TOOL 24. SET-UP AND FACILITATION OF A LEARNING ALLIANCE
To raise awareness on MUS. To stimulate and facilitate joint learning on MUS. To contribute to the development of an enabling environment for MUS.
A Learning Alliance is defined as ‘a series of interconnected multi-stakeholder platforms at different institutional levels (national, district, community, etc.), aiming to speed up the process of identification, development and scaling up of innovations’ (Moriarty et al., 2005; Smits et al., 2007). Applying a Learning Alliance approach can thus serve as an instrument to conduct action research, learn together from experiences and scale up MUS, as done in action research project ‘Models for implementing multiple-use water supply systems for enhanced land and water productivity, rural livelihoods and gender equity’ (2004 – 2009) (Van Koppen, et al., 2009).
- To raise awareness on MUS.
- To stimulate and facilitate joint learning on MUS.
- To contribute to the development of an enabling environment for MUS.
A number of steps can be identified in starting up learning processes, including the initiation of the learning process, a stakeholder analysis, problem or opportunity identification, stakeholder mobilisation and a number of planning activities. Although these are presented as discrete steps, in reality they are not always clear cut, and there may be several iterations; activities such as stakeholder analysis often continue throughout a learning process.
Step 1: Initiation
Learning processes may be initiated in different ways and by different entities. A key question is who is the initiator, the person or organisation that triggers the establishment of a learning and change process? Eventually, it is hoped that Learning Alliance members drive their own learning processes, but in many cases the process is initiated by one, or just a few, person/people or organisation(s). Often the initiators are ‘projects’ or knowledge institutes, mandated to trigger change.
Step 2: Stakeholder analysis
To start a learning process around MUS, it is important that the relevant stakeholders are identified.
The stakeholder analysis aims to identify stakeholders who are crucial to MUS or its scaling up or, (just as important) those who are currently limiting it and should therefore be mobilised as part of the learning alliance. This exercise needs to be done at the relevant levels in each particular case.
Step 3: Stakeholder mobilisation
Eventually, stakeholders will be mobilised to form platforms at different levels. These may start with a core group of initiating organisations, which gradually grows, or a platform can be built upon existing networks. There is no problem with stakeholders joining in later or dropping out earlier, so long as roles and expectations are clear.
Step 4: Defining shared objectives, vision, mission, core values and responsibilities
Defining the objectives, vision, mission and core values of the alliance often overlaps with the mobilisation of stakeholders. Multiple stakeholders have different, often divergent interests, yet share a common interest or stake in MUS. To stimulate their focus and action, a clear objective, or even a vision and mission of the alliance are needed. In addition, it may be useful to define some shared core values on how the joint learning process should take place. Multiple stakeholders bring with them their own ways of working. In many cases, there may be a lack of mutual confidence, or even conflicts, between participating stakeholders. Unresolved, these can block effective ways of learning together. Defining core values may help to overcome some of these barriers. Each alliance needs to define its own values, but relevant ones may include: transparency, mutual trust, inclusiveness and equity.
Facilitators play a key role in establishing and promoting such core values, as well as monitoring that these are adhered to. Ultimately, however, it is the members who define these values and make the decision to stick to them. Finally, clear agreements need to be made on activities, responsibilities, resources and the contributions of partners to the process etc., to set the rules of the game.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Methodological elements which are common to most learning alliances:
- Action research – as the main mechanism through which innovations for implementing or improving MUS takes place and through which capacity is built for scaling up.
- Process monitoring and documentation – to help to identify which factors enable or hinder scaling up, and when potentially corrective action is needed.
- Dissemination and sharing – both within and outside the Learning Alliance.
- Good process facilitation is essential. It can best be understood by looking at the functions and activities required, including:
- Methodological guidance – weaving different generic activities together in a flexible and context-specific manner to arrive at a robust methodology.
- Mediating communication, coordination and decision making between all the stakeholders, so that everyone’s participation is ensured, marginalised groups are empowered and conflicts are managed.
Smits, S., García, M., Moriarty, P., Laban, P., 2007. Building learning alliances – some initial findings. In: Smits, S., Moriarty, P., and Sijbesma, C., eds. 2007. Learning alliances: Scaling up innovations in water, sanitation and hygiene. Technical paper series; no. 47. Delft: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. Available at: https://www.ircwash.org/resources/learning-alliances-scaling-innovations-water-sanitation-and-hygiene
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING
Moriarty, P. et al., 2007. The EMPOWERS Approach to Water Governance: Guidelines, Methods and Tools. Amman: INWRDAM.
Smits, S., Moriarty, P., and Sijbesma, C., eds. 2007. Learning alliances: Scaling up innovations in water, sanitation and hygiene. Technical paper series; no. 47. Delft: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. Available at: https://www.ircwash.org/resources/learning-alliances-scaling-innovations-water-sanitation-and-hygiene.
Koppen, B. van., et al., 2009. Climbing the Water Ladder : Multiple-use water services for poverty reduction. TP series; no. 52. The Hague: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and International Water Management Institute.
Butterworth, J., McIntyre, P. and da Silva Wells, C., 2011. SWITCH in the city: putting urban water management to the test. The Hague: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.