The enabling environment is becoming increasingly emphasized as critical for effective and sustainable improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH). What and who comprises the enabling environment varies with each country context, but generally it is the collection of actors (e.g. government, private sector, NGO and other) and instruments (e.g. policies, regulations, finances, programs and activities) required to achieve WASH outcomes for all in the population. Here we share the findings of our research into approaches to foster WaSH marketing systems in urban and peri-urban, informal settlements in four Melanesia countries, in particular we focus on the functions required of the enabling environment.
WASH marketing exchange systems require an enabling environment different to that of traditional supply-driven WASH programs. WaSH marketing systems span a range of informal and formal exchanges, operating at a range of scales (refer to presentation by Saunders et al. on the types of WaSH marketing exchange systems we have identified in Melanesia, South Pacific). A second factor affecting the suitability of enabling environments to supporting WaSH marketing exchange systems is that WASH programs, and therefore associated enabling environments, have focused on improving access to water and sanitation infrastructure, however these have not necessarily lead to the health and wellbeing benefits anticipated (refer to presentation by Barrington et al).
Our research shows that for enabling environments to effectively foster WaSH marketing exchange systems that deliver sustained health and well-being outcomes, they must be flexible to allow localisation of WaSH approaches to suit local marketing exchange systems, local wellbeing aspirations, and local socio-economic and environmental situations. Through qualitative participatory research approaches with informal communities and enabling actors, we have identified key functions required of such an enabling environment, focusing on an enabling environment that, whilst supports localization, also allows for large scale WaSH outcomes. We will share these functions in the form of a conceptual theory of change, which we then use to evaluate whether the existing enabling environments of four Melanesian countries are sufficiently “enabling” of WaSH marketing systems in informal, urban and peri-urban communities.