To accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on clean water and sanitation, the focus of WASH programming in developing countries has shifted from a traditional infrastructure approach to a more systems-based approach. Greater emphasis on a systems approach has also drawn attention to the significant role played by local leadership in developing sustainable WASH systems. Building on the evidence of the effectiveness of leaders trained through the Civic Champions Program, an innovative leadership development program in Cambodia, this article examines leaders' characteristics and explores how participating in the program affected their capacity, skills, and perceptions of leadership. Crucially, it seeks to understand the extent to which participants in the Civic Champions Program differ from comparable local leaders along these dimensions. By combining survey data with qualitative analysis, the paper identifies how localization enhances the effectiveness of leaders in promoting sanitation, including working through and strengthening pre-existing institutional arrangements and adapting promotion strategies to different audiences. In this way, the article demonstrates how non-prescriptive programs that tap into the legitimizing potential of local leaders may contribute to addressing sanitation challenges and ultimately to WASH system strengthening.
Link to the full article: https://doi.org/10.2166/h2oj.2022.129