Challenges: Where can it go wrong?

Creating a WaSH-UP Facility faces not only many physical challenges, but also many social challenges. Through working with the Langrug community we were given the opportunity to explore some of these challenges, including creating economic sustainability, managing intricate multi-stakeholder relationships, and understanding complex intra-community relations.In the case of Mandela Park, the facility faces many economic challenges. The funding from local government is inconsistent, having started a few months after the facility opened and stopped suddenly, approximately six months ago (Sizwe Mxobo, personal communication, September 26). Despite this, the facility still operates, but it frequently lacks soap for hand washing and is often low on toilet paper.

Additionally, the innovative community partnership between CORC (a local NGO who supports community development), WPI, and the community creates additional challenges. In Langrug, the financial support provided by WPI created an unrealistic expectation for the university as a source of funding for the facility. This impeded CORC and WPI from assisting in the advancement of intangible aspects of the social enterprise, such as the business model, management structure, and operations of the aftercare. Instead, the community’s work with WPI focused on more material things such as requesting supplies instead of focusing on the development of programmes (personal observations, Act 4 Scene 4).

The unclear relationship between the multiple stakeholders coincided with other interpersonal issues in the community that made it almost impossible at this stage to implement complex intangibles such as a Savings Group to oversee the facility. For example, there was a great deal of miscommunication between community members on key elements of operation and evolution of the facility. Simple things like who has keys to the caretakers’ office and keeping track of money charged for showers become difficult tasks when the women in the working group have not clearly decided on specific responsibilities and steps to achieving their goals (personal observation, Act 4 Scene 1). This coupled with personal relational drama within the working group creates a culture of distrust. We observed and the members reported there is little opportunity to openly and honestly discuss opinions and ideas, especially conflicting ones. During a very deep discussion about pasts, relationships, and resulting behavior, members of the community shared with us that they felt uncomfortable sharing their personal thoughts and feelings for fear that they would be laughed at and mocked. Many times, they shared, if they opened up to friends or neighbors, others would soon hear about it and laugh at their issues or problems (personal observations, Act 2 Scene 7). This hindered forward movement of new community projects such as the creation of a sustainable business or an aftercare programme.