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Working at WSUP

Pritam Saha,
Monitoring, Research, Evaluation and Learning Manager

Samuel Owusu-Adjei,
Project Lead

Pritam Saha,
Monitoring, Research, Evaluation and Learning Manager

Name: Pritum Saha
Job title: Monitoring, Research, Evaluation and Learning Manager
Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Working with WSUP since: 2019
Professional background: BA Urban & rural planning, MSc in Disaster management, MA in Development Studies

Tell us about your background.

I’ve been working in the development sector as a result measurement professional, monitoring, and evaluation for almost 12 years. This means looking after projects, reviewing and supporting them, so that they remain on track as per the indicators and as per the commitments made to the funder, and also supporting the evaluation after a project ends. 

My journey in the development sector started in 2011 with an NGO working in the coastal areas. After that, I worked for different government departments, then for a British charity for 5 and a half years, and then I joined WSUP in 2019. Initially I was part of the Bangladesh country team but I am now part of the international Secretariat, supporting our projects worldwide.

Why did you want to work in the water and sanitation sector?

It was not WASH that initially attracted me, rather I was very keen to work in urban areas, especially the planning and governance of cities and secondary towns. While pursuing my graduate degree, I realised there was a common misconception that urban issues are associated with megacities, which is not true. Small towns are a crucial connection for rural-urban linkage and reflect a bottom-up urbanisation of rural regions. 

What is your exact role as Monitoring, Research, Evaluation and Learning Manager?

My job can be widely divided into two parts. One, supporting projects those are typically built on specific and time-bound commitments and includes SMART indicators to measure changes. Two, supporting the implementation of organisational agenda (e.g., Business Plan) through commissioning of different strategies (e.g., M&E handbook) and tools. Helping colleagues to determine measurable commitments and indicators during the project design phase, creation of monitoring and learning tools during the project implementation phase, coordinating an evaluation or impact assessment after the end of a project etc. falls under first part. The first part of my job requires constant collaboration with country teams, external stakeholders, and consultants; in other words, lots of relationship management across programme countries. Moving WSUP’s management information system forward, making the system more participatory & accessible, assessing the global business plans, producing different guidelines & approaches for the organisation etc. falls under the second part of my job. This part demands me to maintain fewer but intensive relations, mostly with colleagues from other functions in the Secretariat and M&E focal persons from the country programmes. My works also includes documentation, quality control, protocol, or template development etc. Currently, I am channelling most of my energies to make our MEL system more participatory, integrated, and impactful. 

What are some of the challenges within this role? 

There has been a mindset that M&E professionals are mostly doing policing, though the mindset is changing gradually and positively; but this still gives hard time to many M&E professionals. Talking about role specific challenges, most of the times I face difficulties to establish a new concept to the programme colleagues as we live different realities, though work to accomplish the same mission. Sometimes, my expectations do not match with the availability of resources in the field. It also happens when we talk to the external stakeholders! Actually, M&E have a different language which needs to be translated efficiently to get expected output, and on many occasions we cannot get enough time for the translation.

What is the hardest and the easiest part about your job?

The independence I get here is both the easiest and hardest part about my job. I came into this portfolio  last November and I get to work with country managers and colleagues across Asia and Africa. It’s not just about understanding their projects and context, but also about understanding their work culture, how they respond to emails; even selecting right words can be challenging. 

Trust issues can make one’s job the most complicated one, especially when the issue is among the supervisor and supervisee. I have seen that happening lots of times in Bangladesh. From that experience, I can say that the easiest part of my job is to work with my boss [Sam Drabble], who trusts me completely, supports me with all my decisions, and allows me to do work with new ideas. He is one of the best persons I ever met in my professional career. The work culture in this part of Asia is very different, thus sometimes I feel privileged to have a boss like Sam, he makes my job super easy. I also love all my colleagues in WSUP.

Tell us about the time you felt you have really made some impact.

Joining this role feels like I am making some impact. The most impactful work  I do here is delivering evaluation reports. Delivering the exact requirements is something that makes me feel good. I am trying to add some value  to the central monitoring system. I look forward to putting new ideas. I have a plan to introduce an improved M&E system by 2025 aligning with WSUP’s upcoming business plan. The system will be more responsive, participatory, and integrated. The system will offer every colleague of WSUP to contribute to the system and make their feelings of ownership stronger over their work. I believe, that day will be a ‘wow moment’ for me. I believe that will be a notable impact both for WSUP as well as my professional career. 

Any professional success you’ve experienced at WSUP so far?

We have successfully completed several projects, commissioned several models in different small towns and I had a very crucial role in supporting the whole processes. As MERL manager, I am working to establish a real time data dashboard which is partially completed and slowly integrating new projects.

Any professional relationship you’ve built at WSUP that are going to keep for a lifetime?

It is critical to talk about lifetime. However, I would like to mention about Jakaria and Jonathan. Jakaria is an ex-colleague from the Bangladesh team and since my joining here, I we have created lots of memories. Jonathan was my last supervisor who encouraged me to explore new avenues of monitoring and inspires me to apply for global roles. The most interesting thing is, Jon and I never met in-person but we still talk about possibilities to meet in-person someday.

If you had to eat one meal for rest of your life, what would that be?

I have a go-to meal from the very early days of my life, probably since my primary school days. Steamed rice, a teaspoon of ghee and poached egg; is my go-to meal and I can live on this meal for rest of my life!

What helps you get relaxed?

Doing “nothing” helps me the most to relax, and doing nothing means, nothing! Music can be mentioned next to that.

Where can we find you after work?

Home.

Samuel Owusu-Adjei, Project Lead

Name: Samuel Owusu-Adjei
Job title: Project Lead
Location: Kumasi, Ghana
Working with WSUP since: 2013
Professional background: Engineering & community development

What is your exact role as a project manager?

I’m responsible for ensuring that our project activities are implemented and that we achieve our outputs and goals. At present I mostly  manage delivery of water and sanitation infrastructure in four community schools.   I make sure  the units and design of the facilities are appropriate – including for menstruating girls and for disabled children. In addition, I am responsible for hygiene promotion in schools and  communities, development and operationalisation of WASH facility management model,, hiring of contractors and  managing them to deliver the infrastructure as planned in the project.  I’m supported by two people who look into the design of  facilities and community mobilisation, respectively. 

Tell us about some of the challenges you face in your job.

Community mobilisation is not always easy – it is challenging to get people to attend the meetings. We need to keep thinking of new ways to get them to attend. For instance, on Sunday, after most of the members of the community finish at church. There are times when the meetings have to take place after 6pm, when people are free from work. Sometimes it has to be on weekends. But you gotta do what you gotta do!

Do you see the impact of your work?

Yes, absolutely. I’m thinking of a project funded by the ONE Foundation where we provided a toilet facility at a school. Afterwards, the head mistress told me that enrolment and retention had increased by 25% because the school now had all sorts of WASH facilities, including infrastructure for Menstrual Hygiene Management. Girls tend to stay away or drop out of schools due to lack of menstruation hygiene faculties. Fortunately, we saw reduction in the girls’ dropout rate as well. I was elated to see that girls are now able to come to school without any challenges. 

When we provide a water system in a community, we set up community management teams to manage the system and to employ water vendors at the standpipe and attend to customers. 90% of the time these vendors are women, which increases their resources and means they can provide for their families and their children’s needs.  That brings me  joy  because the infrastructure is providing an alternative source of livelihood for members of the community. 

The work  I’m doing right now is exciting  because  I’m able to see people happy about the things we do. Seeing a sense of fulfilment in the community makes me happy. It helps me to concentrate on what I’m doing, to help community members by providing WASH infrastructure.

Any professional relationship you’ve built at WSUP that  you’ll keep for a lifetime?

Yes, I think  the country manager, Frank. My working relationship with him has been very beneficial and interesting, especially at the start when, as project facilitator, I was facing challenges with project management, reporting and budget management. I had a series of in-house training by the country manager. And that definitely helped me in building my capacity to manage all the projects. 

If you had to eat one meal for rest of your life, what would that be?

Plantain and Cassava fufu!

What helps you get relaxed?

A nice quality time with family and my loved ones! 

Where can we find you after work?

I go straight home to support my wife in taking care of our five kids and helping her with house chores.