PhD: Co-designing institutional arrangements for water and sanitation services

RMIT University

Melbourne, VIC, AU

Many low-income rural and urban communities across the world still lack access to water and sanitation services, and especially to long-term sustainable services. In 2017, 11% of the world’s population lacked access to safe water, while 26% lacked access to safe sanitation services [1]. Furthermore, while more people than ever have access to water and sanitation services, many run the risk of ‘slippage’ – slipping back to a lack of services, due to unsustainable service provision [2].

Over the previous decades the approach to water and sanitation service provision in low- and middle-income countries has changed rapidly as the complexity of service provision has become increasingly more apparant [3]. Until the 1990s the development sector focused mainly on the implementation of appropriate technologies – low-cost, small-scale, and locally build alternatives to conventional centralised water and sewerage systems [4][5][6]. The strategy was simple: If the cost of infrastructure could be kept low, higher service coverage could be reached with the same amount of money [4][7]. Over time the need to also take into consideration ongoing operation, maintenance, funding, and political support, has become evident. Focus is, therefore, today as much on the development and implementation of appropriate institutional arrangements as on the implementation of technology [8][9][10].

Just like participatory approaches are widely used in the design of appropriate technologies, recent research suggests that they can be used in the development of appropriate institutional arrangements as well [11]. Building on existing research, the PhD candidate will explore opportunities for using design methodologies, including human-centred design, co-design, participatory design, and service design, to engage a broad spectrum of relevant stakeholders (i.e. community members, NGOs, private sector, and local government stakeholders) in designing appropriate institutional arrangements for water and sanitation service provision. This could involve developing design games, personas, service blueprints and similar to facilitate co-design sessions. Broadly the candidate will work to further develop and strengthen the field of Governance Design [12][13] in collaboration with their supervisors.



[1] World Health Organization, 2019, Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017: special focus on inequalities. New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO).

[2] Reddy, V.R., Rao, M.S.R. & Venkataswamy, M. 2013, ‘ ‘Slippage’: the bane of drinking water and sanitation sector (a study of extent and causes in rural Andhra Pradesh)’, WASHCost, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, Hyderabad, India.

[3] Rosenqvist, T., Mitchell, C. & Willetts, J. 2016, ‘A short history of how we think and talk about sanitation services and why it matters’, Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 298–312.

[4] Kalbermatten, J.M., Julius, D.S. & Gunnerson, C.G. 1980, Appropriate technology for water supply and sanitation. A summary of technical and economic options, the World Bank, Washington, DC.

[5] Shahalam, A. 1985, ‘An optimal approach for the selection of appropriate sanitation technology for developing countries’, in K. Curi (ed.), Appropriate Waste Management for Developing Countries, Springer, New York, pp. 39–51.

[6] Shuval, H.I., Gunnerson, C.G. & Julius, D.S. 1981, Appropriate technology for water supply and sanitation. Night-soil composting, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank, Washington, DC.

[7] Kalbermatten, J.M., Julius, D.S. & Gunnerson, C.G. 1982, Appropriate sanitation alternatives: a technical and economic appraisal, published for the World Bank by The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

[8] Allen, A., Dávila, J.D. & Hofmann, P. 2006, Governance of water and sanitation services for the peri-urban poor, Development Planning Unit, UCL, London.

[9] Allen, A., Hofmann, P. & Griffiths, H. 2008, ‘Moving down the ladder: governance and sanitation that works for the urban poor’, in J. Verhagen, S. da Silva Wells, I. Krukkert, P. McIntyre & P. Ryan (eds), IRC Symposium: Sanitation for the Urban Poor, Partnerships and Governance, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, Delft, The Netherlands.

[10] McGranahan, G. & Satterthwaite, D. 2006, Governance and getting the private sector to provide better water and sanitation services to the urban poor, prepared for UN-HABITAT, by International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London, UK.

[11] Rosenqvist, T., 2018, Experiencing everyday sanitation governance: a critical inquiry into the governance of community-managed sanitation services in Indonesia and whether it could be otherwise. Doctoral dissertation. Institute for Sustainable Futures, Technical University of Sydney.

[12] Rosenqvist, T. & Mitchell, C. 2016, ‘Re-designing governance — a call for design across three orders of governance’, paper presented at the DRS Conference, Brighton, UK, 27–28 June, 2016.

[13] Rosenqvist, T., 2017, ‘Governance Design and why we need a new field of design’, paper presented at the Cumulus REDO Conference, Kolding, Denmark, May 30–June 2, 2017.


Professor Darryn McEvoy

Dr Tanja Rosenqvist

Want to learn more?

For more information about the project and funding opportunities, please contact:

Dr Tanja Rosenqvist: [email protected]