Connecting Market-Based Sanitation Stakeholders In The Age Of COVID: Telegram app builds community for sharing in Ethiopia

Sharing "sketch models" during community consultations in Ethiopia. Photo credit: Kathrin Tegenfeldt

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. COVID-19 has scrambled the way we work and connect. As we’ve all experienced, the pandemic forced in-person meetings to go virtual, including our gatherings of people with a particular interest in WASH market development. But more than simply replacing meetings, the use of one online tool has enhanced on-going communication and sharing in ways that we hadn’t planned.

The Telegram mobile messaging app is a relatively new communication tool, and it’s been expanding rapidly in Ethiopia as one of the most popular online platforms. So, as pandemic-related restrictions took hold, it made sense for the USAID Transform WASH team to turn to Telegram to help us fulfill one of our primary responsibilities: connect multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) at all levels to learning and networking opportunities on market-based sanitation. We started simple, disseminating MSP meeting action points to help members translate their common agendas into action and hold each other accountable.

MSPs are learning alliances led by Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health (MoH) at national and sub-national levels to coordinate market-based sanitation activities, share lessons learned, and exchange ideas with the ultimate aim of identifying and scaling up best practices. Since June 2017, USAID Transform WASH has been supporting the Ministry of Health by taking on the secretariat role for the multi-stakeholder platforms.

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By Monte Achenbach, Chief of Party, USAID Transform WASH, with the contribution of Melaku Worku