The completion of the SuSanA Phase 3 BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

  • Decentral
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Re: Survey on Knowledge Exchange in the Sanitation Sector for Improvement of SuSanA Communication Strategy - Results now available

Dear All,

The survey report is an interesting reading. Most of the results from the Interviews - the partners' organizations, I would support and find them very useful. Specific attention deserves the recommendation for a more specific, credible and practice-orientated information.

It is encouraging that the role of the forum is appreciated, but I do not understand why "the tone of comments" (slide 69) should be improved, in what aspect?

Other point, where I need clarification: in the survey participated large number (519) of INGO (slide 52), dealing with a a wide variety of activities, among them design, construction and operation of sanitation facilities. Why these organizations are classified as non-profit?? And should such type of activities be executed on non-profit basis?

It would be interesting to follow the application of the results in the new policy.

Thanks for your work and efforts,

Roumiana Hranova
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  • Decentral
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - survey and Sphaera's consultancy report on accelerated organizational change for SuSanA

Hi Elisabeth,

I did read the whole report and the results look interesting. I have added some comments, as reply to Arno's post of the report.

I would like to support your effort in maintaining the forum, it is highly appreciated, and thank you.

I am sorry that this year I have not be able to work on the "wiki" articles, as promised, but it has been a very busy one - no time available for this exercise :-( May be in December :-).

Best regards,
Roumiana
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  • muench
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Re: New developments in the SuSanA Phase III Grant project

In my moderator role I have re-arranged things a little bit. Posts in relationship with the survey conducted by Sphaera and their final report are now all together in this thread:
forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...al-change-for-susana

See in particular Arno's post from 20 October where he provided their final report:
forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...usana?start=12#26304

I propose that any further discussions about the potential changes of SuSanA's organization should be discussed there.

This thread here will then remain to be purely about project updates from the BMGF grant that SEI had received and which is drawing to a close now.

In my role as participant in this grant, I noticed the following question from a SuSanA member (via the comment field of Sphaera's survey on feedback about SuSanA):

I would also like to know why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation cut the funding for SuSanA prior to the official project end. What happened? This lack of transparency does not make the discussions very fruitful.


Arno had given the reason in his post above as follows "The main reason for this is to try to accelerate the process of change within SuSanA.".

Actually, we are not completely sure why BMGF decided to reduce the grant's Phase 3 from three years to two. I think they were not completely satisfied with the speed of outputs and possibly with the way the consortium managed itself and presented the results. Perhaps they expected SuSanA to move & change faster but it's not a simple process as SuSanA's governance structure is currently best described like a donut: Lots of good activity taking place around, but nobody at the centre to "take control". It's a network, not an organization, after all. But maybe this will change now?

I hope I am not stepping on anyone's toes here. I am just trying to lead by example in terms of transparency and "learning from mistakes". I'll check if anyone else from the consortium would like to say something about this, too.

So just to remind you: this thread is now purely about the SuSanA Phase III Grant project. If you want to discuss the future direction of SuSanA please do so here: forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...al-change-for-susana

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Dear Roumiana,

Thanks for your post. I was a bit confused at first until I realised you are referring to the older survey from last year which was a very big one and which was called "Results of SuSanA Sanitation Sector Knowledge Management Study"
(link: forum.susana.org/media/kunena/attachment...linesurveyreport.pdf )

You asked:

I do not understand why "the tone of comments" (slide 69) should be improved, in what aspect?


This was the answer of 4 people out of about 3000 people who filled in the survey about the question: "How could SuSanA be improved?". I guess these 4 people felt that the tone was sometimes not friendly and welcoming enough? But I don't know for sure.

You also asked:

Why these organizations are classified as non-profit?? And should such type of activities be executed on non-profit basis?


The classification was done on a self-selection basis, see Slide 17: Which best describes your current work or sector? (Select only one). There are also many organizations who described themselves as "for profit", although they are so far in the minority which is probably something that needs to change in the sector as a whole, to be sustainable!?

(As a reminder to all: Just trying to stick with the structure: Comments about that market survey from 2017 can continue here. Comments about the future SuSanA organization on the other hand should continue in this other thread: forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...al-change-for-susana )

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • neilpw
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Hello Simon and all,
Apologies for my late response to your message, but please can you say a bit more about:

"The present project with Gates Foundation support was originally meant to continue to September 2019 but will come to an end one year early in Sept 30, 2018. The main reason for this is to try to accelerate the process of change within SuSanA."

I don't understand how change (or, at least, constructive change) can be accelerated by withdrawal of funding. Could our colleagues at The Gates Foundation give us more information and context about their decision? Have they perhaps outlined this in a communication and, if so, can some or all of this communication be made available for us to learn and understand?

Best wishes, Neil (Pakenham-Walsh)
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  • arno
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Hi Neil
Actually the "urgent" question needing a push surrounded finding a new governance and organizational form for SuSana. BMGF did not terminate their funding straight off but brought in the consultant Sphaera to do the independent organizational study. This led to the report they produced posted here forum.susana.org/forum/categories/10-ann...usana?start=12#26304

Following this, there has been an attempt to keep up the momentum and form the task force suggested by Sphaera. A meeting of the SuSanA Core Group is being held Nov 30, 2018 to discuss and make some decisions surrounding these next steps.

Regards

Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • neilpw
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Thanks Arno and all,

How does GIZ, SuSana secretariat and SuSanA members at large feel about the recommendations of the Sphaera report? Do you/we agree that this is the right way forward, in whole or in part?

To make the recommendations more persuasive, it would be helpful if Sphaera could provide case studies where comparable global networks have increased their effectiveness and impact through implementation of similar recommendations. Do they have a track record of steering global networks to more successful futures?

I ask these questions as an ordinary member of SuSanA who is hugely impressed by the initiative, and in particular by the dynamism and success of the SuSanA discussion forum. Thanks to SuSanA we can have discussions like this (as well as countless interactions on sanitation issues). As moderator of a global health discussion forum (HIFA.org) I know how challenging it is to build and maintain a successful community of practice. From my perspective, SuSanA is a rare example of a successful and valued global forum, and I would call on the Gates Foundation to continue its support.

With reference to the Sphaera report, I would also like to say a word of caution: major change in governance and modus operandi may or may not be needed (that is not for me to comment), but any proposed way forward should acknowledge the current success of this community and should take into account the possible impact (positive or negative) of implementation of Sphaera's recommendations on the dynamics of the community.

On behalf of HIFA, I look forward to continued collaboration with SuSanA for global health and sanitation for all.

Best wishes, Neil (Pakenham-Walsh)
HIFA ( www.hifa.org )

Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

neilpw wrote: How do (...)SuSanA members at large feel about the recommendations of the Sphaera report? Do you/we agree that this is the right way forward, in whole or in part?


My initial reaction to their previous survey and also now after reading their report was pretty negative. Both in style (the typical overpaid consultant mumbo-jumbo with style over substance) and execution. Reading between the lines the entire thing felt like a forgone conclusion with leading questions etc. i.e one of those typical consultancies where the authors write what they think the funders want to hear... they even basically acknowledge so in their risk section ;)

However after reflecting on it some more, there is some truth or at least worth to consider ideas buried under the "style". I also feel that SuSanA (despite maybe basic numerical indicators telling a different story) is in the last 2-3 years not really improving but rather on what feels like a slow decline. Extending this a year further through BMGF funds while probably not actively hurtful, would definitely also not have helped. So maybe this can after all be a useful wake-up call, despite that most of the actual recommendations by the consultants are probably non-sense.

Meta discussion: indeed there is no "expert" in running an online network like SuSanA, and "institutional development consultants" that claim so are basically selling snake-oil wrapped guesses and common-sense arguments. But this also applies to much of the development aid sector in general and humanitarian aid actors are mostly also just winging it, sadly often repeating the same mistakes over and over again (and I include myself in this).

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  • neilpw
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Dear Kris,

Kris: "My initial reaction..."

This was my reaction too.

"However after reflecting on it some more, there is some truth or at least worth to consider ideas buried under the "style"... despite that most of the actual recommendations by the consultants are probably non-sense."

Yes there is probably some truth buried within the report (as there would be in any report), but if indeed 'most of the actual recommendations by the consultants are probably non-sense', then the whole report is deeply flawed. Indeed, the report itself advises us against trying to find the buried truths and tries to persuade us to swallow it whole ('SuSanA is a complex system, and any recommended change work needs to be addressed as a whole system, in sequence, not as a set of disembodied recommendations subject to “cherry picking” of individual items. As such, this document must be read from a whole systems perspective. It describes a whole systems intervention that will include and transcend the valuable work done to date, and builds on the strong roots of SuSanA.)

I agree this report appeared to contain 'more style than substance'. As I said earlier, the credibility of the report is dependent not so much on the recommendations, but on the extent to which Sphaera have demonstrated experience and success in evaluating other initiatives based around communities of practice like SuSanA.

The report says a lot about SuSanA's processes, but little about the process of the evaluation itself. I have a question about the process: Did the evaluation make enough use of the SuSanA forum itself as a means to explore what works and what doesn't? I see that there was a static online survey but did the consultants engage fully with the membership? The fact that SuSanA is a dynamic forum offered an excellent opportunity for the consultants to facilitate dynamic exploration of issues on the forum itself (on the HIFA forums we have found that this tends to be much richer than static online surveys). If such an exploration was not done, this was a missed opportunity.

"I also feel that SuSanA (despite maybe basic numerical indicators telling a different story) is in the last 2-3 years not really improving but rather on what feels like a slow decline."

I haven't felt such decline at all. On the contrary SuSanA is a rare example of a community of practice that is dynamic and thriving. What do others think?

"Extending this a year further through BMGF funds while probably not actively hurtful, would definitely also not have helped."

What is important here, I feel, is to learn why BMGF made this decision. Unfortunately we have seen no statement from BMGF from which we can learn. I call on BMGF to release a full and honest statement from which we can learn. (We don't want to hear what they want us to hear. We want to hear the real reasons they are withdrawing support.)

It is not only SuSanA that could learn from such a statement. It is the whole ecosystem of communities of practice for international development (among which are the HIFA forums and hundreds of others), involving millions of people committed to working together for development and social justice. Such CoPs have *huge* potential to contribute to development, and yet remain unsupported.

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG /orcid.org/0000-0001-9557-1487 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • muench
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Hi Neil and Kris,

Thanks for continuing this very interesting discussion and for being so open and straightforward about it. I've decided to "stick my neck" out and also provide you with some honest thoughts from my end.

I had high hopes for the Sphaera consultancy. I thought they would be an excellent consultant for this task - as an outsider to SuSanA, even an outsider to the sanitation sector - to give us a fresh look at SuSanA and to help us take SuSanA from its loose network status which is reliant predominantly on funding by GIZ / BMZ (the additional funding by BMGF was a wonderful but always known to be time-limited exception) to something that could perhaps stand on its own feet, financially (if that's what we want).

The process of the consultancy was a little bit painful and not like I am used to dealing with consultants. I won't go into details here but suffice to say that it seemed a bit like: "disruption was the aim" (disruption is OK but there are still different ways of delivering that). In any case, it was still an interesting process to go through.

The report that we received in the end was quite interesting but in my mind lacked some clarity as to the way forward (and was also rather scant on the methods employed and reference points used, like Neal also pointed out above). I think it contains several useful ideas and it's good that they looked at SuSanA so critically. I'd rather we learn about all our flaws than get to read about what we do well already.*

However, several of their statements left me thinking "what exactly does this mean?" (Kris had referred to it as mumbo-jumbo in his post above). For example with regards to the website:

"The Information Architecture is crowded, confused, and unnecessarily complex”

What does this mean exactly? (I have attempted to get this clarified with the consultants but no reply yet).

And things like this (all in relationship with the website) left me more confused than anything:

Update market-facing website to a self-managed
content-management system, in order to provide
SuSanA with the capacity to more effectively
self-manage its online presence (Page 49)

OBSERVATIONS (Page 52)
As the front facing marketing, communications and business
development tool for SuSanA, the website fails on almost
every significant metric for effective digital design;
specifically:
● There is no human translated content that maps to
the primary site visitor browser languages (my comment: so they criticise that the website is only available in English? Aren't many other websites available only in English, too? How many other languages are we meant to translate it to? I think Google Translate does a decent enough job for many languages)
● The home page contains too much information, and
has no logical flow
● Homepage provides no information about SuSanA, or
the benefits of membership/partnership


Anyhow, the main purpose of the consultancy was to help us find a new organisational model for SuSanA that is less dependent on money from GIZ/BMZ and to help us work through the process. Hopefully we'll still get there but a bit slower than we thought.

We recently had a SuSanA core group call and this was how it was worded in the agenda:

SuSanA organisational development process

Updates on the following decision points from Stockholm:
Minutes from last Core Group Meeting (August 2018) here .

o Core Group agreed in August and is in full support that the process of organisational development should continue
o The Core Group further agreed that this should be done by using a sequential 10-step reorganization process (or some other method if appropriate) with the help of an external coach / consultant.
o Update on recent developments from Go5 respective Task Force funding proposal. A funding proposal has been developed and submitted to New Venture Fund by consortium members with the Go5. There are no funds available in 2018 and possibly not in 2019.
o Against this background the Secretariat at GIZ will finance a few days of consultancy [... to] advise the Go5 and the secretariat on how to design a future process aiming at change management for SuSanA.

(Go5 stands for Group of Five which is a group of 5 people who were selected to act as representatives for the core group in the SEI grant consortium; the core group itself is rather large now - about 50 people; the group of 5 are: Carol, Thilo, Roland, Claudia and Prit)

I think I am allowed to share this, as the minutes from each core group meeting are publicly available on the SuSanA website here:
www.susana.org/en/about/governance-structure/susana-core-group

Kris, I am curious about your statement:

I also feel that SuSanA (despite maybe basic numerical indicators telling a different story) is in the last 2-3 years not really improving but rather on what feels like a slow decline.


Could you please explain this a bit more? Please be brutally honest! :ohmy:

Regarding the forum and its numerical indicators they are here: forum.susana.org/forum/statistics

You can see that the "page actions" have plateaued at the same level as about 2014. Page visits have increased until January 2018 and are now constant at that same level. The number of forum posts has reduced compared to 2014/2015. The number of new SuSanA members is quite constant at about 150 new members per month.





My observation regarding the forum is that some of the very active contributors have disappeared or post only rarely now (e.g. Joe Turner, Mughal, Christopher Platzer). But the range of topics that we discuss has increased a lot, e.g. a lot more on behavior change, government initiatives in India, faecal sludge management policies, and perhaps less on UDDTs and reuse of excreta.

Apart from the forum, I find that there is a bit of a problem with the SuSanA working group structure. Working group members are not receiving enough targeted information on the topic of their working group and not being engaged enough in processes where they could involve themselves. The leads (for whatever reasons) are not "in our face" enough, apart for some few exceptions (the recent initiatives of WG 5 were interesting, see here ).

Regards,
Elisabeth


* Having said that, I got the sneaking suspicion that sometimes they swept "good" results under the carpet. E.g. there was this result from their small survey of SuSanA members (about 100 responses) which made SuSanA look rather positive but it was not mentioned in their report:


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  • neilpw
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. As an ordinary SuSana member, and based on what I have read so far, I get the impression that the decision by BMGF to withdraw funding (without, apparently, any explanation?) together with the Sphaera Report have done more harm than good. The suggestion that "disruption was the aim" of the Sphaera report is troubling. I note that BMGF is one of the main partners of Sphaera (suggesting that Sphaera is at least partly financially dependent on BMGF).

I may of course be wrong and BMGF and Sphaera are genuinely trying to support SuSanA going forward. But it seems a very strange way to go about it. BMGF should provide a full and transparent statement to SuSanA members. They funded SuSanA over the past several years, they made the decision to stop funding one year early, they paid Sphaera to write a report (which seems to be of limited practical value, from what we hear). A statement from BMGF would be helpful to mitigate the negative impacts of these decisions and actions, explain why they have taken them, and provide positive, practical assistance to SuSanA over the coming months and years.

SuSanA is a rare example of a successful global community of practice, and deserves continued support and respect.

Best wishes, Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • muench
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Re: The completion of the SuSanA Phase III BMGF Grant - building on the results in future?

Hi Neil,

No, no, sorry, there are some things that you meddled up now. Let me try to explain quickly:

Sphaera is a consultancy firm based in the US. Here on their website you see their team: sphaera.world/#x-content-band-4
I copy from their website:

"We build systems to tackle wicked problems.
With expertise in digital strategy, financial product design, and software engineering, Sphaera occupies a unique position in the realm of world-positive technology companies. We conceptualise, design and develop legal, financial and technical infrastructure that supports connecting, collaborating and sharing resources across disparate organisations, networks and communities."


I think it's a very interesting company who does great work, I am sure (otherwise they wouldn't be in business!). One of their clients in the past has been BMGF, but I don't think they are "financially dependent" on BMGF. They have done two consultancies for them that I am aware of (this one and an earlier one unrelated to SuSanA).

So they are basically an independent consultancy firm who were tasked by BMGF to help SuSanA think options through.

Secondly, the main funding source for SuSanA has been since 2007 and will be for another 3 years the funding that GIZ channels into the secretariat staff, which they receive from the German federal ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ, see https://www.bmz.de/en/here ). Every three years they have to apply for more funding and they recently announced that they were successful for another 3 years of funding. This funding is for a program called "sustainable sanitation" at GIZ, and the SuSanA secretariat is a small part of that, amongst other things they do.

The project that we had with BMGF was a kind of co-funding arrangement which enabled some SuSanA-related activities to be taken to a higher level of ambition but it never was "core funding" for SuSanA. It actually started out as a small grant in 2012 (called "Phase 1 & 2") which only dealt with the discussion forum. At the time the aim was to help BMGF grantees to utilise the discussion forum to spread information about their projects. I did the community management work for that and interacted with hundreds of grantees over the years.

Two years ago the grant was made into something bigger (this is what we call Phase 3). This bigger structure was a consortium of Oxfam, WaterAid, GIZ and SEI, with SEI being in the lead. This project hat specific outputs and a results tracker framework and was designed for 3 years but had a built-in Go/NoGo decision point after one year: in October 2017. There was a big meeting in Seattle at that time and further deliberations which culminated in the decision to continue through Year 2 but not Year 3.

So I don't think it was all that bad. It doesn't mean that BMGF withdrew support for SuSanA. It just meant they ended that particular grant after two years instead of three. But they had been supporting the discussion forum (via me) and various other SuSanA-related activities since late 2012. I am super grateful for those years of co-funding by BMGF and don't want to develop a sour taste over the end of the Phase 3!

They did communicate to us the reasons for not continuing with Year 3 but it's not easy to put that into a few sentences. It had something to do with the frustration of the slow pace with which SuSanA was willing to be changed, I think. And the difficult, peculiar management structure of SuSanA (donut shaped, nobody "in charge" as such). In my mind, the reason was simply that they were dissatisfied with the performance of the consortium vis-à-vis the agree outputs. I'll copy the outputs into a further post (we are currently writing up the final report of this project; I will check with Arno if parts of it could be shared).

So please don't feel bad about BMGF withdrawing. I am rather grateful that they stuck with us for so long (late 2012 until now, that's six years) and enabled SuSanA to do all sorts of great things during that time. Now we are back to where we were before 2012, i.e. there is the funding by GIZ/BMZ which is also awesome. And maybe now is the time for other SuSanA partners to step into the gap and pick up the slack? That would be super awesome (hence our discussion about funding options for the forum moderation beyond January 2019 here ).

Some of the reports from the project's three phases are available here in the library (I am yet to add the more recent ones):
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resource...library/details/2042

Regards,
Elisabeth

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