Research: Innovative organizational & business models

Introduction

Many pressing challenges in the water and sanitation sector are institutional, rather than technical, in nature. Our group is interested in understanding the institutions and organizations that mediate the efficiency and effectiveness of water and sanitation service delivery. We have investigated how some developing-country organizations succeed in improving responsiveness and accountability to customers, improving transparency and reducing corruption, and expanding services to low-income households. We are also interested in policies related to pricing, subsidies, cost-recovery, and improving services to the poor.

We also conduct research on the role that markets and private-sector organizations can play in improving and expanding W&S service delivery. Involvement of large private-sector firms in W&S service delivery has been highly controversial in both industrialized and developing countries. Our group is interested in identifying the conditions under which such public-private partnerships tend to create conflict and resistance at the local level. We are also interested in understanding the factors that contribute to successful engagement of the private sector in W&S service delivery. We are focused less on “large” private-sector participation currently, and instead pursuing research on small-scale independent providers of water and sanitation services. Topics of interest include service delivery to low-income households and the use of microfinance to encourage household investment in infrastructure improvements.

Current Projects

For the past several years, our multidiscpilinary team of Stanford faculty and students--working in partnership with private-sector, non-profit, and international development organizations--has developed a promising model for ensuring high quality water at the point of consumption within low-income urban communities. The project, called Lotus Water, pairs technology development with the testing of workable business models for delivering point-of-collection water disinfection services. Field studies in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Kisumu, Kenya are ongoing. The short video below provides an overview of the project objectives and progress to date.