WOPs Profiles – Building the Database

People say lots of good things about WOPs:  they are cost-effective, more sustainable, more likely to lead to improved service for the poor than their for-profit counterparts, etc…And even though its proponents are (surely!) right, they are probably relying on a mix of theory, intuition, anecdotal evidence and personal experience to make their claim.  The fact is that WOPs advocates are at a disadvantage when trying to argue that the practice should receive more attention because there’s not a lot of hard documentation to weigh up the case against the standing alternatives.

Even where there is support for WOPs, we don’t always know how to go about it. Should WOPs always take a comprehensive view or start small? Is it best to hash out a detailed agreement beforehand or develop it progressively? These unknowns stand as impediments to the uptake of effective WOPs.

One reason that so little is known about WOPs despite the fact that not-for-profit partnerships of this type have been going on for ages, is that they tend to happen in a scattered, piece-meal way, supported a little bit by a lot of different sources.  Their records are similarly scattered.


GWOPA is trying to do something about this by collecting WOPs reports from around the world, both past and presen, extracting key facts, and putting them together on its online WOPs database. Since the database was launched in October 2011, 50 WOPs profiles have been added, including experiences from every continent.

Each profile contains a mix of qualitative and quantitative information about the WOP, covering how the partnership was brokered, funded, designed, monitored, and attempting to measure what went in (time, money, commitment), and what came out.

Since the profiles are based on existing reports, its not always easy to get all the information. That’s why we’re also following up with the partners, to request more details and stories that can colour up the static profile.

If you have a WOP experience out there, we would love to hear about it. Of course, Water Operators’ Partnerships include all partnerships between water and sanitation operators that are carried out for capacity development on a not-for-profit basis.  We believe that gathering these records is essential for helping WOPs live up to their potential.

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