A community choices tool that aims at empowering WASH practitioners and communities to make decisions on WASH issues


  • John
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Community Choices Tool

Dear SusanA Community,

I have just joined SusanA and wanted to introduce myself. I work for Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, USA as a water and sanitation researcher. I have also worked in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean as water and sanitation program manager/consultant.

Pacific institute is developing a community choices tool that aims at empowering WASH practitioners and communities to make decisions on WASH issues. The tool will also serve as a library stocked with tested and proven WASH technologies relating to water treatment and sanitation facilities. Though not complete, the prototype of the tool is located at www.washchoices.org . To be able to log onto the tool, please register for a user name and password at www.washchoices.org .

I was wondering if SusanA memebers could review the prototype tool and send back feedback to improve the final version of the tool.

Thank you.
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Community Choices Tool

Dear John,
Welcome to SuSanA! We need to connect to more folks and organisations in the US, very important.
Why do you require people to log in before reviewing the Wash Choices Tool? I would review it but I am hesitant to get myself yet another login (yes, a bit hypocrytical, since one needs also a login to post here...).. But for reading one should not require a login.

Can you also explain a bit more: who is behind this work, how is it funded and for how long? How is it different from other existing tools, e.g. the Compendium from Sandec (Switzerland), which has now been added onto with CLUES (which contains a number of online tools) - focussed on sanitation.

Then there is also the SSWM toolbox ( www.sswm.info ) which maight again be similar to yours. Have you scanned all the existing products and how is yours different to those?

Best wishes,
Head moderator of this discussion forum
(Funded via 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
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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  • mkropac
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Re: Community Choices Tool

Hi John,

As Elisabeth already mentionned, our new SSWM Toolbox ( www.sswm.info )is going into a similar direction. This section is related a lot to your work:

I have two main comments for your tool:

1. Instead of reinventing the wheel and again putting up a WASH library on the net, It would be good if you could explore collaborations with our project manager Dorothee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). I am sure we can find ways in working toghether and merging out ideas of WASH Toolboxes in some way. Our toolbox does NOT give you a simple answer on what you should construct, but I am convinced that it offers more information on specific technologies than your descriptions based on akvopedia. And the best thing: it is also open source and free!

2. I am a bit in doubt whether it is possible to decide on the right WASH solution with asking people 27 questions. When we designed our toolbox, we also included a filter (situated on the right hand side) which reduces the choices of technologies etc. for specific locations. Hovever, knowig that WASH Systems are very complex, we didn't dare to programme the filter in such a way so you'd end up with a clear ranking as in your tool, but only with a choice of technologies that have proven to be appropriate in such situations.

The main reason is that we are convinced that there is unfortunately no "silver bullet"-solution to a certain problem and it is nearly impossible to programme in such a way that the majority of experts would agree that the choosen technology is now really THE best solution for a certain location worldwide - the reality is just too complex to programme a simple tool for it.

However, if you restrict yourself to certain small coutries only (e.g. Burkina Faso), you might have a chance to programme it in a way that it will generate meaningful results (I tried for the US - it didn't turn out very convincing yet).

Further, I'd be careful to supply WASH Practitioners with a WASH solution whithout them really understanding WHY this solution is now really the best one. Without them knowing the background behind the whole sanitation and water system (e.g. why shouldn't I dig the VIP a couple of feets deeper?), the whole implementation and maintenance will be very prone to failures. So I would at least provide a thorough explenation why your tool has choosen a certain technology.

With kind regards,

seecon international
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  • Florian
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Re: Community Choices Tool

Hi John,

a while ago I reviewed your prototype tool togehter with other tools and frameworks for technology assessment, as part of the work for the EU FP7 project WASHTECH (which will see the development of yet another tool... :unsure: )

From this I much agree to the critisism of Micheal above. Mainly I doubt if you actually can make your tool work once you try to include more technologies than the few included in the prototype. I guess you quickly would need more questions than are possible to handle. As Micheal rightly says "reality is just too complex" to be packed into a simple tool.

On the other hand I quite liked your thorough review of tools www.pacinst.org/reports/WASH_tool/index.htm (which probably also answers Elisabeths question above)

Best regards,

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  • John
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Re: Community Choices Tool

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for the response. I very much agree with you on the pain to having to log in before using the tool. We would look at that option of no password when the tool is complete.

The Community choices tool as I mentioned in my mail is intended to empower communities/WASH practitioners to learn about the available technologies existing elsewhere as well as go through a series of questions in order to make a suitable choice. We factor in cost, culture, hydrogeological information, availability of construction material, etc. to help guide the community/practitioners decide which option would be best for them.

As to how different the tool is from other tools, I would say the Community Choices Tool incorporates some information from the user before a decision could be made whereas other tools provide the technology with no option for user interface. It is a two year project and the first year of development is almost at the end. Howver,the idea had been conceived for a little over 2 years.

Thank you.

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  • dorothee.spuhler
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  • Water Engineer, Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) - Co-Lead of WG1 - One of the forum moderators
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Re: Community Choices Tool

Dear john
I checked the URL washchoices.org and realized that it is no longer active.
What happened to this tool?
Cheers, Dorothee
WG1 Co-lead
Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM): www.sswm.info
Currently doing research on generating sanitation system options for urban planners and quantifying mass flows for a broad range of options considering novel technologies as an input into decision-making: www.tinyurl.com/eawag-grasp
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