In 2014, the ‘new kid on the block’ for WASH sector funding was introduced through DFID’s WASH Results Programme’s Payment by Results. The fund was designed to give impetus to meet the MDG goals on WASH, found to be lagging behind in many countries. The targets were ambitious, the model risky. SNV’s Anne Mutta shares SSH4A RP’s experience in implementing PbR.
The Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All Results Programme (SSH4A RP) of SNV, financed by UKAID, was among the first organisations to engage in PBR programming in 2014. By end of December 2017, our four-year experience in implementing SSH4A RP in 62 districts across nine countries in Africa and Asia successfully engaged 7 million people. Independently verified results of the programme found that at least 2.7 million people have gained access to and are using new and improved sanitation facilities. Beyond meeting our pre-defined results at household level, SNV’s payment was tied to so-called ‘Sustainability Results’, measuring progress towards sustainable service delivery systems in each district.
Stephen Covey says ‘begin with the end in mind’, under a PBR system this translates to having a definite goal to work towards (the results) and constantly reviewing what you are doing (process) to see if it is getting you where you want to go!
Under a PBR contract, programme targets are fixed and underachievement is ‘penalised’. Because overly-optimistic targets are considered financial risks, organisations are challenged to be more realistic at the start of programme design. Building on and ‘growing’ our years of SSH4A work (developed in 2008) had helped us offer ambitious but realistic targets that can be delivered within a given time frame. Similarly, because we’ve been physically present in our SSH4A RP countries for years (for example, we’ve been present in Kenya since 1969) our knowledge base and partnership with local government and CSOs allowed us to prepare for potential risks and unforeseen events. The number of countries and districts, helped to balance out the effect of those unforeseen events, as there are many factors beyond our control, in particular affecting sustainability indicators.
Although targets are fixed under DFID’s WASH Results Programme (WRP), there is flexibility in implementation: programme activities may be changed to respond to evolving contexts. A lot of time savings were realised because there was no need for us to engage in a protracted consultation process with UKAID when funds had to be shifted. The WRP’s PbR gave us more control on how things can be done and allowed us to swiftly respond to shifting needs or priorities. Our country teams – who had a better handle of the contexts they were working in – were able to adjust their interventions and search for those most suitable in supporting households to gain access to sanitation facilities. Experience and engagements on the ground guided our interventions, and facilitated actual ‘learning and doing’.
PbR increased attention on the need for sound monitoring systems within project designs. A defining characteristic of the WRP is the integration of an independent third party verification process, which is conducted prior to ‘pay out’. With quality monitoring and evaluation (M&E) becoming an integral part of programme conversations, we introduced robust M&E tools, our country teams became involved in conducting household surveys, and they organised regular stakeholder review/ reflection meetings on sustainability indicators. Constantly questioning whether progress had been made, why and how things can be done better and sustainably have helped us reach optimal results. This reflection process served as the main driver behind our achievements, and the results that we all take pride in.
By embracing this new working modality, and with hard work, we managed to surpass at least 95% of our SSH4A RP pre-defined targets. Without a reflective, evidence-based process of target setting and progress monitoring, it is foolhardy to imagine that we are able to get the same desired results.
About the Author: Anne Mutta is multi-country programme manager of SNV’s largest Payment by Results (PbR) programme to date – a multi-million programme that is being implemented across eight countries in Africa and Nepal. Anne, based in Kenya, has 20 solid years of experience leading action-oriented and evidence-based WASH programmes.
Photo credit: Anjani Abella/SNV