At a time when high-resolution satellite imagery and geospatial data are readily available to researchers and decision-makers around the world, there is tremendous potential to apply this information to address local challenges related to natural resources, such as managing environmental disasters like floods and drought, and more. The challenge is not the availability of the data but, rather, how to package it in such a way that makes sense to users and can be applied to solve issues in their country or region.
During the July Adaptation Community Meeting, SERVIR presented its approach to delivering “space to village”: equipping decision-makers with geospatial tools, and the capacity to use them, in response to locally expressed needs.
The meeting was kicked off by Kevin Coffey, adaptation advisor at USAID, who shared SERVIR’s geographic presence and technical focus areas: agriculture and food security, water and water-related disasters, land cover, land use change and ecosystems, and weather and climate. He also explained SERVIR’s service philosophy – a combination of capacity building, engagement, data, products, collaborations and handoffs, and sustainability planning. SERVIR services are needs-based and co-created with local partners following the SERVIR Service Planning approach. This approach has enabled SERVIR to find opportunities to build lasting capacity and resilience on issues where satellite data, science and technology can make a difference.
After Coffey’s remarks, Dan Irwin, SERVIR global program manager for NASA, described how SERVIR landed on a service planning approach. Interestingly, this was not the project’s approach from the beginning. Initially, SERVIR scientists developed products and tools with little interaction with the end user. Products were fully developed, with limited awareness of those users’ needs or capacity, before being handed over to stakeholders. Irwin described this as the “over the fence” method: throw the tool over the fence and hope it gets used. Understandably, this approach did not maximize the potential for co-developing tools, nor did it ground the production of those tools in an understanding of local challenges and how decision-makers act on information. The unfortunate reality is that most tools developed in this disconnected manner don’t get used; they populate a “graveyard” of decision-support tools.
SERVIR’s service planning approach dismantles the fence and brings the partners, stakeholders and end users into the service design process from the very beginning, even before solutions are discussed. As such, SERVIR’s approach has evolved to recognize that for the technology to be successful, the innovations can’t stop with the science. This is where the SERVIR service planning approach comes in, as documented in the SERVIR service planning toolkit and presented by Katherine Casey, knowledge management lead for the SERVIR Support Activity. The approach, in a nutshell, is to integrate local stakeholders and future users into service planning discussions starting with the identification of local challenges, through the delivery and handoff of products and tools that address these challenges with satellite data. The toolkit is composed of four tools: consultation and needs assessment; stakeholder mapping; service design; and monitoring, evaluation and learning. Implementation of the tools in the toolkit are sequentially organized in phases; however, in practice, it can be an iterative, ongoing consultation process. The toolkit contains practical guidance on how to engage users at each phase, as well as templates for service design, development of a theory of change, sample agendas and activities, and guidance for visualizing and reporting information.Two SERVIR services were presented to bring the service planning approach to life. Anastasia Wahome, science and data lead for SERVIR - Eastern and Southern Africa, presented on “Kenya Rangelands Productivity Assessment and Monitoring Service.” Wahome and her SERVIR colleagues apply the toolkit’s consultation and needs assessment and stakeholder mapping tools to identify the service and to inform where SERVIR adds value and can create synergies between stakeholders. Farrukh Chishtie, science and data lead for SERVIR – Mekong, presented on “Improving Agricultural Resilience to Drought in the Lower Mekong Region Service,” which highlighted the toolkit’s service design and monitoring, evaluation, and learning tools. This service illustrated how key stakeholders and decision-makers were identified and engaged during an iterative service design process. The presentation also demonstrated the role of capacity building to help stakeholders reach the farmers at the local level.
In conclusion, the SERVIR team gave a strong endorsement of the Service Planning toolkit and also expressed an openness for feedback on the service planning approach. SERVIR’s service planning toolkit is a living document that continues to be informed through practice and lessons learned in the field. Follow SERVIR’s service planning process on Twitter (@SERVIRGlobal) and online at servirglobal.net.