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Learning assessment of urban sanitation capacity building investments in India

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We are undertaking a learning assessment of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) supported Technical Support Units (TSUs) in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu, to assess their impact on state capacity to deliver Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Services (FSSM) in urban areas. BMGF has established TSUs to build capacities within these state governments to deliver FSSM services, and scale-up interventions where these are shown to be successful. Part of this learning assessment also involves developing a capacity assessment toolkit aimed at assisting BMGF measure its similar capacity building initiatives.

Challenges

The Swachh Bharat Mission–Urban has made great strides in constructing toilets and rolling out large scale behaviour change campaigns for improving behaviours and practices around construction and use of toilets in the urban areas. Yet ‘Faecal Sludge Management’ (FSM) issues have remained largely overlooked with challenges associated with both demand as well as supply side of the sanitation service delivery chain, ultimately, manifesting into a public health hazard, limiting human development and economic growth. In summary, it becomes “a silent crisis that impedes the realisation of the urban transformation framed in SDG11”. (World Bank)

With urban India still facing fundamental challenges to combat on the sanitation front, especially in shifting cities along the sanitation continuum from ODF to ODF++ which includes dimensions of FSSM.

BMGF has been one of the key partners supporting the sanitation movement in India and to support the urban sanitation efforts of state governments, it has set up TSUs at the state level to enable and build capacities of state governments implement faecal sludge and septage management services, in a sustainable and equitable manner. The learning assessment of TSU’s engagement with state governments and relevant stakeholders, conducted by us is a key contribution in the urban sanitation sector of India as it magnifies the emergent need for capacity building as tool for sustained and equitable implementation of FSSM in the urban areas of India.

Our approach

In practice, the capacity of a state government to deliver FSSM services is complex and multi-dimensional and can only be measured in relation to the ability of organisations, and individuals within them, to perform the specific tasks required of them. Acknowledging this, for the learning assessment we applied the institutional, organisational and individual framework to understand how government capacity has been built at each level as a result of TSU interventions, whether capacities are being utilised to deliver improved FSSM services, and whether these capacities are likely to be retained in the government system after the TSU exits.

The approach to capacity assessment has been problem-driven and pragmatic. It drew upon a Theory of Change (ToC) developed in collaboration between the team and the TSUs. Capacity has been considered in terms of its impact on performance, i.e. an organisation’s ability to carry out required tasks. The assessment also encompassed the individual level, the organisational structures and systems within which these are employed, and the institutional framework within which they function.

In understanding capacity as a function of performance, the learning assessment also involved contribution narratives to explain how TSU engagement has influenced capacities to deliver FSSM services, and the results that have been achieved.

Outcomes

The learning assessment study conducted by us will capture practical lessons from TSU experience to inform future capacity building initiatives of BMGF and strengthen the quality of investment in the FSSM sector. Lessons will also be shared with relevant stakeholders, including government partners.