Skip to Main Content

Maslow's theory of human motivation (1943) states that people have five basic needs that are common to all people: physiological, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Each of these needs is pre-potent, meaning they build upon each other. For example, according to Maslow (1943), a person must satisfy physiological needs before addressing other needs. In this paper, we refer to the needs after physiological needs as higher-level needs or higher-level motivations, not because they are more or less important but because, according to Maslow, they come after something else. There are many more or less evidence-based adaptations of Maslow's theory. In this paper, we use Maslow's original definitions and applied definitions in Table 1 (Maslow 1943) to explore how to design approaches that are a better fit for users' motivation for rural water supply.

Table 1

Maslow's theory of motivation (1943) – definitions of motivations and applied coding dictionary for sustainable rural water delivery

MotivationWASH related definitions from Maslow's theory Examples of applications in WASH (from coding dictionary)
Local self-actualization Helping local people become who they really want to be; fulfill potential. Strategies that make life more convenient; looks at bigger picture – not just health and water; focuses on development of local people – including capacity building; focuses on long-term development – often at expense of immediate short-term outcomes. 
Outside self-actualization Helping outside organization become who they really want to be; fulfill potential. Baseline measurement of actualization – every organization has some purpose/mission they are trying to fulfill. For purposes of coding, any mention of water and/or health in a quote was coded as outside actualization. 
Excessive outside actualization Focusing on outside organization's needs at expense of long-term results/local needs.  Evidence that long-term results or fulfillment of local needs fails or suffers as a result of excessive focus on: outside interests – (budget, schedule); narrow approaches that focus on own goals and expertise – e.g., WASH only, health only, engineering only approaches; short-cuts to achieve things cheaper, faster, easier; short-term focus. 
Self-esteem Stable, firmly based high evaluation of oneself. Respect – listening to local priorities, preferences; buying, hiring, and building local. Reputation – pressure on providers to succeed/not make mistakes and desire for good quality items and services. 
Love and belonging Connection to people through loving relationships and belonging to a group. ‘A place in his/her group’ – belonging, the need and desire to be part of a group – connected, i.e., involving local people in decisions. Strategies that help people stay connected and foster loving, meaningful relationships. Takes into consideration issues like community dynamics. 
Safety and security Preference for a predictable orderly world. Formal and informal research – data, monitoring, evaluations. Preference for using familiar methods. Freedom from division, injustice, and inequality. 
Physiology Homeostasis (balance) of chemicals in blood. Thirst, water quantity. Not water quality. 
MotivationWASH related definitions from Maslow's theory Examples of applications in WASH (from coding dictionary)
Local self-actualization Helping local people become who they really want to be; fulfill potential. Strategies that make life more convenient; looks at bigger picture – not just health and water; focuses on development of local people – including capacity building; focuses on long-term development – often at expense of immediate short-term outcomes. 
Outside self-actualization Helping outside organization become who they really want to be; fulfill potential. Baseline measurement of actualization – every organization has some purpose/mission they are trying to fulfill. For purposes of coding, any mention of water and/or health in a quote was coded as outside actualization. 
Excessive outside actualization Focusing on outside organization's needs at expense of long-term results/local needs.  Evidence that long-term results or fulfillment of local needs fails or suffers as a result of excessive focus on: outside interests – (budget, schedule); narrow approaches that focus on own goals and expertise – e.g., WASH only, health only, engineering only approaches; short-cuts to achieve things cheaper, faster, easier; short-term focus. 
Self-esteem Stable, firmly based high evaluation of oneself. Respect – listening to local priorities, preferences; buying, hiring, and building local. Reputation – pressure on providers to succeed/not make mistakes and desire for good quality items and services. 
Love and belonging Connection to people through loving relationships and belonging to a group. ‘A place in his/her group’ – belonging, the need and desire to be part of a group – connected, i.e., involving local people in decisions. Strategies that help people stay connected and foster loving, meaningful relationships. Takes into consideration issues like community dynamics. 
Safety and security Preference for a predictable orderly world. Formal and informal research – data, monitoring, evaluations. Preference for using familiar methods. Freedom from division, injustice, and inequality. 
Physiology Homeostasis (balance) of chemicals in blood. Thirst, water quantity. Not water quality. 

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal