Advocating for Increased use of Evidence in Sanitation Policies: The MEDS initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Advocating for Increased use of Evidence in Sanitation Policies: The MEDS initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The measurements, evidence, and dissemination for scale (MEDS) programme aims to promote increased use of evidence in sanitation policies by investing in measurement and evidence to understand the effectiveness of various sanitation approaches. It is an annual event convened to bring together the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s grantees in the sanitation sector to share lessons drawn from their ongoing sanitation interventions and how data from these interventions can be applied to influence positive change and create environment for up-scaling. MEDS convening is used to report on programme progress, and for the Foundation, it provides an assessment of the impact of their grant making, partners also take the opportunity to share lessons that learnt.

The 2017 MEDS was convened in Patna – Bihar, India bringing together an array of the Gates Foundation grantees from the sanitation sector from across the world.

It is my pleasure to share with you the 2017 MEDS report from where you will learn about a number of inspiring projects from across the world with the potential of changing the sanitation landscape.

Simon

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Report title:
MEDS Convening 2018
Conversations about Sanitation, SDGs and Research
Patna, Bihar, 2017
Publication date: May 2018

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation and
Hygiene (WSH) team hosted a 6-day workshop for grantees
of the Measurement, Evaluation and Dissemination, for Scale
(MEDS) program. The convening took place in Patna, Bihar India
from 6th-10th November 2017.

MEDS stands for Measurement, Evidence, and Dissemination, for Scale

Simon Okoth
Senior Project Manager,
SuSanA Project Phase III, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.sei-international.org
Project link: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127

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Re: Advocating for Increased use of Evidence in Sanitation Policies: The MEDS initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dear Simon,
Thanks for posting that convening report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation here. I had a look through and it's jam packed with information about their current and past sanitation grants, mostly in India but also some other countries. It was also really interesting to see which methodology they used in their 6-day workshop last November to get grantees to learn from each other, share, and brainstorm together about the future, without being overwhelmed by too many powerpoint presentations!

And thanks to BMGF for making this report publicly available. I don't think there are many other donors who let outsiders take such a detailed look at their grant portfolio. Thank you! I used the information to update some of the Gates funded projects that we have in our project database. You can find them all by filtering for funding source "BMGF" here: www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/projects/database
(310 out of 454 projects in total in our project database are funded by BMGF)

This post wouldn't be one of my posts if I didn't have some questions for you, Simon:
- I see you also attended the meeting yourself and probably told people about SuSanA and our own BMGF grant ( www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/projects/database/details/127 )*. What kinds of reactions did you receive? Did the other grantees see the value of having SuSanA as a knowledge management platform?
- The iniative MEDS contains D for "dissemination". What were the main dissemination activities that you observed by other grantees? Do you think people value posting on this forum as a dissemination activity?
- Was it primarily focused on India only, or did the grants from other countries, like Kenya, get equal attention? Were the experiences from different countries useful or is it better to focus on just India at a convening such as this one (India has so many unique challenges, like the caste issue)

Regards,
Elisabeth

* This grant is coming to an end on 30 September, by the way. See here: forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...l-knowledge-platform . It means that those of us that are employed through this grant, like myself, will probably be looking for other jobs at that stage. Just FYI.

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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Re: Advocating for Increased use of Evidence in Sanitation Policies: The MEDS initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for this post seeking more insights regarding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s measurements, evaluation and dissemination for scale (MEDS) annual convening and my experience of the 2017 MEDS. I would say that most of the participants had knowledge of SuSanA with some quite extensively aware of SuSanA, its role and even how best it can impact its audience.

I had a conversation with Pete Cranston of Euforic Services who besides knowing SuSanA and a number of key people involved with the platform including you and Arno is also quite experienced in the knowledge management field. Our discussion centred on the current work of SuSanA grant. In the discussion he also emphasized the need to target KM products and put more efforts on thematic areas of greater interest to the audience and sector. He actually shared with me a study done by the World Bank just to elaborate on the dynamics of the KM sphere: documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/38750...orts-are-widely-read

I also had a discussion with Erik Harvey of Wateraid who also highlighted the KnowledgePoint initiative which is an online Q&A forum, providing fast and accessible technical expertise for humanitarian and development workers worldwide. Here we explored the potential collaborations and synergies between SuSanA and KnowledgePoint although things have moved so fast that this has not been explored but I believe it is perhaps somewhere in the horizons.

So therefore, in a nutshell, there were interests on how SuSanA can play a critical role in propagation of knowledge within the sector more so providing the platform for sharing the projects. But as often the case with organizations, there are policies that govern sharing of project information and unless compelled by a particular project or donor, there is always reluctance to share project information by some organisations.

This is even more apparent in the current partnership framework that SuSanA has with other organisations as you may find that the organisational partnerships could only be there by application and acceptance by SuSanA for profiling purposes but not in terms of rigorous commitment by the members of the organisations to share their work. Need for improving the terms of engagement between SuSanA and organisational partners!

The “D” in the MEDS is primarily achieved by the convening of the event where partners or participants share the information about their projects including the approaches challenges and lessons learnt. Nothing has so far gone beyond the convening. People can perhaps value sharing on the platform and this could be seen with the individuals.

But again, these interests could be personal and not entrenched within the organizations’ policies as I had mentioned earlier. This years' (2018) MEDS to be held in Senegal, has a slightly different approach. There will be series of Learning Exchange visits between MEDS grantee organizations before the general convening in Senegal. This will typically involve one MEDS grantee organization visiting another, and vice versa, and the Learning Exchanges will be guided by a learning objective with participants sharing their learning back to the MEDS community, potentially picking up a question or potential collaboration that came to light during the 2017 MEDS Convening.

SuSanA will probably SuSanA host 1-3 MEDS webinars where some of the Learning Exchange participants will share their experience. I will try to arrange with the organisers on how to feed the documentation of the Learning Exchanges into SuSanA as well as the previous MEDS reports.

MEDS is global and apart from the special attention accorded to the host country (India hosted the 2017 MEDS), the event gives equal attention to all projects that are funded by the Gates Foundation. Last year’s MEDS involved projects coming from different countries in Africa, Kenya included, Asia, Latin America among others just to mention a few. There were very interesting experiences from the sanitation work going on in Cambodia and Vietnam, too. With other research work being implemented in Kenya and other African countries.

Generally, there were a lot to learn from the MEDS convening and I can see it getting even better as the series continues. Perhaps something for us is to take up the opportunity to engage more with the participants with a view of having their experiences in these projects posted on the forum.

You are welcome should you need more clarifications.

Kind regards,
Simon

Simon Okoth
Senior Project Manager,
SuSanA Project Phase III, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.sei-international.org
Project link: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127
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Re: Advocating for Increased use of Evidence in Sanitation Policies: The MEDS initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dear Simon,

Thanks for these clarifications. I found this statement of yours very true and wonder if we could ever overcome this kind of hesitation:

But as often the case with organizations, there are policies that govern sharing of project information and unless compelled by a particular project or donor, there is always reluctance to share project information by some organisations.


Regarding the mentioned MEDS convening this year in Senegal: would you or Arno still be invited to go to it by the BMGF even if our own grant with them ends at the end of September?* How do they deal with "ex-grantees", are they equally included in this sharing & dissemination or do they quietly disappear from the scene? (I imagine that after a while the number of ex-grantees might become too large for the Foundation to always include everyone. Or maybe the ex-grantees can still come if they pay for their own travel, I don't know. )

And do you have any more information on those webinars which you mentioned which SuSanA might lead?

Elisabeth

* More information about that grant that has been paying for my, Arno's and Simon's time on particular KM (knowledge management) activities within SuSanA: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127

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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  • simon
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Re: Advocating for Increased use of Evidence in Sanitation Policies: The MEDS initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Thank you Elisabeth for keeping this MEDS discussion going on, which is a great effort to ensure that both SuSanA and the projects highlighted in MEDS add value to the sector.

Answering your question on the reluctance to share project information by some organisations, which I cited as a possible reason for lack of learning from some of the greatest projects, I think we should strengthen organisational membership commitments. It is about asking the member organisations to commit to sharing projects on the platform. This fact must be well articulated by SuSanA to the members for them to understand the benefits of sharing the project information. In any case WASH projects are public! If the restrictive organisational policies governing information sharing can be addressed, then we can already have one piece of the puzzle and may be left only with the other piece which is the donor conditions on sharing project information.

So, this other piece can also be handled by working closely with the donors to ensure that their grantees share project information and more critically lessons with SuSanA. This calls for SuSanA to be a strategic platform of choice for the donors and would mean that we proactively engage with the donors to sell the value and positive impact of their grantees sharing project information. I think this is achievable but will also involve a greater level of engagement.

I will be attending this years MEDS convening in Senegal and I think Arne will be attending too. I will try to have discussion with Pippa Scott who was leading this initiative during the MEDS event to get more information regarding the webinars. It might also be an opportunity to explore further how the projects information sharing and learning can be improved including the role SuSanA can play.

It is a great question how the ex-grantees are treated but I think at some point some old projects just have to be phased-out to allow for new ones. I however think that, the convening should create a loop to ensure that ex-grantees still have a mechanism to share sector information and their work in general.

Simon Okoth
Senior Project Manager,
SuSanA Project Phase III, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.sei-international.org
Project link: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127
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