Call for case studies of successful sanitation progress in challenging contexts

We are currently seeking case studies of demonstrated successes improving sanitation access and use in challenging contexts.


The Sanitation Learning Hub, WaterAid and UNICEF are collaborating on an evidence-based practical guidance document which aims to support progress on area-wide sanitation and coverage in particularly challenging contexts. Challenging contexts include:

  • Poverty and marginalisation: individuals, households and communities who are deliberately excluded and those whose access to resources make an improved toilet impossible – this could be due to land tenure, homelessness or access to finance, building materials or financial services
  • Entrenched attitudes and social beliefs: individuals, households and communities where attitudes and beliefs make them reluctant to construct or use toilet facilities
  • Tough physical environments: including areas where challenging ground conditions (geology, soils, hydrology, topography), a lack of natural materials for construction, exposure to natural hazards and remoteness make communities’ access to markets and materials needed difficult. Though having a detrimental impact on all challenge categories, rapid climate change is increasing exposure to natural hazards and water scarcity.
  • Lifestyles/Livelihoods: where a particular groups’ temporary, transient or informal status – such as temporary and seasonal migrants, fishing communities and nomadic or semi-nomadic communities – make access to and use of sanitation difficult.
  • Fragile contexts: falling within both the humanitarian and development spheres these contexts can be challenging due to a lack of access to programme sites and the presence and effectiveness of governments, market actors and NGOs. This category includes the challenges communities in these contexts face to build and use toilets, such as social cohesion and destruction of access due to conflict. It also includes displaced persons residing in camps and host communities.

More information on the planned guidance can be found here.

What we are looking for

We are currently seeking case studies of demonstrated successes improving sanitation access and use in challenging contexts. We are not looking to test new ideas but are keen to learn about previous work that has had proven practical results over time in challenging contexts.  We recognise that these categories will rarely be experienced in isolation and more than one context will apply in many cases. However, we ask for case studies to focus in on one or two of the contexts, while still listing other challenges that are also relevant.

We are open to case studies on any challenging contexts but are particularly interested in those focused on sanitation in:

  • Coastal or waterside areas
  • Communities with lifestyles and livelihoods which pose a challenge for sanitation, for example mining communities; fishing communities; pastoralists
  • Communities with entrenched attitudes and beliefs that make sanitation challenging
  • Protracted or recently ended crises, particularly in refugee/IDP camps; host communities; returning communities
  • Informal or undocumented communities who may, for example, struggle to receive state recognition/support

Case studies will be written up using this template (or similar) and cross-analysed by SLH to develop the guidance. It is likely that extracts will be used throughout the guidance to illustrate certain points. The case studies may also be published in full (to be decided).

We are looking for approximately 10 case studies in total and can allocate up to £2,000 for each case study. This can be used to fund staff time to document the case study and any fieldwork/research costs to collect current data to develop the case study.

We are looking for examples focused on rural sanitation but would also be interested in area-wide studies that include small towns.

Application process

If you have an interesting case study to share, please send the information requested below to as soon as possible (ideally by Friday 11th November – see selection process below). As a reference, you can view the case study template guidance here which shows how SLH will work with authors to structure these case studies.

  1. A short paragraph outlining the background/context for your case study. Which challenging contexts does it face?
  2. A short paragraph outlining the intervention and lessons learned. What was done and when? What evidence do you have that successes have been maintained (to at least some degree) since the intervention ended? What good practice can be drawn
  3. A short paragraph outlining the approach and data needed to develop the case study. What approach would you take to document your case study? What data and evidence do you already have? What additional data would you need to collect? How would you collect any additional data? Please see the case study template for further guidance on this.
  4. A budget detailing any costs you would need funding for to develop the case study. This can include time costs, travel and subsistence costs (based on actual expenses, not per diems/DSAs) for fieldwork, other research costs. Costs need to be itemised.
  5. A completed draft of the IDS ethical approval form (download here).
  6. CVs of the case study development team, including details of referees.
  7. A sentence letting us know how you found out about this call.

Selection process

We are keen to have case studies as soon as possible so applications will be considered in batches every two weeks as they are received until the funding available has been allocated. We will consider the first batch of case studies on Monday 14th November. When selecting case studies, we will be looking at the good practice demonstrated and strength of evidence for this, as well as the spread of case studies collectively across the challenging contexts and regions.

We anticipate contracts to develop the case studies will be approximately two months each (i.e. if you start developing your case study at the start of December, the final version would be due at the start of February). As part of the contracting process, ethical approval for the case study development will need to be obtained from the Institute of Development Studies (SLH will facilitate this).

SLH Publications

Look through the complete Sanitation Learning Hub publication collection.

These include our flagship Frontiers of Sanitation series, SLH Learning Briefs and Papers, Rapid Action Learning (RAL) Papers and co-produced Approach Guidelines.

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SLH Research and Learning

The SLH use a range of research approaches, which aim to draw attention to urgent knowledge gaps, blind spots and emerging questions, often at a critical point in time, to support policy-makers, practitioners and partners in navigating and responding swiftly.

This section unpacks the approaches, including Rapid Action Learning (RAL), and shares the latest research reports.

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