Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local governments differ in their ways of working and are subjected to very different conditioning factors. However, some NGOs engaged in community-based sanitation are increasingly collaborating effectively with the local governments in South Asia. NGOs considered in this article have taken advantage of a more conducive environment to develop some well-designed community-based sanitation programmes in low-income areas, in conjunction with the local government. Some NGOs have also participated in the development of government policies related to sanitation that have enabled the replication of their approaches. In making the transition from distrust between NGOs and local governments to working towards common ends, NGOs have demonstrated their comparative advantages and focused on developing productive relationships with both the local government and the communities in which they work. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.