Published: Nov. 30, 2021 By

Water and sanitation services remain unequal, unreliable, and unsafe for too large a portion of our world's population. Challenges facing service delivery are multifaceted and intertwined, including high breakdown rates, weak or convoluted laws, insufficient financing mechanisms, and drought. Solving these challenges often falls on the shoulders of local governments, as many national governments decentralize service provision mandates. Especially in low-income and weak-governance contexts, overcoming service delivery challenges can exceed the scopes and skillsets of any single agency or department. Collaborative approaches are thus used by governments and international development actors as a way to bring all relevant, local stakeholders together to solve these problems through joint action and mutual responsibility. Understanding how collaborative approaches work in low-income and weak-governance contexts is therefore imperative to achieving universal, reliable access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services.

There is a wealth of literature on collaborative approaches; however, this literature is limited in scope as nearly all published knowledge has focused on high-income country contexts. Working closely with experts from eleven cases in Eastern Africa, this dissertation investigated how collaborative approaches work in WASH contexts. I first synthesized literature and convened an expert panel to rate and prioritize factors that enable success in collaborative approaches in low-income and weak-governance contexts. To comprehensively understand how these factors worked on the ground, I used fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) to investigate combinations of factors that drove progress. Results spurred a second fsQCA investigation into the sole factor that was necessary for progress in all cases: local government uptake. Finally, in response to methodological limitations that has prevented comprehensive investigations of alignment around a common objective, I developed a new method using network analysis and used it to map how alignment changed over time in two well-functioning collaborative approaches.

Together, this dissertation provides evidence-based guidance on factors and processes that enable collaborative efforts to succeed, laying the groundwork for implementing collaborative approaches in the challenging and unique environment of WASH. Through its unique contributions, this dissertation charts a new course for more robust international development programming and theory development.


Pugel, K. (2021). "Collaboratively Strengthening Water and Sanitation Systems in Low-Income and Weak-Governance Contexts". Dissertation, University of Colorado Boulder.