Remote work and services during Covid pandemic and how this relates to capacity building


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  • lkohler
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  • Senior Knowledge & Research Advisor with CAWST primarily focused on sanitation and the measurement of capacity development outputs and outcomes
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Re: Remote work and services during Covid pandemic and how this relates to capacity building

First, I am happy to see some responses, especially around the reality of work amidst COVID-19. Perhaps since this is becoming a larger discussion, we should break it out of the WG1 Factsheet Input thread, as this emergent COVID-19 conversation is quite important and timely.

This does not mean that we will drop the discussion on the WG1 factsheet. The update is still a priority! To facilitate this discussion about how to adapt our services during a pandemic, and others like it among capacity developers (meaning within WG1) or across other thematic sanitation disciplines, we need a tool so that we can all start from a common understanding, especially given the number of contexts and languages we bridge. We all may use different approaches and have different ways of describing capacity development, but at the end of the day, we are more or less talking about and trying to troubleshoot the same thing (or at least a similar thing). 

The WG 1 Factsheet has the potential to be this tool. And for it to represent the work being done by the members of WG1 and be useful for everyone, we still need input! If you are curious on how to contribute, please see the previous post. It would be great to get everyone's insight on the four questions posed to inform the language we use and how we structure the factsheet.

In the meantime, after reading the latest responses and reflecting, there are challenges that were mentioned specifically related to remote work and services that I suspect many are experiencing and struggle to address. Some of them include: 
  • The increase in work; for many work has not necessarily slowed, only shifted focus which has resulted in a complete re-write of yearly work plans, funding, etc.
  • Unique challenges related to working from home around communication with colleagues and clients/partners;  home life and child care; and new financial demands on staff for unforeseen expenses such as increased electricity and internet use.
  • Adaptation of service delivery approaches and deliverables whether they are within existing projects/programs or related to new activities targeted at the prevention of COVID-19; 
  • The pressure and often discomfort that results from the general lack of certainty and the plethora of information and updates when formulating COVID-19 recommendations 
  • The unknown effectiveness of interventions
  • The fact that accurate responses require time and at the same time timeliness or rapidity
As there is much innovation in this space, I would encourage members to not only continue to share their challenges but also how they have been addressing them. There is a lot we can learn from each other around remote capacity development work and services!
Laura Kohler, Ph.D.
Senior Knowledge and Research Advisor, Measurement & Sanitation
Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology
B12, 6020 – 2 Street SE, Calgary Alberta, T2H 2L8, Canada
1.403.243.3285 ext. 266 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • Yuliana
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Re: Remote work and services during Covid pandemic and how this relates to capacity building

Post in English, Spanish version below:


Hello Laura
1) What are some of your key capacity development activities?
Technical assistance was carried out remotely through telephone calls only to certain municipal spaces such as the basic sanitation addresses "DMSB" on water, and hygiene essentially, for example water disinfection, a function of service providers. Effectiveness is still in the process to define its success.

2) What are the challenges that each of you faces when describing your work or the activities that you carry out? The stress, especially I think that women are the ones who suffer the most, because our children at home want attention, much more even when they are small.

And what do you feel is really understood? 2) What individual words or phrases come to mind when describing your work development or Support and knowledge, the team is invited to explore and enrich the knowledge with experiences from other countries working in the sector

3) What are the 4 main areas
Teleworking and extended working hours, the hyperconnection to calls overwhelms and causes stres, the bosses write to you at all hours and force you to be connected, continuous, There is no doubt that the schedule dedicated to the home is longer and would be good quantify them with specific studies, the other resources must be provided by the employee, connection, electricity, internet, the costs involved add that many times they are not the same as in the office.

Finally, there are also positive aspects with COVID 19 such as:
Transportation time is avoided, saves money, works with comfortable clothes, there is no need to get dressed as much, benefit for families with children who are breastfeeding
Negative: work is done more, hyperconnection, difficulty managing time, lack of technological resources, food abuse, conflicts in the family environment.


Spanish version:

1) ¿Cuáles son algunas de sus actividades clave de desarrollo de capacidades?
Se vino realizando la asistencia técnica a distancia a través de llamadas telefónica solo a ciertos espacios municipales como las direcciones de saneamiento básico “DMSB” en temas agua, e higiene esencialmente, por ejemplo la desinfección del agua, función de los proveedores de servicio.
La efectividad aun estamos en proceso para definir su éxito.

2) ¿Cuáles son los desafíos que cada uno de ustedes enfrenta al describir su trabajo o las actividades que realiza?  El stres, especialmente creo que las mujeres somos los que más sufrimos, porque nuestros hijos estando en casa desean la atención, mucho más aun cuando son pequeños.
¿Y qué sientes que realmente se entiende? 2) ¿Qué palabras o frases individuales le vienen a la mente cuando describe su desarrollo de trabajo o Apoyo y conocimiento, se invita al equipo a explorar y enriquecer el conocimiento con experiencias de otros países que trabajan en el sector

3) ¿Cuáles son las 4 áreas principales
El teletrabajo y ampliado el horario laboral, la hiperconexion a llamadas agobia y provoca stres, los jefes te escriben a toda hora y te obligan a estar conectada, continuo, No hay duda que el horario que se dedica en la vivienda es mayor y sería bueno cuantificarlos con estudios específicos, lo otro los recursos debe aportar el empleado conexión, electricidad,
internet, los costos que implica se suma que muchas veces no son  los mismo que hay en la oficina.

Finalmente, también hay aspectos positivos con la COVID 19 como:
Se evita el tiempo de traslado, ahorra dinero, se trabaja con ropa cómoda, no hay necesidad de arreglarse tanto, beneficio para familias con niños en etapa de lactancia
Negativo se trabaja más, hiperconexion, dificultad para gestionar el tiempo, escasez de recursos tecnológicos, abuso de alimentos, conflictos en el entorno familiar.

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  • Heinarco
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Remote work and services during Covid pandemic and how this relates to capacity building

Note by moderator (EvM): this is a spin-off thread that split off from the thread on updating the Factsheet of Working Group 1, see here

Post in Spanish, English version below (Heinar's responses are in purple).

Estimada Laura. Mis comentarios son los siguientes y están en color:
Como muchos de nosotros nos aislamos a nosotros mismos o aseguramos la distancia social, esto brinda una gran oportunidad para leer, reflexionar y reescribir. Entonces, para alentar un poco de discusión y una lluvia de ideas sobre algunas ideas entre el grupo, me gustaría preguntar lo siguiente:

Si bien estamos aislados y trabajando en casa, esto en Bolivia no quiere decir que no estamos trabajando. Por lo contrario, se nota que aumentó la carga de trabajo en gabinete (nuestra oficina en casa), ya que recibo muchas llamadas por todos los medios, ya sea de Denver, a nivel nacional, de nuestros colegas aquí en Cochabamba Bolivia y también de nuestros socios como ser los Municipios y otras ONGs con las cuales tenemos convenio.
En mi caso, complementariamente a lo anterior, estamos elaborando los estudios de preinversión, ya que con anterioridad pudimos realizar el trabajo de campo, por lo cual estamos en proceso de elaboración de los documentos finales a nivel de memorias de proyectos, presupuestos y planos constructivos, todo ello coordinando con nuestros socios de los municipios para cumplir nuestro POA 2020. Y no debemos olvidar las respuestas a las nuevas instrucciones que recibimos por el COVID 19, para lo cual se han elaborado Propuestas para apoyar en la mitigación de la pandemia, como ser Desinfección de viviendas, desinfección personal cuando uno está fuera de casa y que se recomendó lo apliquen los municipios socios.

1) ¿Cuáles son algunas de sus actividades clave de desarrollo de capacidades? Quizás también comparta cómo han cambiado ahora en medio de COVID-19, ya que muchos de nosotros estamos comenzando a explorar cómo hacer un desarrollo de capacidad personal y efectivo desde la distancia.

Mis actividades clave de desarrollo de capacidades entre otras son: Trabajar bajo comunicación contínua por Skype con mis colegas, y también con los socios, pero por la sobrecarga de comunicación por todos en el uso de internet, debemos fijarnos horarios de trabajo, Debo elaborar propuestas claras y con resumen ejecutivo para transmitir a mis colegas y socios y debo elaborar esquemas mucho más convincentes para enviar y/o explicarlo mediante Team o Skype en llamadas grupales. Debo consultar mucho más por internet sobre dudas que me llegan y también comunicarme vía teléfono con algunos expertos sobre el tema que estoy desarrollando y estos expertos son externos a WFP. También voy participando de Foros, Conferencias y otras iniciativas convocadas por internet sobre temas COVID 19 y sus consecuencias y que respuestas debemos preparar para mitigar.

2) ¿Cuáles son los desafíos que cada uno de ustedes enfrenta al describir su trabajo o las actividades que realiza? Que comunicas ¿Y qué sientes que realmente se entiende?

El desafío es tener la capacidad de hablar y escribir de tal manera que mi interlocutor me entienda, para ello debo elaborar resúmenes claros, como también esquemas o sinópticos muy didácticos, muchas veces no me entienden, por lo cual debo aplicar nueva metodología de comunicación.

3) ¿Qué palabras o frases individuales le vienen a la mente cuando describe su desarrollo de trabajo o capacidad (por ejemplo, "apoyo", "capacitación", "conocimiento", "habilidades", etc.)? Quizás si podemos identificar las palabras comunes que usamos, podemos hacer una lluvia de ideas sobre otras formas más simples de articular lo mismo para una audiencia externa.

Entre otra son: sobre carga de trabajo, mejorar el trabajo en equipo partiendo de la parte superior, mejor coordinación, falta de tiempo para las respuestas, capacitación en temas específicos técnicos y administrativos y no solo en elaborar informes e informes, recibir capacitación especializada en el aspecto profesional de mi rubro de trabajo….

4) ¿Cuáles son las 4 áreas principales (quizás consulte los encabezados en la hoja de datos existente 2012 WG1 Factsheet) que una persona necesitaría saber para comprender el desarrollo de capacidades?

En mi criterio son: 1) Comprender el rol que desempeña en una determinada organización, es decir contar con TDRs muy claros, 2) Tener la experiencia suficiente para desempeñar sus funciones específicas, 3) Tener la capacidad de demostrar su valor agregado como funcionario y no quedarse solo en el cumplimiento básico de sus TDRs, es decir ser proactivo con su organización. 4) Tener la facilidad de ser líder y demostrar transparencia


Translation below added by the moderator using (free version)

Dear Laura. My comments are the following and are in color:
As many of us isolate ourselves or ensure social distance, this provides a great opportunity to read, reflect and rewrite. So, to encourage some discussion and brainstorming about some ideas among the group, I would like to ask the following:

While we are isolated and working at home, this in Bolivia does not mean we are not working. On the contrary, it is noticeable that the workload in cabinet (our home office) has increased, since I receive many calls by all means, whether from Denver, at the national level, from our colleagues here in Cochabamba Bolivia and also from our partners such as the Municipalities and other NGOs with which we have an agreement.
In my case, in addition to the above, we are preparing the pre-investment studies, since we were previously able to do the field work, so we are in the process of preparing the final documents at the level of project reports, budgets and construction plans, all of which we are coordinating with our partners in the municipalities to fulfill our 2020 AOP. And we must not forget the responses to the new instructions we received from COVID 19, for which Proposals have been prepared to support the mitigation of the pandemic, such as Disinfection of homes, personal disinfection when one is away from home and which was recommended to be applied by the partner municipalities.

1) What are some of your key capacity building activities? Perhaps you will also share how they have changed now in the midst of COVID-19, as many of us are beginning to explore how to do effective personal capacity building from a distance.

My key capacity building activities among others are Working under continuous communication by Skype with my colleagues, and also with partners, but because of the overload of communication by all in the use of the internet, we must set working hours, I must elaborate clear proposals with executive summary to transmit to my colleagues and partners and I must elaborate much more convincing schemes to send and/or explain by Team or Skype in group calls. I must consult much more by internet about doubts that come to me and also communicate via telephone with some experts on the subject that I am developing and these experts are external to WFP. I am also participating in Forums, Conferences and other initiatives convened by internet on COVID 19 issues and their consequences and what responses we should prepare to mitigate.

2) What are the challenges that each of you face when describing your work or activities? What do you communicate? And what do you feel is really understood?

The challenge is to have the ability to speak and write in such a way that my interlocutor understands me. To do this, I have to prepare clear summaries, as well as very didactic outlines or synoptics, which are often not understood, so I have to apply new communication methodology.

3) What individual words or phrases come to mind when you describe your work or skill development (e.g. "support", "training", "knowledge", "skills", etc.)? Perhaps if we can identify the common words we use, we can brainstorm about other simpler ways to articulate the same thing to an external audience.

Some of these are: overload of work, improving teamwork from the top, better coordination, lack of time for answers, training in specific technical and administrative topics and not just in report writing, receiving specialized training in the professional aspect of my line of work...

4) What are the 4 main areas (perhaps refer to the headings in the existing 2012 WG1 Factsheet) that a person would need to know in order to understand capacity building?

My criteria are: 1) Understanding your role in a given organization, i.e. having very clear TORs, 2) Having enough experience to perform your specific functions, 3) Having the ability to demonstrate your added value as a staff member and not being left alone in basic compliance with your TORs, i.e. being proactive with your organization. 4) Have the ability to be a leader and demonstrate transparency

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