SERVIR Community Gathers in Nepal for 2nd Annual Global Exchange

Published: Nov 15 2016

From October 24-28, 2016, SERVIR team members from around the globe met in Pokhara, Nepal, for the 2nd SERVIR Annual Global Exchange (SAGE). The event drew close to 100 participants including representatives from SERVIR hubs in Niger, Kenya, Nepal and Thailand; the SERVIR Science Coordination Office in Huntsville, Alabama; NASA HQ and USAID HQ in Washington, D.C.; and the SERVIR Applied Sciences Team, with members from across the U.S.

 Bill Breed and Nancy Searby give opening remarks
Opening remarks from Bill Breed, USAID; and Nancy Searby,
NASA Applied Sciences Program Manager  

Titled Impact and Integration through Service Planning, SAGE 2016 created a platform for discussions on strengthening SERVIR’s delivery of results-driven, user-centered services and maximizing collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the global network. During this week-long exchange, attendees shared best practices and discussed current GIS-related technical innovations, service planning, communications and knowledge management. The week ended with sessions focused on developing and refining long-term strategic plans for SERVIR’s continued growth.

From a global perspective, each of SERVIR’s four hubs finds itself on the frontlines of massive challenges: a changing climate, population growth and rising demand for ecosystem services. The breadth of these challenges – expressed differently from region to region – and the urgency of stakeholder demand for support put considerable pressure on SERVIR to deliver effective services. Recognizing SERVIR’s human and financial resource limitations, a key success factor rests on SERVIR’s ability to maximize impact by delivering a discrete set of manageable, sustainable services while also leveraging cooperation and partnerships with other stakeholders.

 Quote from Jenny Frankel-Reed

From an institutional perspective, the SERVIR network is expanding, with a new West Africa hub launched over the summer, other hubs in development, and a new Applied Sciences Team (AST) initiating projects related to water and water-related disasters, agriculture and food security, weather and climate, and land use change and ecosystems in SERVIR hub regions.

SERVIR is also continually evolving and adapting to manage relationships among its collaborating institutions, namely USAID, NASA and the four regional agencies that support the hubs – the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and the Agrometeorology, Hydrology and Meteorology Regional Center (AGRHYMET).

Thus, SAGE 2016 occurred at an opportune moment in the decade-long history of the SERVIR program, providing a forum for learning, reflection, brainstorming and innovating to answer these challenges. At the end of the week, participants agreed on a number of actions to improve the effectiveness of services, ensure user uptake, build capacity internally and externally, and strengthen SERVIR operations. The following summarizes the main points and outcomes:

Implementation of Service Planning

The service planning approach, a multi-step program management process introduced at SAGE 2015, aims at ensuring relevance, stakeholder buy-in and sustainability of SERVIR services. With a progression from problem identification to solutions to impact, the approach is structured around three phases: Consultation and Needs Assessment, Service Design and Implementation. By SAGE 2016, hubs were at various stages in implementing this new approach, but all had completed the initial Consultations and Needs Assessment activity. SAGE participants expressed enthusiasm for how the service planning approach could bolster the impact of their work, and the hubs had the opportunity to share their own past year’s experiences in service planning. A range of ideas emerged on how to strengthen the approach and increase its utility, including providing onsite support to hubs as they implement various tools, incorporating the AST in the service design process, and engaging gender specialists to support the integration of gender concerns in the design and implementation process.

panorama pic of break-out session attendees
SAGE attendees participate in a break-out session on service planning

Coordination and Communication

Given SAGE’s focus on alignment and coordination, several suggestions were made on how to maintain and strengthen close dialogue across the network among the technical and program teams. Participants agreed that strong, proactive communications are fundamental to successful partnerships, with content dedicated largely to sharing scientific advances, development impact and practical solutions. Some specific ideas included the establishment of quarterly calls for program teams (covering monitoring & evaluation, knowledge management and communications) and a closer alignment of communications and Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) on web development, content and other topics.

 Anastasia Wahome provides comments to the audience
Anastasia Wahome (Eastern and Southern Africa hub) provides
comments during a session on best practices  

Standardization

To maximize SERVIR’s effectiveness, greater effort needs to be put into standardizing procedures across the global network. Specific examples of potential standardization include developing common terminologies and guidance (particularly with respect to monitoring and evaluation), providing more information across the network on indicators of progress towards reaching measurable results in providing tools, services and training (including USAID’s Global Climate Change indicators), and creating online forms and templates to simplify work flow for the hubs and ensure that key documentation conforms to common standards.

Knowledge Sharing

To strengthen the network, greater interaction among the hubs (and respective AST members) was proposed in the form of virtual and face-to-face hub exchanges. Participants suggested topics for the exchanges in the areas of land cover mapping, drought, GIT, stakeholder mapping, knowledge management and communications.

Science

The AST is tasked with collaborating with hub technical leads to devise technical solutions and build applications such as drought monitoring or land cover mapping to meet specific thematic needs. SAGE provided an extended, in-person opportunity to plan technical solutions in detail, learn about scientific innovations, and, perhaps most importantly, develop strong working relationships.

 Albert Momo of USAID gives response to audience
Albert Momo (USAID) responds to a
question on SERVIR strategic planning  

In addition to hub-AST and thematic area breakout groups, which included extensive discussion of applications and services, SAGE 2016 featured two dedicated sessions on innovations and best practice on geospatial applications and approaches. During these sessions, AST and hub Principal Investigators (PIs) presented 40 posters, with topics such as: Forecasting and Communicating Water-Related Disasters in Africa; Monitoring and Projecting Environmental Change in Fragmented Tropical Forest Landscapes and Mapping Surface Water Bodies from Earth Observation Data for Vector Borne Diseases. The posters were displayed throughout the venue during the week so that colleagues could read and discuss them further during breaks.

SAGE 2016 was designed to catalyze strong working relationships across the global network, enable coherent, actionable work plans based on strong science, facilitate collective learning and exchange about improving service planning, and foster practical approaches to ensuring the impact and relevance of all SERVIR services and applications. By all measures, this exchange exceeded these expectations. Dan Irwin of the SERVIR Science Coordination Office best summarized this by stating, “It was the rich conversations that made this week such a success and was a manifestation of the type of knowledge sharing and learning that is the essence of SERVIR.”

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