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Improving community health through marketing exchanges: A participatory action research study on WASH in three Melanesian countries

Research findings from the Community Water and Sanitation in the Pacific: Fostering Sustainable WASH Marketplaces applied research project have been published in the December edition of the Social Science and Medicine Journal.
Improving community health through marketing exchanges: A participatory action research study on WASH in three Melanesian countries

Improving community health through marketing exchanges, research published

Diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are major causes of mortality and morbidity. While pursuing marketing approaches to WASH to improve health outcomes is often narrowly associated with monetary exchange, marketing theory recognises four broad marketing exchange archetypes: market-based, non-market-based, command-based and culturally determined. This diversity reflects the need for parameters broader than monetary exchange when improving WASH.

Marketing exchanges in the Pacific

This study applied a participatory action research process to investigate how impoverished communities in Melanesian urban and peri-urban informal settlements attempt to meet their WASH needs through marketing exchange. Exchanges of all four archetypes were present, often in combination. Motivations for participating in the marketing exchanges were based on social relationships alongside WASH needs, health aspirations and financial circumstances. By leveraging these motivations and pre-existing, self-determined marketing exchanges, WASH practitioners may be able to foster WASH marketing exchanges consistent with local context and capabilities, in turn improving community physical, mental and social health.

Read the full article here.

About the project

The project was a partnership between the IWC, Monash University, University of the South Pacific, University of North Carolina and Live & Learn Environmental Education. The research team worked collaboratively with  impoverished informal communities as well as local governments, utilities and community service organisations in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

It investigated the access communities have to WASH products and services, how communities use these WASH products and services, and how such access and use can impact on individual and community well-being. The aim was to understand and help foster the conditions under which sustained, self-determined WASH exchange systems can operate in Pacific island communities. The project used a process known as participatory action research, where the communities and local organisations (so called ‘enabling actors’) were co-researchers alongside the research team.

The main role of IWC and its research partners was to facilitate action planning and bring communities and enabling actors together, particularly in areas where government and community service organisations are already running WASH improvement programs. While the main goal was to empower local communities to improve their WASH situation, the project also provided valuable insights into WASH marketing exchange systems that can be applied to policy and practice in Melanesia more widely.

More information 

The project team drew together researchers from Australia, the Pacific, and the United States from the fields of marketing systems, governance, environmental science and engineering. The project was led by Principal Investigator, Dr Dani Barrington (Monash University/IWC) and Project Manager, Dr Regina Souter (IWC) working with a team of academics: Prof Srinivas Sridharan and Dr Stephen Saunders (Monash University), Prof Jamie Bartram and Kate Shields (University of North Carolina), Professor Bill Aalbersberg and Semisi Meo (University of the South Pacific), and many staff of Live and Learn in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

The project commenced in May 2013.

For more information please contact Principal Investigator, Dr Dani Barrington, Project Manager Dr Regina Souter or visit the project page.


This project is coordinated by the International WaterCentre in partnership with:

Monash Logo UNC logo USP logo        Live and Learn logo 

and supported by:

Australian Aid_w


IWC Masters Scholarships



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