User-Centred Sanitation Design Through Rapid Community Engagement

Organisation: Qatar Red Crescent Society in Lebanon (QRCS Lebanon)

Partners: Social Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI)

Location: Lebanon

Type of grant: WASH

Status: Ongoing

  • As part of its community engagement activities, QRCS team along with beneficiaries examining the “Smart Bucket”, a practical solution that ensures handwashing and making use of soap water for discharge. Photo Credit: Suleiman Al Sumairy.

  • QRCS volunteer conducts a field data collection & rapid needs assessment. Photo Credit: Zaher Nakhle

  • Toilets at “Abo Shlash” Camp after completion of the first user-centred prototype (rehabilitation) stage. Photo Credit: Sleiman Al Sumairy

  • QRCS team and community participants installing lighting inside and around toilets to ensure better accessibility at night. (Photo Credit: Suleiman Al Sumairy).

  • Before project kick off, sanitary units at “Abu Shlash” Syrian refugees camp in Jeb Janine, Bekaa. (Photo Credit: Zaher Nakhle)


Qatar Red Crescent Society in Lebanon is piloting rapid exploration tools capable of:

  1. Tapping into users’ reality and users’ needs
  2. Co-creatively feeding them into technical pitches
  3. Iteratively improving the sanitation infrastructure.


Although consultation with affected community is strongly encouraged in almost all guidelines in the humanitarian sector, lack of ownership in the affected community when it comes to sanitation provision is a persistent dilemma. This often contributes to low usage and maintenance, regardless of rapid-on-set or protracted emergency.

Terms such as “community preference” and the “community feedback” are documented in guidelines, but what does community preference really mean for WASH engineers? How can we provide functional useful data for engineers to rapidly design for?


During on-set-rapid emergency response, immediate action plans dictate the approach for data collection. Existing practice recommends that secondary data is consulted first and then, if there are gaps, primary data is gathered to specifically address the identified gaps.

In the case of protected emergency, the  existing approach for input data is normative and catered towards meeting indicators of – for example – number of users per number of latrine, and tagging latrines as a latrine that is according to standards or not according to standards. We aim at offering user centred data as functional input data in the decision making process.

The project puts to the test a methodology capable of producing functional user-centred rapid data through rapid ethnographic questions and co-creation sessions to design the immediate sanitation provision.


Firstly the production of 108 user-centred latrines, including at least 3 technical prototypes that reduce and/or eliminate pain points of users before, during and after his/her private journey to use the sanitation provision. We will also create a user centred hygiene promotion campaigning.

Secondly the transformation of the community’s lack of ownership into increased ownership, demonstrated by individual and collective action.

The ultimate goal is increased usage of sanitation provision and community based maintenance of sanitation provision.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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