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Utility of the Future Program


Utility of the Future Center of Excellence Animation
Utility of the Future and the Center of Excellence

  • The Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation — “to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” is a lofty one. Worldwide, 2.4 billion people remain without access to improved sanitation, and nearly 0.7 billion remain without access to improved drinking water sources. Those who have access to water supply and sanitation services often must cope with intermittent water supply, sewerage system overflows, and poor customer service.

    Poor service delivery frequently stems from a vicious cycle of dysfunctional political environments and inefficiencies in water and sanitation utilities. Global forces — including climate change, water scarcity, abrupt changes in the environment, population growth, migrations, and rapid urbanization — exacerbate these challenges and threaten the provision of high-quality and sustainable WSS services, jeopardizing the possibility of providing “water and sanitation for all.”

    Water and sanitation utilities play a fundamental role in the race to achieve universal access, therefore, utilities require innovative and strategic management approach to provide quality services that ensure continuity of operations, encourage continuous improvement, develop strategic capabilities, and create efficient and sustainable strategic business models.

    To guide WSS utilities to reinvent and strengthen themselves, the World Bank has developed Utility of the Future (UoF), a program designed to ignite, materialize and maintain transformation efforts in WSS utilities. The goal is to become the Utility of the Future — a future-focused utility, which provides reliable, safe, inclusive, transparent, and responsive WSS services through best-fit practices that allow it to operate in an efficient, resilient, innovative and sustainable manner. This is achieved through the strengthening of the essential processes of a WSS utility to face their current challenges, and the development of future-thinking capabilities to be one step ahead in a fast-changing environment.


    Objectives of the Utility of the Future Program

    • Ignite actions, improvement, and sustainable transformation of water and/or sanitation utilities.
    • Guide utilities through the transformation process by working in parallel to strengthen their essential processes and develop their future-thinking capabilities to navigate a rapidly changing environment 
    • Provide a practical, simple, and effective methodology to implement the transformation process in water utilities.
    • Strengthen a utility’s internal capabilities in operational and managerial processes, as well as in human and leadership skills.
    • Bring a utility’s team on board, gain their commitment, and empower them to transform the utility.
    • Connect utilities with peers globally to facilitate knowledge exchange and know-how. 
    • Provide the water and sanitation sector with tools available to the public, within the open knowledge philosophy of the UoF program.

    The UoF methodology works in parallel on two dimensions to improve performance and ignite transformation in water and sanitation utilities: management and operational (a “hard” dimension that focuses mainly on processes and practices), and, human and change management (a “soft” dimension that focuses on leveraging staff engagement, empowerment, and teambuilding).

    The management and operational dimension of the process has five key phases:

    1. Decision and preparation: Utility’s decision to initiate a process of transformation, engagement board of directors, and work plan development.
    2. Rapid in-depth analysis: Analysis and understanding  utility’s current performance and maturity levels, reviewing all its processes, and defining the next desirable performance and maturity level.
    3. Ignition and short-term action plan: Identification opportunities for improvement, prioritizing possible actions to be implemented, and beginning the transformation by implementing those high-impact and low-cost/effort actions that can be executed in the short term (100-days).
    4. Strategic vision and long-term action plan: Definition (or update) strategic framework, vision statement, mission statement, corporate values, and strategic objectives as a baseline to define the business and investment plan (5-years).
    5. Sustainable transformation: Implementation strategic plan and continue the transformation process to become a Utility of the Future. 

    The change management dimension of the UoF methodology includes a process called SPEED (Shake, Pause, Engage, Envision, Deploy), which accompanies each phase of the utility’s transformation process with guidance on human resources management and behavioral change.

  • CoE780
    Building on the Utility of the Future Program, the World Bank in partnership with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), has established the Utility of the Future | Center of Excellence (UoF|CoE), an initiative created to unlock the full potential of utilities and empower them to become the driving force to accelerate universal access to water and sanitation services.


    Objectives of the Utility of the Future | Center of Excellence

    • Bring together knowledge, experience and best practices to water and sanitation utilities to achieve universal access.
    • Articulate key stakeholders to bring together capabilities, expertise and resources to generate value to citizens.
    • Identify innovative mechanisms to support water and sanitation utilities worldwide.
    • Create a space for testing and experimentation to bring new ideas, and practical and impactful innovations to the sector.
    • Empower water and sanitation utilities to be the driving force to accelerate universal access to water and sanitation.


    Components of the Utility of the Future | Center of Excellence

    Component 1 - Utility of the future Global Operation: An operations center to manage and implement the UoF Global program and support water utilities worldwide.

    Component 2 - Global Knowledge, Innovation and Collaboration Hub: A knowledge hub pushing knowledge frontiers on utility performance and service innovations, connecting utilities at local, regional, and global levels.

    Component 3 - Performance based Financial Facility: A financing facility giving comprehensive support to utilities in the Western Balkans as well as access to performance-based grants for ‘quick-win’ measures to improve performance and boost sustainability.

    Component 4 - Project Incubator and business plan: A project incubator to identify needs and opportunities for further support and to help utilities in the Western Balkans in the preparation of strategic investments.


    The Western Balkans Project

    The Western Balkans Project is UoF|CoE flagship program that provides the full cycle of support to the transformation process, performance improvement, utilities capacity building through the customized implementation of the 5 components. Western Balkans Project.

  • Global Young Water Professionals Network - ech2o

    The Global Young Water Professionals Network community is a vibrant and welcoming space for emerging leaders in the water sector! The community is dedicated to fostering connections, sharing knowledge, and supporting your professional development. Join the Community


    Young Professional Innovation Challenge

    Tackling the talent drought: The challenges of engaging youth in the water and sanitation sector

    Ideas 4 Change: How youth everywhere are putting their best ideas forward to fight climate change

    The race to zero: How youth help water utilities mitigate carbon emissions

    Dreaming big pays off: How young people are disrupting the water sector with bold ideas