Thematic Discussion 8: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors (14-22 April)

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Invitation: Join us for a thematic discussion on working with community leaders to change WASH behaviors! (14-22 April)

Results for Development Institute , the Millennium Water Alliance , and Dasra are hosting a thematic discussion as part of their work with the WASH Impact Network : a group of over 120 WASH innovators across India and East Africa.

We invite you to join a conversation on the opportunities and challenges of working with community leaders (both formal and informal) to achieve WASH behavior change.

How can we do a better job of leveraging the influence of community leaders to change some of the social and cultural norms that prevent uptake of health WASH behaviors?

The guiding questions for this discussion are:

1. How can community leaders play a larger role in efforts to achieve universal adoption of healthy WASH behaviors?
2. What can we learn from working with natural leaders in CLTS that can inform how we work with them in other WASH approaches?
3. What are some of the challenges of working with natural leaders? What are some challenges of working with appointed leaders?
4. What are some best practices for working with natural leaders? What are some best practices of working with appointed leaders?

The discussion will take place here on the SuSanA forum from April 14th - April 22nd.

A summary of the discussion will be shared widely at the end. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas!

Emily Endres
Senior Program Associate

Results for Development Institute
Washington, DC
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  • ErinR4D
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Re: Thematic Discussion 8: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors (14-22 April)

Working with community leaders to influence WASH behaviors in communities

In order to realize the health and economic benefits that come from improved WASH outcomes, both the “hardware” (facilities such as latrines) and “software” (such as behaviors, beliefs, norms) aspects of WASH must be addressed. One of the lessons that has been learned about effective WASH programs is that providing access to the hardware is not enough if the hardware isn’t being used.

But changing behaviors has been a persistent challenge, especially when WASH behaviors are influenced by strong cultural and social norms or beliefs. For example, in India, researchers have found that much of the persistently high open defecation (OD) rates are closely related to beliefs, values and norms around cleanliness, private versus public spaces, purity, caste and untouchability ( squatreport.in/ ). In Madagascar, UNICEF found that beliefs and traditions related to gender and burial practices are key influencers of WASH behaviors. In addition, they found that certain people within a community influence WASH attitudes and preferences, including administrative authorities, moral authorities, patriarchs, and ethnic leaders ( www.unicef.org/esaro/UNICEF-FN-CLTS-Madagascar-low-res.pdf ).

By contrast, Bangladesh’s early success is in part attributed to their ability to spur a social movement that changed the way that open defecation and latrine use was perceived by the society. A study on the sustainability of the National Sanitation Campaign in Bangladesh found that respondents “remembered [the campaign] as a ‘revolution’ (biplob),” and some even considered it to be “a genuine social movement (jagaron), like the one that led up to national independence in 1971.”
( www.planningalternatives.com/sitebuilder...bility_unc_paper.pdf )

Achieving a social revolution around WASH behaviors—something that is likely needed in many places where access is high but usage is low—will require working closely with influential community leaders with strong social ties. There is ample research in the fields of organizational management and social science that explore this connection between cultural change and leadership—see the research on diffusion theory, leadership-focused models, social network theory, social movement/community mobilization theory, models of changing the social environment, and public communications/media models.
( www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231437/ )

In the WASH sector, however, there is little research around social ties and influence, and the ability of community leaders to spark changes in social norms, beliefs and attitudes related to WASH. Most models involve close coordination with community leaders, but normally the activities are focused on advocating with appointed government officials or aligning WASH activities to existing policies. For other types of social influencers that are not in formal positions of power, like natural leaders, the conversation seems limited to CLTS, where natural leaders are identified during the triggering process and are charged with ensuring that community and individual action plans are followed through.

What we know from social science research is that community leaders—both formal and informal—can influence behaviors and mindsets within their social networks. What we know from WASH research and experience is that persistent social norms, beliefs and attitudes prevent the adoption of critical WASH behaviors such as consistent latrine use, hand washing with soap, and point-of-use water treatment.

So what are some of the opportunities and challenges around working with community leaders, and how can we do a better job of leveraging their influence within a community to address some of the social and cultural norms that prevent uptake of healthy WASH behaviors?

The guiding questions for this discussion are:
  1. How can community leaders play a larger role in efforts to achieve universal adoption of healthy WASH behaviors?
  2. What can we learn from working with natural leaders in CLTS that can inform how we work with them in other WASH approaches?
  3. What are some of the challenges of working with natural leaders? What are some challenges of working with appointed leaders?
  4. What are some best practices for working with natural leaders? What are some best practices of working with appointed leaders?


This discussion will be facilitated by Results for Development Institute (R4D) and the Millennium Water Alliance. A summary of the discussion will be shared widely after the two-week period. We look forward to your valuable insights and contributions from April 14 - April 22!

Erin Swearing
Program Associate
Results for Development Institute
1111 19th Street, N.W, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036 USA
Office: +1-202-792-4817
Fax: +1-202-470-5712
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www.r4d.org
Skype: Erin.Swearing
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Erin, I am assuming the discussion will be conducted here. If so, it looks like I am the first responder. It looks as though you want to concentrate on just the software, behavioral factors. Clearly Natural Leaders emerging from CLTS efforts play a huge role as tehy are often the behavioral mavens in a community.
The elected or appointed leaders in a community can play a role but my experience is that they often get in the way and are less trusted by the community. Cultures of corruption also get in the way of effecting change through an appointed or elected leader.
I hope others might shed some light on this brief contribution to the discussion.
..Steve

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Note by moderators: This post was made by a former user with the login name smecca who is no longer a member of this discussion forum.
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  • ErinR4D
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Hi Steve,

Thanks for starting this discussion and sharing your experience!

I see that you mentioned that there appeared to be a focus on software in the prompt. If you have any insights on this discussion with regards to behavior change hardware, please feel free to share them as well.

Looking forward to more responses on this. :)

Erin Swearing
Program Associate
Results for Development Institute
1111 19th Street, N.W, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036 USA
Office: +1-202-792-4817
Fax: +1-202-470-5712
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Hi, adopting the participatory approach in the implementation of WASH strategies would help increase the rate of its effectiveness. Thus involving the stakeholders of the beneficiary societies. This will as well help the strategy to capture the norms and attitude of the people which would eventually ensure smooth adaptation to the WASH strategy. With the leadership of the community be it appointed or natural, their exclusive roles should be spelt out in the framework. As the natural leaders has no specific time frame for their office they can serves as checks to the appointed leaders who has a specified time of office.
Thank you.
Kofi Nsenkyire
Wwfc Ghana representative
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  • ErinR4D
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Hi Kofi,

You bring up a good point about the limits on the time frame for natural leaders and how this can be beneficial in managing the community's relationship with the appointed leader.

Is there anyone that can speak to having difficulty working with both appointed and natural leaders in one community?

Erin Swearing
Program Associate
Results for Development Institute
1111 19th Street, N.W, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036 USA
Office: +1-202-792-4817
Fax: +1-202-470-5712
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Hi, thanks for the quick response and attention to my post. One other major difficulty is not the working relationship with the community leaders but lackadaisical attitude of the authorities or institutions set up to oversee WASH activities or strategies. Sometimes they shift the blame to inadequate resource materials to aid in their work which demotivates them. Also people in high authorities coming in to plead on behalf of culprits. This makes the punitive measures put in place useless.
Thank you.
Kofi Nsenkyire
Wwfc Ghana representative
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

This is a very good discussion thread here and I am happy to share on this topic. It so happens that today and tomorrow (14th and 15th) I am working with Natural Leaders and Traditional Leaders in the GSF funded Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) programme.

To explore the role community leaders can play in the effort to achieve healthy WASH behaviour, we must understand the categories of community leaders, their legitimacy or otherwise, and whether they have been triggered to a behaviour change or not.

One thing I have learnt from natural leaders in my experience of WASH is that when they become very effective in bringing about change in the community, when CLTS is effective and the community become ODF, they gain the respect of community members who can identify the role they play in stopping open defecation in the community. For many of the natural leaders, this and the passion to stop open defecation is enough motivation.

If we are going to engage community leaders to play more active role in healthy WASH behaviour and behaviour change in communities, they too must emerge as champions and not coerced in to playing this role just because they are community leaders. This is a lessons that can be learnt from CLTS in engaging community leaders in other approaches to sanitation and hygiene.

In my meetings today with communities leaders and natural leaders, the natural leaders where facilitated through the use of an institutional triggering tool (called the 'rugby' tool) to trigger the community leaders. Only when they were triggered did they agree to take action. First they agreed to stop open defecation themselves, and then support the natural leaders as they work in communities.

Note that since the natural leaders in this case do not have any 'official authority' gaining the support of these community leaders to support in facilitating change in their community becomes necessary. This therefore is one role the community leaders can play.
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  • VERS
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Its very important for opinion leaders in every community to organize educational workshop on the importance of washing to change behaviors of its members so that they understand wash behaviors, the benefit and its achievement during and after wash.And teachers should add wash behaviors in their school programs, school children should be used as the ambassadors of wash behaviors in communities, parents should also help their children to carry out this noble project for us to archived the Universal goal.
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Hi there,

When I hear the term "natural leaders" I think automatically of CLTS, but I gather this thematic discussion is broader than CLTS alone and trying to utilise the "natural leaders" concept also to other behavior change approaches. That sounds good.

However one question I have: are we talking mostly about rural settings here rather than urban settings? I have the suspicion that "community leaders" are more common (and better established) in rural communities than for urban slums. I could imagine (but I have no data on that) that for urban slums, many people live "completely on their own", without the support structure of a "community" or "community leaders". If anything, there could even be bad-apple community leaders, i.e. those that operate with criminal intentions or taking advantage of others, e.g. charging huge rents for tiny dwellings, not allowing water kiosks to be built and rather sell water to people at a premium and things like that.

Therefore, what are your thoughts on rural versus urban in this context?

Raymond (login name VERS), you mentioned "opinion leaders" in your post above mine - is that the same or different to community leaders? I would say it is slightly different.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • indrabadu
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

Dear all
I am agree that the community leaders to change Wash behaviors are very important in rural areas and urban as well and also good point about there time frame. I want to add the capacity building of the leaders and differentiate the role of the different type of community leaders in different places.
How they are leading the community people, like social aspects, cultural aspects, and others. and the urban level leaders have some different leading role mainly in the semi urban areas where the un-managed migration is one of the issues. So capacity building of the community leaders for the sustainable changes in WASH behaviors is very important part with their leading areas.
Second thing is , we should go with both CLTS and SLTS approach in rural area of developing countries...
Third thing is, quality of external facilitation with internal participation in the community with their own approaches of livelihood. behavioral changes is the directly related to the community living approaches, their livelihood sources, norms and value and other aspects.
to be continue the discussion.......
Indra Raj Badu
Social and Institutional Development Specialist
RVWRMP, Nepal
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  • Rajansw
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Re: Thematic Discussion: Working with Community Leaders to Change WASH Behaviors

First of all I would like to express through the experience working very closely with the community in different part of the country that, there is a need of leader to take the motivation always lit.
We need to identify the right person for that and investing in their capacity building to further understand the issue and scope to work on. However I strongly believe that even though there is a need of specific focus towards the issue like WASH but it has to be an integrated approach.
The sustainability part becomes sustained if we have such locally motivated leaders to take the issue, at the same time there is a need to educate the all irrespective.
Finance is one of the challenges which government needs to address in fair and just way, which is the main concern of the people.

The above are the few observations at this point of time would like to keep in front of the platform.
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