Clean water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, as well as access to hygienic sanitation systems, is the difference between life and death for millions of people around the world. For this reason, many NGOs and non-profits prioritize establishing water and sanitation systems in rural areas of developing nations, allocating a lot of funding and staffing to these efforts. Many of our graduates work in this important field, and have been able to transform their professional approaches by integrating community mobilization and empowerment strategies into more traditional development practices. This can in turn save costs and, by creating a groundwork for more inclusive, sustainable change, also save more lives.

What We Are Doing:

  • Before entering the graduate program, Class of 2014 alumnus Asres Geda of Ethiopia considered himself to be “purely” a hydraulic engineer. At the time, he was working on the Water supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Program with the International Rescue Committee. Through his graduate studies with Future Generations, his identity changed to that of a community change practitioner. He began applying techniques he learned in the program to scale up his work in sanitation with a greater focus on the human component of development work, and to work more collaboratively with the rural communities his organization serves. One of the biggest projects he’s worked on was funded by the European Union—a WASH project that reached close to 96,000 Ethiopians. Completed in December of 2014, the project spanned 3 ½ years and cost 2.5 million euros. The rural “beneficiaries” were to be provided with potable water and better coverage of functional latrines. Previously on these kinds of projects, IRC utilized an approach called Community-Led Total Hygiene and Sanitation (CNTHS) that proved less effective than desired because communities often would not make full use of the systems outside organizations put in place. Taking a page out of his graduate program studies, Geda instead applied Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) to this project with much better results. Under Geda’s management, the IRC taught local communities how to monitor and maintain their water supply. They also included villagers directly in the process: community members helped to construct hardware components themselves, and the project cut costs down (11%) by relying on many locally-sourced building materials.
  • Class of 2009 alumnus Rezaul Karim of Bangladesh entered our program high up in the ranks of BRAC, considered to be the world’s largest NGO with a focus on health, poverty reduction, and the education and empowerment of the poor. With 22 years of community development experience, Karim was working as the Senior Regional Manager of BRAC’s Water supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Program upon entering the Master’s. The WASH program served more than 37 million people in 40 different districts. In this role, Karim developed a strategy to increase hygienic latrine access to 100% of families in seven districts across Bangladesh, regardless of their economic class. He and his team (he manages over 1,300 staff at BRAC) build community capacity, mobilize action groups, and strengthen partnerships with governments in over hundreds of villages across the Bangladeshi countryside as part of this initiative. Moreover, demonstrating the importance of holistic community change, Karim coupled his work in water access and sanitation with women’s empowerment during his practicum. His research assessed the degree of Bangladeshi women’s empowerment and how this increased when they were included in community leadership positions on Village Wash Committees (the action groups that helped implement the WASH program at the village-level).
    • “When the opportunity arrived to serve people in the countryside with BRAC, I was ready. The Future Generations Master’s Degree program is a real opportunity for me, not only because it is an advanced degree in my field, but because I really appreciate the new skills in facilitating community-based interventions.”
      – Rezaul Karim, Class of 2009, Bangladesh