Institutional Strategies in Technological Innovation Systems: The Case of Decentralized Sanitation Solutions in eThekwini and the City of Cape Town
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Only half of the South African households in informal settlements have access to sanitation services. Decentralized sanitation solutions such as urine diversion toilets or communal ablution blocks are considered the only feasible alternatives to increase sanitation access in South Africa due to economic and topological conditions. However, these solutions are met by many protests as it is intertwined with inequality for a large number of citizens. Therefore, the initial social acceptance of these solutions is low. South Africa has a background of political challenges but still has much capacity to engage in innovation, as it is the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa and has a culture of innovation. In this context, eThekwini Municipality successfully implemented some decentralized solutions in the past ten years, while decentralized solutions remained heavily contested in the City of Cape Town. Since these municipalities are located in the same country with similar cultural and political contexts and similar funding, the question remains how one municipality could better overcome low social acceptance than the other. The technological innovation system (TIS) approach was used to understand and explain the innovation processes of decentralized sanitation solutions in both municipalities. Since social acceptance has rather critical influences on the overall innovation performance in both municipalities, the system function legitimation was further deepened with the concept of institutional work strategies. Based on 270 news articles and 8 policy reports, an event analysis was performed to trace the most important actors, networks, and institutions regarding decentralized sanitation and those actors’ institutional work strategies. Furthermore, the influence of these strategies on the systems’ performance was analyzed. eThekwini managed to create a coherently aligned TIS for decentralized sanitation through longstanding partnerships with resourceful partners, trust with citizens created through institutional work, and the successful institutionalizing of accumulated knowledge thanks to overall stability. The City of Cape Town had tremendous difficulties implementing decentralized sanitation due to a lack of trust and partnerships resulting from political misalignment, intense protests, and increased bureaucracy resulting from past failures. This thesis illustrates that the combination of the TIS and institutional work approach allows scholars and policymakers to better understand the actors’ individual actions and the influence of these actions on TIS performance.