Makerere Workshop, Connecting with Service Providers

This post, written in collaboration with Kim Nooij of Fruits of Thought, dives deeper into one corner of the Makere Workshop, which brought “service providers” directly into the mix.

The idea was for teams to rapidly get a sense of the challenges of real life urban problems, brainstorm ways that maps and reporting tools could improve processes, and design a map and process with a close look at real implementation.

Reinier Battenberg facilitated the session, setting the goals, and giving each guest a chance to present their work and challenges

  • Umeme Ltd is the biggest energy supplier in Uganda with national coverage (excepting Northwest of Uganda), directly providing power to consumers, downstream of energy producers. This means they take the full force of public frustration when there’s a problem anywhere in the system. They deal with issues like power theft and old decaying power poles, billing complexities, and challenging customer service.
  • Makindye Division is one of the 5 divisions in Kampala with approximately 600,000 residents. One main issue is sanitation: cleaning trenches, collecting garbage and emptying public toilets in the informal settlements. Lack of adequate sanitation has led to malaria outbreaks, and citizens have no option but to dump trash clandestinely at night. Structures are constructed at night, encroaching on land set aside for dumping.
  • National Water & Sewerage Corporation, providing services nationwide in Uganda, are held responsible clean water, but without clear development plans from Kampala and other cities, it’s unclear where infrastructure investments should be made. They want to connect the 37 informal settlements in Kampala, but don’t know where they are, how many people live there, or what services they already consume. Coordination with other service providers is lacking, yet they’re all interconnected.
  • Women in Uganda Network (Wougnet) suports women’s groups, with one focus on the accessibility of health facilities and medical services. It’s often not known what services are in which place, or whether drugs or doctors are available. There’s much to improve in connected the right services to patients.
  • Finally, Kepha Ngito. Executive Director of Map Kibera Trust brought out some of the challenges directly facing residents of informal settlements, who have difficulty coordinating and prioritizing needs for the community, and effectively engaging with service providers and authorities.

We broke out into “speed geek” mode, with each service provider rapidly engaging with a 1/5 of the group for 5 minutes, brainstorming possible ways that the tools could address their issues. The first switch raised groans of frustrating at the premature end of good conversations, but the group soon got charged up and rapidly dived into each new setting. The frustration is part of the effectiveness of the technique, brains and mouths start working faster and everyone is eager to share more and dive into more details. Coffee break was really high energy, leading to a second phase of more in depth discussion with only one group. The teams sat together for 45 minutes, to choose a “map” and “process” to design and present back to the group. We gave them four questions to consider:

  • How does the process work?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • Who contributes to the map?
  • Who uses the map during the process?

For us facilitators, it was fascinating to bounce from one group to the next, sampling the different directions and tenor of discussions. In part due to the personalities of the service provider and students, in part due to the nature of the issue, the discussions ranged from somewhat top-down, to participation among everyone, to even a bit contentious. And that was totally all right, since in practice you’d see this breadth of group dynamics anywhere.

It came time for all the groups to report back.

The Umeme team drafted this detailed workflow of how their customers receive feedback of power issues. Using map data, customers and problems can be located, and along with time estimates can be shared with customers, both on request when customers call in, or pushed out to areas where problems are happening.

Makindye Division looked at better communication on issues within the community, and more community involvement through partnerships with local organizations and mapping.

National Water & Sewerage covered the challenge of coordination, and how maps and data sharing could lead to more cooperation between service providers.

The Wougnet team focused on access to health facilities, and the difficulty of receiving treatment when the only choice is long travel to several health centres to find where the right services are provided. The processes designed looked at increasing public awareness about the supply of drugs and services provided in each center through systems to document stock and locations.

Finally, the Kibera team talked about mapping and reporting tools deployed into the community … sounds familiar.

It was a really engaging morning, and while we didn’t crack the ultimate solution to any of these challenges, I think everyone came away with a better understanding of the challenges these service providers face, and some of the potential ways to address these issues with not only technology like maps and reporting, but consideration for how such tools fit into the entire system.

Sincere thanks to everyone.

From here, we’re hoping that the pieces come together soon for this practical learning to continue at Makerere. More to come.

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