Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

  • Cameron Burgess
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Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

As an open, distributed, global network the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance has grown since 2007 to become the largest and most influential independent network of sanitation practitioners in the world. Yet while its achievements are significant - including elevating the importance of sustainable sanitation solutions to a global level - it is now facing the inevitable challenges that face any organisation or network that grows so fast.

While uniquely focused on supporting the achievement of ‘sustainable sanitation for all’, SuSanA has thus far not been successful in achieving comprehensive connection with prospective partners and members in the regions where sustainable sanitation solutions are most urgently needed.

A project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , and led by Sphaera , has been examining ways for SuSanA to work more effectively as it heads into the next 10 years of its existence. We will be presenting initial findings and recommendations during the annual SuSanA gathering in Stockholm on 25 August 2018. We are also organising a Design Workshop on "SuSanA 2.0" on 24 August.

Between now and then, we would like to hear from Members, Partners, Working Group leads, and Cooperation System principals about your experience, by completing this brief survey (it will take up to fifteen minutes to complete).

This survey is being initially posted in English, however we are in the process of translating it into French, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi, in order to ensure that all members are able to take an active role in shaping the future of the SuSanA.

This post is intended to provide an opportunity for SuSanA members to provide feedback on any and all issues regarding SuSanA’s future, especially those that are reflected within the survey.

We look forward to your response!

Cameron Burgess & Astrid Scholz
Managing Partners
Sphaera

LINK TO THE SURVEY

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

The questions seem a bit generic and thus it wasn't always clear how to rate or answer them.

Many of the questions also seem to indirectly imply that SuSanA being hosted by the giz in Germany is somehow negative. I understand that when making longer term plans it can also make sense to question these fundamentals; But I would suggest that when people are answering such questions they also need to be given realistic alternatives (that usually come with their own positive and negative aspects).

While I personally believe that the current institutional setup is holding the technical aspects of the platform back in many ways, replacing it with a dedicated and much more precariously funded (e.g. project funds for a year or two each time) secretariat will ultimately lead to the downfall of this site as seen with many similar efforts in the past.

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WASH news aggregator at: news.watsan.eu
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  • Cameron Burgess
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Hi Kris,
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

As indicated in the post, the feedback to this survey will help to shape our recommendations, and further inform the structure of a design thinking workshop we will be running at Water Week. Our remit is to record observations, first, and make recommendations second. The recommendations will be shared with the Core Group prior to our meeting with them on August 26, and it will be up to them to determine when to share our recommendations with the membership more broadly.

You are right that some of the questions are generic: unfortunately, there is no way to correlate data collected from previous surveys with the data collected in this one - so some degree of repetition is required. The generic information provides the ability to more effectively analyse the data at the end of the survey.

I'm curious about your assertion regarding funding. I would imagine that all external funding is, by its nature, somewhat precarious - subject to the constraints of time, and the expectations of funders. As it stands, GIZ is a very aligned, consistent, and supportive funder. However, I believe they are still subject to the same constraints as any other funding body, and presumably present the same degree of risk.

Can you speak in more detail about your concerns about external funding?

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Cameron Burgess wrote: I'm curious about your assertion regarding funding. I would imagine that all external funding is, by its nature, somewhat precarious - subject to the constraints of time, and the expectations of funders. As it stands, GIZ is a very aligned, consistent, and supportive funder. However, I believe they are still subject to the same constraints as any other funding body, and presumably present the same degree of risk.

Can you speak in more detail about your concerns about external funding?


In the iNGO world new and innovative knowledge management platforms and similar websites seem come and go as they are always tied to some sort of project grant (except those that are organization internal, but even to those this applies to some extend) and staff turnover is usually high. While this is also true to some extend for SuSanA, my impression as an outsider is that even during funding slumps someone at the giz felt responsible at least for minimal maintenance. Often there also seem to be interns who take over smaller tasks in the background.

While of course I can't say if this was simply the case of consistent funding and/or personal commitment of a few persons at the giz, it has allowed the survival of this internet community for a really long time. And for better or worse, the practically government run bureaucracy of the giz is about as stable as it gets in this sector, certainly more stable than fast moving organizations like the BMGF.

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  • depinder
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

A sample survey like this can only get opinions and may not be very helpful in developing a strategy.

There are leading questions - taking us towards seeking more National level chapters in the coming future. Which I think will be disastrous. Then Susana national chapters will replace more organic existing national networks.

I find Susana platform attractive precisely because it is an international platform and not a national or regional one where I am already enrolled.

The challenge is to get more members engaged in serious interaction, debate and presenting counter views for a learning forum. Currently there is very little of any hot discussion or debate happening on the working groups or discussion forums. So all you get is events and notices from partner agencies that we are doing this or that. This ofcourse has some value, but v limited.

You need active Leads and Co Leads to work with a group of Working Group Leads from different Regions - for to generate more discussion, engagement, curating the discussions and summarising them and developing new ideas for work and research.

There is space in the questionnaire for feedback that is good, where we can give our suggestions beyond ticking the boxes.

Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India...
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  • Cameron Burgess
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Kris - thanks for taking the time to follow up. Yes - it's of significant interest to ensure that SuSanA is not subject to the peaks and troughs of project funding that may adversely impact the ongoing success and utility of this forum, amongst other activities in which SuSanA is engaged.

Depinder - surveys are telling in as much as what data they collect, as what they don't - and the extent to which potential responders engage in the first place. Regarding regional/national chapters: one of the primary observations we recorded was that SuSanA is not fully engaged with practitioners in primary regions of interest. Our expertise at Sphaera is in designing and building systems to address the Sustainable Development Goals. So we look at the challenge of increased reach and representation through the lens of systems and processes.

'Serious interaction, debate, and presenting counter views' is possible by addressing each of the issues of Values, Purpose, Culture, Strategy, Structure, Governance, Operations, Communications, Funding, and Scale in sequence. We agree that this is a need, and we also observe that it starts with engagement. Not being able to engage in one's primary language, or engage in rich, nuanced discussions that are impacted by geographical and cultural context, limits the possibility of engagement.

We don't believe it's an either/or - either SuSanA is international, OR SuSanA is regional/national. We believe the opportunity is to be both.

If you were going to stimulate further discussion on issues that matter to you, what would they be? And how would you do this?

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  • depinder
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Hi Cameron, lets agree to disagree.

There is very little evidence that supports your analysis that "serious engaged discussion on WASH related topics in Susana currently is constrained by lack of clarity on "Values, Purpose, Culture, Strategy, Structure, Governance, Operations, Communications, Funding, and Scale in sequence....."? These have absolutely nothing to do with lack of serious engaged discussion. I have been part of Networks since last 2 decades and have seen big and small networks succeed or fail purely on account of the leadership and engagement, of the core team members who lead the discussions and direction of engagement of the members. Such leadership develops over time and cannot be structured into place. Most structured networks with formal chapters and office bearers, but no real leadership that comes from experience, work done and peer recognition - often fail miserably.

What hinders a serious and engaged discussion on WASH topics on Susana is a lack of strategy in the Working Groups, just having a Lead and Co Lead to lead a discussion in the Working Groups and on the Discussion Forum - is just not working. Hence I had suggested in my previous mail that what we need is a strengthening of the Working Groups - by constituting 4 to 5 active members of Susana to lead each Thematic Working Group - where the job of this group will be to facilitate and lead discussions and learning.

What I am suggesting is based on my experience of engagement in the Working Group on Capacity Building where a series of inputs/discussion threads could not generate a response from not just the group members but also the Lead and co Lead.

Regarding the proposed national chapters. Let me repeat again, the Susana national chapter should not replace organically grown national chapters already in existence in several countries and doing good work. It is an either or issue for us who represent national membership of Susana, so kindly take it seriously. Some of us are already invested heavily in national knowledge networks and would not like this diluted by Susana national chapters. Hence the suggestion that we focus on strengthening the international Susana Network with a strengthened and representative Working Groups and more regional learning events. Have given this feedback on the survey as well.

Kindly refer to the portals and knowledge networks in India.

scbp.niua.org

indiawashforum.com

To answer your question on what discussions I would like to initiate, kindly see the posts I have in the last 6 months. There is enough there. This ranges from Behaviour Change to Capacity Building.

Regards.

Depinder

Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India...
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  • Cameron Burgess
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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Hi Depinder,

Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed response. I will review your various forum posts, and have already digested your response to the survey. Thank you! The challenge of two dimensional communication is that sometimes it appears there may be disagreement where there isn't any - at least from my end. I didn't state that 'lack of clarity' is the impediment to engagement, but that working through the influences on a community in a specific sequence, helps us to understand what is required for that community to thrive. In so doing, it is possible to stimulate greater engagement and debate.

Online community design requires just as much work to get right as in the real world - and in some cases, considerably more. Many platforms fail to recognise that the people that constitute a community must share some commonality that goes beyond subject matter interest. If, for example, a person doesn't feel welcome in an online environment, shifting the mechanics of that environment will only get us so far. It's possible that not being able to engage in their preferred language has an impact upon feeling welcome, for example, and this is partly resolvable through the mechanics of translation (human or machine). As you've noted elsewhere, however, the behaviours of others in that environment are significant, and these cannot be addressed through digital systems design alone. Such behaviours, and the influences upon them, need to be understood if there is to be any sort of behavioural change that supports greater engagement.

I can only draw a rough analogue to designing sanitation systems, but I imagine that designing 'sustainable' sanitation systems requires an understanding of the values and culture of a community. While some of the mechanical elements of such a system may be universal, many of the influences upon them - specifically geography, climate, values and culture - are both contextual and temporal. A system that would serve all contexts must have considerable flexibility in its components, permitting adjustments to be made that would not only ensure its smooth functioning, but, perhaps more importantly, its full utilisation.

Your comments on Working Groups, echo what we have been hearing elsewhere, and we agree that there is an opportunity to reconsider how they function to achieve greater impact. This is definitely something we are including in our report.

Regarding 'national chapters' - your concerns are noted, and have been raised elsewhere. We have heard, and we agree, that SuSanA's role is not to compete with, but to collaborate with, existing efforts - and we believe that effective systems design is at the core of resolving this tension. Some degree of competition is inevitable in any market - how many WASH knowledge management platforms are there already?

Better systems design would mean that these various networks and communities are better able to connect, collaborate and share resources. And, perhaps where I am likely to get the strongest response (from anyone reading this thread), while I agree that unintentionally disrupting existing in-country platforms and networks is not necessarily useful, I challenge the notion that perpetuating any of these networks - including SuSanA - is the point. While there may be some disagreement on the language used to describe it, we understand that SuSanA's purpose is to support the achievement of sustainable sanitation for all. If that is true, then we need to determine how to make better use of the skills, resources, and talents of the various contributors to that outcome, regardless of what country, or what network, they are a part of.

Achieving SDG 6.2 should not (and is not, from our observation and experience) be considered merely a 'goal' by anyone working toward it. It should be considered a requirement.

Given that you are based in India, I'm curious to understand what you believe the role of the SuSanA India chapter to be?

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Re: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Thanks for your detailed response Cameron.

We are mixing up too many issues in this discussion(Behaviour Change, Sanitation systems, Susana network, SDGs) to drive home our points. So lets disagree and leave it here. We both want to see a more engaged Susana platform in our different ways and thats good.

I have already explained my position on the role of Susana National platforms. I see no role frankly.

Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India...
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  • neilpw
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Re: Reply: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Dear Cameron, Depinder and all,

I would like to share here the experience of Healthcare Information For All ( www.hifa.org ) with regards to thematic working groups (and financial sustainability).

HIFA is a global health network similar to SuSanA but with a focus on a related issue: how to improve the availability and use of reliable healthcare information, especially in low- and middle-income countries where lack of information can contribute to indecision, delay, misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment and consequent morbidity and mortality. HIFA has more than 18,000 members (health professionals, librarians, publishers, researchers, policymakers, human rights activists and others) and we collaborate with the World Health Organization. Our members interact on 5 global discussion forums in 3 languages (English, French, Portuguese - and Spanish to be launched later in 2018). You can join here: www.hifa.org/joinhifa

Over the past few years we have organised our work largely through 'HIFA Projects' www.hifa.org/projects Each project is led by a working group of HIFA volunteers, who leverage the wider HIFA community by organising and implementing thematic discussions on HIFA, sponsored by HIFA supporting organisations (eg London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, K4Health...). We have not got it quite right as yet (several projects remain unfunded) but we're getting there and we anticipate this will soon be our main source of income. A further advantage is that we are not dependent on a single donor, but receive several small amounts from different sponsors who change over time, and who will keep coming as long as we are perceived to offer value.

We look forward to continue collaborating with SuSanA and other health forums. I firmly believe that forums such as ours have a huge and as yet unrealised potential to promote communication, understanding and advocacy for global health.

Best wishes, Neil

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Dr Neil Pakenham-Walsh MB,BS Coordinator, Healthcare Information For All Co-director, Global Healthcare Information Network Chair, Dgroups Foundation www.dgroups.info Corner House, Market St, Charlbury, Oxfordshire OX7 3PN, UK E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. T: +44 (0)1608 811899 Sk: neilpw1 W: < www.hifa.org/ > www.hifa.org Tw: @HIFA_org FB: HIFAdotORG

With thanks to HIFA financial contributors for 2018: British Medical Association (main funder), Afro-European Medical & Research Network, Child Family Health International, Commonwealth Nurses & Midwives Federation, Council of International Neonatal Nurses, Enablement, EqualHealth, Euclid School of Global Health & Bioethics, Every Newborn Action Plan, Foundation for Mother & Child Health, George Institute for Global Health (University of Oxford), Global Health Media Project, God Heals Hospital (Nigeria), Hacey's Health Initiative (Nigeria), Hardie Wren Development Initiatives, Health Research Advisory Board (Pakistan), HealthEnabled, International Child Health Group, International Foundation for Dermatology, International League of Dermatological Societies, International Society for Social Paediatrics and Child Health, IntraHealth International, Joanna Briggs Institute, Kaicombey Foundation (Sierra Leone), Knowledge for Health (K4Health), The Lancet, LiveWell Initiative (Nigeria), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Maternal & Childhealth Advocacy International, Medics Academy, Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, Network for Information and Digital Access, OncArt, Primary Care International, Public Health England, School of Information San Jose State University, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), World Health Organization, Your.MD, Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance. www.hifa.org/support/donate

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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: [WG9] Your input to Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

I have not been very active in this group for some time now so I am not up on the current direction SuSaNa is taking. But I do have two things to say. First I do not like the Gates Foundation’s reliance on technology as the solution to all the world’s problems, and second, we (the world, the human race) need to move away from water-based sanitation. As the author of The Humanure Handbook so rightly says “There are two kinds of people in this world - those who shit in their drinking water, and those who don’t”. It is virtually impossible to eliminate flush toilets from the Western world, but any new sanitation schemes need to be waterless.

Elizabeth Whitehouse
Corning, New York

Saving the earth one compost heap at a time.
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  • Cameron Burgess
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Re: Reply: Shaping SuSanA's Future - an invitation for feedback from all members

Neil - thanks for holding up an analogue for consideration; it's always helpful to see how other networked organisations go about their business, especially one so closely aligned as HIFA.

Elizabeth - We (Sphaera) take the view that digital technologies are an enabler for facilitating real world interactions. There are certainly great efficiencies to be achieved through their use, but when they become the purpose of a network, rather than a medium through which interaction takes place, we forget about how to ensure that people are connecting with people face to face in real time. The reminder is appreciated.

On the question of water-based sanitation, I'm not qualified to comment. I can say that, coming from Australia, we have had a very strong focus on how to minimise - if not eliminate - water use in both public and private facilities. Given that the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation predicts that by 2030 40% of the world's population will be living in distressed river basins, it makes sense that we should be looking at ways to preserve water for other purposes. I suspect that this is an important discussion to be had with other SuSanA members in whatever part of the forum is devoted to such discussions.

Managing Partner @ Sphaera
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