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What do giraffes have to do with CLTS sustainability?

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According to one African folk tale, the giraffe had a short neck until she got her head stuck in a honey tree. Many years passed and as the tree grew it stretched the neck of the giraffe.  Eventually, the other animals decided to work together to free the giraffe; they grabbed all four of its legs pulled the giraffe out of the tree – stretching its neck and legs in the process.

Helen Clark said, “development is about telling stories.” Yet in the WASH sector, we have become preoccupied with establishing the evidence. How can we find better ways to tell the stories? How do we find better stories to tell?

Last week I attended a weeklong writeshop on CLTS and sustainability in Lukenya organized by the CLTS Knowledge Hub. The writeshop brought together a range of people from around the world – sector experts, academics, programme managers and field officers. This was a chance to tell their stories and find better stories to tell. During the week we shared knowledge, learned from each other’s experiences and lessons and each prepared a chapter for a forthcoming book on CLTS and sustainability.

We heard some compelling stories that are spurring change in a range of contexts and at national and local levels. The writeshop was a way to support a different way of documenting our work in a way that is interesting and engaging. The chapters will explore new techniques and innovative approaches, maybe challenging assumptions and ways of working, exploring everything from design of facilities, behavior insights through social norms.

The writeshop was intended to support the writing of a book chapter but also sought to encourage networks between individuals and organisations and foster better communication and engagement on the topic. Through the writeshop participants exchanged ideas, knowledge and experience as well as developed new collaborations with other authors as well as with Kenyan stakeholders who were invited to join for a sharing and learning event.

Participants collectively contributed ideas, connections and interactions to help promote learning. Throughout the week participants got a sense of what works in what kinds of settings, and what doesn’t, learning from one another in ways that otherwise would not have occurred. Participants captured these lessons in their book chapters,

Next steps
We were told that the Hon. Governor Kinutha Mbugua was presented with a giraffe by the Ministry of Health in recognition of his far-sightedness (a characteristic of the giraffe) in championing sanitation in Nakuru County.

Like the giraffe in the Tinga Tinga Tale, we have been stretched through the writeshop to see a bit further in order to accelerate and expand efforts to support sustainability of CLTS. Hopefully, the writeshop is only the start of a creative and engaging process of sharing, learning, and communicating. The authors are now working on their chapters based on the discussions and the new thinking – stay posted for news on the book.

Date: 7 May 2015


Submitted by Sharon Lipesa (not verified) on

Dear Sue,

Thank you for the inspiring comparison. We do ned to find more innovative ways of sharing our experince and information. In our quest to become Open defecation Free communites we should share more and come up with new strageties to address our challenges. I attended the write shop on the last day(Friday) and I must say I found it rich in content and scope of issues in CLTS and sustainability. Great work.

 Sharon Lipesa








Submitted by william Kitagwa (not verified) on

What an interesting and captivating story. give us more.