How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

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  • nityajacob
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  • Water Policy Analyst and Author; Moderator of the SuSanA India Chapter; WASH Lead at Swasti
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Hi all,

An interesting discussion and weighing from experience with the India chapter and elsewhere.

I would estimate the active membership at about 2-3%, i.e., people who have ever participated in a discussion or a face-to-face event. Active people become lurkers and vice-versa over the months and years for various reasons. Not sure who falls in the category of empowered listeners but I suspect they are people who, armed with information from SuSanA, do a better job in sanitation.

Some people, in the early days, said they found it difficult to login and participate in the discussions. This was partly true. I feel that's improved and is not a barrier now. But it would help to have better email integration so people can easily submit comments and information via email.

The definition of practitioners wrt a forum or community of practice has always been extremely vague. Anybody and nobody is a practitioner. The government, private sector and of course NGOs and their teams are all practitioners - they practice sanitation! I would instead propose how we break out of the sanitation sector and instead bring in perspectives from beyond, like health, education, livelihoods, governance, climate change, etc. Those will help enrich the discussions and the knowledge base.
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  • neilpw
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Hi everyone, The question of how to encourage participation is common to all communities of practice in international development. I run a CoP called HIFA (Healthcare |nformation For All). Our approach is to focus on meeting the needs and expectations of the reader (who in our eyes are just as important as the contributor). All readers are potential contributors. We look forward to welcome new members: www.hifa.org/joinhifa    
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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  • Elisabeth
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Dear Chaiwe and all,
Thanks for bringing this conversation back to the top of the pile. I think it's really important to keep thinking about this in case we are missing something.

Nitya, you wrote:

Some people, in the early days, said they found it difficult to login and participate in the discussions. This was partly true. I feel that's improved and is not a barrier now. But it would help to have better email integration so people can easily submit comments and information via email.

That's interesting. Could you expand a bit on the e-mail integration suggestion? So far we are providing the option for members to use this e-mail address to make forum posts by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . But I am not sure if you are proposing something in addition to this?

And we're planning to run a survey amongst our members next month which will focus on how they perceive our work as forum moderators. One of the questions I am proposing is this one:

If you post never or only occasionally, what are the reasons? (tick all that apply)

  • Not applicable (as I post quite often)
  • I have no need to post as I find all my answers from reading other people's posts
  • I feel intimidated by the high quality of posts
  • I felt unwelcome when I've posted in the past
  • My internet connection is too slow, unstable or expensive
  • I don't have time
  • I don't have anything to contribute / I am still new
  • I am concerned about privacy/security
  • My work and results are confidential
  • The user interface is difficult to use
  • I'm using mostly the mobile version and it's difficult to post from there
  • Other:

Are these all the main reasons we can think of? (and should we group them to reduce the number of bullet points people have to read through?)

Neil, you wrote:

Our approach is to focus on meeting the needs and expectations of the reader (who in our eyes are just as important as the contributor).

Do you have any metrics to measure how much the readers read (apart from just being subscribers)? And do you perhaps have results from earlier surveys where you investigated what the needs and expectations of the readers are?

The readers are so important but since they are by definition silent, it is sometimes hard to know what they want, and hard to quantify how satisfied they are (except perhaps through annual surveys). I think we at SuSanA should run a forum user satisfaction survey once per year. Our last one is actually from 2015, see here .

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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  • Chaiwe
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Dear Elisabeth and all, 

I'm excited about this new survey. I think it will be revealing. I am especially looking forward to feedback from a diverse group of uses giving their own account of what encourages their participation on the forum.

I would also like to share that after posting on this topic I decided to ask a group of my Solid Waste Management students, at the University of Zambia, (after I had introduced them to the forum) what their impressions were. They pointed out the following:

i. They find the forum informative, with very diverse sector-related topics.
ii. The posts are of a high standard.
iii. Many forum users who post seem very well informed and knowledgable about various topics.
iv. They expressed that the forum offers a great learning experience for them, but added that it is a little daunting because of how knowledgeable forum users seem to be and they wondered if they could match up to the level and quality of posts shared here.

Similarly, I had a brief discussion with my network of African women in sanitation in Zambia about their involvement on the forum (the majority are already signed up forum users for years now).  They mentioned that they usually were quite busy and found it challenging to visit the forum regularly, but scanned through the emailed SuSanA news brief to keep aburst with forum topics. 

Chaiwe
Co-moderator SuSanA forum
(Under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
Independent consultant located in Lusaka, Zambia
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @ChaiweSanderse

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  • Energypedia
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Dear Elisabeth and all,

we from energypedia* face the same problem that most of our registered users keep silent and don't participate actively on the platform e.g. by sharing their expertise. However, we have made good experience with a biennial user survey, asking for satisfaction, feedback, recommendations, and how they use the platform. This can provide very helpful insights, especially if you keep the questions the same/ similar over the years to allow for a comparison.

If you want to have a look at our survey questions and sections:
energypedia.info/wiki/Energypedia_User_Survey_-_Results_2019
energypedia.info/wiki/Energypedia_User_Survey_-_Results_2017
energypedia.info/wiki/Energypedia_User_Survey_-_Results (2015)

Regarding the answer item options, if you have a long list, I would recommend to a) cluster them and /or b) if the survey software allows, opt for rotating / shuffling answer items to avoid that the order of the questions is having an impact on the answers.

For reader metrics, you could also look at the monthly stats (if you use a program like google analytics or matomo) and check how long they stay on the page, bounce rate etc. If they stay a long time, you could assume that your content is helpful and interesting. However, if they leave quickly after one page, this doesn't give you an idea if they found immediately what they were looking for - or if the content was not satisfying.

Hope this is of help,

best regards
Lisa Feldmann

*( www.energypedia.info , a wiki for renewable energy, energy access and energy efficiency in developing countries)
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  • SeanFurey
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  • Water & Sanitation Specialist with Skat, mainly working for the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN)
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Thank you for sharing those survey results from Energypedia.   

For RWSN we about to do another member survey, but here are is what we got from earlier ones:
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Thanks for those valuable inputs, Lisa and Sean. We have tried to streamline our questions (where possible) with the RWSN member survey and the WSSCC member survey. I agree, such user surveys (in our case it's a user survey, not a member survey) should be done once per year to see if any trends are emerging. At SuSanA we have been a bit slack or reluctant with these surveys (not wanting to contribute to "survey fatigue" either).

So, if you are reading this and haven't taken the SuSanA discussion forum user survey yet, please fill in the survey  here . A conversation about the survey is here in this discussion thread .  

According to your suggestion, Lisa, we ended up splitting the long list of potential barriers to posting into two (actually both lists are still quite long). The answer options now are:

5. What are barriers to writing forum posts, that relate to forum topics and content? (tick all that apply)
  • I have no need to post as I find all my answers from reading other people's posts.
  • I am unsure whether I can add anything of value compared to people with more expertise.
  • I am new and have nothing to say yet.
  • I am concerned about privacy issues on the internet
  • My work and results are confidential.
  • I received no replies when I posted in the past, so I gave up.
  • I don't work in the field of sanitation.
  • Not applicable to me (as I post quite often)
  • Other:
6. What are barriers to writing forum posts, that are related to procedures or emotions? (tick all that apply)
  • I felt unwelcome when I've posted in the past.
  • I don't have time / I am too busy.
  • I find it intimidating to post in an open forum.
  • My internet connection is too slow, unstable or expensive.
  • The user interface is difficult to use.
  • I have a disability which makes it hard to post (e.g. poor eyesight, dyslexia).
  • I use the mobile version and it's difficult to post from there.
  • I don't know my login and password.
  • Not applicable to me (as I post quite often)
  • Other:
To all: Please take part in this survey, even if you have never posted on the forum before (or maybe: especially if you haven't posted in the forum before).
Link:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdogfjtXcpaBeYaIwNl8iqOofyP9_9hjcqUWrsHZcN6QB9m2g/viewform
Thanks!

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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  • neilpw
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Re: How to increase the participation of "practitioners" in SuSanA? - And do we have lurkers or empowered listeners?

Hi Elisabeth. You asked:

"Do you have any metrics to measure how much the readers read (apart from just being subscribers)?"

We don't really know how much the readers read. 

"And do you perhaps have results from earlier surveys where you investigated what the needs and expectations of the readers are?"

I attach here our last survey from 2018. As you'll see we did not ask "How much do you read", although I think we have asked this in a previous survey and we got the impression that most read (or say they read) the messages every day. Although, of course, we only received responses from a small subset of the membership.

"The readers are so important but since they are by definition silent, it is sometimes hard to know what they want, and hard to quantify how satisfied they are (except perhaps through annual surveys). I think we at SuSanA should run a forum user satisfaction survey once per year. Our last one is actually from 2015, see here ."

Yes, it is time for us to do a new member survey too!

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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