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Focus on outcomes not outputs – be open-minded in your approach where possible


Focus on outcomes not outputs – be open-minded in your approach where possible

Focus on outcomes not outputs – be open-minded in your approach where possible

Posted on September 30, 2019 by Karina de Souza

Authoring Organizations: Pacific Institute
Consulting Organizations: 2030 Water Resources Group
Anheuser-Busch InBev
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
PVH Corp
Universal: No
Applicable Phases: Act
Last Updated Jul 19, 2024


Focus on the longer-term outcomes needed, like behaviour change or new livelihoods, not just outputs like infrastructure or training. Even well-designed projects may encounter previously unseen challenges or opportunities and will require a flexible approach. A project or partnership that retains some adaptability within its structure or design will be in a good position to benefit from unplanned changes.


Retaining flexibility in your project design may allow your project to:

  • adapt to changing circumstances
  • leverage other projects to achieve your own project objectives or outcomes in a shorter time
  • expand the scope of project work
  • simply keep your project on track, saving precious time and money


  • Conduct due diligence – when designing your project, research any previous projects or plans for your location and water challenge through project partners or other organizations working locally. It may be possible to build upon previous work and save valuable resources in the process.
  • If you encounter barriers, focus on the outcomes for your project or partnership and re-assess your options for delivery. Compare the time, cost, and eventual outcome of alternative options. If some flexibility can be applied, possibly with an acceptable trade-off of time or cost, your project may still achieve its goals.
  • Be aware of other partnerships operating in your location – you may be able to collaborate to overcome challenges.
  • Regularly monitor and evaluate project objectives to gauge the efficacy of current actions and course-correct if necessary.
  • Communicate the project objectives and approach publicly in case other projects or stakeholders can share their expertise.


The Chambeshi Water Security Partnership in Zambia was established in the same local catchment as an ongoing SNV Netherlands Development Organization sanitation improvement project. Another non-government organization, World Vision, was also supported through the Chambeshi partnership to create community-based water supply and sanitation systems. SNV joined the Chambeshi Water Security Partnership and restructured their sanitation project to align with the partnership’s broader focus on water security.

The local catchment has abundant water resources but access to adequate clean water and sanitation remains an issue. Using water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) as a platform to engage local communities strengthened the Chambeshi Water Security Partnership supported by IWaSP in terms of core stakeholder participation. By joining the partnership, SNV accessed a greater range of interested and decision-making stakeholders and new potential resources beyond the local communities.

Projects that have validated this Lesson

Based in north-east Zambia, the Chambeshi Water Security Partnership (CWSP) was created in 2017 to ensure continued sound water management in the region while agricultural activities are intensifying. The partnership aims to ensure that water resources are governed, protected, and … Learn More

To strengthen multi-stakeholder collaboration to safeguard Lusaka's water resources while enhancing the sustainable and timely access to water and sanitation for all." Cooperation is crucial if the complex issue of water security is to be addressed sustainably. Water security is … Learn More

This lesson learned reflects the beliefs and experiences of the author, not necessarily the Pacific Institute, CEO Water Mandate, or UN Global Compact.