Towards Better Models
Edited by Stefan Kuhlmann and Gonzalo Ordóñez-Matamoros
Chapter 15: The dynamics of communitarian innovation: the case of rural water supply and sanitation (WSS) systems in Costa Rica
To address the so-called water supply and sanitation (WSS) crisis is a global responsibility. Nowadays, 663 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion still use unimproved sanitation facilities. The want of hygiene and sanitary conditions for such a large population is resulting in devastating health, social and economic costs, particularly for women and children. Therefore the quest for WSS solutions is of high priority. Scholars have noticed that currently the problem-solving process is not responding to a fruitful collaboration paradigm. There is a gap to bridge between highly skilled professionals and policymakers in the wealthiest nations, and end users in the developing world, where most of those in need live. That is how the innovations provided thus far, though confronting complex problems, are not always well suited to the actual requirements of end users. The chapter explores the dynamics of the establishment of rural community-based innovation systems in order to understand patterns of interaction and learning leading to sustainable WSS solutions. Case studies in three rural communities in Costa Rica regarding two public WSS programmes confirm that communitarian leadership, skills and sense of ownership are the factors mostly driving local WSS innovation.
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