Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

  • bracken
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Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

Dear all,
Here in our offices at the AHT GROUP AG in Essen we’re currently considering in what way we, as a consultant office, could participate in SuSanA activities.

Some of us already receive the newsletters and I am a member of WG 11 (Groundwater protection and sanitation), but that’s all mainly just in a personal capacity and not as a company. We were therefore wondering in what capacity SuSanA members (who are mainly NGO's, government financed or non-profit actors) could imagine a consultant office being involved with SuSanA, either as a contributor to a working group or as a partner?

For example, we have asked ourselves if a consultant firm could be a SuSanA partner? And if so then, as a partner, what are the obligations for an organisation? What are the expectations from the side of SuSanA and what obligations fall upon partner organisations? And what can partners expect from the SuSanA side (if anything)?

We feel that we, as practicing consultants, could in the best case contribute case studies and information “from the field”, and a feel of how things are from the “implementation” level of sanitation. However, being a consultancy office it is quite difficult for us to devote a lot of time to these kinds of activities. Participation in most of the major meetings is not a realistic expectation for us as, they fall outside of the activities we generally have contracts for, and we don’t have the luxury of being able to finance participation in these kinds of dialogue meetings. I think this is probably the case for most consultant offices, and thus the international dialogue is generally carried out without the input of consultant firms who often are the organisations charged with implementing the larger (centralised) sanitation projects. (Would it be an idea for SuSanA to actively provide some kind of platform to encourage an exchange with consultant offices I wonder?). I am aware that there are a few consultant offices that do work with SuSanA - but as far as I understand, these are pretty much single issue consultancy companies who work almost exclusively on sanitation.

Additionally, SuSanA generally addresses household level, decentralised or semi-centralised small scale sanitation systems - a level of sanitation provision for which consultants are very rarely called upon to provide in calls to tender (and if so, usually only as an afterthought added on to water supply projects). So in a way consultants are not encouraged to directly engage in this level of sanitation provision as it’s mainly seen to be the domain of local NGOs – whether or not this is the best approach remains to be seen. As far as I know there has been no major call for tender for international consultancy for decentralised sanitation in the last 2 years (since I’ve been here at AHT). This means that from a business point of view, it is not perceived as a “market” for international consultants and is thus not necessarily something that time and resources can be spent on - which pushes on-site, decentralised sanitation and hygiene promotion out of the remit of most consultancy activites involved in wastewater treatment. SOmething which I think is a pity.

So with all these considerations in mind, and still with an interest in somehow getting involved, I’d like to ask you how do you imagine that AHT GROUP AG could best get involved with SuSanA?

Any ideas and suggestions gladly welcome.
I think that, in general, this is an important debate given the amount of financial turnover that flows through the entire consultancy branch. In my opinion it is an actor in development cooperation that definitely needs to come in from the cold as far as know-how regarding the promotion of sustainable sanitation and hygiene is concerned, and I believe that SuSanA could facilitate this. So I'm really looking forward to hearing what your ideas may be.

all the best,
Patrick

Water and Sanitation Specialist
AHT GROUP AG
Management & Engineering
D-45128 Essen, Huyssenallee 66-68
Germany
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  • jkeichholz
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Re: Particpation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

Hi Patrick,
thx for bringing this up and putting it into such clear words.

bracken wrote: (Would it be an idea for SuSanA to actively provide some kind of platform to encourage an exchange with consultant offices I wonder?).


Imo, yes. But I wonder how and what exactly that should be? Another working group? "WG xx: Involvment of consultant office"? Or shall we boil down the output from working groups and meetings (which i also can't attend for the aformentioned reasons) to a condensed info package for consultants?
Maybe a training event like what GTO already does for NGOs, but also for clients like AHT?

Based on your inside view, which others reasons (next to the missing larger tenders asking for SuSan) do keep the gap open at the moment? Is it the technology itself (problems, scability, etc.) or these "soft" reasons like he ones you mentioned above (no funds to attend SuSanA meetings, too scientific, vague/non-marketable output, BDAT vs. state of research)?

I am curious what the other forum members will have to say about this interesting challenge.

Juergen Eichholz
watsan eng.
water, sanitation, IT & knowledge management
www.saniblog.org

Toilets in Frankfurt/Main www.facebook.com/ffmtoi
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  • muench
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Re: Particpation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

Thanks Patrick! One of your questions is easy to answer: what do I get from being a partner?
We have tried to address this in our FAQ section on the SuSanA website:
www.susana.org/lang-en/about-susana/faqs

+++++++++++++

How does my organisation benefit from being a partner?
As a partner, SuSanA will help your organisation keep in touch with other active international and local organisations concerned with sustainable sanitation all over the world. This networking will help you keep updated with all the news in the sustainable sanitation field. You can also start shaping SuSanA by getting involved in SuSanA meetings, working groups and the core group.

Furthermore, SuSanA partners are frequently sharing the costs of exhibition booths at conferences and events. Smaller SuSanA partners usually can display their flyers and materials at the SuSanA booth free of charge. This is a service to SuSanA partners, but please contact the SuSanA secretariat in advance of such an event.

+++++++++++

We could probably improve on this text, as I think there are probably even some more benefits. Perhaps some people whose organisations have been SuSanA partners can shed some light on this?

Regarding expectations from SuSanA to partners: I think we need to write this up as an FAQ still... Just quickly my view:
  1. We expect that ther is a named contact person who replies to e-mails which the secretariat sends occasionally if the e-mail contains a question.
  2. They should "endorse" the SuSanA vision document.
  3. They should make a link to the SuSanA website from their web page.
  4. And they should generally - within their means - be supportive of SuSanA. Participating in the discussion forum is one way of being supportive. There are other options, such as even hosting a SuSanA meeting (like SEI has done), but this is certainly not an expectation!
  5. What else, suggestions from others?
Hence, AHT should become a partner. :woohoo:

As to the other points which you raised, I need to ponder them and give space first to others to react.

(by the way, there was recently a tender from GIZ for South Sudan which did involve basic sanitation and hygiene education and things like that; I think or hope there will be more such tenders by GIZ in the future, at least for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa).

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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
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  • bracken
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Re: Particpation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

I think, Jürgen, that the main problem has been that on-site sanitation and hygiene promotion has never offerred an interesting "market" to larger consultancy companies and as such they haven't spent much time building up competence in this area. As soon as it would become interesting, consultancy companies would track experts down and engage them pretty quickly, and during the initial period "buy" this expertise from external experts. With time though, if there was a stable demand for this expertise, most companies would employ people full-time for this (as it would be financially more interesting than buying in external experts).

Consultancy firms have to be completely client demand oriented, and thus extremely pragmatic, if they want to win contracts. If a client demands, for example, an experienced hygiene promotion expert who can speak french, english and 2 local languages then, to win the contract, consultant firms will find and engage this person. So in my opinion it is the lack of client demand that has resulted in this lack of engagement.

We have started trying to engage more in this and a colleague of mine has participated in the GTO trainings, and providing one case study, but its a hard argument for me personally to advance when at the end of the day there is no major demand. There is of course the occassional call for tender with a sanitation component, like the recent South Sudan call Elisabeth mentioned, but other factors there made responding to this call very difficult (e.g. the security situation, the feeling that the consultant company who prepared the study before the project were likely to win etc.).

I am hoping though that with the recently announced achievement of the water MDG that finally sanitation and hygiene will get their hour in the sun (at least until 2015). And with that, that increased investment will create a space for consultant companies to become more involved in the sector.

Thanks, Elisabeth, for the information. It already gives me an idea of what can be expected at least from partners and from the network. Hopefully more people will contribute further. Maybe even somebody from another consultant company?

Water and Sanitation Specialist
AHT GROUP AG
Management & Engineering
D-45128 Essen, Huyssenallee 66-68
Germany
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  • jkeichholz
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Re: Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

So this basically is about creating an abstract incentive for larger consultant firms to stick to the SuSanA & her scope of work even when there is no defined manpower available?

Imo, the best input from a consultancy would be the creation of flyers / info material that showcase available technologies on a best-demonstrated-available-technology (BDAT)-level (and not to present it as pure research objects).

The incentive for a consulting firm could then be a) crowdsourced info material (= they won't have to do it on their own, which would be norm) and b) their name on it. Info material, which is then picked up by clients and understood by them as something they can actually ask for (instead of just conventional technologies).

(Again, I think the biggest problem is the right marketing and that most activists are scientists or practitioners who can not cover the business side of SuSan. It's why I am focussing on a certification for toilets these days - just to have another marketing instrument and to raise some awareness via such an approach, if possible).

Are there any other consultant firms who are willing to join in on this conversation?

Juergen Eichholz
watsan eng.
water, sanitation, IT & knowledge management
www.saniblog.org

Toilets in Frankfurt/Main www.facebook.com/ffmtoi
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  • Florian
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Re: Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

Hi Patrick,

I have registered with Skat as Susana member recently. We certainly have the same problem as you describe it, I can't invest real time in Susana activities such as participation in workgroup, as my hours for doing that are not paid. Its therefore necessarily more of a passive membership, but that's fine I think.

We may contribute a little within our project work, e.g. by doing a case study on our ecosan projects (I plan to do this on our project in Moldova).

Otherwise I try to make some smart comments in Susana forum from time to time, in the hope that somebody reads that and gives us a contract. ;) Hasn't happend so far...

Cheers, Florian


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  • bracken
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Re: Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

Hi Florian,
Great to hear from you! I think its likely that we'll register shortly too, although my only reservation would be that I'd really prefer to institutionalise the membership and not just have it going through me - which is why i'm trying to arm myself with convincing arguments.
Hope all is well in St Gallen,
Patrick

Water and Sanitation Specialist
AHT GROUP AG
Management & Engineering
D-45128 Essen, Huyssenallee 66-68
Germany
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  • tmsinnovation
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Re: Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

Hi Patrick and Florian

A few arguments for joining SuSanA

Well in essence consulting firms are all about knowledge and consultants are knowledge workers. And the SuSanA is an open source knowledge management and dissemination platform. So I think that consulting firms should, if they are not already doing so, make use of the wealth of resources on the SuSanA platform. Moreover I would recommend that consulting firms that do make use of the SuSanA resource to become members, so that when feasible opportunities to contribute to SuSanA do arise they can do so.

In addition, it can also be seen as a very inexpensive networking tool for consultants in the water and sanitation sector to tune into conversations that are taking place between individuals that belong to public, private and social sector organisations.

And perhaps no contracts have resulted yet from your participation Florian, but consultants that follow the discussions, recent publications and network with the SuSanA community are better equipped to tender more convincingly when a contract does come up.

Last thought, consulting firms in general from time to time are asked what they are doing on the corporate social responsibility side of things ... perhaps time contributed to SuSanA could be an answer to such a question!

Rgds
Trevor

Trevor Surridge
Project Coordinator
Climate-friendly sanitation services in peri-urban areas of Lusaka (CFS-Lusaka) project
German Development Cooperation

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  • mwaniki
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Re: Participation of consultant firms in SuSanA?

I have closely been following the debate in relation to the benefits to be accrued by consulting firms or on individual capacities by being members of SuSanA.
Am a partner of a low profit public liability company registered here in Nairobi, Kenya and we are publishers of Africa Water & Sanitation magazine as our core business. We have plans to launch another publication related to development issues in the very near future. Once in a while we win a tender or two from UN agencies and organizations to edit layout and print books and documents.
Our publishing company namely Transworld Publishers Ltd joined SuSanA not very long ago and we are now realizing a lot of benefits mainly the exposure to relevant information to our work as reported by members from different parts of the world.
We wish to invite the contributors to this debate to visit our website www.afriwater.org and consider if any would be interested to partner with us on joint venture basis.
Steven Mwaniki (Publisher)

Am the publisher of the Africa Water,Sanitation & Hygiene and the C.E.O. of Transworld Publishers Ltd.,Nairobi-Kenya.
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