Scaling deep to drive transformation and leave no one behind in WASH

A woman wearing a mask in a village in Nepal has her arm outstretched to a young girl in a wheelchair, also wearing a mask

How can CSOs leave no one behind in WASH? Water for Women projects are scaling out, scaling up and scaling deep to drive transformational change.


Leaving no one behind is core to the Water for Women approach

Social inclusion is central to the Water for Women approach, which supports improved health, gender equality and wellbeing in Asian and Pacific communities through WASH projects and research. And a critical component of inclusion is Leaving No One Behind (LNOB) – one of the three core values underpinning the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ‘Leaving no one behind’ means considering and addressing multiple, intersecting forms of disadvantage and inequality, and addressing root causes.


Exploring how to address complex forms of disadvantage – and their root causes – is a challenge being tackled by Water for Women’s 33 projects in 15 countries. As part of Water for Women’s collaborative Learning Agenda, recent research drew together insights about how partner civil society organisations (CSOs) are working to leave no one behind and ensure equitable WASH across Asia and the Pacific.


Scaling out, scaling up and scaling deep – key concepts for LNOB

One question the research explored was whether LNOB initiatives have been scaled. The extent to which WASH activities can be scaled has long been a measure of project potential, though ‘scaling’ in WASH is often equated with replication – or ‘scaling out’ – achieving services for more people, in more places. Sector attention has also focused on ‘scaling up’ – influencing policies, strategies and laws to strengthen and institutionalise inclusive and sustainable approaches to WASH provision. While both are important to consider in reaching SDG6, they don’t offer insight into how structural inequalities, and their root causes (such as harmful social norms), are being addressed.


A conception of scale which starts to shift social norms for systems change is that designed by Riddell and Moore (2015) to explore impact from social innovation. In their model, replication (‘scaling out’) is complemented by both ‘scaling up’, and what they call ‘scaling deep’ – shifting values and mindsets to address systemic inequalities and drive more transformative change.


A diagram from the resource with a Venn Diagram

Above: Forms of scaling of social innovations (Riddell and Moore 2015)


It’s clear that scaling up is critical to shift discriminatory rules and practices in institutions – and this is a core focus of WASH initiatives seeking to sustainably strengthen systems and enabling environments. Increasingly, WASH projects are also pursuing changes in norms and values towards more transformative outcomes. In other words, WASH projects are starting to look at what it takes to scale deep.


Scaling deep in Water for Women projects

Within the Learning Agenda initiative, while CSOs mostly reported examples of scaling out and scaling up their LNOB initiatives, the research also identified initiatives that fit the scaling deep definition. Supporting leadership development, with a Do No Harm lens, was the most common LNOB approach employed by participating CSOs, including working with rights holder organisations, within CSOs themselves and with duty bearers at multiple levels of government.


World Vision Vanuatu reflected that transformative change to influence social and cultural norms can be particularly challenging as those norms are implicit and internalised, including by women and people with disabilities themselves. While it may be difficult to measure shifts in norms at a macro level, CSOs like World Vision see the importance of having avenues for staff and stakeholder capacity building and behaviour change initiatives to support staff and stakeholders alike to model inclusive behaviour and attitudes.


Working closely with leaders and engaging them in dialogue about equity, inclusion and LNOB can be a powerful lever for change, as examples from Water for Women attest. WaterAid PNG found that identifying champions in government was key to influencing others on equity and inclusion. Amplifying the voices of people with lived experience can also shift mindsets, for example CFAR India found that bringing people together was pivotal in driving duty bearers with decision-making powers towards collaborative WASH inclusion.


Scaling deep examples complemented and supported those focused on scaling up – which can also reflect, and in turn drive, mindset change. SNV Bhutan worked closely with government counterparts and Ability Bhutan to develop the national government’s ‘Leave No One Behind and Post ODF Strategy’. Plan Indonesia’s work with rightsholder organisations has helped to ensure that the previously marginalised voices of women and people with disabilities are now valued and integral to district WASH planning and regulation.


More work to do challenging power and privilege

Leaving no one behind means challenging norms of caste, stigma, class, privilege and power. CSOs can play a pivotal role in facilitating dialogue that questions assumptions and advocates for equality and non-discrimination in and through WASH. The idea of scaling deep, along with scaling out and scaling up, can help us to value – and think about measuring the impact of – WASH initiatives which strive to shift norms and beliefs that lead to exclusion in WASH.



A blue graphic with the words 'just launched' along with the covers of there two resources

This insight was authored by Naomi Carrard (University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures), Bronwyn Powell (International WaterCentre of Griffith University) and Gabrielle Halcrow (SNV Netherlands Development Organisation). 


Photo: Ambika Yadav, SNV Nepal’s District Coordinator for Sarlahi, discusses COVID-19 prevention measures and tips with a person with disability. (SNV / Meeting Point)


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