01 June 2020

Participatory Governance Assessments

Author/Compiled by
Janek Hermann-Friede (seecon)

Executive Summary

Sanitation and water governance refers to the systems that determine access to water (who has the right to water and sanitation related services, who receives which kind of water, at what times and in which way). The way the sector is governed profoundly affects whether these systems can deliver the intended outcomes like service extension or competently administrated sanitation solutions (JACOBSEN et al. 2013). Vice versa, sanitation projects need to be adapted to existing legal and regulatory mechanisms, social and political norms, and other aspects of sector governance to ensure that they are legally compliant and can be adequately operated.

To date, countless governance assessment approaches have been developed. Many of them are highly participatory in nature and can easily be adapted to the context of sanitation projects. This factsheet presents key lessons learned and guidelines to facilitate participatory assessments of key governance elements, which help successfully design and implement wastewater management systems.

See our practical experiences, key lessons learned and recommendations below.

Why you should care

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You do not want to be the black sheep that undermines sector governance, risking that an expensive sanitation project never becomes fully operational due to non-compliance with existing laws, regulations or standards.

What really matters: Lessons learned & recommendations

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Don’t conduct research in isolation - access the experience and knowledge of experts

The governance of the water/wastewater sector in Jordan had been extensively analysed long before the ISSRAR project was initiated. Numerous assessment reports were available, though they occasionally provided contradicting information. In addition, our project team compiled an overview of the relevant policies, regulations, guidelines, and standards. However, a comprehensive analysis of all relevant documents would have required both profound legal knowledge and significantly larger resources than we had at our disposal. Yet we needed to acquire a thorough understanding of Jordanian water sector governance to inform our project design.

Under time pressure and constrained by limited resources, we decided to call on the knowledge and experience of sector stakeholders and senior experts to compile an overview of the governance implications that our project needed to take into consideration.

Our project team decided to analyse the existing framework for local water-sector governance in a one-day workshop. They identified a diverse and knowledgeable group of about 20 experts who could provide them with a good understanding of wastewater management and reuse governance. During this first workshop, The ISSRAR team adopted the Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS) methodology (VISSCHER and HERMANN-FRIEDE 2011) to analyse key governance areas along the wastewater management and reuse value chain. Special attention was paid to: 1) written procedures and agreements, which form the basis for how actors understand the rights and obligations that govern their relationships; 2) the way written procedures and agreements were being applied as well as the level of compliance of local actors; 3) the ability of project stakeholders (including community representatives) to access information, influence decision-making, file complaints effectively, and be heard.

This participatory approach allowed us to efficiently generate important results. On the basis of these results, the consortium could then conduct further participatory governance assessments to analyse scenarios for different operator models and evaluate the feasibility of available wastewater and faecal sludge reuse options.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel; adapt existing governance assessment tools instead

Developing sound governance assessment approaches from scratch requires substantial conceptual effort and subsequent testing. As countless governance assessment approaches are already available, adapting existing assessment tools to a planned wastewater project can save a lot of time and resources. The User’s Guide on Assessing Water Governance (JAKBSON, M et al. 2013) is a great starting point, providing a comprehensive list of governance assessment approaches and offering guidance on a number of concrete topics, including the governance aspects you need to consider, choosing indicators, data collection, managing multi-stakeholder processes and using the resulting findings to inform policy.

To enlist the support of key stakeholders, take a participatory approach

Implementing a sanitation or wastewater management project and identifying whose support is essential for the project’s success requires a thorough analysis of the relevant governance framework. However, the biggest challenge lies not in identifying key players but in actually involving them and enlisting their support.

Taking a participatory approach to governance assessment allows you to use the analysis period as the first step of the project-planning and implementation process. Workshops and individual consultations provide a great opportunity to get key stakeholders on board with your project.

Focus on those governance aspects that are most relevant for your project

Our initial efforts to assess sector governance for the ISSRAR project yielded very comprehensive results: extensive lists of stakeholder that included their respective roles and responsibilities; overviews of existing laws and sector regulations; analyses of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). However, when we evaluated the information to determine what it meant for the project, we quickly realized that only fractions of it were actually relevant.

Our team then clearly delineated which aspects of governance needed to be taken into account:

In terms of project design, key governance aspects were mapped and analysed along the sanitation value chain, both for urban or peri-urban settings and for rural or remote areas. This allowed us to weed out information that was overlapping or contradictory as well as identify the gaps in the regulatory system. On this basis, more vital information could be sourced in order to establish how best to set up the project in the planned location.

To understand which governance aspects needed to be considered in our decision for an operator model, we analyzed the roles, responsibilities and relationships between key actors based on the Transparency, Accountability and Participation (TAP) risk map (WIN ny). On this basis, we developed different scenarios and weighed their pros and cons (for more information on this, see the factsheet on operator models).

For the focus area of wastewater reuse, we examined environmental regulations and effluent quality as well as agricultural regulations regarding the requirements and restrictions for irrigation with treated wastewater.

To establish formal agreements around the project, we referred to similar existing contracts or contract templates (e.g. for system operation agreements). These provided the basis to determine what kinds of information we needed to compile through our assessment efforts.

Participants analysing water and wastewater governance (Source: ISSRAR, 2018)
Participants analysing water and wastewater governance (Source: ISSRAR, 2018)​​​​​​


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  • Have you tapped the experience and knowledge of (local) experts to get a thorough understanding of the sector governance and an overview of relevant policies, regulations, guidelines and standards?
  • If there were no existing wastewater governance assessment approaches, have you considered adapt another existing, proven governance assessment tool rather than developing your own from scratch?
  • Have you leveraged a participatory approach to governance assessments to engage key stakeholders in your project?
  • Have you clearly delineated which aspects of governance need to be understood?
Library References

Annotated Water Integrity Scans

The Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS) responds to the call made in the 2008 Global Corruption Report (GCR) for participatory and qualitative tools to analyse corruption in, and enhance the integrity of, water service development and delivery.

The AWIS is a diagnostic tool for multistakeholder workshops, and has three main objectives:

- Establish an overview of the integrity of different sub-sectors of the water sector, to highlight areas which are vulnerable to corruption.

- Identify priority areas for action to enhance water integrity.

- Increase awareness about the water integrity situation and stimulate improvement.

The AWIS will be repeated annually (or every two years) to explore whether it can be used as a monitoring tool. This manual is meant for a broad group of actors interested in exploring and improving integrity and governance in the water sector. This includes staff from government agencies, NGOs, think tanks, universities, the private sector and other organisations involved in development co-operation and the water sector. Policy makers and managers may be particularly interested in the promotion of the tool and the implications of its findings. The manual will also help potential facilitators of AWIS workshops as they prepare for their session.

VISSCHER, J.T. HERMANN-FRIEDE, J. (2011): Annotated Water Integrity Scans. A manual to help assess integrity levels in specific sub-sectors of the water sector. Berlin, Germany: Water Integrity Network and International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) URL [Accessed: 01.06.2020] PDF

AWIS facilitator's guide

This document was developed to guide the facilitation of the Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS). The AWIS was established by the Water Integrity Network (WIN) and IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre in response to the call made in the 2008 Global Corruption Report (GCR) for participatory and qualitative tools to analyse corruption in, and enhance the integrity of, water service development and delivery.

VISSCHER, J.T. HERMANN-FRIEDE, J. (2011): AWIS facilitator's guide. A guide to help implement an Annotated Water Integrity Scan. Berlin, Germany: Water Integrity Netowork and transparency International URL [Accessed: 01.06.2020] PDF

User's Guide on Assessing Water Governance

Sound governance is fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Establishing water governance assessment mechanisms will thus be an important aspect of any current or future development framework and can help us better recognize if countries are on the right reform track in developing their water resources and services for the greater good of society.

This guide proposes a framework that can be applied as a starting point for any water governance assessment. As a part of water governance, the guide specifies approaches for assessments around water integrity and anti-corruption in the water sector. It also describes the usefulness of other assessment methodologies and presents relevant cases of how assessments can be applied.

Jacobson, M., Meyer, F., Oia, I., Reddy, P. and Tropp, H. (2013): User's Guide on Assessing Water Governance. Oslo: UNDP the United Nations Development Programme PDF

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