Innovating and adapting in a payment by results WASH programme: the SWIFT experience

Working and discussion papers
September 2019
Nathaniel Mason, Miriam Denis le Seve and Joanna Trevor
Newly arrived refugees collect water from Oxfam taps at Ifo camp/Dadaab. Jo Harrison/Oxfam

From 2014 to 2019, the Sustainable WASH In Fragile Contexts (SWIFT) consortium ran a risky ‘payment by results’ programme in the fragile contexts of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya. The programme sought to provide sustained access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for almost one million people over four years. During the four years, SWIFT faced a number of issues including the novel contracting approach; increasing financial risk for implementing partners; tight timelines for delivery of infrastructure and behaviour change interventions; and challenges in the wider context, such as drought in Kenya and population displacement in DRC. 

But apart from the funding mechanism, was SWIFT innovative or adaptive? We asked implementing teams the question: if, and how, innovation and adaptation took place during the first phase of the SWIFT programme, and what the lessons might be for implementing organizations that seek to deliver large-scale, challenging and high-pressure programmes under a payment by results arrangement. 

This case study looks at what innovation took place, why it took place, what it solved and what helped or hindered the innovation or adaptation.