The Potty Project

Project Brief

The Potty Project was an in-depth study examining interactions of India's urban poor with spaces, services and communities regarding issues of sanitation and hygiene.

Commissioned by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it explored people's relationship with sanitation: their motivation, behaviors, and attitudes, as well as the community dynamics that mediate access and use of facilities for open-defecation and related activities.


Research was conducted in 5 cities (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune) between May 2010 and March 2011 to explore and illustrate the diverse sanitation experiences in India. The study relied on observational, user-centered research to gather empirical data on experiences around sanitation and interconnected issues. Data was collected using a mix of ethnographic methods, including extended observation, semi-structured interviews, participatory research and rich media documentation.


Key findings identified room for innovation and interventions in the following areas:

  • Facility Design
  • Operations and Management (O&M) Models
  • Communication
  • Business Models

The research enabled Quicksand to document key insights on the daily lives, routines, and preferences of users interacting with sanitation in India's urban slums. The findings provided invaluable insights and directions for future innovations that could improve sanitation for the urban poor.

Related Projects