Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

  • aprajitasingh
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Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

I am a Senior Specialist- Advocacy and Knowledge Management, with Population Services International (PSI), India. Since 2012 PSI India has been implementing the Supporting Sustainable Sanitation Improvements (3SI) project in Bihar, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Unilever. This program is currently scaling its models across the state of Bihar and has created a network of over 700 entrepreneurs to run successful businesses and provided high quality sanitation solutions to more than 180,000 households at affordable prices. Additionally, a sanitation finance value chain has been established to service for credit needs of consumers and sanitation enterprises. It has created a corpus that can be potentially expanded to serve geographies beyond Bihar. Globally, PSI manages water, sanitation and hygiene programs in more than 30 countries across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

This topic 2 extends the discussion from the on going topic of what are good case studies to how should they be COLLECTED in an efficient way, who should validate, and what are the best possible ways of an extensive disseminated and its use for replication.

I see 4 parts of any effective knowledge management framework – what I like to call the CPSL framework. Collect, Produce, Share and Learn.

‘At level of organisations
At an enterprise level, when there is merit in having collection of case studies an integrated part of the program functions. Organizations should have some kind of central repository for case studies and other written products,that is catalogued by subject and is searchable. At large organizations like ours, it’s important that the teams writing case studies proactively share them with the people who can amplify them (i.e. the communications team, the people who are regularly invited to meetings/conferences). The information can be shared with other partners/donors that can create a product of that can be shared more widely. A great example of this is the documentary made by the Unilver’s team which can be accessed here psiimpact.com/2016/08/watch-how-unilever...lets-in-bihar-india/

At a sector level
For effective collection at sector level, networks or platforms that can integrate the knowledge being collected at enterprise level regularly and systematically to a larger repository is required. SUSANA exists as a shared repository for lots of people working in the same space – it’s a great way to collect, curate and disseminate the case study to a targeted audience. The ISC Best Practices Task force and the SBM best practice online repository are other examples of systematically collecting, curating and disseminating case studies. The link to the taskforce site is indiasanitationcoalition.org/home/task_force/2

This CPSL framework was also adopted by the Best Practices Taskforce of the India Sanitation Coalition as we brainstormed about where should we start from in collecting best practices in corporate initiatives in sanitation. We adopted multiple approaches to collect which included call for submission which was promoted through the website, social media etc. broad web search, reaching out to individual partners etc. These were then distilled through and those that qualified as a best practice/good practice were shortlisted and produced as short case studies that can be easily read and understood. The dissemination strategy included the launch of the compendium at a major sanitation award.

I will invite further thoughts/responses on these broad questions- How should these case studies be COLLECTED in an efficient way, who should validate, and what are the best possible ways of an extensive disseminated and its use for replication? Also, examples from participants with comments on how to collect validate and disseminate.

Look forward to an engaged conversation over the next few days.
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

Hi all,

Aprajita's proposed framework of collect, produce, share and learn provides a useful way to deal with case studies. What can be added is a 'who' part that puts the process in the hands of practitioners rather than only academics.

While working on case studies is a useful academic exercise it is equally or more critical for practitioners to be involved. By practitioners I mean people who plan, monitor and execute projects. As ones with daily contact with the ground situation, these are best placed to scoop out what is happening. These are the 'who' of the case study debate.

A problem arises when practitioners are asked to 'prepare case studies' formally along with their project implementation work. It becomes an additional task, low priority.

All practitioners I have ever met have said they want an outlet for writing. CLTS motivators, NGO staff, sarpanchs, anganwadi workers, SHG members, block and district officials have all said they would love to write but don't know where.

Two questions from this - how can practitioners be encouraged to write - is co-authoring a possibility? And, where can they publish?

Nitya
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

POSTING ON BEHALF OF INDIA SANITATION COALITION

At the recent India Sanitation Conclave in New Delhi, institutions and individuals who have done exemplary work on sanitation were awarded. This is one example where nominations were sought, reviewed, collated and then compiled into a document,[url=1. Accolade: A photo journey recognizing the distinguished award winning stories]Accolade: A photo journey recognizing the distinguished award winning stories Accolade: A photo journey recognizing the distinguished award winning stories[/url].

A jury of 10 with Dr R A Mashelkar at the helm selected the awardees. They were divided into six categories that covered the entire range of sanitation activities. The quality of awardees was high, as was the profile of the event and quality of publication. These factors contributed to getting a large number of nominations as well.

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Nitya
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  • sunetralala
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

Dear all,

I think it is desirable to get practitioners or project staff to collect case studies and write them up. This hones their skills in a new area. I can think of several papers co-authored by a researcher and project coordinators or officers that have been accepted by WEDC as an example of such collaboration. Another way is to work with government officials on case studies. This makes for ownership with the government both of the case studies and the project.
To validate, in my experience I have referred the case studies back to the field if done jointly, or offered feedback. I usually circulate it to experts I know for their comments. Project officers have always given excellent tips on facts and contexts in this validation exercise.
For disseminating. I suggest looking at the purpose and then deciding the medium. Advocacy requires printing and presenting. Mass circulation would mean issuing a press release. In between, there is a wide range of options from mailing lists, social media and websites.
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Sunetra Lala
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  • ronsid2000
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

I am Siddhartha Das working as the Program Leader with India Sanitation Coalition. In my opinion, collection of case studies need to be done only by experts who have the understanding of the sanitation situation in India. Quite often, we tend to depute people with limited knowledge which effects the overall quality of the case study and is not linked with relevant outcomes. Validation process needs to follow immediately. Sometimes the validation process gets delayed and by that time the relevance of the case studies get diluted.

One of the issues which needs to get addressed is the adaptation and replication of the case studies by organisations/groups/individuals. Rarely proper replications have been seen inspite of willlingness by various organisations to do so. This happens due to lack of proper know how on ways of replicating. Therefore a proper follow up mechanism with those organisations is critical where they can be guided on the way forward.
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  • Robertus
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

Dear Ronsid2000,

You mention that 'rarely proper replications have been seen [...] due to lack of proper know how on ways of replicating'.
I am wondering if in your view, the way a case is captured is also important for its replication?

Often when I read a case I find myself reading with interest what has been done and achieved, but disappointed in the sense that if I would like to try the same, it gives me little advice on how to go about it. Should every case captured on sanitation not already build in practical lessons and reccomendations that could be drawn if others want to replicate this approach?

Curious to hear your views!
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

POSTING ON BEHALF OF DR. KURIAN BABY, LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT, KERALA

A case study can be like a mirror capturing all key elements, of a project or programme, both quantitative and qualitative. Once the project and process elements are truthfully captured, one will have the opportunity to reflect, synthesis and analyze what transpired, what went right or wrong. However, his judgment shall not be mixed with the story, which could be misleading.

A major problem, generally with the project team is that, they are seldom good at documentation. Secondly, by the time the project get noticed and discussed, many of the subtle elements that are critical for its success or failure should have been forgotten or gone unnoticed. Constant change of the project team would also add to the institutional atrophy of memory. Fourthly, the documentation expert, however professional s/he is, may not be in a position to understand the nuances and the philosophical underpinnings. At the end of the day, what we get is a half cooked story, simply to serve objective and purpose of documentation. Ironically some of the classic good practices are seldom get documented and disseminated. One should also be cautious against getting swayed by marketing skills. It is naïve to clamor for scaling up, as most cases are islands created by leadership and are contextual.

From my experience, preparation of a case study shall start with the ideation and conceptualization stage. It should be concurrent and form integral part of project execution. If every staff, particularly those involved in key areas including at field level, are preparing simple dairy of events on a day-to-day basis with their observations and lessons, however rudimentary, but in a structured way, is the most valuable input. They can also capture anecdotes and evidences of the people involved. Such documents can be shaped professionally in hands of experts, who can write up for dissemination and impact. All the relevant key project documents are also to be inventoried well for future. The validation process can be done on a periodic basis by a core team from among the implementing staff or people involved with support from a third party expert wherever necessary. Application of ICT including software like SenseMaker, GIS etc., can build case studies as the project progress.

The quality of implementation and outcomes are the best bet for dissemination by its own virtue, however, social media, consultation forums, analytical advocacy, integration of key learning in to policies and programme designs, embedding the learning in donor programmes and country assistance strategies and dovetailing learning into large impact Government programme at scale are all ways of integration and dissemination. Replication is normally not feasible or desirable, as the ideal process is adaptive learning. Best practices are always adaptive, contextual and creative.
V. Kurian Baby, Ph.D
Local Self Government Department,
Government of Kerala
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

INTERIM SUMMARY.

Dear all,

Given below is an interim summary of this topic of the e-discussion on case studies.

Aprajita, the topic's lead stated this was an extension of the discussion to how to collect, validate and disseminate case studies. Suggesting the CPSL framework: Collect, Produce, Share and Learn, she explained how it applied for organizations and the entire sector. Organizations could have a central repository for case studies. Teams preparing them could share them with those who could amplify them and also with partners or donors. At the sector level, networks and platforms could integrate knowledge. SUSANA, the ISC Best Practices Task force and the SBM best practice online repository are some examples of this. For dissemination, she gave the example of the launch of the compendium at a major sanitation event.

I responded asking for practical examples such as getting project staff to write or co-author case studies with research people. This could give a practical twist to what can otherwise become an academic exercise. One example emerged from the India Sanitation Conclave where a compendium of best practices was released.

Sunetra responded saying it is desirable to get practitioners or project staff to collect case studies and write them up. This hones their skills in a new area. Several papers have been co-authored by a researcher and project coordinators or officers that have been accepted by WEDC as an example of such collaboration. Government officials can also be co-authors. For validation, case studies can be referred back to the field or circulated to experts for comments. To disseminate them, she suggested looking at the purpose and then deciding the medium.

Siddhartha however felt only experts who have the understanding of the sanitation situation in India should collect case studies to ensure quality. This should be immediately followed by validation to keep the case study relevant. He felt the adaptation and replication of the case studies by organisations/groups/individuals is a weak link in the chain because of a lack of proper know-how on ways of replicating.

Robin, who is the lead for the third topic, asked Siddhartha if the way a case is captured had a bearing on for its replication. Often, case studies lack advice on how to be replicated. Case studies could build in practical lessons and reccomendations that could be drawn if others want to replicate this approach.

Kurian Baby a case study was a mirror capturing all key elements, of a project or programme, both quantitative and qualitative. Project teams were seldom good at documentation and by the time the project was noticed and discussed, many of the subtle elements that were critical for its success or failure would have been forgotten. Project teams change, eroding institutional memory. Documentation experts may not fully understand the nuances and other underpinnings. Therefore, case studies could turn out half-baked. He suggested starting case study documentation at the ideation and conceptualization stage and run concurrently with the project's execution. Notes from project staff would be valuable and these could be shaped professionally by experts. Validation could happen periodically by a core team of the implementing staff. Best practices are always adaptive, contextual and creative.

Thank you for your inputs. I will post the synthesis document once the e-discussion is complete.

Regards
Nitya
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  • Meena
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Re: Topic 2. How can case studies be collected, validated and disseminated efficiently

Case Studies are an in-depth examination, often undertaken over time and can be of single or comparative cases: ranging from micro (participants, implementation process), meso (programs) or macro (policy) level. The PSI initiative for Supporting Sustainable Sanitation Improvements (3SI) project in Bihar is at a scaling up stage with over 700 entrepreneurs and 180,000 reached and impacted. The approach to this initiative is reflected in the ‘sanitation finance value chain being established to service for credit needs of consumers and sanitation enterprises.’

With an overall aim to demonstrate a successful program for replication to serve geographies beyond Bihar, the selection of cases requires careful consideration on the basis of clear objectives and may include: (i) comparing cases at the micro level – such as an entrepreneur or household base case studies – these can just focus on program area, comparisons against case studies documented during a baseline, longitudinal studies (same cases studied over a period of time) or can be comparative case studies (program and control group areas); (iii) case studies focussing on program approaches (for example – the logic model or theory of change); (iii) higher level comparison with a similar program, or a control group to establish causality though a statistically significant sample, data analysis and synthesis process. In all situations, high quality practical studies with key messages and facts, documentation of evidence will be a key enabler contribute to strengthened programming and scaling up.

Case studies at micro level or related to program approaches can be embedded in an external evaluation. For case studies already available through program process documentation, validations can be applied to these case studies - through formative peer reviews (stakeholders, program staff or external validation). Parameters like resources, time frames and data collection options influence the level at which case studies can be documented.

Dissemination can be through stakeholder consultations, in this case especially among those who have been associated with the program and new geography stakeholders – as an experience sharing and new programs design platform. And the routes to paper presentations, fora such as India Sanitation Coalition, publications, social media, website of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation etc. remain.

Meena Narula is currently Country Director and Water For People – India. In the past she has held lead Monitoring Evaluation and Research positions at Aga Khan Foundation and Plan International India.
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