Alamgir Chowdhury, Coordinator-Training, Energy & Urban Services Programme, Practical Action Bangladesh
Nearly 70,000 students (Girls: 38,593 and Boys: 31,167) in 6 sub-districts of Dhaka and Sylhet are enjoying good health and regularly attending classes. The CATS (Community Approaches to Total Sanitation) project of UNICEF and Practical Action has helped to establish improved hygiene practices in those areas. Teachers and students are working together to bring changes to peoples’ ways of thinking. People are now enjoying an open defecation free life leading to a healthier living environment and better public health.
UNICEF and Practical Action, Bangladesh have been working on the jointly designed CATS project since October 2014 in 500 communities and 200 schools in 34 unions of 6 sub districts of Dhaka and Sylhet. The aim of the project is to sustainably improve sanitation and promote hygiene behaviour change in these communities.
Though most schools in those areas have access to water and sanitation facilities, over half these water sources were not working and many of the latrines were in poor sanitary condition and unusable. The project has rehabilitated or installed general hand washing facilities in the schools. It also rehabilitated or reconstructed existing sanitation, toilet and water facilities in the schools.
In total the project established
- 100 sanitation/toilet facilities
- 200 hand washing corners
- 70 menstrual hygiene corners
Teachers and students have been involved in different learning programmes, workshops, and idea exchanges. This participatory approach led to the School Led Total Sanitation approach, which has increased demand for appropriate and well maintained, sustainable facilities and the scaling-up of the mass hand washing activities among the users.
This also incorporated another approach, Fit for School, which focuses on sanitation facilities according to the individual needs of each school. Key messages of good practice have been spread through School Brigades and Councils, which are very effective in promoting school level sanitation programmes. School brigades are responsible for hygiene monitoring in schools and also participate in district and national level sanitation and hygiene competitions in the form of debates, drawings, poems and songs.
Teachers have facilitated one hygiene session each week for students along with their regular curriculum. Students have also participated in a popular hygiene role-play called Robi-Rani. Teachers also encourage students to participate and observe Sanitation Month, World Water Day, World Environment Day and Menstrual Day which focus on the importance of improved hygiene practice.
These initiatives have improved hand washing and toilet use practice among students. Other personal hygiene practices like nail cutting, hair combing, and tooth brushing and menstrual hygiene management for adolescent girls have been developed among the students. The school management committee members and teachers have developed a mechanism with student’s brigades for the operation and maintenance of wash facilities for proper monitoring and sustainability. The result is remarkable. Student absence rates have dropped significantly as students rarely suffer from water borne diseases like, dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera and various skin infections. Regular attendance has improved students overall performance.
The project has initiated different types of training sessions and events for school awareness. Examples include training of trainers on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practice and the operation and maintenance of sanitation facilities for teachers, students and school council members. The project team have also organised student council meetings and facilitated an action plan on WASH with students, and assisted the schools with relevant materials.
The student council use a weekly assembly to increase knowledge and practice of hand washing before and after meals, monitoring the progress of using latrine hygienically and hand washing after toilet use. The student brigades now regularly monitor hand washing practice in schools, look after the hygiene of the toilets. The student brigades, teachers and SMC members have also facilitated hand washing activities in the schools on different occasions for sustaining hand washing practice among the students.
There have been several programmes on “the effect of ODF and Hand Washing”. Six debate competitions were organised and several art competitions to inspire the students on the long-term effects of total school led sanitation. Representatives from district administration, the primary education department and the school authorities attended these programmes to encourage students. These activities have encouraged other schools in the adjacent areas to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among the school students and communities.
The CATS project has changed the lives of thousands of students of these two hundred schools in Bangladesh. The project has proved that improved hygiene practice is directly related to increased school attendance and better performance by the students. Although most of the students of these schools belong to poorer families in the communities, the school led total sanitation approach has not only changed the students’ hygiene behaviour but is also reflected in the overall improved hygiene practices of these communities.2 Comments » | Add your comment
We’re drawing our 50th anniversary year to a close at the end of August, by celebrating 50 successful technologies, which have had a huge impact on communities across the world.
We asked our supporters to vote for their favourites and these are the three they chose.
There was quite a wide range of response. Rating technologies isn’t easy! And we’d love to hear your views as well in the comments below.
How do you choose between such a variety of different technologies? Our energy access work demonstrates how vital energy is for raising communities out of poverty, but a lack of clean water and sanitation is life threatening.
Rural communities we work with might vote for one of our agriculture and food technologies. Being able to grow enough to feed your family is a key concern for millions of farmers in the developing world.
This focus on choice goes to the heart of Practical Action’s philosophy. We work with communities to help them find the solutions to those problems they prioritise themselves. And we make sure that those solutions are sustainable for those communities as well as for the planet we share.
Our solutions rarely address single issues. The problems caused by poverty are complex and demand a range of responses, not all of which involve technology. Consequently our scope is immensely varied and covers many different areas of work.
And over the last fifty years we’ve tried out many things in many places and worked with many different people. And this has brought a huge range of learning, which we share as widely as possible in the form of free to download technical information. And because we believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so we encourage others to copy and scale up our work.
For me these two EF Schumacher quotes sum up our approach:
Knowledge is power
“The best aid to give is intellectual aid, a gift of useful knowledge. A gift of knowledge is infinitely preferable to a gift of material things
Small is still beautiful
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius to move in the opposite direction”
Our world is changing rapidly and we need to make sure that rapid technological change doesn’t leave poor people behind. Innovation should centre on solving the great challenges the world faces today ending poverty and providing a sustainable future for all.
Let’s hope that before the next 50 years have passed we’ll have achieved this and Practical Action will be working to keep the world a better place for everyone.1 Comment » | Add your comment
“Sustainable…Participatory…Resilience”…I have to admit that I hate buzzwords – they get thrown about so much that they can often lose their real meaning and ability to do any good. That is why to me the work of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is so important. The Alliance works not only to increase the resilience of communities to floods but also to determine once and for all what makes a community resilient?
Resilience is complicated; there are hundreds of papers, discussions and frameworks floating around the development space. Yet there are no empirically verified frameworks that lay out the contributing factors to resilience. If we don’t know this how can we tell if we are successfully building resilience?
To address this, the Alliance has developed the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool. Working jointly, the Alliance has identified 88 different sources that contribute to flood resilience and is currently halfway through a two year testing phase.
Here is the most exciting part, the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool has been developed into a web based tool and an App. The web tool allows the user to design a study that can be sent directly to the designated field worker’s Android App in their local language. Working offline the field worker fills in responses directly to the app just like a regular survey. The data is easily synchronised to the web tool which generates a summary and collates relevant data together for simple comparison. A simple A, B, C, D grading exercise is then carried out across all 88 sources by team members before a summary is then automatically produced.
Why is this good for the community?
The App: Saves our beneficiaries time during data collection so they can get back to doing what matters to them. Automatic uploading of data saves our teams time so they can spend more time working on things that really matter.
The Grading: Generates informed discussion and gives our teams a greater knowledge of where they work, allowing them to make more informed decisions.
The Web Tool: Simply presented results that can be looked at under a variety of lenses allowing us to make links which may have previously been missed.
The Big Data Set: Data is entered into the tool from a variety of different contexts and countries by several different organisations. Through testing pre and post-flood events researchers hope to identify global trends in community resilience and determine once and for all where to focus disaster risk reduction interventions for maximum community impact.
 Thomas Winderl, “Disaster Resilience Measurements: Stocktaking of Ongoing Efforts in Developing Systems for Measuring Resilience,” United Nations Development Programme, February 2014,1 Comment » | Add your comment
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.
At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.
Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.
But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.
1. Covered shelters:
The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:
“Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”
With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.
2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:
With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing. In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.
“We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”
3. Breeding pens:
We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:
Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.
4. Market access and product diversification:
In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price. Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.
5. Training and knowledge:
Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.
It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.1 Comment » | Add your comment
If you are busy in the office, travelling, at home or wherever you are in the world you can watch great achievements! In a remote area of Bangladesh just 5 seconds ago a female leader put an update online with GPS location and engaging photographs about a hand washing device installed this morning. This is not a dream. In the cloud we are regularly updating the progress of the field activities of the Community Approaches to Total Sanitation Project, (GoB-UNICEF-CATS ) part of the Energy and Urban Services Programme of Practical Action, Bangladesh.
The online monitoring system using a smart phone app and a dashboard has made the monitoring activities on WASH in the project areas of Bangladesh much easier. Manually operated monitoring systems were time consuming, and a burden for project staff. They used to be burdened with questionnaires, writing materials, cameras, GPS machine, internet modem and computer or laptop. Data entry from hard copy to computer and sometimes hard disk was painful. With online monitoring the monitors just carry an Android mobile and everything else is in the cloud (on a satellite or server).
More than 210 representatives of different stakeholder groups were trained on mobile based online monitoring by Practical Action. These included government departments concerned with public health engineering, and education, sub-district administration, local elected representatives, male and female community representatives and partner NGO staff. They learned how to operate the mobile apps for the online monitoring process in project areas as well as the reporting system. Following the training they formed a Joint Monitoring Team at Union and sub-district level and immediately started monitoring in the 500 communities of 34 Unions in 6 sub-districts of Dhaka and Sylhet Division.
The Union teams conducted household and community level monitoring and the sub-district level teams verified the monitoring data with field visits and checked data on the online dashboard. 1500 heads of household (randomly selected from the 500 communities) responded to the household level result monitoring and more than 7,000 representatives from the communities participated in community level monitoring. All the data was collected through apps and sent from the field using Android mobile.
The data focused on four indicators:
- New latrine installations
- Un-improved to improved latrine
- Hand washing device installation
- ODF (Open Defecation Free) declaration and certification.
Those engaged in online monitoring had not previously used Android mobiles before this training. Now they are successfully performing online monitoring as a result of this high quality hands on training. The community welcomed the online system because they already depend on mobile phone based services to exchanges messages, transfer money, and pay mobile phone, gas and electric bills.
The implementation of this system was not completely challenge free. In some areas It was difficult to engage government staff because they were busy with administrative work and post-election activities. And in some remote areas the phone network was poor and it was necessary to spend additional time sending monitoring data from the field areas.
What is remarkable is that in this initiative a large number of people can now operate mobile online monitoring when most are representatives of the stakeholders, including direct project beneficiaries. This will contribute to the sustainability of the project achievements and add value to our WASH work.
The project has received support from the Government of Bangladesh, UKAID and UNICEF. Practical Action, Bangladesh have been implementing this project with field programme support of local NGOs UST, SPACE, CDS and OMUS.16 Comments » | Add your comment
Jai Bageshwori is a small village located in Surajpur-11, Gulariya consisting of 24 households. Majority of the people were relocated during the Maoist insurgency period. Mr. and Mrs. Rana are one of them who were displaced from Jajarkot. Mr. Pabitra Rana recalls, “during the insurgency period, we didn’t have any options but to join the Maoist. I had my mom, dad and my little boy who was only 3 years old then, so for their security reason also I had to join the Maoist.” Mr. Pabitra Rana and his wife Mrs. Gita Rana served the Maoist army for 4 years. He shared many gruesome stories which were beyond my imagination. Later he suffered from chronic gastritis and mental stress; therefore, decided to abscond along with his wife and took refuge in India. On 21 November 2006, a peace agreement was signed between Nepal government and the Maoist, which was six months after the Rana couple had fled Nepal. “It was really painful to drift apart from the family, there was not a single day I didn’t think of them. The day I found about the peace agreement I decided that was it, so packed my bags and came back to Nepal,” says Mr. Rana with a tear in his voice. Mr. Rana worked as a laborer in one of the companies in India and had saved some money. So, instead of going back to Jajarkot, he decided to start a new life from the money he had saved. He bought a small piece of land in Jai Bageshowri and built a one bed room house and decided to call it home.
A decade long people’s war has definitely affected Nepal in one way or the other, be it in terms of economic development or poverty alleviation, it is still struggling to overcome the effects of the war. The people’s war claimed more than 18,000 lives and displaced more than 100,000 people. Nevertheless, after the peace agreement in 2006, progress has been made, yet the challenges still persist.
It was not a fairy tale start for the Rana couple. The entire village had only one toilet, as a matter of fact it was rarely used. People used to defecate outside in open spaces or behind the bushes. The water from the boring contained arsenic which was poisonous, they did not have any purification system. Just across from the street was a jungle separated by a canal which belonged to the Indian side. They feared for their life from wild animals. Life was just terrible.
Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity on August 2014
In 2010, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) launched SWASTHA project, an awareness program on water, air, sanitation and hygiene in Surajpur Village Development Committee (VDC). The objective of the project was to contribute to sustainable improvement in health and wellbeing of vulnerable population. Right after SWASTHA project phased out, Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity. On 13 August 2014, Surajpur VDC was flooded by the swelling Babai River which wiped out the entire community. It added more misery to the miserable community of Surajpur VDC. The newly built toilets, latrines, smoke hood and filter for drinking water were all wiped out; the only thing left was utter chaos. Homesteads, crops and livestock were washed away leaving people in distress.
SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is one of the essential ingredients of human health. It has an adverse effect on food security and livelihoods of people. According to the UN report, every year millions of people, most of them children die due to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. In Nepal alone, more than 10,000 children die annually from inadequate water supply and water borne diseases. Nepal is ranked the lowest in South Asian Countries in terms of water and sanitation. With an objective to achieve sustainable Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015, focusing on coverage of sanitation facilities, enhancing the capacity of local stakeholders and introducing innovative solutions in sanitation; such as and/or disaster resilient sanitation facilities, faecal sludge management and healthy communities, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality, Bardia district by Practical Action and ENPHO the same year.
Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community” on 12 April 2016
Easier said than done. It needs relentless effort to make such a change where open defecation has been practiced for generations. Mr. Dev Dutta Bhatta, Program Manager of Practical Action says, “Awareness is the key to change. It is a gradual process, where one needs to be educated regarding water and sanitation.” Self-awareness comes from self-knowledge. An inner urge needs to be felt to embrace the change. Ones attitudes, habits, beliefs, norms and cultures may subvert the behavioral change. Therefore, educating on safe drinking water, better sanitation, personal hygiene, proper kitchen and solid waste management were the key components of SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project in achieving its goal. Several street dramas, mass rally, awareness programs were also organised to educate the community.
In a short span of time, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was successful in overturning Surajpur VDC from abysmal to a model village. On 12 April 2016, Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community.” “Before we used to drink water straight from the tap; now, we drink water only after it’s been purified, it even tastes better,” chuckles Mr. Rana. He further adds, “I hardly have upset stomach, loose motion or fever these days, wish I had known about this much sooner.” Mr. Rana is one of the first ones to have a toilet built and water filter installed in the community. After knowing about the benefits of having a proper hygiene and sanitation, he acted as a mediator in convincing the people of his community to vouch for toilet, safe drinking water, kitchen and solid waste management.
Likewise, Dipendra Nagar and Kothiya were also declared healthy community on 02 February 2016 and 20 May 2016 respectively. Three more VDCs are on the verge of being declared a Healthy Community. Gulariya Municipality is an exemplary for other municipalities to follow. After being declared Open Defecation Free on 25 May 2015, now the Gulariya Municipality is aiming towards achieving the “Healthy Community” status. The credit goes out to each and every member of the community; especially Mr. Rana, who is also a secretary of the user-community group for his persistent effort convincing every single member of the community towards building a healthy community. If we have someone like Mr. Rana in each VDCs, it won’t be long until the entire Gulariya Municipality is declared “Healthy Community”. Furthermore, it will definitely help achieve the national target on sanitation- Universal access to sanitation by 2017. While the role of the government is vital, people have equally important roles to play for better results and sustainability.
A simple technology in the form of pit latrine or bio-sand filter can change people’s lives. A village where open defecation was practiced not long ago has been declared “Open Defecation Free,” and the community now has access to safe drinking water. For me this is technology justice and I salute the innovator of such technologies. Not only should the technologies reach the privileged and elite class but also to the poor and marginalised groups. Therefore, I think it is time for you, me and us to rethink about the innovation in technology. Let the justice prevail.
Jack Owino is the Headteacher of a school in Nakuru, Kenya. He has worked there since 2012 and has worked with Practical Action and the Umande Trust to improve access to clean water, toilets and hygiene training for his 765 students.
The students come from the nearby slums and Jack explains their home life as ‘difficult’. Most have little or no access to clean water and decent sanitation at home so it is important to Jack and his staff that the children do not have to worry about going to the toilet and can drink clean, safe water when they’re at school.
Jack knows that having no access to water and sanitation at school affects attendance and he was determined to change this.
“In 2012, it was bad. We had one block of boys toilets and one block for girls. They were in a bad state. We now have two blocks each. Before, children had to run back home to go to the toilet, in the bush. They would run home and never come back.
“Bad sanitation at home meant that children were sick a lot. We now monitor their cleanliness. Water at home is contaminated but they are safe here. They are encouraged to go back to their communities and pass on their knowledge. They are agents of change.”
Water and sanitation is absolutely vital to keeping children in school and it has been amazing to see the change in the students at Jack’s school, they are happier, healthier and many are now going on to further education.8 Comments » | Add your comment
Let me start by writing about the recent disaster in Nepal in Bhote Koshi River that originates from Tibet (China). A sudden flood on 5 July 2016 damaged roads and houses along the river. The pictures from the field show that multi-storey houses were build at the foot of the fragile hills which were prone to flood at anytime.
In April 2015, Nepal was struck by earthquake of 7.6 magnitude which damaged nearly 500,000 houses. Most of the damaged houses were weak in structure or they were built in areas of fragile geology which is susceptible to earthquake. In August 2014, the western part of Nepal received heavy rainfall due to a sudden cloud burst which resulted in a heavy flood,of a magnitude that comes once in 500 – 1,000 years. The flood damaged several houses which were built in the river valleys and plains. Most of the damaged houses in the plains were at lowland sites close to the river course. These houses were also built with weak materials like mud plastered straw walls and if other materials like bricks were used, they were built with mud-mortar which is susceptible to flood water damage.
A short review of these events tells that:
- Man-made structures, both houses and others, are not built safely
- These structures are in disaster prone areas
This situation lays a double burden, pushing households or communities towards disaster.
If the structures were built strong enough to resist hazards in safe places, obviously the loss and damage to properties and lives due to disaster would be significantly reduced.
Why is this?
- People only think of the short term future. Events of previous generations fade from the memory and potential events for coming next generation have not been on the radar of planners.
- Education and awareness on hazards and the risk posed by them and the need of resistant structures are lacking or there is an ignorance
- There is lack of resources in the hands of the people to invest in building resistant houses and structures
- The government’s policy enforcement is lacking or there is lack of policies and legislations to enforce
- Reviewing recurrent disasters reveals that all these shortfalls are simultaneous. Efforts to strengthen any one of these factors in isolation are less likely to result in structures with significant disaster resistant or a resilient households or communities. An integrated approach is the only way for achieving resilience. Depending on the locality, the priorities among the factors indicated above could be different, but the interventions on all the issues should be implemented simultaneously.
What should be done?
- Building resistant structures (houses and structures) in safe locations through use of appropriate technologies
- Education and awareness on the local risk to communities and stakeholders, with consideration of hazards from several generations past to anticipated or projected potential hazards with potential magnitude for the generations to come with potential anticipated disasters
- Generating and building resources and assets at household, community and government levels to enable the communities and the individuals to invest in preventing or reducing disasters
- Promulgation of policies and legislations for an encouraging environment for building a resilient individual, household and community
We are very proud to announce that our very own Bren Hellier, Education Officer for Practical Action was recently shortlisted for Think Global’s ‘Global Educator of the year’ award. We already know she is amazing but it was great to have this recognised by such a prestigious organisation which works with teachers and young people in the UK to help them develop their understanding of global issues and the action they can take towards a more just and sustainable world.
Jo Cox, Head of Science at Redmoor Academy who nominated Bren said:
“Having worked with Bren on a couple of occasions her passion for her work is inspiring and she clearly understands what teachers and pupils want from a resource. Teachers who use her material will like me tell you they are both creative and clear, taking pupils on a journey starting with engaging their interest in a global problem then really making them feel that through their own actions now and in the future they could be part of the solution. Her resources have inspired a significant number of my students to take an interest in humanitarian engineering. She is generous, committed and full of vitality and a genuine pleasure to work with – a truly inspirational global teacher!”
To find out more about Bren’s work and who else was shortlisted please go to Global Educator of the Year 2016
To see Bren’s work for yourself please do take a look at her latest fabulous Design for a Better World challenge. Produced to celebrate Practical Action’s 50th Anniversary it includes a competition for pupils aged 11-14. We are asking pupils for their most innovative designs that could help us achieve the Global Goals and will share 50 of these on our website.
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Since, I started my professional work life on 1 April 2010, I have served 8 different organisations in just 6 years and freelanced for numbers of other organisations voluntarily and also as consultants before. I clearly remember 13 July 2015, the day I had joined Practical Action, it was just like any other organisation I had served before. However, I had started my journey with a small road accident on the way to my office, which keeps the date full of memories for me.
A new organisation with a complete new team of people, I had not thought of being very comfortable but the people here made work life so easy, my conscience forced me to pen down this article. This is my return to each and every employee of Practical Action family for making it happen.
In India, people are skeptical about those who work with NGOs. I have faced so many situations where I feel people do not welcome the fact that I work in an NGO. When it comes to marriage proposals or parents, let me be very honest, the development sector is not something most people/parents look at. Such ironies apart, I made up my mind to mention 10 reasons why I love Practical Action more than my previous employers, however I have served in media houses, corporates and NGOs earlier. As I am celebrating my one year completion in the organisation, this is my return gift to the people around.
- Small is Beautiful : A theory worth working for
The organisation believes in the famous theory of the founder EF Schumacher i.e ‘Small is Beautiful’. Even in work, I experienced this is so beneficial to start with small and then expand. Most of our projects are actually small and having the best impact but with a bigger future prospective. This organisation inherits this principle within you.
- Witnessing Technology Justice
21st Century while experiencing the all technological advancements this organisation continues to prove how Technology is being used for poor communities and challenging social disparities. A small villager in Badamanjari village of Koraput is experiencing electricity where the grid is still a dream. The smile in their face will make your day. #TechnologyJustice
- Experiencing innovations
Innovations are the key to Practical Action’s work. Though we are new in our operations in India, some innovations are unique indeed. The Small Wind and Energy System in Kalahandi providing electricity from both Solar and Wind through a hybrid system is definitely an innovation. The other country offices have so many innovations and I experience them through in-house communication. These innovations inspire me to think out of the box.
- A liberal organisation
The organisation is liberal in terms of work culture. You get lots of encouragement during work and also fun elements are added. The organisation gives scope to reflect on your mistakes and also your successes. It gives much scope for self-assessment. The regular Monday meetings keep me updated about all others work and I self-asses my week’s achievements and short comings if any.
- No hierarchy
I was surprised and glad when I had got a personalised mail from our the then CEO Simon welcoming me the day I joined. Though I work under my line manager, matrix manager and senior manager I still never felt a strict hierarchy imposing on me. All my managers are so supportive and have given me the scope to grow and work with a free hand. (PS : Not trying to impress my managers, my appraisal is already done)
- Too much to learn
This is something I love the most about the organisation. In our India Office, though a small team, we have experts from different areas. Working with my WASH team, Energy officer, Monitoring, the Admin I get to learn a lot of things. Even, I get to learn from the finance team about managing the finance in project management. If I talk about communication, my mates in Nepal, UK and other country offices are so well equipped with knowledge, I have learned a lot during the whole year. I thank them all for making my stay here with full of learning.
- Travelling is an integral part of my work
Oh yes! If you personally know me, then I am sure, you would have guessed how happy I am when I travel. And the organisation gives me scope to travel. Though these are official trips but, I get to learn from projects, people, and places. In a span of one year, I have had 11 trips to different project locations and out of which 4 are out of the state and one is out of country perhaps my first foreign trip to Bangladesh. All such work travels basically give me exposure to new work and let me document things both visually and in print.
- I get umpteen opportunities to click humans and write stories
Well, I am a born story teller, which I believe and try to create more stories. This happens when i meet people, I click them and write stories. Stories of change and stories of technology justice, this has made me a frequent blogger. I hope to create more such stories in both visuals and words for you all.
- It allows and approves my creativity
This is one organisation, which has allowed and actually approved my creative thinking. Some projects have actually taken shape with my creativity and value addition from my managers and other team mates. Even in other events, I had given free-hand to think rethink and create some magic.
- I love my team
I love my team, each of them. They get me some delicious food every day at the lunch table. I am like the finisher if something is left from the lunch boxes. The foodie in me loves them for making myself little fat. Jokes apart, being the youngest member of the team, I have been pampered, being scolded when I deserved that, being guided which happens quite often and being taught with lessons which have made me a better professional and a far better person.8 Comments » | Add your comment