Finding managers, facility staff and standing committee members is the second category of community engagement activities. This is a process is not just about gaining support for the project, but also about finding individuals in the community who are willing and able to take on responsibility for the facility.
When we think about what characteristics this group of individuals will need to be effective, these are a few useful points to keep in mind:
1. The group should be addressing a common issue that is recognized by the community
2. These individuals should feel that the benefits of taking on responsibility outweigh the costs
3. They should have the knowledge and skill set to do the work
4. Group members should be willing and able to follow and enforce set protocols
In addition to these, people often say that any new group created should be embedded within existing organizations in the community, instead of creating a new parallel group. This one reason why self-help groups are often given the responsibility community toilet management.
In Sammaan, we had many sites which did not have any strong community organizations and some sites where there were too many community organizations. We also wanted to ensure that the responsibility for the facility would be shared amongst the different communities living near the facility. Because of this, our strategy was not to hand over the facility to existing groups, but to identify individuals within the community with the interest and time to devote to the project
Key points to remember
Prepare a clear list of requirements and expectations – This should be done before starting the process in the community. For instance, in our model, members of the management committee would not be receiving any salary or stipend for their work. This type of information is crucial to communicate right at the beginning to set expectations in the right place and attract the right people for the position.
Ensure representation – If a community is very diverse it may be difficult to make sure that all groups are represented but this is an important part of making sure that everyone feels welcome to use the facility when it opens, and that everyone feels involved in facility management. When looking at the managers, facility staff and standing committee as a whole, there should be balanced representation of men and women, users and non-users, different age groups, and members from different parts of the community. A perfect mix may not be possible, but at least some variation should be there.
Finalize through consensus – Especially for facility management, once the three individuals are shortlisted by local leaders and others who are interested in the project, there should be a community wide meeting where an election is held to finalize the management group. At this time, if any other names are suggested for the position, they can be considered as well.
You won’t get the perfect group in the first try – It may feel like you need to find the perfect people for these different positions before the toilet opens. But the group may change after the facility opens as people realize what is involved in actually taking responsibility. This process may actually help you find the people who are more naturally inclined to take responsibility., While it’s not good to have managers and caretakers changing every few weeks, it’s expected that after a few months some changes may need to be made. This is okay and natural. In Sammaan, there was some change in the management committee in 25% of sites and change in caretaker for 60% of sites.
For managers and staff, you should start this process about 3 months after start of construction (or 1 month before scheduled opening of the facility). This allows enough time to identify the individuals and provide them with O&M training. If you identify them too far in advance, they may lose interest or may take up other jobs (in the case of potential caretakers). For the standing committee, you will likely only find potential members after the facility actually opens.
Guidelines and process for identifying managers, staff and standing committee members