Chapter Six: Stakeholder's Participation in Design of Sanitation Projects

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1 Chapter Six: Stakeholder's Participation in Design of Sanitation Projects


Part of the job of a sanitation planner and designer involves mobilizing local resources to improve the sanitation situation in the community. This means helping to develop partnerships and collaborations among the relevant stakeholders, for example, by organizing a focused group meeting with them. But who are the stakeholders of sanitation projects and how can one identify them?

A stakeholder is any person, organization or group with an interest (stake) in something, such as a particular situation, intervention, project or programme. The water sanitation projects stakeholders depend on the type and scale of the sanitation project, the local context, the local institutional set-up and the sociocultural conditions. When considering a specific sanitation project and wishing to identify the relevant stakeholders (Mathur, et al., 2007), reported that, as a designer one should consider those who:
(a) Are responsible for the project and its different components (including funders, WASH officials from different sector offices, managers, employees, etc.),
(b) Are intended users or beneficiaries including those who register the CBWSOs,
(c) May be negatively affected by the project but may not be in a position to say so,
(d) Might threaten the success of the project through their opposition or lack of co-operation,
(e) Could represent the interests of people who are unable to participate,
(f) Have unique knowledge related to an aspect of the project,
(g) Are from responsible ministries and agencies.


Among the wide group of possible stakeholders some can be identified as key stakeholders. A key stakeholder is a person or a group of people with significant influence over a programme or who will be significantly impacted by it. For the programme to be successful, the interests and influences of these key stakeholders must be recognized.
Key stakeholders may include:
(a) individuals,
(b) organizations and
(c) businesses in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
These could be: (a) local community representatives,
(b) municipal sector offices (for example, water resources, health and education), and
(c) development partners including, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based water supply organizations (CBWSOs) and private sector groups.

Sometimes, new stakeholders may emerge during the lifetime of a sanitation project. For instance, a group of households using the same decentralised wastewater treatment system, may need to understand the likely sources of conflicts associated with their infrastructures (e.g. condominial systems). Areas for the passage of pipelines for simplified sewerage, clogging/leakage and delays in fixing of the problems and system failures may cause personal or community complains. Areas for treatment of wastewater and sludge is another potential problem both in securing the area in urban setting as well as neighbours to accept wastewater treatment systems in their neighbourhood. In view of these, stakeholders’ involvement in planning stages of the sanitation options has to be emphasised to avoid later conflicts. If such a stakeholder is not involved during the planning stage, then conflicts are likely to be more serious and thus requiring solutions. It is much better to try to identify any unintended users at an early stage as this will enable them to feel some sense of ownership and reduce the likelihood of future conflicts.


Stakeholder engagement is the process by which organizers of a project involve the interested or impacted parties so that they can influence pertinent decisions and implementation. Some stakeholders may support the decisions, while others may oppose them. Some may be influential in the organization or community in which they operate and hold official positions. Others may be affected in the short or long term by the outcomes of the sanitation project. The underlying principle of stakeholders’ engagement is that stakeholders have the opportunity to influence the decision-making process. This differentiates stakeholders’ engagement from communication processes, which just share and explain decisions that have already been made.
The aim of stakeholder engagement is to:
(a) hear what they have to say and to establish what issues matter most for them,
(b) develop an understanding and agree how best to deal with issues of concern to the stakeholders,
(c) ensure project sustainability by involving stakeholders in planning, implementation and monitoring,
(d) improve decision making and accountability.

Through working together, key stakeholders can identify common concerns, develop common goals and reap the benefits of the impact of the sanitation project. Some stakeholders may also become involved in technical aspects, contributing to implementation, designing solutions and providing technical advice. Involving stakeholders in this way ensures more effective outcomes.

As a designer of a sanitation project, one may be involved in arranging and facilitating discussions with stakeholders. This means encouraging people to participate. For this reason one will need to develop the communication skills so as to succeed. For this to happen:
(a) ensure involvement of all stakeholders, including vulnerable groups of the society and the marginalized individuals and households,
(b) understand their demand for service options and their willingness to pay or contribute,
(c) create a sense of ownership among users and beneficiaries,
(d) help to achieve a common understanding between the implementing organization, user community and the relevant stakeholders.

It is important to involve stakeholders throughout the planning and implementation process. This brings benefits through:
(a) opening the planning process to the public, making it more transparent and equitable,
(b) allowing stakeholders to participate in budget setting and sanitation tariff payment mechanisms,
(c) ensuring the needs of the whole community are considered, thus making the projects more effective,
(d) helping to overcome resistance and mistrust by enlisting their support,
(e) It may also increase efficiency if stakeholders contribute their labour and resources.

Stakeholder engagement improves communication and leads to better project understanding. The benefits will depend on the context, but may include increased community confidence, which comes from co-operating over project development. It can also encourage a culture of innovation and learning, which enables participants to make better-informed decisions. It builds trust, through open discussions of issues that are difficult to resolve, can bridge cultural gaps and helps to reduce potential conflicts. It can also enhance partnerships, for example, between the community and industry, increasing efficiency and so reducing future costs.


Key stakeholders can be identified based on their:
(a) influence in decision making,
(b) responsibility,
(c) involvement in day-to-day operations,
(d) direct or indirect dependency on the project and
(e) representation in the community.

1.4.1 6.4.1 Identifying Key Stakeholders

Representation from all the stakeholders is a priority in a multi-stakeholder WASH engagement project. Some less obvious stakeholders may be excluded from the usual decision-making processes. This should be avoided. Local institutions such as schools, health centres, mosques and churches are considered important stakeholders. These are important strategic institutions for promoting community-based sanitation interventions. While at school, children gain knowledge that influences them and inform their attitude and practice. In addition school children, via their teachers and WASH clubs, can educate their families and relatives when they return home. By this route, they can serve as agents of change in their communities.

It is important to identify all stakeholders from the community including women, children and marginalized people. Marginalised people are those on the edges (margins) of society who are treated as insignificant or not important. There may be people in a community who find it difficult to come to meetings, for example because of their lifestyle, work pattern or because they have a disability. It is particularly important to ensure that such groups have a voice and should be listened to. Excluding less obvious stakeholders from the usual decision-making processes is an easy mistake to make and may have serious social or economic costs. It can lead to unsustainable projects and no overall improvement in local conditions.

A systematic approach in defining and identifying all relevant stakeholders during early planning stages is therefore, essential for ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of WASH initiatives covering both rural and urban areas including school and health facilities in the respective area.

1.4.2 6.4.2 Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder mapping is the process of systematically identifying and analysing the relevant stakeholders, their relationship to each other, their level of interest, and their roles and responsibilities in relation to the power they hold. Mapping the levels of interest of different stakeholders in relation to their interest or power can be done using the diagram shown in Figure 6.1. Their relative power and interest is categorized into four groups:
(a) those with high interest but little power (A),
(b) high interest and high power (B),
(c) low interest but high power (C) and
(d) low interest and little power (D).


Stakeholder mapping can help to fully understand a situation and see the relationships between the stakeholders and their role in a project or programme. This can be useful when developing a plan for stakeholder engagement. Such a plan should outline:
(a) Objectives (what is one trying to achieve?)
(b) Scope (who and what is included?)
(c) Methods (how will one put the plan into action?)

The methods used will vary for different stakeholders and will depend on several factors including how actively they are involved. For example, for users and beneficiaries, mediated discussions with service providers could be appropriate. For other, less engaged stakeholders, printed leaflets or other methods for providing information could be considered.


The following is the summary of information related to stakeholders’ participation in sanitation projects:
(a) It is important to identify and characterize the stakeholders involved when planning sanitation projects so that all relevant interests can be considered.
(b) The planning and implementation stages of sanitation projects needs effective communication with stakeholders so that their knowledge and resources can be included.
(c) Engaging stakeholders helps to improve decision making and accountability and ensure sustainability of the sanitation projects.
(d) Stakeholder mapping is a useful tool for defining the level of interest and power of each stakeholder.
(e) In the past, the approach has been fragmented with a lack of coordination between organizations responsible for sanitation projects.
(f) It is important to understand the advantages of working across disciplinary and sector boundaries. Teamwork involving a variety of people with different skills and knowledge will bring more effective and sustainable results.

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