Source | LinkedIn : by Dan Heath and Chip Heath

You Can Change Anyone’s Mind—If You Help Them Trip Over the Truth

In 1999, the development organization WaterAid funded the construction of latrines in some villages in northern Bangladesh. In these villages, many people lacked toilets and defecated outdoors, a practice which leads to the mass spread of diseases such as cholera, hookworm, roundworm, and schistosomiasis. WaterAid’s leaders invited an outside expert named Dr. Kamal Kar to conduct an evaluation of the work. He traveled to the site in Bangladesh. That’s where our story begins. [Warning to readers: The first story ahead makes frequent use of the “s-word” for feces. If you prefer to avoid it, you might be happier to abandon the excerpt.]

In Bangladesh, Kar found that the project had gone exactly as planned. The latrines were well-built and many people used them. But he also found something else: “I would walk behind the villages and go into the fields, and in every village we went in, I stepped on shit,” he said. Open defecation was still rampant.

It was an eye-opening moment for him. The world’s development organizations had been thinking about open defecation as a hardware problem: If we just distribute enough latrines, we will solve the problem. But it wasn’t that simple. For some villagers, the latrines seemed like a solution to a problem that they hadn’t asked to be solved. Sometimes the latrines would be disassembled, with their parts used for other purposes. In one village in Malawi, no one used their fancy latrines at all. Umelu Chiluzi, a development worker, said, “If you ask them, why are you not using that latrine? They would tell you, ‘Are you sure I should put shit in that structure . . . that is even better than my house?’”

Adding latrines would not solve open defecation, Kar realized. First he would have to spark the villagers’ desire to change their habits.

Acting on this insight, he developed a methodology called Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which has since been used in more than 60 countries around the world. But don’t let the boring acronym fool you: This is a shocking process. Here’s a stylized description of a typical intervention:

A CLTS facilitator arrives in a village and introduces himself. “I’m studying the sanitation profiles of different villages in the area,” he says. “Mind if I look around and ask some questions?” Once he has hung around long enough to attract a small crowd, he conducts a “transect walk,” leading the crowd from one side of the village to the other.

“Where do people shit?” he asks, and the villagers direct him to the common defecation areas. They are embarrassed, eager to move on, but he lingers. He points: “Whose shit is this?” He asks them, “Did anyone shit here today?” A few hands go up.

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