Healing traditions in India have withstood the test of time. Not many of us need to be taught to mix a pinch of haldi in a glass of milk to cope with sore throat, now famously known as turmeric latte, or to add a pinch of dry ginger to our tea when we catch a cold. These practices seem to have percolated from generation to generation and have been enriched more and more with experience and sharing, and have evolved into new ways of doing things.
Reaching the unreached
The Water Quality Management course is unique in bringing attention towards the quality of water reaching every household with the Jal Jeevan Mission. In order to understand the local issue at each village, INREM Foundation understood the need to empower people with new knowledge by adding to their existing knowledge and wisdom, support and encourage them to use and share their knowledge and experiences through a common platform.
The Water Quality Management course has completed 14th Batches as on December 2022, reaching 1500 participants in 300+ districts across all states and UTs of India.
While a large number of participants gained knowledge on how to deal with water quality problems, the challenge was to reach the community in need. #WaterQualityChampions need to connect with people who need help and also with other #WaterQualitychampions and experts to share knowledge and gain from each other’s experiences to solve the problems at hand.
As Dr. Sundarrajan Krishnan, Executive Director, INREM Foundation says, “Having understood how a foundational experience of a monthly Water Quality Management Course is now being sustained for a year, we now come to the next challenge: how do we connect this community, and help it to keep learning and solving problems”
Building communities of practice
After completing the WQM course, INREM understood the need for a platform to build a community of practitioners where they can meet regularly, discuss and solve problems. The guided mentoring programme was set up for Water Quality Champions to connect with other Water Quality Champions every week to share their experiences and problems and explore solutions together. The interaction is designed in such a way as to break the communication barriers and provide a safe space to share and discuss issues openly and come back regularly to share experiences from the ground.
Structure of a guided mentoring session
Each Guided mentoring session is scheduled over zoom for 90 minutes and attracts 30 to 50 Water Quality Champions.
- Case Presentation (30 min)
A case is presented by one of the members about a specific challenge faced in the ground
- Brainstorming session (30 min)
The participants are divided into smaller groups and sent to zoom breakout rooms. Each group is led by an anchor from the INREM team to brainstorm on the possible solutions for the case presented.
- Solution (15 min)
The participants join back from the brainstorming session. An expert will summarize the discussion and advises on the possible solution to be tried.
- Conclusion (15 min)
The anchor creates a “Support group” where interested participants can join and continue to engage and solve the case that was presented. The session is concluded by capturing attestations on the Participatory Digital Attestation (PDA) platform.
What happens post-session?
After the guided mentoring session, the person who had presented the case becomes the anchor of the Support group. He/She will actively engage with the group members to arrive at possible solutions and take it back to the ground. After two months, the group revisits the same problem and discusses the progress made.
Challenges faced in guided mentoring sessions and how were they addressed
- Defining the problem: Sometimes practitioners get overwhelmed by the many factors acting together and struggle to define the problem clearly. A simple case study template is used to present the case that makes problem definition easy.
- Identifying an expert: After defining the problem, identifying the right experts who can support to solve the problem is challenging at times. Years of investing in building the water quality network has helped to reach out to the right experts.
- Lack of communication: Getting people to speak during the sessions can be a problem. Use of prompts describing the problem to trigger conversations have been helpful to get people to open up.
- Functioning of the support group: Ensuring the support groups actually work on the problems with due attention and move forward is a challenge. Motivating the case study presenter to run these support groups have helped to keep the support groups active.
Progress till now
45 Guided Mentoring sessions have been conducted in the last one year and 800 people have participated in these sessions. The participants are a mix of people from NGO/CSOs, government, students, researchers and citizens.
Examples of topics presented during the guided mentoring sessions:
- How to translate data into meaningful action
- How to transfer actionable knowledge to the community
- How to increase people’s interest in sampling river water quality?
- How to devise strategies to ensure drinking water security for people in times of contaminated water sources or epidemics?
- Challenges in water quality monitoring in the mountains and how to overcome them
- How to sensitize rural communities on safe drinking water?
All the case presentations are available online on the Water Quality Network platform here: https://waterquality.network/published-listing/caseReports
Voices from the Guided Mentoring sessions
“I came to know about various water quality issues in different geographies in India. The learnings from attending the guided mentoring sessions have been very relatable and useful in my work.” Amresh Mandal, District Coordinator, Narayanpur District, Chhattisgarh.
“Through this platform everyone gets a chance to share their on ground issues related to water quality . People learn about the WQ issues and get solutions or the right direction to address the problems. I have also presented about a water quality issue from Singrouli District and got very useful suggestions from my peers and the expert and I have been applying these learnings.” Sarla Turker, State Chemist, Madhya Pradesh, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED)
Sarla Turker presenting her case challenge (Source: INREM Foundation)
“Attending the Guided Mentoring sessions has helped me enhance my knowledge on water quality. I also got an opportunity of presenting a case challenge and got direct advice from the expert and also the discussion with the peers helped me understand other possible solutions.”Khilleshwari Sahu, District Water Quality Coordinator, Rajnandgaon District, Chattisgarh.
Khilleshwari Sahu presenting her case challenge (Source: INREM Foundation)
The guided mentoring sessions have become an active, engaging space to exchange ideas, share experiences, learn from each other and collaborate to improve water quality at scale. The future is indeed hopeful as more and more people try to find solutions to their water quality problems on their own, through exchange of ideas and knowledge enriched with practical experience collectively to take this movement forward.