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Community Choices Project

The Community Choices Project is working with international organizations and local partners in West Africa to develop a community-centered decision-making support tool to serve local practitioners in the WASH Sector who are seeking the most appropriate technologies, financing approaches, and hygiene solutions, to meet the unique water, sanitation, and hygiene needs of their communities.

As many as 5 million people, mostly young children, die every year from preventable waterborne diseases. Numerous technologies, methodologies, and financial mechanisms already exist to meet these needs, but are frequently offered through narrow, technology-driven or single-model approaches. Communities have no single source for assistance that allows them to choose the most appropriate option and provides information on technical and financial support to help implement that option. Published as a report in 2008, the Pacific Institute’s International Water and Communities Initiative identified and evaluated 120 existing decision support resources in the WASH sector and found that the sector still lacks a consistent, central source of information and analysis on technological and financial solutions. Download and view the report here. A comprehensive resource that connects the billions living without adequate water and sanitation to the information and tools necessary to help them improve their own lives will fill a key gap in the effort to meet long-term, global WASH goals, including those outlined in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

A community-centered decision-making support tool, known as the Community Choices Tool, will take specific information on a user’s situation, such as health issues, community preferences, local geography, and readily available materials, and then will provide community members, WASH practitioners, NGOs, donors, and local governments with dynamic and comprehensive information on appropriate and available technology options to meet communities’ unique water and sanitation needs. The tool will also provide information on appropriate regional service providers, technical support, market mechanisms, and sustainable financing to implement the solutions. To ensure the widest reach, the tool will be offered as both an online application accessed through any internet browser, and as a printed resource, and will be translated into locally-identified priority languages.

The Community Choices Tool is envisioned as a paradigm shift in knowledge management in the WASH sector.

Instead of collecting information and storing it in multiple books and web pages, it will make information easily accessible (both in format and language) to the non-expert user in one location. It will ask a series of simple questions about individual situation, needs, and community context, then dynamically providing comprehensive information to build, maintain, and finance the solution and to connect to local experts and resources that can provide technical support. The result is community empowerment and informed decision-making that considers community preferences, which both lead to more sustainable solutions.

The Community Choices Tool Demonstration provides a glimpse of the potential power of a WASH sector decision-making support tool.

To demonstrate the potential power of a WASH tool and what it might look like, the Pacific Institute developed an internet-based demonstration of the Community Choices Tool. It is an easy-to-use computer program that is both a decision-making support tool and a database of existing technologies, management systems, approaches, financing options, and local WASH contacts. The prototype demonstrates just a few of the potential capabilities, including:
* Only technologies and solutions for sanitation and household water treatment issues – the full tool will provide integrated solutions for the entire WASH sector.
* A limited number of questions which touch on some environmental, cultural, and financial aspects – the full tool will ask more questions, especially those appropriate to local context, and using local terminology.
* There are a limited number of solutions outlined here - the full tool will include a greater number of technologies and approaches.
* The solutions are geared toward West Africa, one of the regions of the world with the greatest need for WASH solutions – the full tool will be developed in each region with locally-relevant input and information, but would also draw best practices from other regions.

Through collaborative work with international and local partners in regional pilot programs, the demonstration prototype will be further developed to cover: the full range of WASH sub-sectors (e.g., water supply, drinking water treatment, pump technologies, hygiene approaches); adoption of new technologies as well as improvements in current practices; and identification and incorporation of local community and expert knowledge, needs, and preferences. It will have multiple formats (e.g. online, DVD-ROM, and printed; in local languages), with multiple access points, and graphics and pictures to assist those with low levels of literacy.

To review the Community Choices Tool demonstration prototype and provide your input, go to:

The Community Choices Project aims to release and channel the wealth of trapped knowledge in the WASH sector to those who most need it.

Through the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the current phase of the Community Choices Project is pilot implementation of the tool in West Africa. Recognizing the global need for this tool, the Initiative seeks to provide a successful example to help shift the international WASH paradigm to a community-based, ground-up approach. It envisions additional regional pilot programs in Asia, and Central and South America, as well as the establishment of technical support centers to provide on-going training and expert advice for construction, operation, and maintenance.

Notes from the Field (click for complete list of blog posts):

- DIY: Do-It-Yourself as a Way of Life
Misha Hutchings, September 2011

- Urban Water Sources in Malang and Makassar, Indonesia
Misha Hutchings, September 2011

- Field Report from Hivre Bazar on July 1, 2011
Veena Srinivasan blogs from Hivre Bazar, August 2011

- The Waghad System: Institutions, Role of Mobile Technology, and Wise Water Use
Veena Srinivasan blogs from Dindhori, India, August 2011

- A Success Story in Participatory Irrigation Management in India: The Waghad Farmer Managed Irrigation System
Veena Srinivasan blogs from Nasik, India, July 2011

- Need for Water Resource Management and Adequate Sanitation
Dr. John Akudago blogs from Gbulung, Ghana, June 2011

- Safe Guarding Water Quality - A Concern for All
Dr. John Akudago blogs from Tamale, Ghana, June 2011



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