Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum?

  • muench
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Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Dear all,

As you might have seen in a recent forum announcement the BMGF Phase 3 grant came to an end in September (see here ), with a no-cost extension of another couple of months. This grant has funded my time as a SuSanA Discussion Forum Community Moderator from late 2012 through the end of January 2019. It was a very enjoyable task, thanks to all of you contributors!

For your information, prior to the BMGF grant, the forum moderation was carried out by myself when I was working at GIZ until October 2012 - the forum had started mid 2011 (I am just mentioning this as some people might think the BMGF grant enabled creation of the discussion forum; but this is not so, the discussion forum existed already before then). So I have been doing it for seven years now.

Franziska from the Secretariat at GIZ and I have been contemplating how else the forum moderation role (for one or several moderators) could be financed in future – this is the topic of this post. We do not see this as the job of a volunteer or of an intern: it requires daily monitoring of posts, keeping track of threads that didn’t get a response yet, deleting spam, moving posts to the right categories, breaking threads that have gone off-topic into two, writing helpful and interesting replies to some posts etc.

Another thing that I do almost daily is to email people directly to prompt them to react in forum threads that I think they have an interest in. So my work is a mixture of day to day management as well as content work (curation of knowledge).

The Secretariat at GIZ is quite stretched as it is and cannot take on this active role of forum moderation that I have been providing. The forum can still continue to exist without a dedicated moderator past January 2019 but this carries the risk of deteriorating quality and reduced participation.

So here is an opportunity for any SuSanA partner organization that sees great value in this discussion forum and who wants to support it / shape it / influence it or perhaps even give it a new organizational home. Are you interested in this opportunity? Can your organization put some resources towards this?

The costs are variable, depending on the level of ambition. It might be in the order of 10 hours per week to do the moderation and content curation work (more if one factors in the interfacing with the secretariat, the project database and library). The person doing this work could be me, or there could be a main moderator and an assistant moderator, or I could provide a hand-over training for a while to someone else.

Franziska and I think that there are several possible options for funding the forum moderation in future:

Option 1: One funder - A large-ish SuSanA partner who has their own funding and who does knowledge management wants to step in and fund the ongoing forum moderation – either by using their own staff or by paying an external person (such as myself), or a combination of the two. This SuSanA partner may or may not want to reshape the forum to fit their needs more precisely. They would pay for it out of their own budget.

Option 2: Several funders - Several SuSanA partners say “yes, we want to support the forum” and they do so by all paying into some sort of “pot of money”. This pot of money would be administered by a third party (could be another SuSanA partner, e.g. an NGO or a university) who then uses the money to pay for the forum moderator(s). If such a pot of money existed then other donors could also be approached and asked to pay into that. *

Option 3: Crowd funded - All forum users are approached regularly with a kind of pop-up notification on the forum website and asked If they’d like to donate a small amount of money to a non-profit organisation. From these donations, the community moderator would be paid. This is the principle of crowd funding and is used by Wikipedia and by The Guardian for example.

Option 4: Something else - Do you have any ideas? Think out of the box?

I am looking forward to hearing from you. You can either reply in this thread or send an e-mail to me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or to Franziska (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Regards,
Elisabeth
(and SuSanA Secretariat)

* FYI, Option 2 is the model that HIFA is using for their Dgroup moderation and other work. Their main financial contributors for 2018 was the British Medical Association, with other contributors including for example Afro-European Medical & Research Network, Child Family Health International, Commonwealth Nurses & Midwives Federation, Council of International Neonatal Nurses, and about 30 more. See here .

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum
funded via SEI project until January 2019 ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

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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  • neilpw
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Dear Elisabeth and all,

Thanks for mentioning HIFA (Healthcare Information For All). Just to add:

1. I completely agree with Elisabeth's comments on moderation. SuSanA works largely because it has an experienced and passionate moderator, who takes a proactive approach to the work.

2. HIFA has some similarities to SuSanA. HIFA is centred on a community of practice (we call ours a 'community of purpose' because we are working together towards a common vision). We have 18k members on 6 forums in 4 languages. Our remit is around how to improve the availability and use of healthcare information, quality of health care, universal health coverage, SDGs, global health...

3. Like SuSanA, HIFA has more than 300 supporting organisations. Each year we invite them all to give a little money if they can, and about 40 of them do so. The amounts given are typically quite small (eg £50 per year) but some give more than this. We also have a number of individual HIFA members who give money to HIFA on a personal basis.

4. It is important to have 'lead funders' who give substantial amounts (£1,000/year plus). This can be directed in two ways: to help support the capacity and core activities of HIFA, and to fund specific activities (eg Projects/working groups)

5. It is very valuable to have collaborations with organisations who can provide moderation input. An important part of HIFA's success is our collaboration with WHO and others, who provide the moderation capacity for HIFA-French, HIFA-Portuguese and HIFA-Spanish.

6. For HIFA, we are talking about small amounts of money. Our total annual turnover in 2018 is less than £50,000. Our work is limited by lack of human resource capacity (I am the only professional staff). In 2019 we aim to double or triple our income, but this will be easier said than done.

7. I would like to say thank you to Elisabeth and all on SuSanA for such a wonderful forum. HIFA looks forward to continue collaboration with SuSanA to improve sanitation and health for all.

Best wishes, Neil (Pakenham-Walsh)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.hifa.org

How you can help: HIFA needs funding to achieve our goals. We aim to raise 150k / $200k to expand our work in 2019. Support us at www.hifa.org/support/donate

With thanks to HIFA financial supporting organisations for 2018: Lead funders (>?500): British Medical Association, Every Newborn Action Plan, George Institute for Global Health (University of Oxford),International Child Health Group, Joanna Briggs Institute, Knowledge for Health (K4Health), The Lancet, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Network for Information and Digital Access, Public Health England, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), World Health Organization, Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance. Other funders: see HIFA home page.

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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  • cecile
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Dear Elizabeth and forum users,

I totally agree with Neil's comment that "SuSanA works largely because it has an experienced and passionate moderator, who takes a proactive approach to the work." All the backstage work you do clearly reflects into the quality of the forum.
I hope one or several organisations will enable the paid moderation to continue.
I also like the "volunteer moderation" and I would like to suggest simple guidelines for the volunteer moderators so we could improve our support to discussion forum.

Best regards,

Cécile

Cécile Laborderie
MAKATI Environnement
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  • kelldigest
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Elisabeth,
All I can say is don't go. You are the voice of reason in this forum. The knowledge shared and developed here makes a huge contribution.
Would any International Development functions within government make a contribution.
It would be great value for money

Regards
Seamus
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  • kunene47
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

The end of support from BGMF is unfortunate but this should not disparage the efforts of the Forum over the years. There is always a new beginning. My suggestion is that any organisation interested in the Forum should be from a financial support perspective only in the same manner as BGMF operated. This is to protect and preserve the good qualities and values of the Forum as currently being upheld through the efficient management of Elizabeth and her staff. New organisations with new ideas and ideals could impact negatively the high standard already set by the moderator and those working with her. Another idea could be in line with number 3 of the suggested options in which every member contribute an x amount towards the Forum as a compulsory subscription fee (monthly or yearly) and new members could also pay a joining fee. With the current membership subscription from members could suffice to pay the moderator to continue as currently is the case. Accountants could work out figures and come up with a reasonable amount for each member. This is my suggestion.
Lucas Kunene
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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Hi, Lucas, Seamus, Cecile, Neil, Elisabeth and others,

It's really important to keep the Forum lively and strong. It is the heart kernel of SuSanA for most members. As I see it, Elisabeth's leadership and reaching out personally to people on the Forum has caused SuSanA's remarkable growth. To develop an actionable and fundable project, we might start by trying to assess Elisabeth's impact - ie the ROI on the Forum in terms of decentralized progress in sustainable sanitation. We need to keep her if she's willing to stay on.

Here are some recommendations from the Sphaera report that relate to the Forum (statements from Sphaera's report in italics, followed by my responses):
  • The Secretariat, founders, and core group members should seek ways to increase the engagement and leadership of partners and members from emerging markets, the global south, and diverse demographics. I say: YES! How can the Forum do this better?
  • The Forum, as the primary interface between SuSanA members must become more focused on inclusive engagement, rather than exclusive moderation. I say: NOT SURE What does exclusive moderation mean? Is this just clever writing?
  • Implement a code of conduct for members and partners, and institute punitive measures for behaviours that are non-aligned in order to mitigate reputational risk; e.g. restrict access to Forum; strip member of membership; strip partner of partnership . I say: NO! Unless I'm missing something, the Forum is a very safe and civil place for people to comment and ask questions, including about all the sanitation topics that are difficult to discuss in "polite company" or even with our own families sometimes.
  • The Library and Forum are the primary operational interface with SuSanA members. I say: NOT SURE Now that so many documents are findable with a Google search, I wonder if the Forum has not become the key interface with and among members.
  • Shift the focus from moderation to engagement. I say: INTERESTING. I'm not sure it requires a shift. Community engagement is all important but it takes superb moderation to leverage it.
  • Implement a new membership model that rewards participation with more influence; NOT SURE eventually distribute the moderation functions throughout the community. I say: OKAY
  • Engage community managers with an exclusive focus on stimulating discourse, facilitating connections, and otherwise enhancing the sense of community online. - My response: GOOD! Community engagement could refer to practitioners of similar technologies and/or of geographic and linguistic groupings. These communities could see organize, communicate on the Forum and also initiate their own meetings using simple, transparent, free or low cost conferencing software, such as Zoom. I like the idea of volunteer community moderators and hope Cecile will "suggest simple guidelines for the volunteer moderators so we could improve our support to discussion forum."

As for funding options, I'll add one for Option 4. Sliding scale membership fees based on organizational or individual income and trust. I find very inspiring the variety of ways that HIFA invites people to support this remarkable knowledge hub.

I've written this a bit quickly. Hope it makes sense.

Best wishes,

Carol

Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • neilpw
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Thanks Carol, I largely agree with your comments.

I think we should be sceptical of the recommendations made in the Sphaera report. Which is why I asked in a previous message * what is the analysis/response to the report from the SuSanA secretariat? Has Sphaera the evidence base on which to make the recommendations? Has Sphaera previously evaluated communities of practice like SuSanA? If so, have they given recommendations to communities of practice such as SuSanA? If so, have these recommendations had a positive impact?

I think also my previous question remains unanswered. Why did the Gates Foundation decide to withdraw their support? The only answer I have seen to this - "to accelerate change" - seems illogical. To accelerate change requires more, not less, support. I would like to see more transparency from the Gates Foundation (perhaps they have already made statement, but we have not yet seen it?). What is it about SuSanA that led them to withdraw funding? The international development community as a whole needs to learn from the process. **

Best wishes, Neil

* Here on 23 November 2018: forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...ults-in-future#26562 (added by moderator)
** Note by moderator (EvM): This issue is now explained further in this thread (note: the thread is several pages long): forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...uture?start=12#26683

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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  • Maboshe
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

First of all, i would like to say thanks to Elisabeth and the team for making the Forum alive and its alive because of your passion work you have for Susana. The experience you shared with some of our organizations have shaped our organizations through linkages.

My idea is on # 4, i feel if every NGO or members in the forum can make contribution inform of Subscription or Membership fee, this would enable the forum to pay the moderator to contribute with the forum' work.

Subscription or Membership fee, can be agreed upon with the forum accountant to look at how much each member can pay.

PM
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  • Decentral
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Dear All,

I would like to agree with the majority of the comments regarding the invaluable, dedicated and highly professional work of the current moderator. Also, the good quality of the forum is not likely to be maintained by volunteers, but they could help the moderator from time to time. The Forum itself is very important part of SuSanA's vision and mission, judging by the following:

"SuSanA came into existence in early 2007. Since then, it has been providing a platform for coordination and collaborative work. SuSanA connects members to a community of people with diverse expertise and opinions. SuSanA also serves as sounding board for innovative ideas. Finally, SuSanA contributes to policy dialogue through joint publications, meetings and initiatives. The SuSanA website – with its library, project database and discussion forum – is an important resource for anyone wanting to explore the possibilities of sustainable sanitation."

Therefore, it looks to me that the main responsibility for the good quality of the services provided and corresponding financing of these services is with this organization and its' partners.

Sorry, but for me it is difficult to agree with the suggestion for the membership fee, etc, as this contradicts the values of the organization - ... important resource for anyone.... " and I think that it should continue to be an open source.

Sorry, I could not offer a more specific solution for the current financial problem.

Best regards,

Roumiana
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  • John Brogan
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Elisabeth, thank you for all you have contributed to make the forum the valuable resource that it is today!
Thank you and Franziska for the proposals.
If option 1 is not possible, Option 2 (voluntary contributions) is my preference. I understand that the forum would maintain the open source status regardless.

Recommend to establish and communicate the annual funding target that must be met to maintain the secretariat.
Agree with the statement by Neil/HIFA:

"4. It is important to have 'lead funders' who give substantial amounts (£1,000/year plus)."

There could be tier funding, with some kind of recognition for the members who give over a certain amount.
In case of shortfall in a given year, a funding campaign could be done mid-year to encourage all members to "chip in".

All members should be able to contribute a voice to shape the future regardless of whether or not they contribute financially.

Best regards,
John Brogan
Terre des hommes

John Brogan
Terre des hommes
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  • neilpw
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Re: [SuSanA Forum] Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum? (Announcements regarding SuSanA)

Dear Roumiana and all,

I agree Elisabeth's moderation is a huge factor in the success of SuSanA. I really appreciate this discussion because we (HIFA) are having similar funding challenges and it would be great to share ideas on how to move forward.

The forums I support - HIFA (Healthcare Information For All) - are financed by a combination of unrestricted donations, voluntary contributions from (a relatively small number) of our 325 supporting organisations, and restricted funding for specific activities. The latter are becoming more and more important.

All together, however, we are only able to raise a relatively small amount of money in this way (less than 60k USD/year) and so there is only enough to hire one fulltime person (me) and a part-time office manager. With our membership (>19,000 on 6 forums in 4 languages) and activities increasing all the time, I am at (beyond) full stretch and we are hugely in need of a new professional staff (p/t) to share the workload. Which, of course, requires additional funding. We need to be looking at 150k USD/year or more to deliver full services.

Larger amounts of funding from sources such as the Gates Foundation would dramatically change the picture. It is for this reason that we need to know and understand why the Gates Foundation is withdrawing funding from SuSanA. As I have said before, I would really appreciate if our colleagues at the Gates Foundation could be transparent and open, and give a full description/explanation for their apparent turnaround in support. *

I look forward to continue the discussion.

Best wishes, Neil


* Note by moderator (EvM): this issue is now explained further in this thread (note: the thread is several pages long): forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...uture?start=12#26683

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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  • MarcusErridge
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Hi all,

Thank you to everyone for their work contributing to this excellent forum, and for the diligence and support behind the scenes.

I am new to the forum but my initial impression is that the moderation could be expanded to multiple volunteers. A pool of volunteer moderators could help with the active moderation and stimulation of conversations, and direction to the forum's many resources. I think several contributors informally help with this kind of thing already. Roles could be divided by sections, or even by days of the week. The tricky part to the moderation are the items that need more in-depth content expertise - which I feel is a slightly different role. We are lucky in that current moderator is able to do all of these things, but that is a big ask of anyone.

For funding, I would suggest the crowdsourcing option as a first step. Asking for small donations, with the possibility of encouraging larger funding organisations (many of whom directly or indirectly benefit from the knowledge shared here) to offer matching gifts. An annual drive like this could generate enough running costs while keeping the forum independent.

Maybe collecting forum-user feedback around the key items about the future of the forum could be done with a site-wide survey of all users. Generate some good data which could be used in donation asks and potential grant applications. Questions could focus on how people use the site, what time/involvement they could offer, hopes and ideas for the future, funding options etc...this has probably been done already.


Best wishes,
Marcus
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