Public-private-community partnership capacity building

Water and sanitation provision in informal settlements -
Moreno, Argentina




  • The Municipality of Moreno (mainly through IDUAR - the Institute for Urban, Environmental and Regional Development)
  • IIED AL (the International Institute for Environment and Development Latin America) - an NGO
  • Private concessionaire AGBA S.A. (Aguas del Gran Buenos Aires) - a mixed capital consortium
  • Several community groups from within the Municipality of Moreno
  • UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), which funded the partnership project.


Project description


In October 2002, the above partners came together in response to a UNDP-funded project to address service provision to poor communities in the Municipality of Moreno (within Greater Buenos Aires). Over the following 16 months, they experimented with new approaches and working styles and explored public-private-civil society partnerships as an effective means of tackling social development problems.  The partnership was not designed to deliver the required hardware, but to develop a more inclusive process for doing so successfully.   




In 1989, as part of Argentina's public utilities reform, service provision and maintenance concessions were granted to private companies. The contracts, regulated by national bodies, included coverage targets for low-income neighbourhoods, where there were few network connections, often serious sanitation and environmental problems and a lack of formal land tenure.

At the time of the project, over 60% of Moreno's 380,000 inhabitants lived below the poverty line.  Neighbourhoods in the district suffered from poorly maintained or non-existent infrastructure, lack of formal land ownership and insecurity in terms of personal safety and livelihoods.  In July 2003, connections to water services stood at 18.3%, whilst sanitation connections were merely 10.7%. 


Objectives and structures of the partnership


The core aim of the partnership was to develop cross-sector collaboration to address water and sanitation problems in the Municipality of Moreno. The partnership broker, IIED, initially sought to build capacity among the partners so that each understood the need for the partnership, and was equipped with the necessary skills to make the delivery of infrastructure sustainable.  Central to this is community involvement.  Specific objectives included:


i) The establishment of a Joint Management Unit (Unidad de Gestin Asociada / UGA) with representation from each partner

ii) Performing a participatory assessment (diagnostico) of the  nature of water and sanitation services provision across Moreno

iii) Organising awareness-raising on water and sanitation issues and capacity building workshops for different groups working in the community

iv) Partners obtaining funding for a pilot project 

v) Producing a series of transferable operations and management tools to be used at local, national and international levels, in other municipalities, and other areas where AGBA operates.


Roles and responsibilities


IIED AL was the co-ordinator and broker and was responsible for liaising and reporting to UNDP (the donor organisation), administering the project funding, co-ordinating workshops, and disseminating the results of the partnership to the partners, the wider community and UNDP.  The Municipality of Moreno (IDUAR) was responsible for coordinating the operation of the project across the municipal area, as well as providing data, manpower and technical support.  AGBA disseminated the work of the partnership and encouraged its replication in other municipalities in its concession mandate. It also provided technical and administrative expertise.  The community was considered a partner and participated in the partnership via information gathering exercises, workshops and meetings.  UNDP funded the partnership through its PPPUE funding programme.


Community liaison


Both IIED and IDUAR made substantial efforts to engage community representatives in the partnership activities and to provide feedback to them on progress.  Much time and energy was invested to ensure that research for the partnership and demands for improved water and sanitation services were accurate, transparent and validated by the community. Both IIED and IDUAR met with a wide range of community representatives within the municipality on a regular basis.


Communications and feedback


Internal communications amongst partners took place through regular meetings, progress reports submitted to UNDP and informal, regular contact. Monitoring and evaluation of the partnership was carried out by both Building Partnerships for Development and UNDP. External communications took place through regular engagement and liaison with the community representatives, disseminating findings from the workshops and meetings and the collation of the data for the diagnostico.


Evolution and institutionalisation


The partnership framework was institutionalised in the UGA, which aimed to demonstrate greater flexibility in meeting the needs of low-income groups through a combination of technological systems, financial mechanisms and organisational changes.  It was hoped that this would provide the basis for developing a fully centralised water system in Moreno in the form of a Local Water Authority (LWA) to deal with all aspects of the water cycle in the community and examine and implement different strategies to provide water and sanitation services to poor neighbourhoods.

The partnership also created a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between IDUAR and IIED, leading to further collaboration between the two organisations for additional social development projects in Moreno.




i) The UGA was established

ii) The diagnostico produced useable, timely GIS -based data on watsan quality and the community make-up of Moreno

iii) Community interest in what is happening across the municipality was generated and a cross-community voice developed

iv) UNDP agreed to support similar projects on the basis of a partnership approach

v) All the partners stated their intention to replicate the experience.




  • Partners demonstrated and benefited from strong commitment to the partnership 
  • Communications were transparent between all of the partners and also with the community 
  • Some of the partners identified further opportunities for involvement in partnerships 
  • The high level of community involvement provided further evidence for the partnership's legitimacy.




All the partnership actors aimed to replicate the project and lessons learned from the joint management style to other projects.  Although contractual uncertainty and a lack geographical complimentarity prevented AGBA from fully benefiting or contributing to this partnership, they were keen to replicate partnership approaches elsewhere in Moreno.


Wider lessons learned


i) It is necessary to ensure partners have relevant incentives

ii) The role of the broker is important

iii) Partner assessment must account for contextual factors

iv) A focus on processes, rather than projects, aids replicability

v) The level of donor involvement needs to be verified

vi) Personal relationships between partners significantly influence the outcome

vii) Thorough community involvement, especially when it cuts across the community, can validate a partnership.