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

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

MarcusErridge wrote: 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.


A Patreon or Liberapay page could easily be set up to provide for the basic hosting needs. However the actual costs of hosting this website are (or at least could be) more or less insignificant; given commercial hosting prices it would be probably possible run this site as is on a <100 EUR/yr budget.

The actual costs are in (staff or volunteer) time necessary to keep the technical foundation up to date and curate the content (the consultants didn't seem to like the word "moderation", but it is in practice the same as what they were suggesting).

The technical foundations could probably be kept up to date by a working group of skilled volunteers with some irregular contributions to pay for IT freelancers to update some plugins etc. But this would require the server infrastructure to be opened up to external contributors (a public git repository might be a partial solution to mitigate risks) instead of the current single sub-contractor setup. But while theoretically possible, this is administratively a difficult thing to implement... (imagine the horror of having some random & unpaid strangers on the internet operate your institutional server infrastructure ;) ).

But relying on volunteers to do all the every-day content curation, reaching out to current and potential contributors etc. is in my opinion unrealistic and funding this though crowd sourcing is even less realistic. I believe the way forward for this is for interested institutional members to contribute staff time for this. Have many technical advisors at WaterAid etc. a 20% or more "SuSanA content curation" clause in their contracts (that's actually regularly performance evaluated) and you might get something workable.
Edit: I also strongly believe that it would be both more cost effective and inclusive if these technical advisor positions, if newly created, are located in their regional offices or project bureaus in the global south, likely but not strictly necessarily staffed by locals.

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Also following up on one of the recommendations of the consultant report: it must have been discussed before to create a independent non-profit support association? In Germany that is quite common ("Förderverein")... something like "Friends of SuSanA e.V." which would make it easy to collect donations ( en.liberapay.com/ would be a good platform in Europe) and get direct smaller funding outside of the giz system. This association could then also take over responsibility of the technical infrastructure and domain-name etc. in the long run.

Practically it would be probably easiest to do it via an Estonian non-profit (MTÜ) that can be incorporated and run fully online, but if someone in Germany wants to go though the hassle of registering an association (gemeinnütziger Verein) and fulfilling the legal requirements that would be of course also possible.

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

Kris,

A "Friends of SuSanA" organization is a very good idea. And one I'm not sure has been discussed. Here's some quick research on when, why and how "Frends of" type organizations work under US law. The idea is to enable US citizens to make tax-deductible donations to foreign charities.

www.cof.org/content/how-private-foundati...riends-organizations
charitylawyerblog.com/2010/11/02/what-is...nds-of-organization/
www.step.org/sites/default/files/Branche...on_Rothschild_pp.pdf

It's good to learn that Germany also has a similar mechanism.

Thanks, 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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  • muench
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Re: Your opportunity to secure and shape the future of the Discussion Forum

Dear Neil, Carol, Seamus, Kris, Patrick, Marcus, John, Lucas, Cécile and Roumiana,

Thank you for your excellent and thoughtful suggestions on how to keep the discussion forum going in 2019! I have enjoyed reading each and every post. And thank you very much for all the compliments regarding my work, too! :blush: (happy blush)

To move forward in our deliberations I have summarised the 13 posts made so far. I have kept all the original wording but just re-arranged people's comments into logical groupings. I have added in brackets at the end who said what:

Feedback on why the forum works well at present:
  • SuSanA works largely because it has an experienced and passionate moderator, who takes a proactive approach to the work. - I agree Elisabeth's moderation is a huge factor in the success of SuSanA. (Neil)
  • All the backstage work you do clearly reflects into the quality of the forum. (Cecile)
  • 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. (Seamus)
  • 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. (Lucas)
  • 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. (Carol)
  • 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. (Patrick)
  • I would like to agree with the majority of the comments regarding the invaluable, dedicated and highly professional work of the current moderator. The Forum itself is very important part of SuSanA's vision and mission. (Roumiana)
  • Elisabeth, thank you for all you have contributed to make the forum the valuable resource that it is today! (John)
  • Thank you to everyone for their work contributing to this excellent forum, and for the diligence and support behind the scenes. (Marcus)

Thoughts about the available new funding options:

Option 1: One funder

Would any International Development functions within government make a contribution. It would be great value for money. (Seamus)

I hope one or several organisations will enable the paid moderation to continue. (Cecile)


Option 2: Several institutional funders

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. (Roumiana)

I believe the way forward for this is for interested institutional members to contribute staff time for this. Have many technical advisors at WaterAid etc. a 20% or more "SuSanA content curation" clause in their contracts (that's actually regularly performance evaluated) and you might get something workable. I also strongly believe that it would be both more cost effective and inclusive if these technical advisor positions, if newly created, are located in their regional offices or project bureaus in the global south, likely but not strictly necessarily staffed by locals. (Kris)


Option 3: Individual member or crowd funded

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. (Lucas)

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. (John)

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. (John)

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. (Marcus)

Argument against this option:

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. (Roumiana)


Option 4a: Sliding scale membership fees

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. (Carol)

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. (Patrick)


Option 4b: Create an independent non-profit support association

It must have been discussed before to create a independent non-profit support association? In Germany that is quite common ("Förderverein")... something like "Friends of SuSanA e.V." which would make it easy to collect donations ( en.liberapay.com/ would be a good platform in Europe) and get direct smaller funding outside of the giz system. This association could then also take over responsibility of the technical infrastructure and domain-name etc. in the long run. (Kris)

Practically it would be probably easiest to do it via an Estonian non-profit (MTÜ) that can be incorporated and run fully online, but if someone in Germany wants to go through the hassle of registering an association (gemeinnütziger Verein) and fulfilling the legal requirements that would be of course also possible. (Kris)

A "Friends of SuSanA" organization is a very good idea. And one I'm not sure has been discussed. Here's some quick research on when, why and how "Frends of" type organizations work under US law (see links in Carol's post just before this one). The idea is to enable US citizens to make tax-deductible donations to foreign charities. It's good to learn that Germany also has a similar mechanism. (Carol)


Comparison with HIFA’s funding model by Neil (a mixture of Option 2 & 3):

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.

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.

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)

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.


The pros and cons of using volunteers

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. (Cecile)

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." (Carol)

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. (Roumiana)

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. (Marcus)

The technical foundations could probably be kept up to date by a working group of skilled volunteers with some irregular contributions to pay for IT freelancers to update some plugins etc. But this would require the server infrastructure to be opened up to external contributors (a public git repository might be a partial solution to mitigate risks) instead of the current single sub-contractor setup. But while theoretically possible, this is administratively a difficult thing to implement... (imagine the horror of having some random & unpaid strangers on the internet operate your institutional server infrastructure ). (Kris)

But relying on volunteers to do all the every-day content curation, reaching out to current and potential contributors etc. is in my opinion unrealistic and funding this though crowd sourcing is even less realistic. (Kris)


Other ideas:

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. (Marcus)

A Patreon or Liberapay page could easily be set up to provide for the basic hosting needs. However the actual costs of hosting this website are (or at least could be) more or less insignificant; given commercial hosting prices it would be probably possible run this site as is on a <100 EUR/yr budget. (Kris)

+++++++++

This is the end of the summary.

I really like the "Friends of SuSanA" idea. I think we would need it (or something similar) for all of the options, except for Option 1. We need a mechanism with which SuSanA can receive small amounts of money, and then spend that money. At present, such a mechanism does not exist. GIZ who is running the secretariat would not be able to administer small amounts of money. They can only administer large amounts (like > 250,000 Euro), for which they have a "co-financing" mechanism which they have to get approval for from the ministry BMZ.

With regards to volunteers, I'd say yes please!, but I think their involvement can only be optimised in a second step. First we have to get the funding sorted out for at least one main moderator (myself or someone else). After that, we can think about guidelines and ways to utilise volunteers more. But without someone in charge to some extent, I don't think a group of volunteers could run this on their own.

We need to try and move fairly quickly on all this as time is running out (end of January is not far away and that's when the BMGF grant money will be used up). I'll continue the deliberations with Franziska and the core group... Meanwhile, further suggestions and offers for help continue to be welcome in this thread.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for organising people's responses under headings. This is really helpful for us all to have an overview of the discussion so far.

I would like to ask a bit more about organisational structure and finance.

With regards to organisational structure, I understand that SuSanA is currently a GIZ project and the Sphaera report recommends: "Invite partners (member organisations) to formally cofound a sustainable sanitation Cooperative headquartered in a jurisdiction that has strong
member protections, and a well developed history of supporting such initiatives". It gives the example of Greenpeace International as a 'close analogue to the proposed structure'. I would be interested to know the views of SuSanA members and secretariat about the pros and cons of continuing to be a GIZ project versus organisational change such as that proposed by Sphaera.

On the issue of funding, do we have a budget for 2019? Three scenarios could be useful:
1. Minimum funding: How much would be required to maintain this discussion forum in its present form?
2. Mid-level funding: How much would be required to maintain the full range of SuSanA's operations as they stand today?
3. Aspirational funding: What more could SuSanA be doing if it had the income to do so?

If we can estimate the amount required for #1, this would arguably suffice for the budget target in 2019 (with a view to raise more in 2020 and beyond), and it would help to plan on how to raise the necessary funds.

Best wishes, Neil
HIFA moderator (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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