Translating Research into National-Scale Change: A Case Study from Kenya of WASH in Schools, 2011. SWASH Project.
Over the past 5 years CARE, Emory University’s Center for Global Safe Water, and Water.org, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Sustaining and Scaling School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Plus Community Impact (SWASH+) project, have worked to achieve sustainable and national-scale school WASH services in Kenya through applied research and advocacy. The project tested a multi-armed school WASH intervention through a randomized, controlled trial with multiple policy-relevant sub-studies. Research results were then used to advocate for policy change to bring about sustainable school WASH services nationally. These efforts have focused on improving budgeting for operations and maintenance costs, improving accountability systems with a focus on monitoring and evaluation, and more effectively promoting knowledge of WASH through teacher training and the national curriculum.
Advocacy objectives were developed through a problem-tree analysis and stakeholder analyses. SWASH+ used Outcome Mapping to track progress against these objectives. Specific advocacy goals were to identify important policy intervention areas, work with policymakers to update knowledge and identify learning gaps and then act as a learning adviser to the relevant ministries.
Though the project has not achieved all advocacy objectives, it can claim some advances. Lessons for effective school WASH advocacy gained from the program successes and mistakes are as follows:
1) Having a rigorous evidence base creates large amounts of credibility with policymakers.
2) Significant time and follow-up are needed as well as having staff with appropriate skills.
3) The “ripeness” of the external policy environment is crucial and can make or break efforts to affect national-scale change. Successful advocacy initiatives avoid being insular, focus on the external policy environment at the outset, assess data needs and stakeholder roles and responsibilities, and set reasonable objectives.