The Triple-S Learning Approach
Making positive changes in rural water sector performance means influencing actors to move from building infrastructure to building services. Triple-S seeks to learn and share lessons on how actors can coordinate and harmonise with one another and support the shift from focusing on stand-alone infrastructure projects to delivering sustainable services.
Understanding how to improve rural water service delivery requires Triple-S to follow a unique, two-pronged approach to learning. First, Triple-S seeks lessons from changes in the rural water sector over time: What are the sector specific changes for sustainable service delivery at scale? How are development partners influencing rural water policies, practice, and financing strategies? Second, Triple-S endeavours to learn how to improve as a change agent: Are we using the right methods for enabling change? How can we improve?
The purpose of learning activities in Triple-S
The Triple-S learning is guided by the Principles Framework — eight principles describing essential conditions for delivering sustainable water services at scale. The framework supports Triple-S and partners’ learning about the rural water sector and also influences Triple-S’ strategy as a change agent.
To support the learning process, Triple-S continuously looks for internal and external lessons about changes in the rural water sector over time. Triple-S uses a continuous feedback loop (Figure 1) to design its learning activities and to find lessons for improvement.
The six purposes of Triple-S learning activities are to:
- Support joint learning in the sector.
- Provide evidence of locally inspired and validated solutions for service delivery, a learning sector, and harmonisation.
- Provide strategic guidance for Triple-S teams in Ghana, Uganda, Burkina Faso and internationally.
- Generate a critical account of the approach used in Triple-S to enable change.
- Track progress towards achieving activities and producing outputs.
- Inform stakeholders about Triple-S progress, and adaptations in strategy or approach.
What makes the Triple-S learning approach unique and what can we learn from it?
Triple-S staff, partner organisations, and target audiences are encouraged to learn through constant feedback loops. Continuous reflection on how activities are performing allows Triple-S staff and partners to strengthen activities that are going well and to adjust activities that are not working properly. The International work stream of Triple-S meets biannually to analyse progress towards influencing the policy, practice and financing strategies of development partners related to sustainable rural water services. Triple-S learning meetings focus on two important points:
Narrative 1: The extent to which progress is being achieved in influencing such policy and practice.
Narrative 2: How effective the strategies adopted by Triple-S are encouraging change in the sector.
Understanding the two narratives critically requires Triple-S staff and partners to dedicate as much attention to the content of the initiative—changing the sector to apply sustainable service delivery, as to the process—are we changing the sector in the correct way? Making learning the critical mirror to assess the overall progress of Triple-S allows for more effective improvements throughout the lifespan of the initiative.
By following the two-pronged approach to learning: understanding how the water sector is changing to provide sustainable services at scale, and understanding how an organisation is working as a change agent, Triple-S staff, along with current and potential new partners can understand mutually what is working and what is not for rural water supply. Together we can learn how to make water services last for rural populations.