The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) committed more than USD 265 million to the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector during the period 2006 to 2011. Since 2010, 83 research organisations worldwide have received grants under the sanitation science and technology grant schemes “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” (RTTC) and “Global Challenges Explorations” (GCE), as well as other grant schemes.
In late 2012, the Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene Team of the Foundation began a formalized partnership with Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) to showcase these significant investments in sanitation science and technology. The Foundation believes that this exchange sparks more ideas, and that collaboration helps everyone achieve their goals more efficiently. This partnership and the sharing on the discussion forum is in line with the “Global Access Policy” that the Foundation embraces and which is described in all grant agreements and contracts that the Foundation makes.
This formalized partnership, in the form of a grant made to SEI, is led by Dr. Arno Rosemarin and includes Dr. Elisabeth von Muench (Ostella), Dorothee Spuhler (Seecon), Nelson Ekane (SEI) and Kim Andersson (SEI). Together the team provides community moderation services for the SuSanA Forum (www.forum.susana.org) and helps to link each of the 83 research projects to the wider international sanitation community. It works in close cooperation with the SuSanA secretariat at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Eschborn, Germany.
The SuSanA online community is an established professional forum and community of practice that has been working with and discussing innovative, sustainable sanitation and hygiene solutions since 2007. SEI’s 11-year EcoSanRes Programme on innovative sanitation approaches developed a forerunner to this discussion forum which ran from 2002 to 2013.
In close collaboration with the SuSanA secretariat the teams’ efforts have contributed to the rapid membership growth over the past six months on the Forum with membership passing the 2500 mark (see Figure 1), of which at least 160 are current Gates Foundation grantees (6% of all members).
The project team of community moderators has until April 2014 to engage with all the grantees to introduce and discuss their research results with the wider sanitation community. After 6 months (July 2013) the project has passed a milestone by engaging with over 50 per cent of the grantees and their colleagues who have presented their projects and results on the SuSanA discussion forum and engaged in discussions with the community.
The main outcome from the project is to ensure that the Foundation’s grantees become firmly embedded in the wider sustainable sanitation community and actively share and engage with everyone in order to ultimately increase the level of awareness, knowledge dissemination and sharing of research results (fundamental and applied) on advances in sanitation science and technology.
The direct beneficiaries are all those working in innovative sanitation science and technology in low-resource settings who are able to access and participate in the forum to exchange ideas, brainstorm, learn from each other and progress.
The ultimate beneficiaries of the project are those people who are currently suffering from lack of sanitation and associated health and dignity implications (particularly those needing empowerment such as elderly, children, women and people with disabilities).