In a recent hands-on Akvo Really Simple Reporting (RSR) training day in Bolivia, we were interested to find most questions were related to user hierarchies. The participants had all been using Akvo RSR for a few weeks, but were still unclear who was allowed to do what in terms of editing their projects, making updates and assigning privileges to other users. So I took the chance to pose some common questions to Akvo’s Thomas Bjelkeman-Petterson and Luuk Diphoorn on the thinking behind our user hierarchy.

What were the key priorities you had in mind when you designed the user hierarchies and permissions in Akvo RSR?

When we built the permissions system in Akvo RSR our main priority was trying to make it simple and not overwork the solution. We were not entirely sure exactly how our partners were going to want to use this, so we created something simple first, which was relatively quick to do. We didn’t want to create a complicated set of user hierarchies and permissions which turned out to be wrong.

What different categories of Akvo RSR users are there, and what does each one mean?

There are three different categories of Akvo RSR user accounts: Akvo RSR user, Akvo RSR project editor and Akvo RSR organisation administrator.

An Akvo RSR user account is the most basic type of account. It enables you to add updates to your organisation’s projects, and also to comment on any other organisation’s projects to ask a question or give encouragement or advice.

Akvo RSR project editors are the folks in an organistion who are responsible for entering and maintaining high level and detailed project descriptions, budget information, sustainability plans, etc. They can also add updates to their own organisation’s projects and comment on other people’s projects.

Akvo RSR administrators are the individuals with overall responsibility for their organisation’s work in RSR. Generally only Akvo support partners require an RSR administrator account.

Does the administrator decide who can be a project editor?

Yes, it’s the administrator’s role to assign user privileges to colleagues.

Can project editors and administrators be the same people?

Yes. Administrators are automatically project editors as they have the full range of user privileges that are available to organisation administrators.

Is there a limit to one administrator per organisation?

There’s no limit, but it’s not advisable to have more than two or three because they need to communicate with each other, for example about accepting or rejecting new user requests. Similarly for RSR project editors, it’s up to the administrator(s) to decide who within their organisation is best placed to fulfil this role and how many are needed.

Is there a limit to the number of users that can register with a particular organisation?

No, there’s no limit.

Can administrators register new users or do users have to do it themselves? Why?

Users have to register themselves. Users should be self-selecting; they should want to post updates, not be forced to do it. Therefore the responsibility is on them to register themselves. User accounts are personal; you shouldn’t register an organisation as a user. That way, updates can only come from identified individuals.

There are two places to sign in. One up at the top right and one in the bottom menu. Which one do I use?

Akvo RSR users sign in by clicking on the top right “Sign in” link. Akvo RSR project editors and administrators should sign in at the bottom, following the link that says “Akvo RSR login” under the “Admin” heading.

Why do administrators and project editors have to sign in in a different place to normal users?  

The administration user interface in Akvo RSR is automatically generated by the development framework which we use, which is called Django. This saves us a lot of work. However, it doesn’t always produce the easiest to understand user interface. So one of the things we would like to work on is improving the administrator user interface and integrate it with the normal Akvo RSR user interface in a good way. This is quite a lot of work and we are looking at the different priorities we have for improving the system to figure out when we should do this. We will make this improvement, but it isn’t yet decided when.

I can’t seem to find a way to set up my own organisation on Akvo RSR. Why is that?

The Akvo RSR system only contains partners which Akvo or our support and finance partners have approved to be part of the system. All Akvo field project partners are what we call “trusted partners.” This means at least one of our support or finance partners has a well-established working relationship with the field project partner.

Most of our partners are well-known to Akvo staff or have worked closely with our network for a long time. Over many years our partners have built up a level of trust amongst each other, and Akvo is tapping into that network, and slowly building it out.

If your organisation is looking to become a project partner with Akvo, please read the criteria, roles and procedures for Akvo partners: https://www.akvo.org/web/partner_rules

Does the first person to register as a user within their organisation have to be the organisation’s administrator? How do you become an administrator? 

No. Akvo assigns the administrator when the account is registered, based on a request from the organisation about who they would like it to be. Usually it’s the person who acts as the main contact with Akvo. Support partners will have an Akvo RSR administrator, but field and funding partners do not usually need one as their support partner will handle all the administration of their projects on Akvo RSR.

Is the administrator then alerted of every subsequent user registration request?

Yes, by email. They confirm or reject the request as appropriate. If there’s no administrator for a particular organisation (such as in the case of a field or funding partner), we liaise with our main contact at the organisation to check the request is legitimate before actioning it.

Photo: Engineers who joined Akvo’s Mark Westra at the EMAS education centre in Bolivia in October 2009. These skilled field workers are typical of the kind of group that might all be Akvo RSR users working at the same time in a network of projects. Original photo set here.

Jo Pratt is Akvo’s communications manager.