Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) marketing: Where to from here?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


Introduction International development agencies, governments and charities have been working together to provide ‘improved access’ to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities (e.g., toilets and wastewater systems) in poor developing-country communities (WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2013). In addition, these WASH providers have been working together to implement a range of social marketing interventions (referred to as ‘sanitation marketing’ in the WASH sector) that aim to ensure effective community use of the WASH facilities that have been installed (Devine and Kullmann, 2011, Jenkins and Scott, 2010). However, despite some ‘success’ in providing ‘improved access’ and achieving ‘effective use’ (i.e., behavioral compliance) of WASH facilities (WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2013), there is a growing concern amongst WASH practitioners and scholars that sanitation marketing may not be as effective as first thought, and that it may not always lead to sustainable community wellbeing (Bartram et al., 2012, Engel and Susilo, 2014). This concern is shared amongst social marketing scholars who have questioned if achieving behavioral compliance through social marketing interventions is the most effective path to ‘fostering social good’. Hence, there is a call for social marketers to explore new avenues for social marketing ‘beyond behavioral change’ (Brennan and Parker, 2014). Consistent with this call, our research investigates the inter-relationship between WASH marketing (e.g., sanitation marketing, community-led total sanitation), WASH marketplaces, community norms and individual behaviors, and its impact on sustainable community wellbeing. Our research involves a three-year field study in four Pacific island countries (Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG) that has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Method The research involves three stages. In the initial stage of the study we seek to understand WASH marketplaces in the Pacific island countries from a community perspective. A transformative consumer research (TCR) perspective will guide this stage of the research (Mick et. al., 2011). TCR is a particular useful perspective as it explicitly recognizes and acknowledges the active role that communities play in shaping their own marketplaces and lives. Once a better understanding of WASH marketplaces and the active role that communities play in shaping their own marketplaces and lives is gained, the next stage of the study will be to examine WASH markets from a macromarketing perspective (Layton, 2007). Macromarketing is a useful theoretical perspective to examine WASH marketplaces as it can provide insights into the effectiveness and efficiencies of different WASH systems. Once we have examined the different WASH systems in the Pacific islands, we will then be in a position to learn and act on the community’s abilities and capabilities within these different WASH systems. A capability approach to human development will guide this stage of the research as it emphasizes the importance of market agency (i.e., the ability to act and bring about change) (Sen, 1993) Data will be collected through participatory community action methods (Ozanne and Saatcioglu, 2008). These include participant observation (e.g., transect walks), visual documentation, workshop led interviews, and in-depth interviews. Throughout the data collection process the emphasis is placed on the ‘right’ of the community to collaborate, reflect and act (Ozanne and Saatcioglu, 2008) in a manner that is meaningful and of value to them. In other words, the community has a right to play a central role in the research planning, data collection, data analysis, action plans, and presentation of the research findings. Results During our presentation we will describe some of our initial fieldwork tools and procedures that are guided by the three theoretical perspectives and the participatory community action methods, before presenting some of the initial insights that we have gained from our first fieldtrips (which are now taking place in the Fiji and Solomon Islands). We will also discuss how these insights will guide the next stages of our research agenda. Discussion and Conclusion From the standpoint of our three guiding perspectives, this research will advance both scholarly and practical knowledge on WASH marketplaces so that both the WASH sector and communities themselves are able to develop the capacity and capability to improve WASH solutions for the collective benefit and wellbeing of those involved. We would like to conclude with a resonant quote: “the problem is not usually the capacity of the community people, but our capacity to work with them in supportive ways” (Narayan, 1993). Perhaps social marketers have much to learn and gain from communities themselves on how best to act in supportive ways, and so foster social good.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event2014 International Social Marketing Conference - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 17 Jul 201418 Jul 2014


Conference2014 International Social Marketing Conference


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