Technology Stewardship, is it for the Sahana Habitat?

Last week, I was part of a Research Team that pilot tested a training course designed to build Technology Stewardship capacity in support of knowledge mobilization. The concept originates from Wenger, White, and Smith’s work on Communities of Practice, published in the Digital Habitat. From a Digital Habitat perspective the research team would be classified as:

  1. Deep Divers interested in deeply exploring the connections between technology and community through the application of learning theories to practical situations such as the use of technology by communities of practice
  2. Attentive Practitioners interested in developing the practice while learning with fellow practitioners associated with the Sri Lankan institutions: Department of Export Agriculture, Wayamba University, University of Peradeniya, LIRNEasia and Canadian institutions: University of Alberta, and Guelph University; and us – Sahana.

use-case-diagramFrom a Sahana Research and Action perspective, we are keen in searching for better ways to grow and sustain the Sahana communities, especially grow the pool of Sahana adopters and induce continuity of those adoptions. Our investigatory work is learning about technology stewarding and demonstrating its value. We expect a communities of practice and technology stewardship approach to foster Sahana Just Do It-ers. These are action-oriented people making things happen.

Just Do It-ers are mostly interested in practical information that will allow them to facilitate the needs of their communities. They are tasked with supporting their community’s technology and immediately get right down to figuring out how to do the job. I would like to think of the Sahana community of practitioners and researchers as Just do it-ers.

creatingspiderdiagramWenger et al, have identified four key components for driving a community of practice. Here we relate them to how we interpret from a Sahana Community of Practice approach:

  1. Technology – is the Sahana Eden disaster information management platform for rapid implementation of a required solution to cope with disaster and climate change
  2. Community – is a group with an interest in and commitment to developing, operationalizing, maintaining, and using a Shana deployment; they would comprise a combinations of Government, NGOs, Private Sector, Academia, and Civil Society
  3. Stewards – (technical leaders) are individuals who engage and lead the community members to identify opportunities and challenges and then specify the the appropriate Sahana modules and configuration to support the innovative disaster information management systems
  4. Sponsors – nurture and encourage the community (involving users, technology stewards, practitioners, researchers) growth and commitment of resources; link the CoP to specific programs and projects, and pave the way for community success. A community Sponsor believes in the value of knowledge sharing, and promotes participation.
Sean McDonald (FrontlineSMS)

As Sean McDonald from FrontlineSMS mentions – “when you choose a technology, you are choosing who to listen to.That affects what works.” Sahana adoption is successful when there is a Technology Steward involved with the implementation and supported with the upkeep. IFRC’s Eero Sario would be a Technology Steward , in my opinion, and he has possibly made the largest impact driving the adoption of the Sahana Resource Management System in Asia-Pacific and Africa.

Sahana adoptions that have failed is because there is a siloed effect between the Community, Technology Stewards and the Sponsor. Assuming Organizations A, B, and C have a minimal working relationship. Organization A gives money to B to implement for C. Such an implementation would not survive beyond the project period. In the case of Eero he belonged to IFRC and then IFRC had a vested interest in growing their community (members, volunteers, partners) to become part of the IFRC digital habitat; often it is not the case.

The intent is to develop a program that would foster Sahana Communities of Practice in each country. We are starting this concept with the Philippines.


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