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Political economy analysis for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service delivery

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Daniel Harris

This Project Briefing explores governance challenges in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service delivery. 

Political economy analysis (PEA) is a tool that can help sector specialists to identify appropriate responses in a given context, designing and implementing approaches that ‘best fit’ existing institutional structures and incentives, rather than imposing an external model of best practice. Informed by PEA, context-specific responses have the potential to be both more efficient and more effective in increasing access to WASH services

This Project Briefing includes several key recommendations for practitioners using PEA in the WASH sector:

  • Political economy analysis can complement governance assessments. These are different analytical tools and PEA is especially useful at the stages of programme design, programme review/evaluation, and at critical transition moments in the sector related to, for example, funding cycles or the emergence of new policy. 
  •  There are a number of ways to embed PEA in donor operations. In some cases, incorporating PEA ‘on-the-job’ may be most feasible. This calls for more joined-up work between governance advisors and WASH advisors, and more thought as to how (and when) to use national staff to inform programme design. In other cases, commissioning external PEA consultants may be more appropriate. 
  • PEA should embed ‘risks and assumptions’ into WASH programme logical frameworks. In other words, the risks and assumptions identified, particularly those relating to socio-political factors, should be incorporated into project or programme objectives and design, rather than being set aside.
  • WASH programmes should be explicit about the theory of change that underpins each intervention. PEA can be used to interrogate and evaluate the assumptions on how sector changes occur.
Michelle Kooy and Daniel Harris