Research Sharing Event 

Community management of rural water services has been the predominant management approach for much of the low-income world over the past few decades. But as many low-income countries become richer, they move from the ‘building phase’ of expanding services to the ‘sustainability phase’ of ensuring services continue to function. The deficiencies of community management in this sustainability phase has lead many to conclude we are the limits of the model and new service delivery models and approaches are needed to sustain water services.

In the context of these debates and the new Sustainable Development Goals for water, this event will present the ‘end of fieldwork findings’ from the Community Water Plus project. This three year, Australian Aid DFAT supported, research has investigated reportedly successful community-managed rural water supply programmes across 17 States in India. It has focused on investigating the style and extent of support required, from government and other agencies, to sustain services through the community management model. By understanding the role of community management in the significant advances in coverage and service levels across India the research has some important lessons for other lower-income countries as they enter economic transition.

The research was led by Cranfield University, UK, and IRC, The Netherlands. The 20 case studies complied have been undertaken by four Indian Research Partners: Administrative Staff College of India, Centre of Excellence for Change (CEC), Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Xavier Institute of Social Service along with IRC and Cranfield.

We are now pleased to invite you to an ‘End of Fieldwork Research’ event at the Australian High Commission to share the initial synthesis of evidence and discuss the future of community management. The event will be chaired by Professor Richard Carter, past Chair of the Rural Water Supply Network, with speakers from Cranfield, IRC and India, as outlined below.

Attendance is through prior registration only due to High Commission security requirements. Places are limited so if you are interested in attending please register on the above link as soon as possible.

Location and travel details

Australian High Commission, London

Travel information

Background to Community Water Plus:

Community management has long been recognised to be critical for rural water supply services delivery. Indeed, community management has contributed significantly to improvements in rural water supplies. However those supplies are only sustainable when communities receive appropriate levels of support from government and other entities in their service delivery tasks.

Communities may need easy access to call-down maintenance staff from government entities, they may need support from civil society organisations to renew their management structures and they may need to professionalise—that is, the outsourcing of certain tasks to specialised individuals or enterprises. This is what is referred to as the “plus”—the necessary add-ons to sustain community water supply. Without such support, community management rarely performs well at scale, and is then not an appropriate management model to achieve sustainable services.

In spite of the existence of success stories in community management, mechanisms for support and professionalisation have not yet been scaled up in policies and strategies. Success stories then remain pockets of achievement. The necessary support comes at a price, and sometimes a significant one. Support costs governments and donors additional resources in the short term, but it is likely to deliver better and more sustainable services in the long term. Also the balance between community engagement and support from outsiders differs according to factors, such as the technology employed or settlement size. It is often not clear what the right mix will need to be in promoting and scaling up successful models.