Our Rainwater Harvesting Community of Practice: towards our 2nd anniversary and beyond

reblogged from www.rain4food.net

by Hans Merton, RAIN/Akvo

Mid 2013 we launched our Community of Practice on Rainwater Harvesting as a part of the Rainwater Harvesting for food Security programme, so with 1,5 year on the road it’s about time to look back and more important: where should we be heading to?

Where are we?
After the typical start up period, we are gaining momentum: nearly 400 members from 75 countries, more than 80 discussions with almost 350 member contributions. Out of those discussions, 15 started since last 1 September. The majority of our members are coming from Europe (predominantly The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland), United States, India, East- and West-Africa.

Our community was launched as a sub-community within the Rural Water Supply Network. With its fast growing number of 6305 members, 22 member organisations, long history and well organized secretariat, RWSN provided a great stepping stone for our community. Besides RWSN as programme partner, amongst others, also Spate Irrigation Network and The Water Channel (TWC) are bringing in their vast network.

So, through our cooperation with our partners we’ve been able to reach scale. However, in terms of geographical coverage we still have to do homework involving South-America and South-East Asia. Second question is: having access to networks is nice, but how to explore those networks?

What have we been working on?
The community acts a central force of gravity for the Rainwater Harvesting programme: the majority of programme activities are shared with – or primarily focus on – the community and partner networks as target group. From the start of the programme we felt that webinars could offer an excellent opportunity to contribute to both exchange of experiences but also connect and explore networks.

Our first open webinar was organized in September 2013 and during 2014 we’ve intensified the webinar programme, made it (mostly) bi-lingual (English/French) and now we are extending the programme by organizing our first closed webinar (on invitation) for Government and Public sector staff. The webinars are organized in cooperation with RWSN and TWC and cover a wide range of topics; from the bob rainwater bag to the 3R approach, from spate irrigation to building momentum for rainwater harvesting. The webinars turned out to be an excellent way of getting more people involved with the community: every webinar results in a significant increase of new members. Apparently the webinars cover a need.

On average between approx. 20 and 60 people are attending the webinars and based upon the webinar feedback, in general the speakers are well evaluated. However, an important element for improvement is:

  • More interaction in terms of Q&A: it is obvious that there is a need for support/feedback on the issues that people are faced with.

Or: a lot of problems are international but most solutions very local. It is the latter that people are looking for in the community: help from other members that fit the specific context.

So one of our webinar challenges towards 2015 will be on the one hand providing introductions on topics that closely connect to our members daily businesses. On the other hand we need to stimulate/facilitate direct interaction between people. This has to be done through more time for Q&A during a webinar but also after the webinar by connecting people through our platform who attended.

Final point for community discussion: do we need to link to other RWH communities to become a more global RWH-movement, and if so: how we are we going to do that? Point of attention: our community is currently specifically focusing on middle and lower income countries (facilitated by the Dgroups community platform).

Besides the webinars, exchange of more context specific questions and answers is taking place through community discussions. It is great to see that information is exchanged in so many ways, at the same time our community faces one of the same challenges every community is faced with:

How do I exchange – or summarize – the results of a discussion (usually a long thread of questions and replies) with those that not participated in the discussion? How do I share the results in a smart way both inside and outside the community?

A first step will be set by publishing a wiki-page in the RWH Wiki, that summarizes the results of discussions. The RWH wiki received almost 27.000 visitors since we published it on http://rain4food.net, so hopefully this step will contribute to sharing knowledge also outside the community.

Where are we heading to?
We feel that a strong central driving force remains necessary to keep the community vibrant. This by creating exposure, linking members, organizing webinars, summarize discussion results, etc., etc.

Besides this, strengthening the networking component through social media. This has been started with input from RWH ambassadors and must be further intensified.

Finally: without doubt our members will have their own expectations. We intend to send out a survey in Q1 2015 to learn more from them on the agenda setting for 2015 and onwards.

I personally feel that after a year-and-a-half, our community has only reached its adolescence: it would be great to become a real full grown player.

Hans Merton
Administrator RWH Community

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit https://www.rural-water-supply.net/ to find out more

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