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Open discussion forum helps to answer sanitation related questions

posted by C. Rieck (GIZ)
We know it all too well from our daily work: E-mails have nowadays become key to our highly interactive and interlinked working environment. But despite being a useful communication tool, it provides only a one-to-one or small group communication and does not allow sharing information to a wider group and to “outsiders”. Therefore valuable information such as reports, discussions, photos, technical drawings, posters and new ideas are locked up in private mailboxes and are not accessible to others. They cannot be found with search engines like Google. Also the sheer number of e-mails can be a burden and hindrance to actually discussing issues and to passing on information when people are looking for it.
One promising avenue is the use of discussion forums. The idea for an open discussion forum on sanitation came from our experience that when you want to buy a new car or have a question about your baby’s teeth: where do you get advice from? You put your question into a search engine like Google and you end up reading other people’s postings on a discussion forum. Usually, those questions and answers prove to be very helpful.
The same mechanism can hold true for a discussion forum on sanitation issues. This is why the secretariat of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) set up a new discussion forum and launched it in July 2011: www.forum.susana.org.
The forum is open as opposed to some existing closed forums which require a login even just for reading or are only e-mail based.
“An open forum is a clever and modern way to engage people in knowledge exchange and at the same time make the information easily accessible through search engines such as Google or Yahoo. This way not only the usual “sanitation crowd” but also outsiders can read and most importantly give their valuable input.” explains Dr. Elisabeth von Muench from the Sustainable Sanitation Program at GIZ, where the SuSanA secretariat is located. This secretariat work is carried out by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Screenshoot of on discussion post on peepoo bags in Kenya

The Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) is an informal network of organisations and individuals who share a common vision on sustainable sanitation. SuSanA came into existence in early 2007 and works as a coordination platform, working platform, sounding board, contributor to the policy dialogue on sustainable sanitation and as a “catalyst”. The current number of partner organisations in the SuSanA network is 172 ranging from local NGOs, international NGOs, governmental or state-owned organisations, multilaterals, private sector, networks and associations to education and research institutions. A detailed partner mapping is available here: http://www.susana.org/lang-en/partners/susana-partner-mapping.

Here are four examples of very active discussion threads dealing with Kenya that might be interesting for the readers of this blog:

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