What is Real Time Learning? An Example from the WSSCC-funded K-SHIP Programme in Kenya

Date: 2nd January 2018

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By Sheba Odondi,  Learning and Communication Officer, Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (K-SHIP)

  • In the K-SHIP programme, Real Time Learning plays out in a closed Facebook group, where members share challenges, best practice, inspire one another and offer peer-to-peer advice
  • The exchanges offer improvements to programme operation and even design
  • Due to their immediate nature, Real Time exchanges are leading to a greater efficiency in operations


Real Time learning, officially referred to as Real Time Emergent Learning (RTEL), is an innovative learning approach whose primary aim is to develop collective learning and adaptive capacities in organizations, programmes and networks.


 The RTEL approach has been developed to respond to the urgent necessity to increase our ability to solve implementation problems in the field as they arise as opposed to waiting to document past experiences at the end of implementation cycles.

For the K-SHIP programme, there is a collective understanding between the Executing Agency (Amref Health Africa) and the programme’s sub-grantees (SGs) to share day-to-day micro-fragments of experiences through our Real Time Emergent Learning Platform on Facebook.

The platform is a closed Facebook group made up of the SG’s, the EA staff, public health officers from K-SHIP implementing counties and partners in the WASH sector. The group promotes cross-fertilization of experiences, co-generation and cross-pollination of knowledge among the members.

The approach also involves regular and institutionalized Pause and Reflect milestones. These are activities and workshops that are conducted to reflect on how implementation on the ground is working, what can be learned from action, and how to solve problems that may arise in the course of implementation. In addition, the programme SG’s also take part in learning and exposure visits intra-county, inter-county and even outside their countries.

Learning champions from K-SHIP interacting with village members from Murang’a County during a learning visit to foster the use of the cross-cutting themes framework for writing micro-narratives


  • RTEL has allowed the programme’s implementation strategy to be more sensitive to local conditions and therefore better support the processes to leave no one behind
  • The EA is also able to monitor activities on the ground and rapidly detect events that may call for change in the design of programme on a higher degree, or change of implementation strategies, if the ones being used are seen to have gaps
  • It also brings out innovations and best/fitting practices that improve the quality of programming


 The group has provided a platform for the SGs to not only share their experiences in the field but also to share their challenges so that they can help sharpen each other in the work they are doing on the ground.

It has also provided a rapid detection system to identify problems and challenges and attend to them as and when they occur instead of waiting for the end of reporting cycles.

For example:  The Community Health Partners, a K-SHIP implementing partner in Narok County, was having challenges with delivering villages that were exclusively made up of the Maasai community. This was largely because Maasai have strong beliefs about mentioning shit and consider constructing latrines as constructing houses for faeces, which is totally against their culture. When this issue was raised in the platform, the Agriculture Project Manager suggested that the team be trained in sanitation marketing. This was organized in July 2017 and is expected to help move more villages to ODF environments.

Another example: a community member, whose latrine was sinking to geospatial challenges had no idea what to do. With advice from other sub-grantees who had faced similar challenges, the situation was remedied and the community member had a more stable latrine constructed.

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