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Institutional and Organizational Contexts for Sustainable Innovations in Sanitation

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Whether novel concepts for sustainable sanitation will be successful crucially depends on how well they are embedded into existing contexts. Such contexts, or environments, encompass a multitude of aspects: geographic and economic conditions, regulatory frameworks, existing infrastructures, societal values and norms, user preferences and established practices, organizational competences etc. Due to the number and variety of these context factors it is a challenge to track and adequately incorporate them when setting up novel sanitation projects. What makes this challenge even larger is that the various context characteristics are located at different levels including the local, regional and national level but also different sectors (e.g. water supply, waste management). Furthermore, contexts are often not coherent, which means that there might be conflicting demands or conditions novel approaches have to deal with.

This chapter takes a closer look at the various dimensions of the context sanitation projects have to be embedded in. We will first develop a tool for systematically identifying and mapping the context factors and elaborate on some of the key challenges and reasons why projects fail. In the second part of the chapter, we illustrate our approach as we explain how context factors lead to the failure of a project directed at decentralized sanitation in the city of Kunming (China). The chapter concludes with major lessons on the role of context factors and a preliminary set of conditions to be fulfilled for ‘enabling environments’ that favour sustainable sanitation concepts.

Keywords: China; Innovation; Institutions; Organizations; Sanitation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-01-01

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