Water in Art, Not Just a Resource but a Source of Power

Raquel Porras Gutiérrez, project manager at the One Drop Foundation, has been involved in processes in Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. She tells us how, after experiencing the distinctive aspects brought by local culture, capacities and needs of each community, she is now a proponent of social art as a generator of change and empowerment.

In your experience, how do art and culture relate to water in general, and to access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in particular?

Through the experience of participating in several of the Lazos de Agua projects and through working with the communities - getting to know and learn about their context, culture and beliefs - I have seen how people relate to water in their different artistic expressions. They represent it as a deity, an important source of power or an extraordinary and mystical being.

I see the relationship between art and access to WASH through the implementation of projects under a systemic model that includes a behaviour change component, as we do at the One Drop Foundation.

By integrating the components of the model - Access, Behaviour Change and Capital - and facilitating an enabling environment for Social Art for Behaviour Change™ (SABC) processes to take place, conditions are created for communities to become empowered. Spaces for reflection are generated and people are mobilised to practice healthy WASH behaviours and propose solutions to their challenges.

According to one of the most recent reports of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, "Five years after the adoption of the SDGs, the world is not on track to meet targets 6.1 and 6.2... The least developed countries have the furthest to go, and accelerating progress in fragile contexts will be especially difficult. Many other countries face challenges in extending services to rural areas and to populations facing extreme barriers."

How would you use the One Drop Foundation's SABC approach to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6?

It is difficult to obtain different results if we always do the same things. This is where the proposal of a systemic model, such as the A·B·C for Sustainability™ and the SABC approach within it, puts innovative alternatives on the table to move towards the achievement of the SDG 6 targets.

The model places people at the centre of the interventions so that they are the managers of their own solutions and development. The SABC approach supports this process by empowering individuals and communities, inspiring, activating and mobilising them to continuously exercise key water, sanitation and hygiene behaviours.

Which actors in WASH projects should be involved in artistic processes? Why?

Government (decision-makers) and local authorities (municipalities, including technicians), community organisational structures (water committees), community leaders, teachers, health personnel, providers of goods and services, private enterprise, credit service providers, and the community at large.

The participation of all is fundamental because, in one way or another, we are all part of the issue and need to work together to propose and implement solutions. This is where artistic processes play a fundamental role, inspiring, activating and mobilising this diversity of actors to reflect on their problems and propose solutions, beyond infrastructure.

Before the free online course "Social Art for Behaviour Change: The Basics" was created, you had already experienced SABC. What did the course add to your knowledge of the approach?

Before taking the course, I had the opportunity to learn a lot from the SABC expert for the Lazos de Agua Program, Isabelle Viens. Her patience, persistence and knowledge transfer have made the difference in understanding the SABC approach. Added to this is the rich experience of participating in the design process of these interventions and seeing their implementation first hand, in the Lazos de Agua projects. It has been a comprehensive and enriching learning process.

The course allowed me to brush up on details and clarify concepts. For me, it represents a toolbox or reference on what the approach means and how to apply it - very valuable!

Now that it is available in several languages, I recommend this course to all actors working in the WASH sector (NGOs, governments, etc.), particularly technicians (engineers) and those implementing traditional training processes, as well as local artists.

Which part of the course did you enjoy the most and what did it help you understand?

I was struck by the variety of resources that the course integrates and makes available to those who follow it. It provides added value for actors in the sector to consider in the ideation and design of projects. It inspires to integrate innovative proposals to empower and mobilise communities to be leaders of their own change.

Explore the fundamentals of the One Drop Foundation's Social Art for Behaviour Change approach through an online course and discover how art can change lives.

Share on social media!