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Hands-Off: where taking a step back is several steps forward

Download the paper: Strengthening the sanitation market system: WaterSHED’s Hands-Off experience

Download the accompanying: presentation

When we characterize our approach to developing market systems as “Hands-Off,” we are not trying to make a new development buzzword happen. We want to convey a deep commitment to the longevity and legitimacy of local systems. In action, this means working strategically behind the scenes, with decision-making supported by data.

Since 2011, more than 200,000 pour-flush toilets have been purchased by rural customers in our target provinces. These sales have generated at least 10 million USD in revenue for more than 300 rural business partners serving 40% of the country by population. Across Cambodia, rural improved sanitation access has increased from 22.9% of households in 2009 (CSES, 2010) to 67.4% in 2016 (CSES, 2017).

How did we get here? Since our objective is to support local actors to build a stronger system rather than delivering services ourselves, we have had an exit strategy from the beginning. Today, we are progressively withdrawing from key responsibilities as they are taken up by market actors and government leaders.

For the first time, we reflect on ten years of Hands-Off market-based sanitation in a conference paper published by IRC for the All Systems Go! WASH Systems Symposium in the Hague, Netherlands.