How can partnerships with business increase access to safe, clean water for all?

Photo: SABMiller

In many countries both the quantity and quality of water are in decline as populations – and associated demand from agriculture, energy generation, industry and households – grow. The Water Resources Group (WRG) estimates that the shortfall between freshwater supply and global demand could reach 40% by 2030, an average that conceals even more acute shortfalls in certain water-stressed countries.   Goal 6 of the proposed SDGs calls for the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

 

All those whose demand for water puts pressure on supply, and all those who feel the impact when supply falls short, share the same risks. It is now recognised that this interdependency requires a collaborative response.

 

As a result, partnerships are becoming increasingly central to strategies for delivering Goal 6 and securing shared water resources for business, local communities, and ecosystems.  Companies, governments, donors, and civil society organisations, often in multi-stakeholder alliances, are joining forces to increase water use efficiency, to improve water management and governance, and address the root causes of water risk. 

 

Questions:

  1. What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?
  2. What are we learning about how to develop and sustain successful water partnerships on the ground, particularly the role of governments, and what are the greatest barriers to progress?
  3.  How can we build, strengthen and scale up partnerships that aim to tackle shared water risks?

 

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In research we're currently doing, funded by UNICEF and the UN Foundation, we've been looking at a lot of partnerships in the water supply and sanitation space (as opposed to water stewardship which focuses a bit more on water resources management). 

Whereas the core business reasons for engaging on water stewardship are fairly clear, partnerships on water supply and sanitation can be dismissed as being driven by relatively narrow reputational concerns – especially water supply, where there are good photo opportunities from, say, funding a community level hand pump. 

But we're starting to see examples where there's a more direct, compelling business reason to engage. Some that jump out to me are:

-  Partnership models based on workforce health and welfare  like HERHealth, which works with companies and supply factories to provide health promotion (including around water, sanitation and hygiene) via NGOs - helping to increase employee productivity: http://herproject.org/herhealth

- Partnerships based on future business opportunity e.g. the Toilet Board Coalition, which brings business with a commercial interest in sanitation, NGOs, and donors together to identify promising and scalable sanitation technologies and business models.

These are especially interesting because they make clear the long-term business reason for engaging. Where those reasons are on the table it can help develop trust for joint-working


Katherine Rostkowski said:

The Global Development Alliances (GDAs) are USAID’s premiere model for public-private partnerships, helping to improve the social and economic conditions in developing countries and deepen USAID’s development impact.  More than just philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, GDAs leverage market-based solutions to advance broader development objectives. When successful, the resulting alliances are both sustainable and have greater impact.  GDAs are co-designed, co-funded, and co-managed by all partners involved, so that the risks, responsibilities, and rewards of partnership are shared. They work best and have the greatest development impact when private sector business interests intersect with USAID’s strategic development objectives.  

 

The Water and Development Alliance is an example of a GDA that captures the commitment and reach of USAID and its missions and The Coca-Cola Company, its foundations, and bottling facilities with the support of the Global Environment & Technology Foundation.  Now in its tenth active year, WADA is having positive impact in more than 30 countries with cash investment by partners of over $37 million.  With current investments and contributions from each partner of expertise and unique global networks, the program expects to provide water supply access to more than 600,000 people, provide sanitation access to more than 250,000 people, and place more than 440,000 hectares of watersheds under sustainable management practices.

 

For an introductory video to USAID Partnerships and the Global Development Alliance Model, visit: http://www.usaidallnet.gov/training/ideagp/#91EEDA12-A48D-EF22-E02E...



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Let's start with question 1:

What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?

Great discussion!  Let's move on to the second question:

What are we learning about how to develop and sustain successful water partnerships on the ground, particularly the role of governments, and what are the greatest barriers to progress?

I think that any partnership that is hoping to achieve success needs to engage with government for long term sustainability. I say this due to the fact that whatever is being considered on the ground will invariably have some relationship with government (for example national, local, catchment management agencies) policy, strategy, action plans, projects etc and to not include them does place the partnership in jeopardy. Ultimately government is the custodian of the water resources in a given country.

Great point Neil.  The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals for drinking water and sanitation has led to significant investment in infrastructure, innovation, and institutional reform.  It has not been accompanied by the necessary focus on the size, competencies and enabling environment for the human resource base needed to design, construct, operate and maintain such services to meet the target and beyond, in considering the proposed Sustainable Development Goal framework.  Effective partnership models will be critical in implementing the post-2015 agenda.

Neil Jeffery said:

The critical issue is how partnership models develop and enhance the capacity of service providers to respond successfully to specific consumer segments, particularly those that are traditionally not well served in emerging markets: the development of delegated management structures, for example in peri - urban areas in Lusaka or low income areas in Nairobi, have significantly improved the quality and reliability of service delivery for low income consumers, as a result of the 'last mile delivers' being closer to the reality to low income consumer need.

Partnership between governments, regulators & private sectors operators should seek to develop the skills of these key delivery agents in the supply chain, through appropriate contract management, improved institutional structures & capacity development.


 
Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Let's start with question 1:

What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?

In terms of barriers to progress I would say that some of the lessons we have learnt (repeat of the blog on this site - with apologies) are the following:

  • Engage and mobilise prospective partners through inclusive, evidence-based dialogue.
  • Take the time up-front to understand the motivations of all key stakeholders. 
  • Identify partners with the right blend of complementary strengths and experiences.
  • Expect bringing partners together around a common agenda to take a long time.
  • Make sure that government and local communities can participate effectively.
  • Partner objectives must align, but need not overlap 100%; communicate openly about the extent of alignment and what that means it is possible to do together.
  • Focus on the linkages between water, food and energy use to develop holistic and sustainable solutions.
  • Reducing shared water risk can be a medium- to long-term endeavour, so actively manage internal and external expectations about the pace of progress.
  • Break initiatives down into highly measurable components and use clear results measurement frameworks.
  • Use results data to demonstrate progress internally and externally, keeping existing stakeholders engaged and attracting new ones.


Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Great discussion!  Let's move on to the second question:

What are we learning about how to develop and sustain successful water partnerships on the ground, particularly the role of governments, and what are the greatest barriers to progress?

There are a number of lessons that WWF has learnt from our water stewardship work about the ways to develop and maintain successful partnerships to support sustainable water management including the need to:

  • Identify water risks hotspots and target actions at these key locations

  • Include all stakeholders in a collective action process, not just a small number of organisations in partnership
  • Collectively identify the drivers of risks with key stakeholders in the catchment

  • Raise awareness of the risks and the potential impact on the local economy

  • Develop a shared vision of how to address them

  • Respecting the different motivations of stakeholders

  • Compromise on timescales to ensure work can be delivered to meet the needs of different stakeholders

  • Be transparent about actions taken

  • Develop simple clear communication, harmonising language across the value chain

I agree with David.  Host country ownership to strengthen local and regional capacity and align with country priorities is an operational principle of the USAID Water and Development Strategy.  The Strategy emphasizes the importance of working at the level where relevant decisions are made, with attention to the lowest and most local levels of government.  It is critical for all partnerships to include local ownership as a core value.  Projects must be unique and customized to respond to local needs and priorities, while engaging all relevant stakeholders and taking advantage of partner strengths, from before program design to long after project close-out.



David Grant said:

I think that any partnership that is hoping to achieve success needs to engage with government for long term sustainability. I say this due to the fact that whatever is being considered on the ground will invariably have some relationship with government (for example national, local, catchment management agencies) policy, strategy, action plans, projects etc and to not include them does place the partnership in jeopardy. Ultimately government is the custodian of the water resources in a given country.

The sustainability of the water facilities is one issue, and indeed the role of community water and sanitation committees is crucial and so is the role of local government. There is also the question of sustainability of hygiene education to make WASH projects successful and we've been able to integrate hygiene education within school sessions in Darjeeling for them to continue in the long term. 

In terms of the role of Government  - Government have the mandate to ensure that water resources are managed sustainably. The role of NGO’s and business is to support and encourage government to deliver sustainable water management and not to undermine legitimate government priorities and mandates.



Katherine Rostkowski said:

Great point Neil.  The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals for drinking water and sanitation has led to significant investment in infrastructure, innovation, and institutional reform.  It has not been accompanied by the necessary focus on the size, competencies and enabling environment for the human resource base needed to design, construct, operate and maintain such services to meet the target and beyond, in considering the proposed Sustainable Development Goal framework.  Effective partnership models will be critical in implementing the post-2015 agenda.

Neil Jeffery said:

The critical issue is how partnership models develop and enhance the capacity of service providers to respond successfully to specific consumer segments, particularly those that are traditionally not well served in emerging markets: the development of delegated management structures, for example in peri - urban areas in Lusaka or low income areas in Nairobi, have significantly improved the quality and reliability of service delivery for low income consumers, as a result of the 'last mile delivers' being closer to the reality to low income consumer need.

Partnership between governments, regulators & private sectors operators should seek to develop the skills of these key delivery agents in the supply chain, through appropriate contract management, improved institutional structures & capacity development.


 
Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Let's start with question 1:

What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?

I'd highlight transparency from that list. It can be in tension with building trust within the partnership, but for long term success it's key to address external concerns about capture of the resource or the policy influence that controls the resource (which could arise from getting the businesses involved in managing water). Need for transparency applies to everyone, not just those in business – people in governments, NGOs and donor agencies have their own interests. Ultimately transparency means not just sharing with partners, but incrementally opening up to wider scrutiny and sharing information and decisions with the public.

Lucy Lee said:

There are a number of lessons that WWF has learnt from our water stewardship work about the ways to develop and maintain successful partnerships to support sustainable water management including the need to:

  • Identify water risks hotspots and target actions at these key locations

  • Include all stakeholders in a collective action process, not just a small number of organisations in partnership
  • Collectively identify the drivers of risks with key stakeholders in the catchment

  • Raise awareness of the risks and the potential impact on the local economy

  • Develop a shared vision of how to address them

  • Respecting the different motivations of stakeholders

  • Compromise on timescales to ensure work can be delivered to meet the needs of different stakeholders

  • Be transparent about actions taken

  • Develop simple clear communication, harmonising language across the value chain

I think there are two parts to this: the pre-conditions that increase the chances of the partnership succeeding, and then the more practical (and difficult) process of making it work over the longer term. 

On pre-conditions, we already discussed motivations, which are key. Water scarcity needs to be high on the political, business and/or social agenda in the first place.  And not just for a small cross section of stakeholders - to really build and sustain coalitions, you need a critical mass.  Then you also need champions, leaders that are willing to stand up and put their name to the partnership, to draw others in.  And you need a common vision - a common understanding of what the partnership is for, and what it aims to achieve.

On the process side, I think the factors are more general - getting people with the right skill sets in to manage the partnerships, demonstrating results, etc.

Coming back to the SWPN example, we recently produced a case study looking at the this question of what drove the success of the partnership and many of these factors came up.  Those interested can get a copy at:

http://www.2030wrg.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/SWPN-Case-Study_May2015.pdf

Likewise from my blog - these are the key barriers from our perspective:

  • Engaging in water governance – while many businesses might take the sub-goals of the SDG water goal as being about delivering safe drinking water and sanitation for employees or local communities, water efficiency in operations and supply chains, and dealing with effluent quality, our experience at WWF has shown that these goals will only be achieved by businesses engaging and influencing the governance of water. This is an uncomfortable place for many businesses.

     

  • Public perceptions of why companies are engaging - there is likely to be public mistrust in the motivations of businesses that advocate for changes to the governance of water resources.

     

  • Legitimacy of private sector advocacy - the water stewardship credentials of most businesses are currently not strong. There is a need for a company to have its own house in order before it can legitimately advocate for changes to water governance.

     

  • Unintended consequences – businesses need to be part of the solution but need to recognise that, wherever they are operating, there will be water management practitioners and stakeholders with many decades of experience, and governments with mandated priorities. Understanding the technical, social and political complexities in any location, working with existing programmes, and listening stakeholders, rather than establishing parallel programmes is essential.


 
David Grant said:

In terms of barriers to progress I would say that some of the lessons we have learnt (repeat of the blog on this site - with apologies) are the following:

  • Engage and mobilise prospective partners through inclusive, evidence-based dialogue.
  • Take the time up-front to understand the motivations of all key stakeholders. 
  • Identify partners with the right blend of complementary strengths and experiences.
  • Expect bringing partners together around a common agenda to take a long time.
  • Make sure that government and local communities can participate effectively.
  • Partner objectives must align, but need not overlap 100%; communicate openly about the extent of alignment and what that means it is possible to do together.
  • Focus on the linkages between water, food and energy use to develop holistic and sustainable solutions.
  • Reducing shared water risk can be a medium- to long-term endeavour, so actively manage internal and external expectations about the pace of progress.
  • Break initiatives down into highly measurable components and use clear results measurement frameworks.
  • Use results data to demonstrate progress internally and externally, keeping existing stakeholders engaged and attracting new ones.


Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Great discussion!  Let's move on to the second question:

What are we learning about how to develop and sustain successful water partnerships on the ground, particularly the role of governments, and what are the greatest barriers to progress?

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