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Smuts Memorial Fund



PhD student, Department of Engineering, Smuts Research Grant Recipient

Network Characteristics of Institutional Development for Rural Access to Safe Water

Over my six weeks in Malawi, I travelled nearly 4000km and interviewed nearly forty stakeholders - from ministries to communities - to understand how the network of organisations and stakeholders is linked, and what about this network is helping services for rural access to safe water to improve. During interviews I asked participants to draw the network of their organisation - who they interact with and how. Their recommendations then identified further stakeholders for subsequent interviews, eventually creating an overall picture of the sector.

Participants were further asked to comment on aspects of the network that are helping services, and the institutions managing them, to improve. This provides unique insight, from a variety of perspectives, into what is driving positive change in rural safe water supply. Most previous research has focused on individual projects, or best practices for improving services.

This work, however, incorporates the perspective of a whole sector, and how the cumulative actions of myriad stakeholders support or hinder improvements in service delivery.

Impact of the funding received

The funding made fieldwork in Malawi possible. These data provide an important supplement to previous fieldwork in Ghana that used the same methods, and comparative analysis of these two cases can now try to identify dynamics in networks that help safe water services to improve. It is possible that certain dynamics can drive positive change, even across very different country contexts. Understanding this is crucial for the future of global clean water access, especially in light of the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals.