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I had been eagerly awaiting an Akvo training experience ever since joining the organisation in April. Fortunately, I did not have to wait too long and was chosen to attend my first Akvo FLOW 1.5 training in Dhaka, Bangladesh. WASH Alliance Bangladesh (BWA) has 14 partners, of which some were trained by my colleague Amitangshu earlier this year. This was a refresher training facilitated by ICCO partners, Sairas Rahman (AIMS) and Kawsar (DORP).

Though I was attending the training as an observer, I prepared myself on basic FLOW functionality, phone specifications, assistance, etc. I also had to oversee how the training was conducted, making sure the trainees found it easy to follow and prepared myself for any technical queries that they might have. My interaction with most of the participants was hindered by the fact that the medium of instruction was in Bangla – a language I’m not very proficient in. However, facilitators and BWA country coordinator, Mr Alok Majumdar intervened at regular intervals to explain their interactions.

Though it was a refresher training, we had a lot of new participants, some of whom had never engaged with a smartphone and computer in such an extensive manner. It is evident that mobile-based technology has become a significant tool for development activities and social inclusion. However, this shift from insufficient knowledge & exposure to understanding and adapting mobile and FLOW software was one of the biggest challenges of the training. We did experience initial teething difficulties such as getting them acquainted with basic phone specifications, software, etc. However, there was a visible change in the level of participation and clarity on the last day of the training. Some of them were very inquisitive to explore their phones and start using the dashboard while others were still stumbling over logging into a Gmail account. A journey of a thousand miles always begins with a single step.

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Participants getting acquainted with Akvo FLOW

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One of the most defining moments of the session was when the participants saw their collected data on a Google map. It helped them connect and understand the significance of the activities done throughout the day. Experience in this training also made it clear that the participating organisations will require initial hand-holding and guidance before they start using FLOW independently. 4 Fruits of labour: trainees viewing their collected data on a Google map

With Akvo getting busier in Asia, it has become imperative to review our ongoing work (FLOW & RSR) and establish consistent communications with our partners. There has also been a certain disconnect that has been keeping some of our partners in Bangladesh from using FLOW to its potential and sharing their learning and project stories using Akvo RSR. The underlying objective of my visit was to introduce the Akvo Asia hub and extend support to partners in filling this gap and creating an enabling environment for our tools. Attending the Akvo FLOW training in Bangladesh was an extremely edifying experience as I learnt to grapple with new ideas in a different environment. The entire experience was challenging yet fulfilling and I look forward to many more in the near future.

Isha Parihar is a programme officer based in Akvo’s Asian hub in Delhi.