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Evidence that community involvement improves the effectiveness of emergency projects

Hi, I would like concrete examples and lessons learnt that can be included as annexes or references in any proposal I need to write concerning the success of community involvement in projects, especially in slum or camp areas.

So for example if there's any report of things done in Port au Prince camps in terms of hygiene committees, management/maintenance of public/portable toilets, if they have tried to use waste containers and how they have motivated and organised people on the camps to use it. How they have done the contact with public or private enterprise for waste collection etc

How they have managed to implicate and include the people living in the community, maybe by paying them incentive, or bringing a contract IEC Health and hygiene promoters teams from other areas, or just convincing them its the right thing to do, etc.

I thing this kind of report with lesson learnt will be very useful to see which approach we can do in complex contexts (temporary and illegal settlements with any service in terms of waste and sewage, and without space to include hygiene facilities, flooded during rainy season and so on or refugee camps, tent cities..)

Thanks in advance for your help in this matter and feel free to spread the request around your networks. Regards Paul

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Hi “community involvement” can mean different things to different people. Paul’s email seems to be referring more to community contributions to agency projects; others would argue that it should be turned around the other way. Regards

Tim Foster

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The question is quite broad, as is the meaning of community participation. The reality is that all interventions are based on participation, and each agency seeks to manage it in one way or another. Anyway, I am not sure if the following will be useful.

You could contact the DEC, community participation and review their external evaluations, which always include a section on community participation. Evidence is a strong word to use, and from the reports that I have reviewed it is often circumstantial. On the other hand the evaluations are independent and often include a high degree of stakeholder discussions, and they use a limited number of consultants on these so you may be able to line up interviews.

Oxfam used a waste management company/environmental sanitation company in Port au Prince, there is a project report on the EEH 2010 conference on the Loughboro/WEDC website. Oxfam are also experimenting with PPP models and local organisations on sanitation in the Nairobi slums, this is still very much at the pilot stage.

You could also try looking at the exponentially increasing volume of literature on CLTS (I think UNICEF have rebranded this a little to Community Based Total Sanitation, but the central idea remains the same) the TearFund have used CLTS in humanitarian contexts in South Sudan, so you could contact them. Alternatively try

Regards John

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Dear Paul et al,

In general, there is very few rigorous or large-scale evaluations of hygiene promotion (not least because it is both hard and expensive to measure effectiveness reliably). Even where decent evaluations do exist, it is often difficult to attribute positive outcomes and impacts to specific activities, approaches or elements (e.g. community participation) due to the integrated nature of the interventions (most programs and projects use multiple, over-lapping approaches to promote many different areas of sanitation and hygiene improvement but make little effort to unpick which of these is working or is most cost-effective, and often monitor only one or two generic outputs or outcomes).

And I'm not aware of any specific evaluations in emergency contexts. I'd guess that if we struggle to do this well in a development context then it is even less likely that there is decent evidence available from emergency contexts?

That said, most practitioners and researchers would agree that community participation is a good thing for all of the intuitive reasons. But there is growing evidence that intensive community participation approaches are often expensive and difficult to scale up, and may not be the most cost-effective solution to improving WASH behaviours at scale.

As a result, more structured, targeted and cost-effective approaches to sanitation and hygiene promotion are gaining widespread support - such as the CLTS approach mentioned by John (UNICEF's version is called CATS: Community Approaches to Total Sanitation), which is a community-led process with a very specific focus that uses practical and cost-effective triggering tools; and also promotion using social marketing techniques (sanitation marketing and handwashing campaigns), structured promotion through community health clubs and so on.

Most of these approaches recognise that we must move away from the simplistic assumption that imparting knowledge about germs and disease will change behaviour (i.e. top-down health and hygiene education does not work very well), and that simple interventions focused on one behaviour change tend to be more successful (and are easier to replicate and scale up) than those that try to promote too many messages and behaviour changes at one time (thus require highly skilled facilitators). Regards Andy

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Dear all:

I have included the two case studies we used for the WASH resources section of the Elearning course ( and then a list of resources. Hope it’s helpful.

Regards, Julie

WASH Issues Case Study #1: Gender Mainstreaming in Community-based Flood Risk Management Bangladesh In early 2004 in a flood-prone area of Bangladesh, several agencies undertook a project using a community-based information system to reduce flood vulnerability. As part of the effort, the team used gender mainstreaming to reduce flood vulnerability. The objective was to identify best practices regarding flood preparedness, information dissemination, vulnerability and risk reduction.

The process began with a sensitization meeting at a local government institute with the participation of local NGOs to identify men's and women's needs. The team also used interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and open-ended discussions to identify specific needs. The research led to new ways of communicating flood information and the setting of river flow danger levels for every village.

The team produced flood warnings in the local language using different media, including posters, photographs and audio tapes; the process both strengthened local institutions and gave community members, particularly illiterate people, important information on activities such as evacuating cattle, crop and emergency food preparedness and organizing boats for evacuation.

In the 2004 flood, men and women in the community studied benefited greatly from new mechanisms, such as a flag network, microphones in mosques and drum beating. Timely messages addressing the concerns of local women helped them better prepare for floods. One woman said: I can store dry food, my poultry, shift my paddy and raise my plinth level if I understand the language of the forecast.

WASH Issues Case Study #2: Gender Equality and Access to Water and Sanitation Nicaragua In 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit Nicaragua, leaving more than 4000 dead. In the aftermath, many rural communities faced a double tragedy of drought and high contamination levels of scarce water sources. The transport, use and management of water resources, as well as sanitation activities, were considered the responsibility of women and children, and there were no mechanisms that supported gender equality to accomplish these tasks or social recognition of the problems the women and children faced as they conducted these activities.

In response, development professionals worked with communities to build latrines and new water systems to improve water access for the 17,000 people in 45 communities, while also improving local understanding of water rights and issues.

The team identified gender inequalities that needed to be addressed to ensure community participation and improve the project's sustainability. Promoters of the project, both women and men, lived in the community three days each week to gain the trust of all community members. They also recorded relevant gender inequalities and held gender sensitization workshops to teach both men and women the importance of their participation in planning, directing, constructing and administering water systems.

After three sessions (one for only women, one for only men, and one mixed), men's ... (more)

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