges. Current efforts have mainly targeted at providing access to basic sanitation facilities. Referring to the first guiding question, Marielle invited experts working in the ‘south’ to reflect on the systemic change process with some pragmatic examples. Her second issue concerned the, what seems like, “everlasting fragmentation in partnerships” to deal with the sanitation challenges. She was of the impression that WASH partners are not truly working together to create sustainable sanitation services that last.

The final contribution to date came from Moritz Gold. From his experience, holistic change needs to come from those who have the mandate for urban sanitation. The “sanitation sector” (development organizations, NGOs, consultancy companies etc.) can facilitate this process through different types of support. Good examples are the National Water and Sanitation Utility (ONAS) in Dakar or GIZ/SNV who (among others) sit in ministries, municipalities for many years to facilitate change. According to Moritz the discussion about “systemic change” vs. “piecemeal change” is as misleading as discussions about sewer/wastewater treatment vs. FSM. Only both will do the job. As there are no successful cases, we have to investigate what works best through piecemeal solutions which can be integrated into long-term systematic solutions. Systematic change will only come through work of the above mentioned “local” authorities.

Erick Baetings, IRC

Cor Dietvorst
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  • cmaredkar
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Re: Introduction to theme 1: Holistic Comprehensive Systemic Change or Piecemeal Solutions?

Reza
The issues you have highlighted are ground realities and fragmentation is necessary
developing countries.Dealing with ULB representative local political representative with very little or no knowledge is most difficult task during implementation
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