While the construction of sanitation infrastructure is one of humankind’s greatest public health and environmental engineering achievements, its benefits are not yet enjoyed by all. In addition to the billions of people not yet reached by sanitation infrastructure, at least half of systems constructed in developing contexts are abandoned in the years following initial construction. In this research, we target the problem of postconstruction onsite sanitation infrastructure abandonment in rural Guatemala using legitimacy and status theory. Legitimacy and status are established theoretical concepts from organizational theory that reflect cultural alignment and normative support. Crisp set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (csQCA), which uses Boolean algebra to discover combinations of theoretical conditions that produce an outcome of interest, allowed us to describe the various pathways that have caused socially sustainable uptake. We find that three combinations of legitimacy and status theory explain 85% of household cases at a consistency of 0.97. The most practically useful pathway covers 50% of household cases and shows that the combination of consequential legitimacy (a moral understanding of outcomes) and comprehensibility legitimacy (a cognitive model connecting outcomes to processes) is a powerful way to achieve socially sustainable sanitation infrastructure.

Kaminsky, J. and Javernick-Will, A. (2014). “The Internal Social Sustainability of Sanitation Organizations.” Environmental Science and Technology. 48 (17), 10028-10035. doi: 10.1021/es501608p