We don’t drill wells, give away toilets, or teach people how to wash their hands. Instead, we strengthen the market for water, sanitation, and hygiene to make it more sustainable, inclusive, and efficient.
We think at the margin to identify strategic opportunities and gaps in the wider system with in-depth research and then follow the evidence to get the biggest impact with the smallest footprint. And we don’t just replicate our successful programs, we strive to consolidate them as systemic change.
Our aim is to shift the mindset of everyone in the system – including government, product suppliers, NGOs, and even consumers – from thinking of rural families as helpless and waiting to receive free hardware to consumers with refined wants, aspirations, and spending power.
Thriving WASH businesses represent a critical component of the market that must grow in lock-step with demand. Our aim is to build an efficient, responsive supply chain in rural areas where none existed before, cultivating consumer-focused, rather than donor-focused, local businesses.
We are proving that markets are extremely efficient in achieving large scale change. But local government is essential in the drive for 100% coverage and practice of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviours. Being skeptical of traditional capacity development approaches, we are experimenting with transformational leadership programs that demonstrate tremendous results.
To increase market penetration of WASH products, it was critical to integrate micro-finance into the system. Access to micro-finance has significantly lowered the barrier to purchase latrines and other WASH products and services. But not just on the consumer side, we look at small business financing options to ensure actors in the supply chain are set up to succeed.
We translate in-depth insights from consumers and producers into sustainable solutions — from simplifying complex construction projects into off-the-shelf products so that consumers can easily assess price, payment, delivery, and installation — to creating aspirational hardware designed to change behaviours.
A market will not be sustainable if half the market is missing. Women are key decision makers when it comes to keeping their families healthy. But they are often excluded from the economic opportunities in the water, sanitation, and hygiene industries. We aim to deepen their participation as business owners, sales agents, and informed consumers.
We are not afraid to take on challenging market opportunities that have the potential to disrupt the status quo. Our social businesses accelerate consumer investment in toilets, water filters, and handwashing devices.
WaterSHED’s signature Hands-Off approach refers to our behind-the-scenes role as an industry facilitator, engaging both the private sector and government to lead improvements in WASH sustainability, access, and behaviours.
A key feature is discipline – both to maintain a light touch and to avoid actions that create dependencies. Sounds easy, but in practice, it means having a concrete vision of how things are going to work post-intervention, and then not developing any processes that we know won’t last.
Fundamentally, we believe that a sustainable outcome requires the facilitator to progressively exit as its role is succeeded by private and public sector actors. The best way to ensure that is to have an exit strategy right from the beginning.
Our goal is to minimize external intervention and to reduce the barriers to market entry so as to increase the likelihood that demand creation and growth of supply will continue after the project interventions cease. Once the program has ended, who is going to do what, how, and with what resources.