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In resource-limited communities, sanitation systems have high failure rates, often due to a combination of social and technical factors. In many sectors, supply-driven or top-down approaches have been shown to be less effective than demand-driven or bottom-up approaches, as the former neglect contextualized user preferences and needs. For sanitation projects, community acceptance of a system can be an extremely important determinant of project success; however, acceptance is less likely to occur if community needs and preferences are not addressed. One way to encourage user acceptance and meaningful community participation is to solicit and incorporate community input for project decision-making. Studies show that addressing community priorities is essential for effective project decision-making and ongoing use and maintenance. However, most existing methods to assess and incorporate community needs fail to identify community priorities, instead focusing on wastewater generation or a lack of infrastructure coverage. The lack of understanding of the effectiveness of methods for assessing community priorities and reduces the chance of increasing sanitation access. This paper compares the use of three methods—semistructured interviews, photovoice, and focus groups—to identify community priorities for sanitation (e.g., water reuse, aesthetics, cleanliness) and then compares two methods—relative frequency of mention and the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP)—to rank the identified priorities. The approach was implemented in eight case study communities in southern India to compare and contrast sanitation-specific priorities. This paper discusses the use of the different priority identification and ranking methods and concludes that semi-structured interviews yield the most complete lists of priorities and the AHP provides the most consistent and informative ranking of priorities.

Davis, A., Javernick-Will, A., and Cook, S. (2017). “Multi-Method Approach to Identifying Community Priorities For Sanitation Systems.” Engineering Project Organization Conference. Stanford Sierra Camp, CA.