Information and Communication Technology for Monitoring: exciting discussions in Lilongwe

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From the 6th to the 10th August 2012, IDS is convening an international workshop on CLTS Monitoring, Verification, Learning and Information Management in Lilongwe, Malawi. The aim of this specialised workshop is to bring together government and other actors to share learning.
Participants of the workshop are blogging about their learning, insights and reflections on the meeting this week.

On the first day of the event I found the nearly 60-strong practitioners from 17 countries already expressing significantly common concerns and expectations of what they wished to take back from this workshop.

Enthusiasm and excitement about the use of Information and Communication technology for monitoring was palpable. Presenters of the topic received many questions and interactions would have gone much longer if time permitted. I heard animated discussions later in a small group about how to get such innovations institutionalized and “handed over” to governments , presumably after external aid agencies develop and pilot them in a district or two. It would perhaps be easier to get change institutionalized and scaled up by developing and piloting it together with the ultimately-intended users, and trialling it within existing institutional mechanisms. That might also preclude experimentation with technologies that will not be financially feasible or sustainable at any significant scale in specific country situations in the present times or near future.

Another hot topic was ‘how do you monitor for sustainability of Open Defecation Free communities (ODF), both before and after they are declared ODF’? This discussion is ongoing and hopefully the next few days will bring some closure amongst the group. Sustainability of ODF status and ODF behaviors is a function of so much more than just monitoring. My hope is that we will be able to unbundle some of that and grow shared understanding of contextual factors and forces that make sanitation behavior change permanent. Continued monitoring beyond ODF is and will remain a major facilitating factor, but it cannot be a causal one leading directly and easily to sustainability.

I feel a bit concerned that CLTS practitioners are so focused on the CLTS process and its collective transformative power, that they underestimate underlying motivations that drive behavior change in individuals. Ensuring sustainability surely is a matter of finding the best possible combination of the collective and individual drivers of change.

The loosely structured processes of the workshop seem to be working well in eliciting participations and creating a safe space for sharing both successes and failures. I deeply appreciate the ban on powerpoint presentations. But presenters need to be given a bit more structure in terms of time limits for their initial presentations, so that questions and interaction time can be maximized. Facilitators should also request that presenters limit themselves to the monitoring aspect instead of describing their entire rural sanitation programs.

Looking forward to tomorrow

Nilanjana Mukherjee

Date: 8 August 2012