BPD Water Supply and Sanitation Cluster

What is the BPD?

Business Partners for Development (BPD) was a project-based initiative set up to study, support and promote strategic examples of partnerships involving business, civil society and government working together for the development of communities around the world. It was created, believing that tri-sector partnerships could provide long-term benefits to the business sector and at the same time meet the social objectives of civil society and the state by helping to create stable social and financial environments.

BPD can demonstrate that tri-sector partnerships:

  • can provide win-win benefits to all three parties;

  • can be much more widely used throughout the world;

  • can be scaled up to national and regional levels.

BPD Partners decided to spend three years working intensively with 30 "focus projects" (i.e. pilots) in 20 countries and grouped into four "clusters". The purpose of the Business Partners for Development "focus projects" was to share practical experience building partnerships and to learn together how to achieve the greatest impact on businesses and communities.

The BPD Clusters:
Each cluster was designed with its own specific objectives and vision for the partnership:



BPD Water and Sanitation Cluster

The BPD Water and Sanitation Cluster is an informal network of partners who seek to demonstrate that strategic partnerships involving business, government and civil society can achieve more at the local level to improve access to safe water and effective sanitation for the urban poor than any of the groups acting individually.

Among the three groups, perspectives and motivations vary widely however, and reaching consensus often proves difficult. Different work processes, methods of communication and approaches to decision-making are common obstacles. When these tri-sector partnerships succeed though, communities benefit, governments serve more effectively and private enterprise profits, resulting in the win-win situation that is the ultimate aim of BPD and its divisions, or clusters.

The Water and Sanitation Cluster aims to improve access to safe water and effective sanitation for the rising number of urban poor in developing countries. By working in partnership it is presumed that governments can ensure the health of their citizens with safe water and effective sanitation while apportioning the financial and technical burden, the private sector can effectively meet their contractual obligations while ensuring financial sustainability over the long term, and communities can gain a real voice in their development.

For the last three years the Water and Sanitation Cluster has been working with eight focus projects around the world, most of which predated the Cluster. The approach to extracting information from which to analyse the efficacy of tri-sector partnership is three-pronged:

  • by supporting partnership-oriented research on thematic project elements (cost recovery, education and awareness, etc.)

  • by creating forums for analysing the sector specific (civil society, public and private sector) benefits and challenges of working so closely with organisations from other sectors

  • by documenting the evolution of the partnership in specific focus projects


Structure, Members and Governance

The Cluster is managed by its members. These comprise some of the world's leading transnational and domestic water companies, together with The World Bank Group's Business Partnership and Outreach Group and the Water and Sanitation Division, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and various international non-governmental organisations including WaterAid, Programme Solidarite Eau, and International Secretariat for Water. Many of our members are contributing substantial staff time and resources to the BPD programme, both at headquarters and field office levels.

Commercial sector project sponsors include Aguas de Barcelona, Générale des Eaux/Vivendi, Hydro Conseil, Northumbrian Water, Ondeo Services, and Thames Water. Local governments, local planning and public works authorities, regulatory bodies, and research institutes and universities contribute to these joint effort projects, as do numerous national and international NGOs.

Co-convened by Générale des Eaux/Vivendi, WaterAid and The World Bank since 1998, the Secretariat for the Water and Sanitation Cluster is hosted by WaterAid and governed by an international Steering Group. The Steering Group includes representatives from the private sector; focus projects; international NGOs; and donors, such as The World Bank Group, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and UNICEF. Funding for this learning initiative is provided by The World Bank Group, DFID and participating private sector companies.


Projects and Activities

The BPD Water and Sanitation Cluster has been working with 8 'focus projects' around the world. The 8 partnership projects varied widely in scope, scale, and structure. Several of them had only just been formed when the BPD was created.

  • 1) Drinking water supply and sewer system in the El Poz¢n quarter, Cartagena, Colombia

  • 2) Water supply improvements to Marunda District, Jakarta, Indonesia

  • 3) Restructuring public water services in shanty towns, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

  • 4) Developing water supply and sanitation services for marginal urban populations, La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia

  • 5) Innovative water solutions for underprivileged districts, Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • 6) Sustainable water and wastewater services in underprivileged areas, Eastern Cape and Northern Province, South Africa

  • 7) Management of water services, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

  • 8) Upgrade and expansion of local water networks, Dakar, Senegal

The Secretariat has determined that the best way to learn from the focus projects is through a three-angled line of inquiry. The iterative and complementary approaches are as follows:

1) Sector-by-sector analysis
The workshop series provides an example whereby each sector was brought together to conduct its own SWOT analysis of working in partnership with the other two sectors. The actors from the different sectors approach the partnerships in different ways. They have different expectations, fears, capacities, skills and strengths. As the theory suggests, these combine with their other sector counterparts to enhance the projects. Though initial findings are fairly straightforward to an outside observer versed in these types of relationships, the most critical factor is in overcoming the stereotypes of different-sector counterparts. It proves critical to make concrete assessments of the contributions that individual sectors make, and to build up their confidence in making these contributions.

2) Theme-based review
This approach attempts to address the impact of the tri-sector relationships on specific project components or project themes. In 2000, a survey was commissioned of the way the partnerships impact on cost recovery in poor areas. Perhaps as testimony to the infancy of the partnership approach, the analysis at the local level of how the partnerships were impacting on specific themes requires deepening. The Cluster continues to encourage the partners and partnerships to clarify their working relationships. It also intends to use their experiences to make recommendations to others embarking on a similar tri-sector approach. Recent activities in this area include research and surveys on Making Innovation Work through Partnerships in Water and Sanitation Projects; The Interface between Regulatory Frameworks and Tri-Sector Partnerships; and Partnership and Education / Awareness Campaigns.

3) Local-level analysis
This project-by-project or partnership-by-partnership analysis has resulted in the drafting of Partnership Analysis Reports that have attempted to document the successes, impacts, challenges and wider contexts of each individual project. The challenge for the Secretariat in this approach, is that the partnerships are actually living breathing organisms that change on a daily basis. Structures put in place and definitions of roles, responsibilities and budgets are all influential in (and also significantly different among) the eight focus projects. Equally, external events, changes in staffing, findings in the communities and other externalities have an impact on the way the partners work together.

Ultimately the aim is to bring the three strands together in some coherent analysis of findings. This will result in a checklist (and a body of work documenting the experiences) for potential partners and donors advocating tri-sector partnership. It is doubtful that the Cluster will determine a 'model' for tri-sector partnerships. Given the different incentives and disincentives, capacities and resources, and contextual factors involved, the Cluster will not be able to make meaningful blanket recommendations, but will be able to highlight factors to be considered by all partners involved.



The BPD Water and Sanitation Cluster disseminates findings through its newsletter, Crystal Clear, the website, and other key publications to share best practice widely.

Crystal Clear Newsletter

In the latest (fifth) edition the BPD showcases an article by Steve Waddell extracted from analysis on emerging models for providing water and sanitation to the rural poor (based on the South African experience). Two recent research pieces are highlighted: a short synthesis of the findings from the three sectoral workshops held in 2000 and a summary of a Cost Recovery in Partnership survey. Finally two recently released research reports on Education and Awareness in Partnership and Alternative Approaches to Service Provision are previewed. (12 pages)

Project synopses (Project Information Sheets)

These exist in English, Spanish and French for each of the eight projects that the BPD works with. They introduce each partnership, covering the actors, context & project beneficiaries. The objectives and structures, roles and responsibilities, communications and feedback of the partnership are then summarised. Finally issues such as evolution and institutionalisation, results, next steps and replicability and wider lessons are looked at.

Flexibility by Design

A multi-disciplinary team of experts engaged in municipal capacity building, corporate social responsibility, NGO-private sector relations, domestic water and partnership spheres assembled to draw out partnership lessons stemming from actual focus project experience. Their analysis was based on the Cluster's internal 'Partnership Analysis Reports' which for each focus project document the context, formation process, partnership structures, individual and mutual goals and incentives, evolution and institutionalisation, impacts and key lessons. The team considered what we know about when and how tri-sector partnerships are effective at: 1) providing water and sanitation to the poor? & 2) building systems in which the poor have a sustainable voice? This exciting study presents their findings. (36 pages including appendices)

Practitioner Note Series

These short pieces are aimed at field practitioners and policymakers. They briefly introduce (in around six pages) particular topics of interest and set them in the context of tri-sector partnerships.

Contracting NGOs: Multi-sector partnerships often rely on NGOs to represent the interests of civil society. This practitioner note reviews the main issues, challenges and approaches associated with contracting NGOs

Partnership Indicators: Measuring the effectiveness of partnerships between sector groups proves particularly challenging. However, the creation and maintenance of a carefully selected set of indicators tailored to specific partnership projects should enhance relations by increasing clarity and reinforcing communication channels. This paper provides considerations for the creation of such partnership indicators.

Conceiving and Managing Partnerships: This paper aims to relate the BPD initiative to the existing body of research into partnerships. It provides a few guidelines on partnership formation, discussing the objectives of collaboration, setting-up governance structures, delineating roles and responsibilities and evaluating partnership impacts.

Perceptions of Partnership: Based on a series of sector-specific workshops bringing together practitioners from partnership projects on the ground, this note looks at perceptions of style and competencies of the three sectors. Understanding these expectations at the outset allows partners to move from the "generic" to the specific qualities of their proposed partners.

Cost Recovery: Cost recovery in water and sanitation projects is an integral component of long-term sustainability. This practitioner note outlines the ways in which a multi-sector partnership can both help and hinder the achievement of a financially sustainable project.

Benefits to Business of Tri-Sector Partnerships: This note briefly surveys the benefits to business of working in partnership to serve poor customers. It suggests why private companies should be concerned with serving the poor and introduces the concept of tri-sector partnerships (TSPs). Reasons why private sector actors (whether large or small, international or local) should be interested in partnering with civil society and the public sector are discussed. Equally, circumstances where TSPs may not be the best option are suggested.

The Interface between Regulatory Frameworks and Tri-Sector Partnerships: Addressing regulatory issues is rarely at the centre of tri-sector partnership's concerns, even though the constraints set by regulation may have a great impact on what can be achieved. Similarly, regulatory institutions do not necessarily see the relevance of co-operating with partnerships for dealing with issues related to the provision of water and sanitation services to poor consumers. Based on BPD experience, this practitioner note calls for a greater dialogue between regulatory institutions and local-level partnerships.


Themed Research

Cost Recovery in Partnerships
Achieving financial sustainability is an increasingly important goal in water and sanitation projects around the world. This stems from a growing recognition that water is an economic good and that the benefits of projects are likely to be short-lived if the projects are unable to recover costs. The BPD conducted a study into how each of the focus projects addresses the challenge of cost recovery and serving the poor in partnership. This report brings cost recovery challenges, goals and strategies to light, and to identify where there are lessons to be learned from the diverse and rich experience within the BPD. (42 pages including appendices)

Education and Awareness in Partnership
Participants from all three sectors and from all 8 focus projects attended the Education and Awareness in Partnership Workshop (held 9-11 May). The principle aims of the workshop were to explore how E&A works in partnership, to identify and understand approaches that have been successful and those that have not, and to understand how the partnership facilitates (or inhibits) these different approaches.

Making Innovation Work through Partnerships in Water and Sanitation Projects
The report aims to determine whether innovative approaches are an effective mechanism for serving the poor and whether tri-sector partnerships facilitate the implementation of these approaches. Those selected for study ranged from condominial water supply and sewerage systems, community-managed standposts and pre-payment meters, to alternative billing, payment and collection methods tailored to the needs of the poor. The study did indeed find that the multi-sector partnership played an important role in each project - providing an environment that fosters innovation and the resources needed to maximise the potential of new approaches.

The Interface between Regulatory Frameworks and Partnership
The emphasis of the report is twofold: to see how the local regulatory framework shapes the actions of the partners, and to see what, if anything, partnerships can offer to regulatory bodies. The study also looks at how partnerships could better understand how the regulatory regime affects the delivery of services to the poor, how they could take this into account when designing their activities and what pro-active steps they could take.


The Sector Workshops

The NGO workshop, the first of a series of same-sector workshops, brought together NGO counterparts from the BPD focus projects. Practitioners analysed the various sectoral attributes and the ramifications these have for partnership. Two sets of preliminary recommendations were determined for NGOs considering entering into a tri-sector partnership: (i) recommendations for partnerships, which included contracting mechanisms, governance structures and partners' responsibilities, and (ii) recommendations for project design in partnership, including the need for community participation in decision-making at every stage of the project cycle. Similar workshops took place for the Public Sector and the Private Sector and the reports from these contain similar recommendations specific to each sector concerned.


Links and Resource Centre

As well as linking to its member organisations the BPD Water and Sanitation Cluster seeks to play a useful role by not only conducting and disseminating its own in-house research, but by acting as a resource centre for people interested both in partnership and in water issues. The Cluster therefore seeks to provide not only links to other organisations working in the field, but also background documents and other information of interest for both these two themes. The Secretariat is always open for suggestions for its resource centre.