The University partners have been the main implementing partners in the first phase of the project. The students worked in multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural teams and their work included field and lab work. The first year passed in fact finding and preliminary ideation of concepts. This work was carried out by students with the help of school children, their families and communities in Acholiland. During the second year the student teams would continue with project ideation and prototyping both in lab and in the field. This proved to be very useful learning experience for the students and teachers alike.
Makerere University was considered an important partner because the university is one of the oldest universities in the African continent and has considerable expertise ranging from water, sanitation and hygiene related research and technology, to anthropology, design, public health, civic and mechanical engineering. These were all expert areas considered important for the project. One of the project aims was also to build the local capacity in development of human rights -based inventions related to WASH.
From Makerere University's side, the motivation for participating in the UniWASH project was to partner with international actors and share knowledge and experience in order to improve quality of life for Ugandans. In practice this meant knowledge transfer and networking between academic staff and giving students new perspectives to their studies. One of the biggest learning objectives for Makerere was the interdisciplinary approach to research, and how to apply it in practice. The introduction of new research methodologies, like the human rights-based approach, was also very much appreciated. The approach presented by UniWASH allowed more student-centred learning.
UniWASH project builds on the prior collaboration between UNICEF and Aalto University in 2011-13, when students from Aalto carried out field research in Acholiland. There was a will from UNICEF’s side to make the collaboration more structured, thus UniWASH project was created.
Aalto University has been a partner in the project from the start and much of the student engagement was planned based on the course structures and student field work practices of Aalto University. One of the goals for Aalto University was the possibility to offer learning platforms for its students and UniWASH has done this in a very unique and complex way. Another goal for Aalto was to create added value for its partners, and it was noticed that UNICEF as a partner has the will to try out novel ways to find solutions to WASH problems that keep persisting.
While planning the UniWASH project, it was realised that a multi-disciplinary project would benefit from anthropological input. The partnership with Helsinki University was created to show students that anthropology teaches skills that are useful in studying complex social problems and that these skills can be applied in practice both within various disciplines as well as outside the academia. UniWASH project offered a suitable platform to put anthropology in practice because tackling WASH problems involves multifaceted issues such as complex social relations, economic inequalities, political differences, and technical issues, that all come together through the innovation process.
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