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

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

I copy here the project's planned outcomes for Phase 3 from the project documents:

The “Supporting SuSanA and broader Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Community of Practice through on-line platform” project aimed at improving SuSanA’s ability to improve the access to sanitation by improving the platform and increasing SuSanA’s reach to different sector practitioners through quality and targeted information by the right channels. The original project as outlined in the project document and the contract had three key outcomes including:

  1. Improved use of SuSanA Platform by identified target groups, through a clear communications plan and platform improvements.
  2. Demonstrable improvements in the impact that use of the SuSanA platform has on members' work in sanitation.
  3. Strengthened governance and institutional sustainability of SuSanA as reflected in an operational plan that includes a plan for funding the budget needed to assure the future of SuSanA.

The third outcome was only partially completed as some of it was meant to take place in Year 3.

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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?

Many thanks for the clarification, Elisabeth.

This helps us to understand the situation and how we got here.

Best wishes, Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh is the coordinator of the HIFA campaign (Healthcare Information For All) and co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network. He is also currently chair of the Dgroups Foundation ( www.dgroups.info ), a partnership of 18 international development organisations promoting dialogue for international health and development. He started his career as a hospital doctor in the UK, and has clinical experience as an isolated health worker in rural Ecuador and Peru. For the last 20 years he has been committed to the global challenge of improving the availability and use of...
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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?

Thanks for providing some further background. As the consultants wrote in their report, there is a risk of the donors appearing to be "bullies" and I think the BMGF is quite proud to be not a typical slow-moving institutional donor... so yeah let's not take it personal. Mostly just a mismatch of institutional style and expectations.

muench wrote: 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:


Yeah, quite a few people are posting much less, but there are a few others that post more. And in the past this forum was certainly more "older white male" dominated, and those people (and me) were certainly a strong part of that.

Ok so to the brutally honest part: My impression is that SuSanA is more and more becoming an "announcement board" and not a "discussion board". Rarely are there any practical questions being asked anymore and many posts look a lot like cut&paste drive-by texts taken from some institutional announcement (which usually gather none of few replies). The authors of those also seem to be not actually interested in talking about what they posted and even when you make a maybe somewhat provocative response, you usually get at most a polite but evasive reply. Others topics are often so broad and non-committal, that I am often left wondering what exactly the purpose was of posting it in the first place (this even applies recent Thematic Discussions).

It might be part of a larger trend that forums have gone a bit out of style and have been replaced for many people by short text message forms such a Twitter or WhatsApp groups, but it is also a cultural change of this community that took place in the last few years.

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WASH news aggregator at: news.watsan.eu
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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?

Neil/Elisabeth and others
Just to add a few further points of clarification.
The Seattle meeting at BMGF in Oct 2017 actually did not at all decide to reduce the SuSanA support project to 2 years. It led to a six month action to revise SuSanA's overall strategy and provide a business model - which we did very well I thought. It was after the production of the strategy document and workplan at the onset of tackling SuSanA's organisation and governance that the decision was made by BMGF to stop after two years of funding. Part of the reason for stopping the project was the lack of positive signals from the SuSanA Core Group and even the Secretariat to want to see organisational change quickly. But there may have been other internal pressures within BMGF that funding of external KM platforms was no longer a priority. The Sphaera work I believe created impetus for change and resulted in the resolution among the Core Group in August 2018 that organizational and governance change is a necessity. It is now a question of leadership to see that this happens.

I don't think we are at all back to where we were in 2012. There is now* a comprehensive strategy, business model, communications plan, market study, a 10 times increase in membership (now over 10000) forum.susana.org/forum/statistics - ie a whole host of positive things have happened thanks to the BMGF support. The last yard is the most difficult and that requires time to improve the organization/governance and ownership/financing of SuSanA.
____________
*These documents are on the Forum:
forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...ults-in-future#25415

Regards

Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
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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 Kris,

Thanks for your brutally honest feedback. I see your point; I also don't like it when people use the forum just as a one-way announcement board instead of a discussion (sometimes I intervene in the background and a post gets modified or deleted). Luckily, the "real" discussions do still take place, so I think we still have a good balance.

In your response you only referred to the discussion forum. What about the rest of SuSanA? What do you think of that? Or would you say the forum is the only thing that counts for you.


Hi Arno,

You said:

I don't think we are at all back to where we were in 2012.


In my statement earlier where I had said:

Now we are back to where we were before 2012, i.e. there is the funding by GIZ/BMZ which is also awesome.

I was referring purely to the funding situation not to how much we know about all the different aspects surrounding SuSanA. We do know a heap more and are much better equipped to go forward. But we currently don't have another co-funding partner . That's what I meant with "back to the situation of before 2012 where there is "only" GIZ/BMZ funding and the rest is in-kind (in-kind is also good of course but has its limits in terms of level of ambition that can be achieved)."

Hope that clarifies things.

By the way, I have recently updated two SuSanA library entries so that we now have all the outputs from this BMGF grant in two convenient locations. Do check out what we have here:

Various authors (2018). Documents from the SuSanA BMGF Grant led by SEI (Phases 1 to 3, 2012 to 2018) - Various documents on results from research grant. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resource...library/details/2042

And:
SuSanA (2017). Communications Plan of SuSanA. Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, Eschborn, Germany
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resource...library/details/3492

We'll also add more next month, i.e. some of the appendices accompanying the final report for this project.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • neilpw
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Re: Fwd: [SuSanA Forum] The completion of the SuSanA Phase 3 BMGF Grant - building on the results in future? (Announcements regarding SuSanA)

You said:

"Luckily, the "real" discussions do still take place, so I think we still have a good balance."


Indeed, the discussion we are having now is testament to the value of communities of practice where everyone can contribute their views and perspectives around shared objectives.

Best wishes,
Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh is the coordinator of the HIFA campaign (Healthcare Information For All) and co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network. He is also currently chair of the Dgroups Foundation ( www.dgroups.info ), a partnership of 18 international development organisations promoting dialogue for international health and development. He started his career as a hospital doctor in the UK, and has clinical experience as an isolated health worker in rural Ecuador and Peru. For the last 20 years he has been committed to the global challenge of improving the availability and use of...
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Re: Fwd: [SuSanA Forum] The completion of the SuSanA Phase 3 BMGF Grant - building on the results in future? (Announcements regarding SuSanA)

Hi Neil and all,

Arno reminded me that we do have an official e-mail about the reasons for the end of the grant one year earlier than originally planned, which we received in May. It was written jointly by Jan Willem Rosenboom (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Arno Rosemarin (SEI). I have permission to share it here (copied below and the same text attached as a pdf file):

+++++++++++

From: Jan Willem Rosenboom
Sent: 6 May 2018 10:27
To: Jan Willem Rosenboom; Arno Rosemarin
Subject: Changes in the SuSanA support grant (OPP1152884)

Colleagues,

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would like to share this joint message about changes to the project aimed at supporting and strengthening SuSanA.

This project got underway in October of 2016 and was aimed at helping the network position itself as a strategic and high-quality knowledge hub. As SuSanA is not a legal entity that can accept funding, the project grant was issued to SEI. In the first 18 months of the project, important diagnostic and analytical work was completed (among other things consisting of a market study and web platform user experience study) providing data and insights for a communications strategy and work plan.

A progress review meeting in October of 2017 confirmed the urgency of the challenge to SuSanA to effectively respond to demands from the sector as well as the enthusiasm and motivation of all involved to do so. However, at the same time it became clear that progress on change had been slower than planned, and that communication, clarity and accountability needed to be improved if the potential of the project were to be realized.

The partners (including SEI staff and consultants, SuSanA core group members, WaterAid and Oxfam) worked on addressing the issues identified in the October workshop, and a number of realizations emerged from that work:

  • Effectively engaging with the SuSanA network around questions of its focus, priorities and structure required a more effective way to directly engage, with clear lines of responsibility and accountability for decisions. This realization led to an organizational study receiving high priority;
  • Translating insights from the market study into website improvements, effectively targeting specific user groups required the engagement of a technology consultant able to move concepts into practice;
  • Adding additional priorities and activities to the work plan without improving organizational and operational clarity first would be counterproductive and did not have a high likelihood of success.

These insights resulted in the decision to drastically restructure the project. This restructuring took place in two dimensions:
First, going forward, the primary focus will be on completing the organizational study and technology recommendations while suspending other activities. Second, the new project end date was brought forward to September 30 of this year. In September, there will be a number of recommendations before SuSanA, in terms of its organization and operation. It is too early to predict what these will be -or to speculate which ones will be adopted and how fast. However, we all hope that the required clarity will result from the work to be completed in the next five months, enabling growing support for the network from a variety of sources from within the sector.

SEI and the Gates foundation both realize that this decision is a disappointment for many. Staff and consultants employed on the project are directly affected, and so are members and users of SuSanA who have invested their time and energy in contributing to the vision laid out by the project. The decision to implement this change was not made lightly or hastily. At the same time, we would like to stress that changing the project priorities and timeline is not a sign of failure or giving up; the next five months will create opportunities to think deeply and propose ways forward informed by past experience. We are hopeful that SuSanA will embrace those opportunities and emerges with an optimized governance structure and sustainable business model and funding strategy.

Sincerely,

Jan Willem Rosenboom
Arno Rosemarin


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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • neilpw
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Re: Fwd: [SuSanA Forum] The completion of the SuSanA Phase 3 BMGF Grant - building on the results in future? (Announcements regarding SuSanA)

Many thanks Elisabeth,

From this communication, if I understand correctly, the key issue is to do with SuSanA's organisational structure and governance?

Is there now a consensus among all parties on how SuSanA's organisational structure and governance should be? If so, what is the consensus view?

Any transition needs more resources, not fewer, for the organisation to evolve into a new steady state. Given that the Gates Foundation has initiated this 'radical restructuring', are they not ethically obliged to support the transition? (Indeed, the huge potential role of communities of practice in international development is well recognised, and SuSanA's evolution is a valuable case study.)

One thing is very clear to me. SuSanA is a dynamic, successful community of practice in global sanitation and health. Such CoPs are rare. They should be treasured and nurtured.

Best wishes, Neil
Coordinator, Healthcare Information For All ( www.hifa.org )

Neil Pakenham-Walsh is the coordinator of the HIFA campaign (Healthcare Information For All) and co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network. He is also currently chair of the Dgroups Foundation ( www.dgroups.info ), a partnership of 18 international development organisations promoting dialogue for international health and development. He started his career as a hospital doctor in the UK, and has clinical experience as an isolated health worker in rural Ecuador and Peru. For the last 20 years he has been committed to the global challenge of improving the availability and use of...
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  • arno
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Re: Fwd: [SuSanA Forum] The completion of the SuSanA Phase 3 BMGF Grant - building on the results in future? (Announcements regarding SuSanA)

Hi Neil
Yes the key issues are listed in the the three bullets touching on organization and operations. The BMGF support to SuSanA through SEI goes back to 2012 just after the Forum got started. We have seen significant strides in growth and content over those years. With the intensive two years of work since 2016, SuSanA now has the tools and strategies in order to move forward. This will require dynamic leadership and new shared partnerships in order to create a new governance, funding and ownership structure. Creating a non-partisan Task Force to hammer out these details is the next step. Yes more resources will be needed but first the current advisory body, the SuSanA Core Group, needs to initiate the reorganization process.

Regarding your question surrounding consensus - there is agreement within the Core Group that organizational and operational improvements are necessary. But exactly what sort of organization and governance structure has not been agreed to. This is where the Task Force work will need to come in. Funding the Task Force is the current task at hand.
Regards

Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
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