Lack of sanitation affects the lives of billions of people worldwide. It is now generally agreed that sustainable solutions to this complex problem require social and cultural factors to be addressed in addition to the habitual economic and technical aspects. Increasingly, sector professionals view the fragmented approaches to sanitation as a limiting factor. This refers to the fragmentation of the knowledge on the subject among often hermetic disciplines and to the distribution of political mandates on sanitation across many institutions, which independently tackle specific aspects of the issue. Holistic approaches have often been suggested as a solution. This paper presents the development of such a holistic approach, designed to assess sanitation development in rural and pen- urban settings. Tested in three Mexican communities, it relies on qualitative research tools to identify critical influences to sanitation development. This article presents generic results about micro and macro-factors affecting sanitation development in Mexican villages, and reflexively examines the research process as well as the strengths and limitations of the approach. The conceptual map developed for each case study successfully highlights the interconnectedness of all factors affecting sanitation development. Despite some weaknesses, these maps constitute a practical assessment tool for interdisciplinary teams deployed in integrated water and sanitation development programs and a valuable didactic tool for training activities. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
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