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Section 1. Strategies for the Long-Term Sustainability of an Initiative: An Overview

Example 1: Sustainability in WASH governance programmes

Taken from the Sustainability in WASH governance programmes, A WaterAid and Freshwater Action Network publication. Written by Hilary Coulby.

Cover of Sustainability in WASH governance programmes guide.


“For WaterAid and FAN, sustainability means that the benefits and progress achieved during the life of the programme not only survive and continue long after it has ended, but also continue to progress on an upward course. This definition implies that there is no end point for sustainability. Even if a completely ideal state is reached, this too must be continually sustained. If at any time the benefits of the programme begin to disappear and communities slip back into the pre-intervention situation, then the intervention cannot be said to be sustainable.”

This handbook focuses on:

  • Sustainability definitions and frameworks.
  • Achieving sustainability (at local and national levels).
  • Sustainability for non-governmental​ organisations (NGOs) and their networks.
  • Limits on the reach of NGOs and international NGOs (INGOs) and implications for their sustainability strategies.

Visit this guide and additional sustainability handbooks online at:


Example 2: Jackie's Internship

Jackie was a graduate student in community psychology at a state university. As part of the rigorous training for her Master's degree, she was required to complete a two-semester internship.

Jackie jumped at the chance to get some hands-on, practical experience in a setting where she could learn about community organizing in a carefully supervised placement. She chose to do her internship in the office of the city's youth activities director.

Jackie arrived for the first day of her internship ready to learn all about organizing activities. Her supervisor, Takisha, informed her that she was to work on the "Annual Women's Basketball Tournament."

Jackie was so excited. She had attended this tournament for the past three years. "Great!" Jackie told her supervisor, "Where's the contact list of sponsors?"

"Oh, I don't know what our last graduate student did with it," her supervisor said.

"That's okay; do we have the mailing lists of girls that participated last year?" Jackie asked determinedly.

"Not that I know of," Takisha answered.

"No problem," Jackie said. "But do you know where the source book explaining how to organize this event is? It would save me a lot of time and trouble. "

"Sorry Jackie, I moved to this position last year after the tournament. The woman who had this job didn't mention anything to me about the tournament. But don't worry ; didn't you say that you wanted a challenge?"

Jackie sat down at her desk and wondered how she was going to recreate the tournament that had taken place so flawlessly for the past five years, starting from scratch. Jackie was looking forward to a challenge, but she did not consider reinventing the wheel a good use of her time. Her time could have been spent organizing the tournament and finding ways of making it bigger and better. Now she was starting from square one.

As Jackie organized the tournament, she clearly documented her every action so that the next person in her position could use what she had done to make the next tournament go more smoothly. Jackie realized that it was necessary to plan to institutionalize the tournament.

Jackie clearly indicated in the "Tournament" source book she created:

  • The goals of the tournament
  • The accomplishments of the tournament
  • The types of publicity she used to promote the tournament, and the extra media coverage it received
  • The structure with which the tournament ran
  • The budgetary and staffing needs for the tournament
  • The obstacles she encountered (and thanks to her predecessors, there were many)

Jackie planned out a way for the tournament to go off smoothly for years to come. The tournament was a success; and thanks to Jackie, the next intern won't get stuck starting from scratch. The tournament will almost be able to run itself.

You don't have to be a graduate student to perform this kind of work. Jackie's documentation, and her tournament source book, did not do the entire job of institutionalizing her program. But it certainly helped!