Completed Research

Social Art for Behavioural Change (SABC): Promoting WASH in Mali

University of Toronto

Due to ongoing conflict, political instability and widespread poverty, access to safe drinking water and sanitation services is a challenge in Mali. In response, WaterAid Canada and One Drop formed an international partnership with communities in Mali to launch Mali: Healthy Communities (MHC). From 2016 to 2020, MHC worked in the urban and rural regions of Kati and Bla, where they established water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure to reduce water-based contaminants jeopardizing local’s health and wellbeing and used their innovative Social Art for Behavioural Change (SABC) method to instill lifelong healthy hygiene habits. The organizations used One Drop’s three-pronged A-B-C for Sustainability approach to increase: (A)ccess to clean WASH infrastructures; (B)ehaviour change using intergenerational arts programming led by the Centre Culturel Kôrè (CCK) to promote healthy decision making; and (C)apital by providing microcredit to women and youth-led cooperatives to produce WASH-related products to ensure their long term access and affordability. Investigating MHC’s dual focus on generating positive health impacts (through improved water and sanitation access) and social impacts (through locally informed, culturally relevant, art-based health promotion initiatives) will reveal how combining WASH and SABC approaches can support sustainable development and community resilience.

Hard to Reach

The vulnerable communities who reside in the rural districts of Kati and Bla who lack access to proper toilets and clean.

Key Takeaways

According to respondents, the project’s main objective — increasing access to water and sanitation resources for community members of Kati and Bla — was achieved. Key lessons include:

  1. Background research is essential to ensuring that social arts programming is technologically, psychologically, and contextually relevant
  2. Leaders of interventions must first diagnose the observed barriers and identify the broader obstacles and socioeconomic and political context
  3. It is imperative that artists are engaging, that they understand their role, and that they can effectively transfer knowledge to others without imposing their own beliefs
  4. Fostering community capacity and community buy-in when utilizing social arts interventions is critical to long-term success
  5. Strengthening community capacity, resilience, and social participation are crucial factors to ensure interventions are sustainable


This research was made possible through the Reach Alliance, a partnership between the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. Research was also funded by the Ralph and Roz Halbert Professorship of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to those we met and interviewed over the course of this project. In particular, we acknowledge and thank the principal knowledge users and key informants who took the time to share their insights
with us. These include individuals from the following organizations who were instrumental and lent their time so that we could learn more about the WASH sector: IRC Mali, Water for People, Sulabh International, and BlueTech Research. We also acknowledge 911 Interpreters for translation services and One Drop for their support.This research received approval from the Ethics Review Board at the University of Toronto. Interviews conducted for this research were done virtually between February and April 2022.