Learning through collaboration in Uganda and Togo

Date: 9th December 2015

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The Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) recently hosted two Advocacy, Communications and Learning workshops in Togo and Uganda, respectively, which convened the Council’s partners from eleven countries in Africa. The two workshops were designed to build capacity and facilitate learning between country teams and with WSSCC’s Geneva-based Secretariat, in order for all country teams to enhance their Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) advocacy and communications strategies.

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The first workshop took place from 19-23 October at the Hôtel Novela Star, Lomé, Togo.  Participants came from Benin, Niger, Madagascar and Togo, and included WSSCC National Coordinators (NCs), representatives from Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) programmes, and government representatives. The second workshop convened at the Speke Resort in Kampala, Uganda from 9-13 November, and included participants of a similar composition from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The workshop was designed to help the attendees learn more about WSSCC’s current priorities and long-term prospectus, and to address how national and global initiatives reinforce this vision. Other objectives included enhancing participants’ skills, tools and techniques to undertake strategic advocacy and media work in line with their Strategic Engagement Plans (SEPs); sharing ideas and clear guidance around how to streamline the national GSF programmes for high level advocacy; and introducing a process for developing the next WSSCC strategic plan and involving the NCs in the process.

The workshops reflected the commitment of the WSSCC Secretariat to support the NCs in the implementation of the SEPs, and recognize that face-to-face time is a valuable investment to enhance country engagement, coordination and membership, as well as National and Regional Advocacy and Communications Support.

Given that the NCs have different strengths and capacities, and operate in different national contexts, the workshops were designed to reflect the fact that a one-size fits all-approach is not sufficient for adequately supporting each country programme. Hence, the workshops offered a set of thematic modules, which were tailored according to different needs and contexts, including how to use the GSF as a catalytic fund for advocacy; and how to build on the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation to advocate for change.

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In both countries, participants left the workshop feeling that, far from being a standard training workshop on advocacy, the event provided an open space for rich discussion, where different participants shared their experiences.  In addition, it allowed for reflection around how to refine advocacy strategies and link them to both national and global advocacy issues.

Many participants already engage in advocacy activities, such as press conferences, meetings with ministers, exposure visits, research etc., however they often aren’t part of an overall advocacy plan. Therefore, this workshop helped them to think more strategically about how to develop a comprehensive advocacy strategy with SMART objectives. The workshops continuously emphasized the key components of effective engagement, and stressed that evidence is crucial for successful advocacy engagement. A critical gap between the work of the NCs and GSF country programmes was identified and addressed. Many of the discussions centred on how NCs can build on the work of the GSF, and how NCs can rope the sector into the strategies that the GSF wants to achieve.

All participants also appreciated that the workshop provided a framework for sharing experiences between practitioners. The workshop emphasized a participatory approach for all sessions, including practical role playing exercises and games. All modules relied on practical examples from the participants themselves, based on experiences in each of the respective countries.

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Over the 5 days, participants were given time to review their plans, reflect on the different elements of developing a strategic plan and come up with country-wide draft advocacy plans which complement their individual SEPs and draw upon advocacy strategies employed by the GSF.  Participants left energised and motivated, saying that they feel part of the WSSCC WASH movement and committed to working much more closely together to advance the water and sanitation sectors.

In Togo, a highlight was when Fataou Salami, the programme manager for GSF’s Togo programme, facilitated an institutional triggering for the group. By the time he had concluded the session, everyone was fully on board as a member of WSSCC global WASH movement.

In Uganda, a leading moment in the workshop included a guest appearance from the Hon. Jaqueline Amongin Member of Parliament (MP) and chair of Uganda Parliamentary WASH Forum, who urged political engagement at all levels, including new members of parliament, ministers and the presidency. According to Amongin, Members of Parliament already play a vital role in improving lives of people at the grassroots level, because they are the ones who have to follow up and ensure that all protocols are implemented at the global and national levels.

At both workshops, a dedicated group of WASH journalists attended a media training session in order to deliver real-world media advice and strategies for the participants. Leading the group in Uganda was Catherine Mwesigwa, deputy editor of New Vision, a leading newspaper in Uganda; whereas Alain Toussounon from Benin led the session in Togo. The journalists helped the workshop attendees identify winning approaches for working with the media; discussed how best to frame their issues for journalists; and provided practical tips and tools for developing a practical and real-world strategy.

As a follow up to these workshops, members of the WSSCC Secretariat will work to identify the key strengths and challenges in each of the country programmes, and will follow up by facilitating additional learning activities that are less about passive learning and more about hands-on and tangible engagement.

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