Monitoring, capacity development and learning for improvement are often addressed as separate processes. By linking monitoring with learning and capacity development, we can take action for improvement.
There is a clear need to strengthen continuous joint monitoring and ensure that it contributes to building the capacities of sector stakeholders to ensure that water and sanitation services continue working and reach everyone.
The session we organized at UNESCO-IHE’s symposium last month provided an opportunity to reflect on the potential links between monitoring, learning and capacity development.We looked into the experience of developing a country-wide system for monitoring rural water supplies in Uganda and in Honduras.
In the course of 10-years, Uganda has developed a monitoring system that feeds into planning, coordination and capacity development.
In Honduras the system is still a work in progress, but there is already evidence of learning, capacity development and better post construction support, all crucial for keeping the water flowing.
How does WASH monitoring contribute to building sector capacities and improving service delivery?
Both cases demonstrate the potential of monitoring for sector improvement. Better service delivery requires that people systematically learn about what works and what doesn’t, so that they can improve. Capacity support so that they can do their jobs better is also crucial.
At IRC’s Symposium in April this year a range of related lessons about monitoring emerged:
- a means to an end. not an end in itself: it’s about enabling people to take action that ensures water and sanitation services reach everyone and last forever
- a process. In developing a monitoring system, you need to build on existing capacities and consider resources needed,
- cooperation and trust among a range of stakeholder and trust to support critical reflection,
- transparency and commitment to change.
There is no one- size-fits- all monitoring solution
- flexibility and realism are needed.
Capacity development: both requirement and result of monitoring
The process of collection, joint systematic reflection and analysis requires capacities and if well facilitated it can empower people to be more competent at analysing and presenting the data, more articulate communicating this information and advocating for action. Community groups can also use monitoring to hold service providers and politicians accountable about their investment priorities. In both Uganda and Honduras users’ feedback is included in the monitoring system.
The cases of Honduras and Uganda show that WASH service delivery monitoring has potential for strengthening capacity in the sector for:
- better targeting of post-construction support so that facilities that are constructed continue to function
- developing policy and strategies, based on sound evidence, good practices and innovations
Capacity needs can be identified for each step in the monitoring process, from deciding what to measure and how, to data collection and to using the data for action.
Learning from monitoring journeys traveled by others
The purposes of monitoring WASH service delivery are as diverse as the number of stakeholders involved. Different countries have different monitoring journeys, but there is potential to learn from each other.
Key lessons about developing a country-wide monitoring system are:
- Build on existing monitoring systems and practices even incomplete/ not perfect.
- Keep monitoring simple, relevant and action-oriented; Develop a system that is realistic given existing capacities and monitoring systems.
- Consider how information flows upwards and downwards: feedback from users on service delivery, presentation of monitoring results in formats that can be understood and accessed and used.
- Decentralize most of the steps in monitoring – ensure support to local governments in implementing the monitoring system and making sense of the data.
- Assign responsibilities for implementing and for financing continuous monitoring.
- Assess capacity needs and plan for required capacity development support.
Well-documented experiences from countries like Uganda and Honduras are certainly a useful resource for others who are in the process of developing country monitoring systems.
In Latin America, IRC has supported and written about the process of developing indicators for monitoring the sustainability of rural WASH services and defining the institutional arrangements for monitoring in El Salvador, Honduras and Paraguay. In Ghana, IRC has been working with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) to monitor sustainable water service provision.
IRC’s symposium generated many other case studies and helped clarify lessons, challenges and remaining questions around monitoring sustainability of water and sanitation services (see for example the presentations here).
And besides documents, it is clear that conversations can help us learn from each other. Our session was too short to really get into the nitty gritty. A discussion-group on national sector water monitoring provides further opportunity for further on-line dialogue and exchange of lessons. Check it out! www.dgroups.org/rwsn
- IRC supports the development of sustainability indicators in Latin America (IRC website)
- Learning from sustainability monitoring (on this weblog)
- Joint sector monitoring, a tool for capacity development? (on this weblog)
- Capacity Development, from Rio to Reality (on this weblog)
- Monitoring, learning and adaptation – important lessons from Uganda for development partners
- IRC’s weblog on WASH monitoring
- Institutionalising the monitoring of rural water supply services in Latin America; lessons from El Salvador, Honduras and Paraguay. By Stef Smits, Erma Uytewaal and Germán Sturzenegger (2013)
- The status of rural water supply services in Ghana: A synthesis of findings from 3 districts. Triple S working paper April 2013. IRC International Water and sanitation centre (2013)