Request for proposals - Identifying the strategic and policy focus of WaterAid's inequalities' aim

WaterAid is seeking to commission a piece of research that will help discern the strategic entry points for its efforts to address some of the inequality dimensions of WASH poverty.


25 Nov 2015


The Global Goal target 6.2 implies a particular focus on tackling the inequality dimensions of WASH poverty: 

“By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”

In its latest research, which is currently underway, The World Bank too signals an institutional intent to “aggressively address inequalities in service delivery” [Country WASH Poverty Diagnostic].

According to the latest JMP progress report on the MDGs:

“At current rates of reduction, open defecation will not be eliminated among the poorest in rural areas by 2030.”

And finally, in our 2015-2020 Global Strategy, we set out the following aim:

“We will tackle and challenge the inequalities that prevent the poorest and most marginalised people from realising their right to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.”

WaterAid is seeking to commission a piece of research that will help discern the strategic entry points for its efforts to address some of the inequality dimensions of WASH poverty.

As it stands, our global aim, is broad and suggests few obvious measurable objectives. Although it prompts a much more serious and concerted focus in the targeting of WaterAid’s programmatic interventions, the policy and strategic advocacy focus is less evident. The stratifiers and drivers of inequality are wide, numerous and complex; understanding the causality of inequality in access to WASH is, by its nature, to move into a contested and politicised area. The challenge is to focus research on inequalities in ways that help WaterAid to refine and target the scope of its advocacy work.

The research will focus on areas that will deliver findings of use to WaterAid in making its strategic, advocacy and influencing choices.

There are clear correlations between the drivers of social and economic exclusion groups and the incidence and depth of WASH poverty; conversely, WASH poverty reinforces other drivers of social and economic inequality. WaterAid has established some groundbreaking programmatic and advocacy work to address some of these causes in the WASH sector, but the drivers of structural inequality that keep large groups from benefiting from progress in WASH service delivery are less well understood. Equally important, the case of countries that have made more equitable and broad-based progress in delivering WASH services across the range of socio-economic groups is less well documented.

We are interested in analytical work that attempts to better understand the drivers that enable some countries to achieve better progress in reducing WASH poverty in low wealth quintiles, compared with others where progress is largely only in high or middle wealth quintiles. Also, the research will seek to assess the degree to which these pro-poor drivers can be isolated in the WASH sector, or whether they are, necessarily, outside the WASH sector and part of the wider socio-economic, policy and political environment. Can a pro-poor WASH sector be developed in the absence of a broader pro-poor development programme?


There are three objectives to this research:

  1. To form an understanding of the drivers of inequality in access to WASH services that are within the sector, and whether these are separable from barriers that are more systemic.
  2. To outline some of the drivers in countries that have made better progress in delivering broad-based and more equitable progress in delivering access to WASH services – especially in the poorer quintiles.
  3. Moving from diagnosis to identifiable solutions, outline areas where credible policy responses can help tackle the constraints that hold back progress made in WASH services reaching more marginalised and excluded groups.

Proposed activities

  1. An overview of the countries that make better relative progress in the lower two quintiles and those making least progress.
  2. A literature review to synthesise evidence on the economic and social stratifiers under which sub-populations fall (e.g. extreme poor, poor, women-headed households, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups) and to establish the overlap between these co-variables and those falling into the lowest quintiles.
  3. Identify two countries where income inequality is high and progress in delivering WASH services to the poorest wealth quintile is unequal.
  4. Identify another two countries where income inequality is high but rates of progress in delivering WASH services to the poorest wealth quintile are more broad-based and equitable.
  5. Analyse the constraints to equitable WASH outcomes and possible solutions, including the use of the problem-driven political economy analysis framework applied by ODI.
  6. 6) Analyse the relationship between technical and political domains in the four countries selected. Separate the systemic barriers beyond the WASH sector which are holding back more equitable progress from those that are particular to technical or policy failures within the WASH sector.


We envisage the research producing four country case studies (max 25 pages each) which will then be summarised in a policy advocacy-focused synthesis policy brief (max 12 pages), in consultation with the research manager at WaterAid. The researcher will be required to provide a 30 minute presentation of the research followed by a 30 minute Q and A.

Projected budget:

Between £50,000 to upper limit £68,000 (all costings must include VAT and only proposals with economy class travel will be considered).


Proposals for consideration must be submitted to by 25 November 2015.