Tool 9: Managing Roles and Responsibilities within a WSI


Quick reference

Tool A list of roles that typically offer value to WSIs.
Related Key Activity
  • Assign appropriate roles and responsibilities.
Questions Addressed What kinds of roles does the WSI need to have, and who might be best placed to fulfill those roles?
Purpose Ensuring the right people are performing the correct roles in a WSI will ensure that the WSI is not set up for failure or, more importantly, that a person or organization isn’t given a role that might lead to conflicts of interests or illicit practice:

  • Identify the right people for the right roles.
  • Ensure all key responsibilities are assigned.
  • Avoid failure of key functions.
  • Ensure all participants have a role and there are no “free riders” who can damage the reputation of the WSI.
Possible Users WSI participants.
Level of Effort Preparatory work to assess interest and abilities should be completed during earlier phases (via a due diligence investigation, for example), so the actual assignment of responsibilities should be a simple and straightforward task.
WSI Phase 2: Formalization.


Guidance for implementation

Guidance steps for determining how to assign roles and responsibilities is outlined below:


Supporting Guidance

Identifying the right people for the right roles within a WSI enhances project efficiency and enables trust-based relationships among participants. Effectively managing roles also helps to avoid failures that could lead to inappropriate practice by individual participants, thus protecting the WSI from integrity risks. For example, a company with a keen interest in securing its own water supply vis-à-vis a WSI will likely not be a credible “neutral party.” In addition to aligning participants’ roles with their capabilities, effective delegation of roles ensures that all participants play a meaningful role and that one participant does not unduly dominate the development and implementation of the WSI.

Effective WSIs typically require fulfillment of a broad array of functions to achieve success. At the same time, WSI participants bring with them a wide array of expertise and resources, as well as areas in which they have limited experience and capability. As such, well-defined roles and responsibilities among WSI participants that build on participants’ core competencies or are reflective of their main interests are critical to project success. Though some organizations may initially join a WSI without a clear understanding of their role in it, this arrangement should be temporary and the WSI should look to clearly delineate responsibilities and expectations for all participants.



Role Responsibilities Key Characteristics Questions to Ask
  • Attract attention to the need for collective action
  • Formulate initial objectives
  • Act as a catalyst to problem solving
  • Provide resources to jump-start the process
  • Keenly aware of basin dynamics and challenges
  • Self-starting, action-oriented
  • Does this individual or organization have knowledge of local basin issues (challenges and opportunities)?
  • Does this individual or organization have the resources and vision for action?
  • Act as the lead party responsible for deciding to undertake WSI coordination and oversight
  • Initial pairing of participants with specific roles
  • Familiarity with key basin actors
  • Credibility among diverse array of actors
  • Does this individual or organization have the trust of local actors?
Project Manager and/or Coordinator
  • Provide primary day-to-day logistic and managerial support
  • Monitor partnership development and progress in achieving WSI goals
  • Strong project management skills
  • Able to devote significant time on a daily basis
  • Knowledge of relevant languages
  • Does this individual or organization have the resources and capacity to manage?
  • Is this individual or organization willing to continuously oversee the WSI?
Neutral Party or Facilitator
  • Facilitate discussions and relationships among interested parties
  • Ensure oversight and monitor compliance with agreements
  • Strong facilitation skills
  • Has trust of all WSI participants and stakeholders
  • No vested interest that could bias the initiative
  • Does this individual or organization have the trust of participants?
  • Does this individual or organization have any vested interest?
WSI Spokesperson
  • Identify effective communication channels
  • Develop a communication plan to reach external stakeholders
  • Ensure that relevant information is available for all participants and external stakeholders
  • Strong communication skills
  • Has trust of all participants
  • Can this individual or organization effectively communicate the objectives and ongoing activities of the WSI?
  • Provide the technical and analytical capabilities required
  • Strong research and analytical skills
  • What kinds of external expertise are needed for the WSI (e.g., hydrology, political economy, etc.)?
Funders or Development Professionals
  • Responsible for ensuring financial resources for the initiative
  • Might provide financial resources needed to support convening and implementation
  • Access to significant financial resources
  • Able to find necessary funds for the WSI
  • Commitment to public interest
  • What is the funding model for the WSI? Who is able to either provide the funds or has the ability to attract necessary funding?
  • Do these people or organizations have the public interest in mind?
  • Are they willing to provide funding without steering the WSI only toward their own interest?
WSI Ambassador
  • Identify anchorage points for the WSI
  • Feed information into existing institutions
  • Facilitate uptake of the initiative after its completion
  • Familiarity with key actors and political dynamics
  • Strong communication skills
  • When is a WSI ambassador needed to engage and/or embed the initiative with local institutions?
  • Does this individual or organization have the required political leverage to effectively anchor the WSI outcomes in the sector?
Community Engagement Officers
  • Outreach to affected stakeholders, especially those who are typically under-represented
  • Familiarity with key basin actors
  • Credibility among local communities
  • Ability to communicate with local communities
  • Do these individuals have the knowledge, trust, and skills to engage with local community members?
  • Assist project manager(s) in operations
  • Technical capacity to implement vision
  • NA
  • Oversee the WSI operations or implementation of specific agreements
  • Ensure that the public interest is guarded
  • Degree of independence from the WSI
  • Strong understanding of local context and SWM
  • Does this individual or organization have the resources and skills to provide independent oversight?
  • Does the WSI provide the avenues for the watchdog to perform the assigned functions?

Source: Source: CEO Water Mandate, Guide to Water-Related Collective Action (September 2013)

  • Building Partnerships for Development (BPD). July 2011. “Power-Balanced Partnerships and Shared Incentives.” Improving Partnership Governance in Water Services. (London: BPD Water and Sanitation). Available at
  • CEO Water Mandate. September 2013. Guide to Water-Related Collective Action. Available at:



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