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We invite you to submit your contributions and ideas for the 2019 WASH Systems Symposium

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With a fast growing body of initiatives and institutions implementing ‘systems approaches’ to delivering water, sanitation and hygiene services, All Systems Go! will provide a platform to identify state-of-the-art thinking and experiences, provoke dialogue and support the spreading and scaling of successes. The three-day programme will include keynote speakers (from the WASH sector and beyond), debates, and participatory workshop-style spaces, with the aim to provide both formal and informal opportunities for learning and cross-fertilisation of ideas.

IRC has worked with partners and colleagues in popularising the adoption of systems approaches to WASH, not least through co-convening the 2016 Sustainable WASH Symposium in Kampala. Now, three years later, and given the very rapid progress being made, we believe that the time is right to once again bring together practitioners and theorists to discuss WASH systems strengthening, and to include more insight and experiences from systems approaches outside the WASH sector, to take stock of experience to date and map the way forward.

What is a systems approach? A WASH systems approach recognises that it takes a whole system to assure sustainable services; it accepts that services are delivered and accessed in complex contexts that interact with and influence those services. Seeking to understand these interconnected elements makes it possible to identify and remove constraints to expand service delivery sustainably. There are multiple schools of thought and experiences for understanding and working with systems and this symposium takes a flexible and outcome focused approach to identify, share, learn from and amplify successes

Programme overview:

The three-day programme will consist of a daily keynote speaker, plenary session and participation-based exercise. Outside of plenary sessions, participants will join workshops and side-sessions, followed by a daily recap session to conclude as a group. The large Symposium venue has ample space for side-meetings and side-events which can take place outside of the main programme or during parallel sessions.

Simultaneous translation into English, French and Spanish will be available for all sessions in the plenary space, and submissions will be accepted in these three languages.

IRC and partners invite abstracts and proposals, from all sectors, that address these themes (or suggest a new one!):

  1. Looking back and learning forward : Reflections on WASH history and how the sector has evolved over time

  2. Positioning WASH services within a systems framework, and exploring ways of adapting and tailoring systems approaches

  3. Understanding the systemic shifts necessary for sustained demand, provision, and use of sanitation and hygiene services

  4. Systemic approaches to increasing safety and sustainability of drinking water service delivery

  5. Learning from beyond WASH: how systems approaches and systems strengthening are approached in other sectors

  6. Tools and methodologies to support systems approaches or strengthening of specific aspects of the system (e.g. collective impact, innovative finance, political economy analysis, systems mapping)

  7. Theory into practice: How are systems approaches relevant to national and local stakeholders

  8. Systems building in fragile states: understanding risks and opportunities for systems strengthening in a rapidly changing environment.

  9. Measuring and learning about the WASH system and its strength

  10. Suggest a new one! Make a case for your contribution outside these themes and we will consider it.

IRC and partners will also kindly receive submissions and proposals (from all sectors) that expand on the above themes and have a strong focus on current debates, generate new ideas and advance solutions and fit within the overarching symposium theme.

Guidelines for contributions:

Contributions are sought for papers, sessions and stimulating interventions; You are welcome to send in multiple submissions via the links to the forms below; each will be received separately and you will receive a confirmation of each submission by email. More details about each type of submission are available in the form. For questions please contact symposium@ircwash.org. Abstracts (in English, French and Spanish) are sought for the following types of activities (click the titles below to submit an application):

1. Individual conference paper and discussion session online form. Papers (2-8 pages single spaced) may focus on synthesising research, performing a critical analysis of aspects related to one of the symposium themes, or present practical experiences. They may provide a critical look at innovative implementation practices or provide an evidence-based call for policy change or specific action.

Papers will be grouped by theme and communicated in a format of presentation or poster and discussion session. We will encourage and support you in finding interactive ways to present your work (e.g. Pecha Kucha or ‘’Low Voltage’ talk as described below).

2. Organised session: workshop, panel or participatory session online form: Design a 60 or 120 minute session that will be open to all participants but may require pre-registration or be subject to a maximum number of participants. The session should have a specific topic and objective related to one of the symposium sub-themes.  

  • Participatory sessions: These could be round table discussions, debates, ‘fishbowl’ discussions, simulations, games, participatory debates, group modelling, or any other approach that actively encourages audience participation. We encourage Experiments.

  • Panel : This follows a more traditional method, but organisers must allow adequate time for audience discussion and interaction. Submissions must identify hosts and discussants.

  • Skills training: Teach, in workshop format, a specific skill associated with systemic change. We encourage you to share ‘’soft-skills’ such as facilitation or mediation but will consider all proposals that fit the overarching theme.  

3. Novel presentations online form: Pecha Kucha or ‘Low Voltage (High impact) talk’ : Present your idea, concept, or perspective using a Pecha Kucha presentation ( 20 slides, 20 seconds each for a total of 6 mins 40 seconds ) or by giving a ‘Low Voltage talk’ (6 minute presentation using your voice and only a flip-chart or other non-digital prop). A Pecha Kucha is given by a single individual but Low Voltage talk may include more than one individual.

4. A multimedia presentation online form: Submit your short film, documentary, animated film, photo-essay, or host a storytelling session. The presentation material does not need to be unique to the symposium, but should be introduced and framed to fit the overarching symposium theme.  

These sessions will take place in the evenings, during breaks, or as a part of a workshop session.

5. Energiser for the group! online form. Apply to lead a group energiser, during plenary or a side-session. Energiser should be between 30 seconds and 5 minutes in duration. You may simply indicate willingness to lead an energiser and further develop your idea at a later stage.

6. Organise an additional closed meeting or side-meeting online form (during or outside the main three day programme)

Please let us know if you would like to use this opportunity to host a meeting unrelated to the main symposium theme. We will do our best to help you find a time and space for your meeting.  

Process and timeline:

Selected submissions for papers, organised sessions, and presentations will be guided through a process of reviewing the paper and/or developing a full session/presentation plan with support from the symposium team as needed. Contributors may be asked to combine sessions or to work with the symposium content team or creative panel to develop ideas for the session programme.

Abstracts will be accepted on a rolling basis; early submission is highly encouraged.

  • Deadline for papers and organised sessions, and presentation proposals: 24 September 2018

  • Deadline for side meetings or energiser submissions: 15 November 2018

  • Selected submissions will be notified by 26 October 2018 (papers and sessions), 15 November 2018 (multimedia presentations) and 30 November (side meetings and energisers)

  • Deadline for revised papers or workshop concepts: 21 November 2018

Outputs of the Symposium:

All submissions (papers, presentations, multi-media) will be collated and made available in an electronic proceedings of the symposium.

IRC intends to use the Symposium to write a major publication on the state of the art of systems approaches and systems strengthening in WASH. Co authors for (chapters in) this book will be identified during the symposium.

For more questions please contact symposium@ircwash.org.

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