So we’re in the middle of our second round of participatory-based Water and Sanitation Training with our WatSan staff. As I talked about in my other post, “Teaching Leaders How to Facilitate Discussions,” our Field Managers have been doing some mock village trainings (our Field Officers being the “village”) with the PHAST Curriculum (a participatory-based training) in order to hone in our facilitation skills. Although there was a lot of excitement for participatory-based training, we knew that there was a lot for us to improve after that first practice round. One of the most glaring shortcomings was that our Field Officers weren’t always discussing behaviors that were actually happening in their community. Instead, they were giving answers saying how everyone should be using a latrine and treat their water. This was a huge problem because having an honest discussion is crucial to getting at the real problems facing a community. This is foundational to any participatory approach.  Without an honest discussion, there is no real buy-in from the community. Without real buy-in, there is no real participation.

So, the Field Managers and I went back and searched other participatory curriculums. We found that one of them (the Sustainable Community Owned Total Sanitation, or SCOTS approach) took the group on a “transect walk” in which we all walk through the community before having a discussion about the water and sanitation problems that they see. This was pretty powerful because there was no denying what we saw. There were  houses with no latrines (or latrines that would soon collapse) and water sources choked by garbage.

The conversation got very real after that walk. The Field Officers were no longer just repeating the water and sanitation topics we had taught them, but discussing the actual problems facing the community. So, we still have many things to improve in our participatory curriculum, but having frank discussions with the community is definitely a step in the right direction for us.