The benefits of using a self-assessment tool to support utilities in identifying capacity needs

In an interview with Pritha Hariram, we spoke about the value of self-assessment tools for utilities looking to take stock and figure out exactly what they need now and what they will be needing in the future and how best to invest limited financial resources for the best possible outcome. Self-assessment tools allow for utilities to assess human and technical capacity needs to develop a strategy for long-term sustainable operation. They can be used internally for utilities to uncover and address any shortcomings that were not evident.

Self-assessment tools are important for utilities to understand both human and technical capacity — where it exists, and where there may be gaps. A self-assessment tool is generally easy to use and can show a clear trend with metrics over time, so utilities can see if they are building capacity to the right level, or if they need to do more work.

Technical self-assessment

Utilities should assess their technical resources, and compare those resources to their strategic goals and operational targets. Should they be lacking an important technical resource, whether it is a piece of equipment, access to water for operations, or something else in this realm, self-assessment will show what is needed.

Self-assessment in this area can also help utilities identify their priorities, and where external funding can help with reaching goals. If many utilities in the same region or field complete self-assessment, it also shows which technical equipment, knowledge, or tools could potentially be shared to benefit a group of utilities, possibly operating within a country or municipal unit. This peer support and review brings everyone closer to both identifying and then reaching capacity requirements and subsequently long term goals.

Human resources self-assessment

A 2016 International Water Association (IWA) report, ‘An avoidable crisis: WASH human resource capacity gaps in 15 developing economies‘ says, “shortages of human resources in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector will undermine the progress of many countries over the last two decades to increase access to water and sanitation. It will impede socioeconomic development of those countries that remain off-track to meet the MDG water and sanitation targets, and raises questions about how realistic WASH targets under the Sustainable Development Goals will be.”

Understanding what human resources exist, and how these resources are being used, is important in ensuring access to water. A self-assessment tool can help communities and organisations to understand what is there, and what is lacking.

In an IWA blog, Kirsten De Vette, human resources capacity-building development officer, says of this study, “it was troubling to see how little organisations knew about their staff. The lack of segregated data and inability to report total numbers of staff per organisation were not uncommon. The collected data on human resources in the water and sanitation sector are so scarce that many countries don’t know or understand existing capacity, let alone what the future demand will look like to enable universal access.”

Identifying gaps in human resources — skills, training, or even people who are able to work not the project — also identifies where an investment could be used to fix the problem and build greater capacity for the organisation and its future goals.

By assessing human resources in a concrete and robust way, developing utilities will be better able to work together, sharing their resources. Utilities will also be able to better understand what their capacity is, and how that measures up to what it should be. As the IWA report says, lack of capacity is indeed an avoidable crisis, one that can be remedied through assessment and capacity development programs, such as the Center for Sustainable Water that Virak Chan shared in an Interview.

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