Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Advocacy Research, Analysis and Recommendations for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector

The Gates Foundation’s water, sanitation and hygiene division funds “advocacy work that informs governments about successful sanitation approaches and encourages a policy environment that will accelerate access to sustainable sanitation.”

We conducted quantitative and qualitative research of advocacy and strategic communications approaches that would expand water, sanitation and hygiene services in nine developing countries.


The Challenge

Identify successful advocacy communications strategies and tactics for influencing decision-makers to expand access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in Africa and Asia. From those findings, extrapolate a theory of change and recommended advocacy communications model for increasing WASH across Africa and Asia. Meeting these objectives required gaining a better understanding of what had/had not worked in WASH-specific advocacy efforts around the world and assessing the extent to which good sanitation and hygiene was understood among high-level decision makers as a critical concern for social and economic development.

Strategies and Tactics

  • Managed a 12-person multi-national team and collaborated with external organizations and issue experts to evaluate international WASH advocacy efforts in 2007-2009

  • Performed qualitative and quantitative research on the understandings and opinions of high-level decision makers in nine developing nations

  • Evaluated multi-national WASH advocacy efforts

  • Examined other issues that share similarities with the WASH sector for any relative insights about effective advocacy communications strategies



  • Produced advocacy framework that helped guide some $265M subsequent foundation grants

  • Produced summary findings report of evaluations of selected, multi-national WASH initiatives (and two other sectors with shared similarities to the WASH sector). Content included overall strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, lessons-learned and best practices

  • Created a coherent theory of change that provided a greater understanding of the vital role of advocacy communications toward increasing funding for and establishing policies that tangibly improve WASH for the poor in developing countries