Thursday, July 20, 2017

Humanitarian Ben Fawcett Brings Decades of Experience and Service to the WASH Sector

Environmental health engineer Ben Fawcett has worked in many roles over his more than three decades in the WaSH sector, such as development manager, director, teacher, consultant, researcher, author, mentor, and humanitarian, just to name a few.  He is widely recognized for his work in international development, and particularly his teaching that produced many former students who went on to make significant contributions in the WaSH sector. These activities laid the foundation for his selection to win the 2011 University of Oklahoma International Water Prize. We look forward to welcoming Ben back to Norman.

Ben Fawcett stands beside 'Fawcett Creek'
The following passages from Mr. Fawcett focus on his work since accepting the prize:

What has been the focus of your work since winning the Water Prize:

“Since 2011 I have continued teaching WASH (water supply, sanitation and hygiene) to Masters students on the International WaterCentre Masters program in Integrated Water Management (MIWM) in Brisbane.  I aim to give students a good understanding of both key principles and approaches to all aspects of WASH, and my focus has been on increasing their interest and skills in, and understanding of sanitation and hygiene.  This remains a less-understood area of the water sector and one that needs increased emphasis, particularly in poorer urban areas.  Students continue to come from across the globe with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences and many have gone on to be active in the WASH sector in international development.” 

Ben Fawcett in 2006 with WASH Development students in Southampton, U.K.
Ben retired from coordinating this component of the MIWM program in 2016 but continues to support the teaching.  For the past five years, he has supported and supervised individual student research projects; in in Cambodia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ghana, Laos, Mozambique, Nepal and Thailand focusing on a wide range of WASH subjects. Recently Mr. Fawcett has become involved with two online training courses with the International WaterCentre.
“Firstly, ‘WASH & behavior change’ which introduces concepts of behavior change – so vital in bringing about sustainable improvements in the WASH sector – to professionals in this field.  Secondly, an ‘Introduction to WASH for development’ program, which I developed and ran with a colleague, to introduce the basic, up-to-date principles and processes of WASH in developing communities, to those from all backgrounds interested in a move into this field.  Both courses continue to run at least once a year and attract students from many countries and backgrounds.”

Students learn to make a toilet floor slab
How has the Water Prize facilitated/encouraged your ongoing work?

“Recognition, through the award of the Water Prize, of my work as a teacher, based on extensive practical experience in developing countries, inspiring many of those who studied with me to continue this work, was hugely welcome.  It has encouraged me to continue this work over the past five years and, I believe, encouraged many of my former students to develop their careers in the WASH sector. 
I was very pleased to be able to share the financial award (from the OU International Water Prize) with the Engineers Without Borders, Australia (EWB) Research Program.  Specifically, the funds were used to sponsor a valuable two-day conference in Melbourne in May 2012 to share and discuss approaches and outcomes of several research projects undertaken by EWB students and volunteers, and to help develop future strategies for the Program.”  

The Kolkata slum has a desperate need for improved sanitation and hygiene.
Ben continues to lobby for more work in sustainable development of sanitation and hygiene, particularly in urban slums in developing countries, to find ways to better facilitate behaviour change in sanitation and hygiene practices, and to support those changed behaviours through effective local government systems.  He does so through his teaching, and by authoring numerous publications.

Mr. Fawcett will join us at the 2017 OU International WaTER Conference to help celebrate the current prize recipient Eric Stowe. He will give a keynote speech and participate in a panel discussion at the Water Prize Banquet.