World Toilet Day = Systems Day = Nutrition Day

By Ron Clemmer, Strategy and Business Development Manager, WASH, FHI 360.

World Toilet Day is about more than toilets! It is about the whole system of the sanitation chain. This whole “system” of household latrines; school and health facility toilets; septage haulers; wastewater and septage treatment, reuse and disposal, has become more and more a focus of international development professionals. As with development practitioners in other sectors, we work in complex social systems that require organizational change, behavioral change, and personal change for transformative social change to result in sustainable impact. A systems lens helps us to see our roles in development programs to understand the impact that is needed in the big picture of the “system.”

FHI 360’s 2015 Challenge Conference Deepening Systemic Engagement addressed an important question for systems thinking: “How do we as practitioners and change agents unify systems theory and practice to bring forth healthy and inclusive human development?”

FHI 360 brought together speakers who are leaders in the area of systems thinking and also practitioners who are implementing a systems approach for international development for the Challenge Conference. The keynote speaker was Otto Scharmer from the MIT Sloan School of Management, who with Katrin Kaufer co-authored, Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies.

Being the pragmatic engineer that I am, some of the presentations that peaked my interest the most were from FHI 360 colleagues discussing the application of systems approaches in their development programs. A systems approach that FHI 360 staff has developed in conjunction with USAID is SCALE (System-wide Collaborative Action for Livelihoods and Environment). Ten years of learning through the implementation of the SCALE systems methodology to accelerate broad stakeholder engagement in sustained collaborative action to address a complex development issues has now resulted in FHI 360’s development of SCALE+.

If you want to explore more of Deepening Systemic Engagement, the Challenge Conference highlight videos and materials can be found here.

World Toilet Day is also about more than toilets because of the significant impact of good sanitation on maternal and child health, neglected tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, education, and nutrition. World Toilet Day has a special linkage to nutrition this year, and 2015 World Toilet Day was chosen as the day that WHO/UNICEF/USAID are releasing the important publication Improving Nutrition Outcomes through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Practical Solutions for Policies and Programmes. My FHI 360 WASHplus colleagues managed the development of this publication in collaboration with the publishing agencies. And the integrated activities in different countries implemented by WASHplus and its partners are contributing practical knowledge and tools that will help guide WASH-nutrition integration in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ron Clemmer joined FHI 360 in May 2015 after working with World Vision as Senior Technical Advisor for WASH for six years. Ron is passionate about building sustainable water and sanitation services through the public and private sectors, hygiene behavior change that becomes habit, and integrated programming of WASH with nutrition, HIV, neglected tropical diseases, education, and women’s empowerment.

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