16 June 2020

Fast Track Interventions

Author/Compiled by
Mohammad Talafha (BORDA)

Executive Summary

Fast Track Interventions are short-term activities that aim to initiate and maintain the engagement of the community and create added value for the target population. The objectives of Fast Track Interventions should be geared toward the overall project goal and the success of related project activities. The ability to deliver quick wins builds trust in the local community and boosts the credibility of the project as well as the implementing organization.

Identifying areas of intervention usually begins with a scoping mission. Here, the project team works together with the community and local stakeholders in conducting a field assessment to investigate, screen, and identify potential target groups as well as the areas in which interventions are expected to benefit both the community and environment. This process results in a shortlist of possible interventions based upon priority and feasibility.

Fast Track Interventions should take a participatory approach that involves local stakeholders and communities. Therefore, it may be helpful to hire local contractors or provide assets to a local service provider.

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

Why you should care

Factsheet Block Body

Fast Track Interventions can deliver quick wins that help improve the current (sanitation) situation and strengthen the population’s trust in the overall project. Both are key to the success and sustainability of any sanitation project.

What really matters: key lessons learned and recommendations

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Involve local expertise and experience in your analysis and implementation

Fast Track Interventions are extremely challenging to implement in a sustainable and successful way. As they require quick action, you run the risk of missing out on important information. It is therefore highly recommended that you plan the entire intervention cycle ahead in detail and involve local stakeholders in your situational analysis before implementation.In our case, we invited the local contractors who had submitted their technical and financial offers to visit several “dangerous” (i.e., uncovered) cesspits to evaluate and analyse the respective situations and suggest solutions. Experience in the demolition of such dangerous sites and the ability to implement alternative solutions were important selection criteria for the contractors. By involving the local contractors in field assessment and context analysis, we gained important technical advice regarding implementation. As the cesspits had never been desludged before, we thereby avoided the risk of a collapse during construction. Based on this experience, we strongly advise that you avoid putting people and infrastructure at risk by taking to heart the information gained from local expertise and local communities.

Carefully define the scope, timing, and prospective beneficiaries of the interventions

Fast track interventions (e.g., building community support, setting incentives for the improvement of existing services, etc.) can benefit different aspects of a project at different times. Often the first or the “loudest” ideas are not the ones yielding the biggest benefit for the project. Therefore you’ll want the entire project team to collaborate in defining the scope, timing and prospective beneficiaries of future interventions. In our case, while we were on a scoping mission to assess the community challenges in Al Azraq, local community members tried to request personal services in return for their support of the project. Clear selection criteria and a methodology that defines the scope of the interventions and its target groups are helpful in such situations. By focusing on the overall goal of the interventions (as well as the larger project) and including local government institutions (such as the municipality and district directory) in our plans, we were able to ward off these personal requests on legitimate, professional grounds and remain on good terms with all parties involved.

We selected our Fast Track Interventions by considering two different perspectives: one that looked at the immediate work area of the project, and one that included other areas affecting the scope of the project. For example, the renovation of toilet facilities in schools is part of the project's immediate work area, while providing a social media training for municipalities and CBOs to promote sanitation solutions belongs to another area but nonetheless still contributes to the goals of the project.

Beneficiaries should be expected to contribute towards the project objectives

It is helpful to tie direct Fast Track Interventions to your expectations and the contributions required from the direct beneficiaries: instead of just buying them a truck, agree that the municipality will only own the truck if they increase their response-time and maintain fair fees that do not disadvantage private operators. Fast Track Interventions should not be misinterpreted as handing out presents or paying people off. Instead, beneficiaries should be expected to contribute towards the project objectives. To ensure the long-term sustainability of each intervention, we decided to engage the respective beneficiaries in the implementation. Upon handover, the beneficiaries signed a commitment letter in which they reaffirmed their responsibility to maintain the work in a sustainable and safe manner. For instance, one of the beneficiaries intended to use the newly built slab covering the previously uncovered cesspit to construct a small dwelling on top of it. We responded by having the household sign an agreement not to build any structures on the newly covered cesspit. If this mitigation measure had not been taken, the intervention in question may not have been sustainable, due to the higher risk of material wear and failure created by the building of additional structures.

Do not harm anyone!

Before any Fast Track Interventions, analyse whether they could harm the local community in any way. In our example, the truck we purchased for the municipality posed a risk to the business model of the private desludging service provider. Interventions may also trigger dependencies or conflicts. To avoid this, you should keep in mind that a Fast Track Intervention needs to be approached almost like a separate project and requires careful analyses of stakeholders and interests as well as related risks. Make sure that Fast Track Interventions are only initiated once their context is fully understood. Because we knew about the potentially negative effect that buying the truck for the municipality would have on the private desludging operator’s business, we included a declaration in the written handover agreement to ensure the fair competitiveness of the market. However, the municipality continues to offer desludging services at a lower price than the private operator despite the agreement, damaging the private operator’s business. Based on this experience, we recommend including additional conditions in the agreement that reduce the risk of damage to other businesses.

Create synergies with other project activities and external projects

Try to find or create synergies with other project-related activities or projects of yours by mapping on-ground actors as well as ongoing interventions in the target area. Building on the work of external projects can save you time and effort when obtaining permissions, mapping target groups or conducting contracting processes. For instance, it takes approximately six months to get permission to work in schools in Jordan. However, since the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is already working in schools in Azraq, our Fast Track Intervention involving hygiene awareness and the renovation of school toilets were brought in line with the work of UNICEF and implemented through a joint agreement. Creating synergies with other external projects in this way can make implementation more efficient.

If you can’t afford it, do not do it

If resources for Fast Track Interventions are limited, people may be upset and say, “if you can’t afford it, do not do it”. To avoid this, you can focus on small interventions that impact large number of beneficiaries such as schools, rather than individual households. By creating synergies with other organizations that are already implementing on the ground, you might raise co-funding to your Fast Track Interventions by joining efforts and collaborating with them. Being aware that UNICEF was already doing a project to support schools in Jordan, we joined our efforts to improve the existing sanitation services and facilities in schools in Azraq. As a result, we achieved more on the ground while efficiently utilizing limited resources.

Identifying actual needs and demands

Choosing what to implement and who to target is a very critical issue that should be examined carefully by taking a participatory approach. Identifying the needs and demands of the local community requires a scoping mission that maps all vulnerable areas and groups that would benefit from direct intervention.

Due to limited resources, Fast Track Interventions should be chosen wisely and in a transparent way. Therefore, we involved the Head of District in mapping, prioritizing and identifying the target groups and the respective interventions. In identifying the beneficiaries and prioritizing the types of intervention, the socioeconomic situations of the communities were taken into consideration. The following table shows the Fast Track Interventions implemented in Azraq and lists their advantages and disadvantages:

Fast Track Intervention Advantages & opportunities Disadvantages & risks
Purchase of a new desludging truck for Al Azraq municipality

Reducing the deficit between service provision and demand which in turn reduces the number of overflowing cesspits as well as the risk of health diseases and groundwater contamination.

Increasing the amount of wastewater collected by the municipality, which in turn ensures the constant delivery of the wastewater and faecal sludge into the new wastewater treatment plant.

A brand-new truck with a huge capacity and relatively low cost for the municipality can affect the private truck business that is more expensive and less well equipped.

The truck may not be maintained properly.

Rehabilitation of two dangerous open cesspits in Al Azraq

Reducing the health risks of kids and animals, who are at risk of falling into open cesspits.

Reducing environmental risks.

Supporting the local market through collaborations with local contractors.

Drawing attention to the dangers of having unsafe dumpsites.

Limited funding means only targeting a small number of cesspits.

Unregistered local contractors are difficult to manage in terms of logistics and reporting.

In disadvantaged communities, houses are often built irregularly / illegally (slums). Therefore, Head of District requires letters from concerned households stating ownership of land that the cesspit is located on and confirmation of accuracy and truthfulness of information.

WASH in schools in Al Azraq

Enhancement of WASH services and infrastructure in schools.

Rehabilitation and construction of WASH facilities.

Promoting behavioural change, personal and community hygiene practices, and community mobilization.

Creating knowledge transfer channels to deliver the project objectives to families through teachers and students in a simple and context-friendly perspective.

You can’t ensure the sustainability of your intervention in any school which does not have cleaning and guard staff.

Lack of daily tracking of every cleaning activity and continuous maintenance of the infrastructure can damage the entire intervention.


Less talk, more action!

In small communities, the work or reputation of an organisation can swiftly be promoted or rejected. Fast Track Interventions must therefore be based on necessity. Many organizations have been blacklisted in the community because they work for exposure, not for purpose. This will destroy the community's trust in the organization and in future interventions by other organizations. In Azraq, there has been a lack of trust between the community and non-governmental organizations due to past projects that were planned not for their needs but for publicity purposes and the benefit of select groups. However, our Fast Track Interventions helped to rebuild trust in the community and local institutions. This facilitated the activities of our project on site and provided us with "proof of concept" that we are here to work and not only to talk.


Factsheet Block Body
  • Did you involve local expertise and experience in the analysis and implementation of your Fast Track Intervention to ensure having all relevant information?
  • Have you defined scope, appropriate timing and beneficiaries with the entire project team and the local stakeholders?
  • Did the beneficiaries make a clear contribution towards the project objectives in return?
  • Did you consider mitigating all risks related to the implementation of the fast track intervention?
  • Have you considered creating synergies with other project activities and external projects?
  • Do you have sufficient funds to generate meaningful impact?
  • Did you assess the actual needs and demands in the targeted area by engaging the local stakeholders?

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