IWA Publishing

When behavior change fails: evidence for building WASH strategies on existing motivations


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Despite increased efforts, an estimated 30–40% of rural drinking water initiatives in developing countries fail to provide sustainable solutions. The Sustainable Development Goal for water (SDG 6) challenges us to solve this problem to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. In this paper, we explore one possible barrier to success: a potential misalignment between local and outside motivations. We address this problem by analyzing how strategies used to successfully (n = 148) and unsuccessfully (n = 70) deliver drinking water to rural areas align with known motivations of local stakeholders. As one tool and starting point, we use definitions in Maslow's theory of motivation to learn and share how to more consistently and successfully build comprehensive motivations into solutions. The results reveal that successful strategies rarely focus on physiological needs (2/148) and often focus on higher-level needs, including self-esteem (75/148), love and belonging (46/148), and safety (69/148). Successful strategies also typically address multiple needs and are designed to meet the actualization (fulfill potential) of both communities and donors. Unsuccessful strategies focus on needs of outside stakeholders above local stakeholders (46/70), fail to address higher-level or multiple needs, and/or unsuccessfully address existing needs.

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