Fostering sustainable and inclusive WASH marketing systems with informal settlements of the Pacific

This project was a multidisciplinary and participatory action research to examine the possibility of WASH marketing systems as an approach to achieve WASH outcomes for Melanesian communities of the Pacific, in particular informal urban or peri-urban communities. We developed a WASH Marketing Exchange systems Framework, which describes the nature of WASH exchanges that should be leveraged in informal settlements, and the requirements of the enabling environment to foster and support these WASH exchanges.



Project Location:

Western Pacific


Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Monash University, University of North Carolina Water Institute

Project Category:

Applied Research

The approaches to fostering WASH marketing systems so they achieve WASH outcomes for Melanesian communities of the Pacific, in particular informal urban or peri-urban communities, was unknown.

Acquiring this knowledge required a multidisciplinary study of existing and emerging marketing systems in impoverished communities, and their enabling environment. This was underpinned by theories of marketing dynamics and executed through participatory action research methods. This research has generated guidance for Pacific WASH practitioners and policy-makers wanting to foster WASH social action in communities.

Key research questions

Through action research with informal communities in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, we addressed the following questions:

  • What are the main features and characteristics of established and emergent water and sanitation marketing systems in impoverished urban communities in the Pacific region?
  • What potential sustainable solutions exist within these markets? How can this potential be tapped and nurtured?
  • What role does the community and the local ecosystem play in contributing to the success of WASH initiatives?
  • How can WASH sector stakeholders develop and leverage established and emergent water and sanitation markets and experiences?
  • What can WASH sector stakeholders do differently in the Pacific region to deliver sustainable water and sanitation markets?


This project delivered a number of outputs targeted to civil society organisations, communities, national and provincial governments, water and sanitation private sector actors, and other development partners (such as donors). These are designed to share the best approaches to fostering demand-led marketing strategies for achieving WASH outcomes for Melanesian communities of the Pacific.

Read and download all the outputs here 

Project benefits

Informal communities face unique challenges in establishing safe water sanitation and hygiene. These communities are typically impoverished, with low incomes, and with insecure land tenure; this means they have more limited options to connect with formal service providers.

They are also often located in challenging environments, for example, flood-prone lands or landslide-prone hillsides and gullies. In terms of WASH governance by national, provincial and local governments, informal communities also often fall in the cracks between formal urban and rural communities. Any WASH marketing system that is to be provide sustained wellbeing and health impacts, needs to consider these unique contextual factors.

This project explored different WASH marketing systems suited to local demand and conditions and the functions and roles of the enabling environment actors, both within and outside communities. We developed the following framework of WASH marketing exchange systems (further explained the Research Brief, and Guidebook).

Frequently Asked Questions: WASH Marketing Exchange Systems

In recent years, many WASH practitioners have advocated for the use of market-based approaches to stimulate the demand for improved sanitation among buyers. There are many forms of WASH provision which may move seamlessly between formal and informal market-based transactions, but these approaches are not the only forms of WASH exchange present around the globe. It is important to consider the different models of WASH provision through the lens of marketing exchanges.

These frequently asked questions provide an overview of the four different types of marketing exchange and explain how they occur in current and emerging WASH marketing systems.


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), Assoc Prof Iwona Kolodziejczyk (Divine Word University) and many staff of Live and Learn in Vanuatu, Fiji, and Solomon Islands.

Project updates

Read the July 2015 Fiji project update 

Read the July 2015 Vanuatu project update 

Read the July 2015 Solomon Islands project update

Read the November 2014 project update