Knowledge sharing

Jaap Pels - Friday 19 May 2006

Hi all, Jaap Pels from IRC in the Netherlands.

I work with the HIP team on task 6 - Knowledge Management. For 20 years I worked for the Dutch consumers organisation and I was happily surprised to see references to Rogers and Kotler; authors often mentionad in respect to consumerism. Together with my education in natural sciences, it made me more comfortable to understand the discussions ranging from consumer preferences up to filtration and disinfection.

IRC provided the technical architecture for this E-conference; I operated behind the scenes and I am to blame for info-glut and (almost) all glitches :-). Frankly, I was a bit anxious when we invited over 500 people to participate in this E-discussions. What would happen if all participated and contributed 2 postings? Certainly some mailboxes would have been swamped. Also I am aware of the limitations of E-conferences; a wealth of knowledge is not easy translatable into text. Basic to knowledge sharing is 'trust', which is not easy without face to face contact.

I have read contributions by the complete spectrum of professionals; from on the ground practitioners, suppliers / producers / inventors, networks up to academics and decision makers. A wide variety of topics was covered; from financing, (social) marketing, consumers choice, partnerships, networks, behaviour change, community management, appropriate technologies up to 'at scale', multiple use systems, household productive use and 'scaling up' approaches. Technology, approach and people-wise this is a Xanadu for knowledge sharing! Initiatives like the WHO HWTS network and the HIP 'At scale' approach build upon such notions.

What boggles my mind is how to convince donors, governments and the private sector to finance opportunities for knowledge sharing and what approaches would work better on top of this E-conference. I expect no silver bullets but love to hear stories and hints.

Cheers, Jaap

sharing negative experiences

Matthias Saladin - Saturday 20 May 2006

Dear all,

It definitely seems to be difficult to share knowledge, at least over through e-conferences. Apart from the fact that everyone with access to a computer and the internet is busy doing other things, this may be because there is nothing to be gained in the short term from sharing knowledge and participating in e-conferences - not even a pretty certificate you can post on your wall...
This seems to be even more so with negative experiences - as Bruce Gordon has pointed out. So who else would be willing to take on the challenge of an e-conference for sharing "failures, breakdowns and disasters"?

Knowledge sharing

Henk Holtslag - Saturday 20 May 2006

Dear all

My name is Henk Holtslag, and I am associated with the Practica foundation. Practica is active in knowledge transfer of best practices in water and energy for rural areas.
Regarding HWTS we are active in several options ao training in the local production of ceramic filters as promoted by Potters for Peace and Basic Water Needs.

Despite observations, I think this mail conference is a very good initiative and I would like to respond briefly on a question of Jaap Pels

How to convince donors, governments etc to finance knowledge sharing?

Some suggestions
1e Repeat again and again the WHO investigation
Investing in improvements in water and sanitation have cost benefits of 3 - 43 dollar for every dollar invested!!!.
This was mentioned before in this conference. Our experiences on water fora like Mexico and others is that many donors, policymakers do not know this yet.
Maybe we should hire market specialist of Coca Cola that know how to get a message across!

2e Explain that a mayor obstacle for widescale implemantaion of proven low cost technologies is
THE LACK OF AWARENESS. Our experience again is that over 80% of the stakeholders, end users, local NGOs, local private sector are not aware of developments in the last 10 years that have reduced cost of many water technologies in well drilling, pumps, irrigation treatment with 50 to 70%.!
One cannot choose for options that are unknown.

3e Explain that much time (funds) is required for knowledge sharing because a sustainable dissemination of
SIMPLE TECHNOLOGY IS NOT SIMPLE
It takes investments in applied R&D to improve the technology and adapt it to the local situation. Our impression is that technical details are often underestimated. We see projects of 50.000 US$ fail partly because of the wrong choice for a bolt of 1 dollar.
All new options require a long term follow up on education on use and maintenance but also on marketing.
An example may be the Treadle Pump now a relative success and used by 2 million families in Asia for small scale irrigation
Of the 7 mln dollars it took to start this, over 70% was needed for marketing.

4e Install SMART TEC CENTRES in every country and ,or region. These should not be paper collection centers but effective practical knowledge centers where options can be seen, touched, tried out. Advisors that know the local context can select 2 to 5 options of each technology that fit the local situation regaring wells, pumps, storage water treatment, etc. We have negative but also very positive experiences with centres like that.

There is much more to say, but I would just like to mention the idea to exhange experiences on failures which seems a good idea to me. Hope this will work out.
Experiences on "new" low cost water technologies can be found in a Publication of the NWP called Smart Water Solutions. see www.nwp.nl
Regards
Henk Holtslag

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