Collaborative behaviour: an opportunity for action!

3 Dec 2015


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The Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Partnership Meeting was recently held at the Hague. In attendance as a civil society representative, Samson Shivaji, CEO of the Kenya Water and Sanitation CSO Network - Kewasnet shares his experience and gives more insights on the meeting, and the future of SWA.

For me, attending the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership meeting in the Hague could not have come at a more opportune time, both as a member of the African Civil Society Network for Water and Sanitation (ANEW) and the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET). The meeting provided important insights on how to better support the roles I have been endowed with, but also a good reflection on how my current practise at National level can leverage instruction and learning to an array of partners globally.

One of the more interesting components of the partnership meeting was a session on Collaborative behaviours. Civil society in attendance had an opportunity for reflection on the behaviours and they seemed to easily define their roles in ensuring that the collaborative behaviours are achieved. 

An important aspect of the call for collaborative behaviour document is the demand for recognition that partners work within shared space towards common goals. This is important, since it then demands for constant self-reflection with regards to how much space each partner is occupying, whether it is the appropriate space with regard to mandate, and whether such occupancy recognises that there is always a need for collaborative mix of actions from different partners to achieve optimum output for sustainable water and sanitation for all.

Accountability is emphasised as a key behaviour for uptake. For civil society in many parts of the world, this may sound like music to our ears, until when the finger is switched to point inwards. Civil society organisations have for a long time invested much time and resources towards ensuring other actors are accountable against targets and commitments. The collaborative behaviours call for continued focus on this, but also sets the radar on civil society as a collaborative partner, to also account for the level of investment in the sector. This is particularly important where civil societies directly engage in service provision within the sector through project based actions. Civil societies are called upon to always recognise the role of the Government as the duty bearer in country, faithfully share information on their contribution, and work towards ensuring that their work contributes to good quality and sustainability of output.

In my reflection of this session, I was glad to be able to look back on the work being done by KEWASNET to support exactly the same stream of thinking and action by Civil Societies in Kenya. The asks from the four collaborative behaviours relates to the aspirations of the  Integrity and Quality Management (IQC) toolbox developed by KEWASNET for Civil Society, to promote best practise of civil society organisations working in the sector.

Civil society organisations occupy a unique space in the realisation of these collaborative behaviours, since they primarily have a unique observer and catalyst role, but more importantly because they are predominantly identified with the rights- based side of representation of the communities whose voices need to be heard more. This provides a ripe opportunity for Civil Society to be the voice and agitator for these collaborative voices, both at global and local levels. Taking such space, for Civil society would call for organised action at these levels. It then follows that civil society organisations would need to be facilitated to have the capacity effectively take up such role. This, then, is an ideal opportunity for the SWA partnership to better recognise the role of Civil Society, professionalise their role, and strategically and adequately support such role, through provision of direct financing mechanisms.

Blog originally posted on the KEWASNET website on 3 December 2015.