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Urban Sanitation Research Initiative 2017-2020: Driving sector change in urban sanitation

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The Urban Sanitation Research Initiative is a research programme designed to drive pro-poor sector change in urban sanitation in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and globally. It is led by World Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) in collaboration with key in-country partners, and core-funded by UK aid from the UK government to run from 2017–2020. This overview document sets out the initiative’s vision, principles, overarching-strategy and theory of change, then looks at each focus country including an overview of the current urban sanitation context, progress made so far, challenges, evidence gaps and research needs. It then outlines the research projects currently being implemented by initiative to address some of these needs.

The Urban Sanitation Research Initiative focuses on five broad topic areas: 1) Sanitation businesses and market development; 2) Public finance and sanitation planning; 3) Sanitation models, user behaviour, user experience; 4) Institutional frameworks and capacity; and 5) Regulation and smart enforcement. It aims to make a substantive contribution to achieving universal urban sanitation coverage in low-income contexts through: a) direct research-into-policy impacts in focus countries; b) contributions to research capacity development in focus countries, and c) contributions to global understanding of how to achieve universal urban sanitation.

The research will contribute to the evidence base available to in-country actors including national and city governments, and to major international donors and financing institutions. Research will reflect WSUP’s core philosophy that at-scale improvement in urban WASH essentially requires two things: market thinking, including the development of dynamic small businesses in the WASH service delivery sector, and institutional change, including substantially increased government investment in WASH services for low-income communities.

Date: 26 July 2018