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Peer Review Global Program Water Initiatives

Logo http://sdc.pageflow.io/peer-review-global-program-water-initiatives

Introduction

A reportage about the peer review process of the Global Programme Water Initiatives that took place on
September 22 - 23, 2015 in Bern

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The Global Programme Water Initiatives (GPWI) of SDC introduced in 2011 the peer review-meetings, that brought together all the partners of the clusters “Water Diplomacy” and “Water Economics”. In a second step in 2015, peer review-meetings were also introduced for the partners in the clusters WASH and Water for Agriculture.
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The peer review-meetings for the clusters “Water Diplomacy” and “Water Economics” were conducted twice a year. All the partners were invited to present their project, their progress and their challenges. When the peer review started, three partners presented and discussed their projects. With each meeting, the group of participants increased – today there are more than 20 partners in these two clusters. The meetings last two full days. The costs for participation are taken on by the programmes that are supported by SDC.
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The peer review-meetings are organized in a way that all the partners can present the progress of their project and all the participants can give the feedback to this presentation. Three well-known experts in the concerned clusters have the mandate to dig deeper in the activities of the partners and to scrutinize the projects still more deeply. At the meeting they share their insights and feedbacks with all the other participants.
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"After several years, the potential for synergies has grown exponentially. It is absolutely marvellous!"

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In an interview Johan Gély, Head of the Global Programme Water Initiative, describes his experiences with the peer review process and tells how the relation among the partners have developed. Furthermore, he reflects upon the role of the SDC within the review process and depicts why he recommends the peer review:
 "You are confronted with ideas, inputs, experiences that come from all over the world. [...] thanks to this collective intelligence the quality of the programmes is enhanced and also our knowledge of how to address our overall goal, to contribute to a water secure world.
 
Read the full interview here
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Voices from the Peer Review

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Potential

The GPWI supported from the beginning the creation and harvesting of synergies. One measure to do this was the synergy grant. Partners of the GPWI could join forces and apply to this grant with a common project idea. Up to now three grants have been given, which created new partnerships between partner organisations and allowed them to explore either new geographical areas or new thematic areas. These small grants triggered quite important new developments in the partner organisations. The peer review-meetings engage the participants in a community of practice that aligns to and influences at the same time the strategy of the GPWI. This engenders a sense of family belonging, of identity and community. Through the continual exchange the participants got to know each other well and operate in an atmosphere of trust and confidence. This allows a true exchange about critical points, and the discussion of successes as well as failures.
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Statements from Participants

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"For me the greatest value of participating in the peer review-meetings is the opportunity to discuss the ongoing development and the strategic aspects of the Earth Security Index and the role of the private sector in water governance."
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"The peer review-meetings give me the possibility for a reality check, for example in this meeting I was reminded of how shaky the data base of river basins is; they also create concrete opportunities to further deepen cooperation; and they give me a vision for the future of the Global Water Convention, as I can discuss with partners how it can best support their efforts to promote transboundary water cooperation."
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"I appreciate participating in the peer review-meetings, because they give me the opportunity to meet other partners of the GPWI, to exchange experiences on the ground and to explore synergies. In this meeting for instance, I met the representative of GWP and we are planning to use GWP as a networking platform for showcasing and disseminating our approach and technologies."
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" The peer review-meeting gave me the chance to interact with other GPWI projects. In the frame of the synergy proposal-call, collaboration was established with Forest Trends. This cooperation is still continuing up to date."
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"The meeting was fit to unfold the complexity of water governance by taking into account a multi-disciplinary approach that brought many different specialists to the same table. Before the meeting I was afraid that GPWI partners do not care enough about corruption in the water sector.  Luckily, I was assured of the contrary."
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"It was my first peer-review meeting, but I saw already that it is very useful for sharing information and exchanging experience. I find it also a good opportunity to advocate the legal aspects of water, which are at the center of my work."
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"The peer review-meeting is a key opportunity for me to increase my knowledge on the GPWIs portfolio and to contribute with this peer exchange-process in sharing the results, advances and lessons learned related to our projects in Latin America. In addition, I met the Women for Water Partnership, whose work we will disseminate in our region. We will also review their tools in order to promote the participation of women in our projects."
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"The peer review helps to look at things in a broader angle and thus to think outside the box. It is also an important moment to verify if we keep in line with the SDC´s goals. Additionally, it is great to finally meet the people behind the names you only know from e-mail exchanges." 
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Challenges

With the growing number of partners, the GPWI is challenged to find formats that allow the deep exchange between the projects and the critical feedback to the different partners. While in the beginning it was quite easy to deeply engage in the discussion of project-activities, it is now quite a challenge to design and facilitate a meeting with more than 40 participants in a way that partners can get critical feedback to their activities and at the same time have the chance to get to know the activities of the other partners and can explore the potentials for cooperation and synergies.
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Methodology and Tools

In order to meet the challenges mentioned above the organizers have tried different methodological approaches. An appropriate mix of presentations, panel discussion and small group work had to be found so that exchange and feedback could take place.
Following three points of the event design that we have found remarkable and innovative. Thereby we would recommend them for other meetings as well:
1. World Café instead of one-way presentations
2. Graphic Facilitation instead of a written report
3. Plan enough and long breaks for informal exchange

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The first morning started with presentations. The talks were very engaging and delivered valuable insights but the exchange was limited.
Later, the tables arranged as a U were split up and regrouped. Two tables at a time were put together and allowed discussions in small groups. The arrangement was kept for the rest of the meeting and was highly appreciated by the participants. It was easier to share thoughts and feedbacks in small groups and to communicate the findings in the plenary afterwards. In order to intensify the exchange of experiences and learning the methodology of World Café was used.

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The participants were clustered in small groups and discussed questions evolving around one topic relevant for their work. After a certain amount of time all participants changed the table. Only the table host remained and gave a summary of the previous conversation to his new table guests. In the end, all gathered ideas were presented in a plenary session.
The World Café brought a new quality into the peer review because it broke down the large group into small effective units and allowed collective thinking and reflection in short time.
To know more about how to use the World Café see:
SDC Learning and Networking Toolkit

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The event was accompanied by graphic facilitation.
The graphic facilitation-expert captured what the participants said in public and transcribed the information visually. For every session a large, wall-size document was created.

Graphic recording captures the conversation and energy of the group, and therefore provides a record of ideas and agreements that may otherwise be difficult to follow.
To know more about graphic facilitation see:
SDC Learning and Networking Toolkit
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The breaks are very important moments at such kind of meetings. It allows exchanging beyond the given topics and structures and often it is during these moments where new ideas emerge or possible synergies are discovered. At this peer review enough time was planned for the breaks in the morning, afternoon and at lunch time. It was highly appreciated by the participants that they were given the space for further and informal exchange.
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More information

Learn more about peer reviews and other learning
experiences on the website of the Learning and Networking team

Read more about the Global Program Water Initiatives on the website RésEAU/Shareweb Water  or on the website of the Federal Administration
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