Civic Champions

Local government leadership is likely the biggest driver of total sanitation

An unexplained performance gap

As rural WASH markets began taking off in Cambodia, communities that were similar in nearly every way showed vastly different results: Some made incredible progress. Others lagged behind.

Working at scale gave us a vantage point to see what drove the differences.

It wasn’t wealth. It wasn’t aid.

We learned that the key driver was having representatives in local government who demonstrated initiative and action versus those who believed nothing would ever change.

Can something be done to foster the emergence of champions?

Turns out, yes.

We measured the effects of multiple iterations (spanning 8 years) of our program to cultivate local leadership behaviours.

The results showed it was the most impactful component of WaterSHED’s work to promote sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene. It was also a key element of our plan to exit the market.

See the village chief in Cambodia that inspired our Civic Champions program

Portable Sinks for Healthcare Worker Hand Hygiene in Cambodia

Download the paper: Portable Sinks for Healthcare Worker Hand Hygiene in Cambodia (English) ធុងលាងដៃចល័តសម្រាប់ការលាងសម្អាតដៃបុគ្គលិកថែទាំសុខភាព នៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជា In healthcare facilities, proper handwashing with soap is a critical...
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Capacity building as it should be.

Civic Champions was an intensive program to foster the emergence of transformational leaders. It stood apart from conventional capacity development programs. Elected officials applied to join, paid to participate, and drove the process themselves. A cascade training model drew facilitators from within government, meaning the trainers were also participants. Through iterative cycles of Discover, Develop, Deliver, participants learned to create a vision for community development with their constituents, develop a plan of action, and execute against it.

Competitive, peer-determined awards combined with high-level government recognition served as powerful incentives for participants to excel. From pilot to scale, the program generated outstanding, tangible results. In 2020 the government took the lead on implementation, and then in 2021 officially institutionalized it within the National School of Local Administration of the Ministry of Interior.

p.p. increase in sanitation / year
Toilets installed

The Three Ds:

A key innovation in the process was that workshop facilitators were recruited from within provincial-level government. This may sound unextraordinary, but it is almost never done.

Our aim with Civic Champions was not to scale up an NGO-led capacity development program, but instead to institutionalize leadership development across multiple levels of government. We saw this objective as pretty much the endgame for development initiatives.

  • Discover

    A series of training workshops to build the foundation for councilors to succeed in developing their communities. Over nine months, participants learn and exchange new ideas to build a development strategy that is aggressive but achievable.

  • Develop

    Between conferences, participants put what they learn into practice – building relationships with customers and suppliers to drive the market for water, sanitation, and hygiene. One-on-one and team coaching is provided to ensure success.

  • Deliver

    Because improving sanitation is presented as the “leadership challenge”, this approach uniquely allows an apples-to-apples comparison of each participant’s leadership progress.
    Participants present the changes in sanitation, their successes, and challenges to the group. Top performers are selected by their peers and celebrated, providing strong motivation for other councilors as the next cycle of Discover, Develop, Deliver begins.

“The Scale-up iteration of the program significantly accelerated growth in the sanitation market…reversing a trend of slowing latrine sales.”

Read the full evaluation

Civic Champions Research

Continuous monitoring and several evaluations between 2013 and 2021 closely examine the Civic Champions program, its process, and its impact.


Analysis and Profiles

Participant perspectives, and reports on how Civic Champions was embedded and finally institutionalized by the national government in 2021

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