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Fostering Local Leadership to Create an Enabling Environment for WASH

Presentation by WaterSHED at WASH Futures Conference, Brisbane, March 2018.
Download the initial findings of the evaluation of Civic Champions Program here.


Engagement and strong leadership by local authorities, especially subnational government, is often seen as exogenous to program activities despite their importance for efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability. This session will describe how WaterSHED, a local NGO in Cambodia, designed, piloted and scaled up a model to engage local government in promoting hygiene and sanitation in their communities.

The Civic Champions leadership development program engages elected commune councilors in rural Cambodia to iteratively “discover” new, non-WASH-specific leadership behaviours, “develop” them through practice and coaching, and “deliver” tangible achievements using their leadership. The cycle repeats every three months over a 9-month period. Participants apply to join and pay a participation fee.

The project evaluation undertaken in 2016 showed that 205 (19% of all eligible) councilors from 105 communes across 16 rural districts participated in the project. During the nine months of implementation, the participants facilitated 15,320 households to install improved toilets equivalent to a 6.9 percentage point increase in sanitation coverage in participating areas. The total program cost was equivalent to USD 14.60 per toilet. Six months after the end of the project, new latrine uptake in the target areas remains 104% higher than in non-target areas.

The project succeeded in establishing a reward and peer-learning mechanism that fostered innovation and that motivated participants to excel as leaders. The cascade training model employed to reach greater scale meaningfully engaged all levels of subnational government, which contributed significantly to the project’s impact and scalability.

This session is relevant for WASH practitioners because it will demonstrate how leadership development at the local level can be implemented as a powerful, cost-effective and sustainable way to equip local government to implement highly effective and locally adapted strategies to promote improved sanitation and hygiene.