Hardware Team Completes Its Work

Project Sammaan has reached a crossroads of sorts now that all of the requisite approvals for construction are in place and NBCC has been brought on board as the contractor for all facilities in both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack; it is time for the hardware team, led by Quicksand, to scale back their involvement and allow the software team, led by J-PAL, to complete the remaining work necessary prior to opening the facilities in the host communities.

Any regular reader of this blog will know that it has been a long, arduous process getting to this point. Project Sammaan has been an exercise in patience and perseverance, and an undertaking that has taught us a great many things over the (more…)

The Waiting Game Continues

For over four months now, the project team has found itself in a state of limbo awaiting a decision by the Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UD) in Bhubaneswar on whether or not the contracts for constructing the Sammaan facilities can be awarded to a Public Sector Unit (PSU) on a nomination basis. And that waiting game continues unabated.

There have been several posts written on this blog during this time attempting to convey any information possible, though much of this was speculatory and emotive: we simply haven’t had anything concrete to report leaving us in a position to simply share our feelings as project activities (more…)

Institutional Knowledge

Any long-term engagement requires a certain level of institutional knowledge in order to be sustainable and ever forward-moving. This becomes especially poignant the longer and more complex the initiative. Given Project Sammaan’s scope and long-term focus, this level of understanding is simply not an option, but rather an absolute must if we are to be successful.

There are many ways in which the project is structured to ensure that the decisions made that define the project are documented as they happen, and this information is disseminated to project partners or in the very least made readily available. Communications efforts span from (more…)

Project Sammaan Website Improvements

The Project Sammaan communications team has spent the past several weeks making improvements to this website in the interest of increasing the amount of project-related information we’re sharing.

Above and beyond minor aesthetic tweaks such as updating the images used and adding social network connections for the blog’s authors, there are three significant improvements that we felt compelled to call out: a repository of resources and project documents that visitors can download, a map that identifies the locations of every individual facility we intend on building in both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, and a ‘search’ feature that allows visitors to navigate the site’s content much easier.


Progress Report & Looking Ahead

Over the course of the past several weeks, the project management team has launched a bit of a letter-writing campaign to our partners at the municipal corporations, as well as various other senior members of the Odisha state government. The purpose of these formal correspondences is to ensure that the challenges and opinions of the non-government partners working on Project Sammaan are taken into consideration and, more importantly, become part of the permanent record for the initiative.

It can be extremely challenging navigating the bureaucracy of the municipal corporations especially when seeking to ensure that all pertinent information is communicated to all necessary parties in a timely and efficient manner. Emails are ineffective as some of the government partners lack regular access to computers and, further to that point, few have personal email addresses, making it difficult to know if messages sent to generic, catch-all (more…)

Letters, Meetings, and a Whole Lot of Patience

Maintaining a website and a as-real-time-as-possible blog for Project Sammaan has been extremely challenging for several reasons. The most basic challenge is simply getting people from the various organizations working on the project to contribute. This is certainly understandable, to a certain degree, considering that many of these people have no background, or even interest, in writing. The problem inherent in this recalcitrance though is the mandate to capture the Project Sammaan experience for inclusion in the end-deliverable of a toolkit that will help guide the efforts of others interested in replicating the project. After all, only you can share your story; no one else can know or adequately capture what your experience has been like.

This is well and truly an ancillary concern though, and one that we’ve taken great strides in addressing through various strategies, whether it be creating questionnaires for people to fill out and then work with me to structure the answers into some cogent and coherent narrative or simply me chasing after and threatening people to get them to contribute. The real issue (more…)

A Tale of Two Cities

We have written extensively about the challenges that have been faced over the past 2+ years working on Project Sammaan. Whether it’s managing the efforts and interests of multiple stakeholders, revising architectural drawings based on ground realities, navigating the complexities of working with urban local bodies in India, or “simply” keeping the initiative within its budget, the hurdles have been many, and significant.

One additional challenge that we’ve been remiss in discussing, though, involves accounting for the different working styles and protocols of the partners based in the pilot cities and those based elsewhere. As one of the only foreigners working on the project, and in the Indian context for the first time, adjusting to different working styles was a given. However, I was largely unprepared for just how divergent, even seemingly antithetical, the office dynamics can be from one city to the next.


Project Sammaan at the 2014 Reinvent the Toilet Fair

If you thought toilets and shit aren’t popular topics of conversation, you would have been in for a big surprise if you were anywhere around the recent Reinvent the Toilet Fair (RTTF) that happened in March 2014 in New Delhi. In the second edition of the fair (the first was in Seattle in August 2012), more than 700 participants from about 47 countries gathered to discuss how to bring safe sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who lack access to it. The fair in India was co-hosted by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the support of India’s Ministry of Urban Development, and it showcased innovative products and approaches from various Gates Foundation grantees from across the (more…)

Managing Sammaan

It has been nearly 4 months since I took over as project manager of Sammaan. The timing of this threw me head first into the hardware tendering process and this milestone has dominated a majority of my time until now, as we prepare for the release of the final pending tenders: the 60 community toilets in Bhubaneswar. This milestone should be achieved by the end of February if all goes as it is currently planned.


Identity Development

After a lull in the identity design development workstream over the last two months, December saw significant progress made on the identity. Codesign shared an updated branding presentation, which incorporated feedback received from previous discussions, as well as improvements and explorations that had been developed internally.


Identity Design

The focus of the current iteration of the identity development exercise is to create an identity that strikes an (more…)