Innovative utilities

Organisations often look to partnership approaches to help them innovate. This is especially true of water and sanitation utilities that need to find new ways of working with low-income communities.  They may well reach out to NGOs or to small-scale providers as part of their supply chains. Innovation can be technical, institutional or social, or often a combination of the three.


Yet while partnership may be appealing, due to the prospect of bringing in new skills and resources, actually learning how to make the most of others’ diversity can be very challenging. 


It is crucial to not only identify new ways of working, but to find ways of mainstreaming them within the partner organisations. If the partnership is finite, the innovations will truly be useful only if they change the way organisations ‘do business’.


BPD has helped various partnerships to understand how they can better innovate and then harness this to best effect. Activities have ranged from education and awareness-raising, to improving cost recovery, community engagement and developing appropriate technology. This advice applies not only to utilities, but to NGOs, donors and others.


Key BPD documents on innovative utilities

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

Emerging PPP Trends in the Water and Sanitation Sector

Using Public-Private Partnership (PPP) implementation guidelines as the basis for analysis, this paper, supported by Swiss Government agencies SDC and SECO, explores experts’ perceptions of recent trends in PPPs and where such mechanisms are heading. Based on interviews with 21 professionals active in the field, the analysis focuses on four areas: contracts, regulation, finance and stakeholder engagement.

Guideline series on improving governance in water and sanitation PPPs

Based on the PPP Policy Principles and Implementation Guidelines by Swiss Government agencies SDC and SECO, the following six practitioner notes compiled by BPD provide guidance for all kinds of partnerships in the water and sanitation sectors: 

Accountability & transparency | customer focus & results orientation | poverty responsiveness 

power-balanced partnership | sound financing & proactive risk management | water resource protection 

More tools for improving PPP governance


Other BPD publications 

Innovation and partnership (note) | full report

How eight partnerships found new ways to provide water in poor communities.

Education and awareness through partnership (report)  What can utilities learn from NGOs about education and awareness?  What added value does the private sector bring through a ‘customer approach’?  

Cost recovery through partnership (note) | full report

Partnerships can help utilities improve cost recovery – but context is crucial and gains need to be entrenched.

Community-focused partnerships

How can community-focused approaches scale-up and develop ownership within government? Read about one NGO’s experience in Tanzania.

Community engagement

Community engagement can be a vague concept.  Use these tools to map out what it really means in partnerships. 

Public sector workshop report

In the early days of BPD, it brought together public sector bodies from eight multi-sector partnerships. This document captures their viewpoint, experience and recommendations.

Benefits to the public sector through partnership

A short overview of some of the main benefits (and challenges) of multi-sector partnerships for public sector bodies.

Latin America and the Caribbean seven cities study (unpublished)

On behalf of WSP, BPD undertook a review of the institutional relationships in seven cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, and found that these locations are hotbeds of innovation when it comes to getting services to poor communities. Please contact us for further information.