Preparing Community WASH Promoters for Success

Editors Note: In this post, Vincent Masterson, an International Education & Training Advisor at CAWST, discusses the importance of training people how to be effective WASH promoters in order to achieve real behavior change in communities. This post originally appeared on CAWST's blog, to view the original post please click here


When designing training, program managers often include only technical knowledge. Subject matter knowledge is essential, but developing skills to present and communicate information, relate to target audiences, and disseminate complex information for the purpose of learning are equally important.

Take the case of Community WASH Promoters. They certainly need to know how to treat water, how to collect rainwater safely, how to build a basic latrine, and to understand the importance of handwashing. To be effective in their role’s objective of achieving behaviour change in their communities, however, it is also crucial for them to have interpersonal and observational skills. They need to identify WASH issues in a household, effectively deliver key messages using education materials, actively listen, ask questions, and fill out forms.

We have spent 15 years listening to our clients who work with Community WASH Promoters and collected learnings from program managers about what has worked and what has failed in the implementation of their programs. Across continents and cultures, one of the top challenges they have shared is getting people to change their behaviours. Although WASH organizations clearly see the link between improved WASH and improved health, this is not always the case for community members.

We have listened to our clients’ challenges and designed a new Community WASH Promotion workshop. In addition to WASH technical knowledge, it teaches participants how to be effective WASH promoters, and provides them the forum to practice that role in a safe simulation setting.

Only one-third of our Community WASH Promotion workshop covers technical knowledge of WASH. The rest of the time is allocated to preparing participants to perform their role effectively. The entire first day of the training is used to prepare Community WASH Promoters to think critically about the reasons why community members may have difficulty, or may not want, to change their behaviour and adopt healthy WASH practices. They learn how to actively listen to understand the needs of community members, and then practice on-the-spot modifying their key messages to meet those reasons.

Two important traits of being an effective trainer are: 1) Delivering the information in such a way that it is relevant to the experience of the learner; and 2) Creating the opportunity for the learner to use the newly acquired knowledge and skills in real life. We use the Kirkpatrick framework in our instructional design process, which gives us the ability to focus on the behavioural outcomes of how the learner will use the information in real life. Community WASH Promoters will be much more effective in their role if they are given the opportunity to practice and receive feedback on their performance in that role.

The implications of this instructional design approach are profound. As program managers, we need to assess not the knowledge of the Community WASH Promoter, but their ability to create positive behaviour change and impact in their communities; and the way this workshop was designed, does exactly that. This workshop focuses on the result of their work, rather than their knowledge.

CAWST’s new Community WASH Promotion workshop will be piloted in Kenya in October.