Solution Exchange India
Launched in 2005, Solution Exchange (SE) is a unique initiative by the United Nations in India that provides an impartial platform for exchange of knowledge and ideas among 33,000 (and growing!) development practitioners across 13 thematic areas (Communities of Practice - COPs).
COPs enable members to exchange experiences and knowledge and collectively offer solutions to development challenges. This exchange has paved the way for new collaborative ventures, created spaces for discussions that have fed into policy formulation, and provided feedback on implementation through voices from the field.
Solution Exchange enables a moderated exchange of queries-responses. At the end of the exchange, resource team publishes a consolidated reply that summarises and collates responses and resources while highlighting additional research on the topic. Resource teams also facilitate community building, learning and networking. Several communities have started action groups to allow more in-depth analysis and several have produced publications based on consolidated replies.
UNDP hosts and financially supports the largest number of Solution Exchange communities of practice: four including COPs on Climate Change, Microfinance, Decentralization, and Disaster Risk Reduction. While not originally designed to facilitate policy impact, Solution Exchange has in fact had significant impact on policy debates and formulation. Many government officials keenly follow and participate in the communities of practices and round tables being organized under the Solutions Exchange.
For example, a query on how to purify drinking water in flood affected areas in Bihar during the 2008 Kosi floods elicited responses on 35 water purification technologies within just six days. In addition, a list of 100 organisations and service providers that were able to work in the region was compiled. This proved very useful to relief operations and Solution Exchange responses have become reference material for those working in flood affected areas anywhere in India. Similarly, ideas and opportunities which emerged from the Climate Change COP led to the conceptualization of Madhya Pradesh’s Integrated Urban Sanitation Programme in 2009.
In recent months, several of the Sol. Ex. COPs have organized face-to-face events convening practitioners in providing inputs to the 12th Five Year Plan (e.g. round table meeting on the National Rural Livelihoods Mission).
In addition, through the Gender COP, UNDP supported two key policy consultations on Sexual Harassment and on Gender issue in the Microfinance Bill that provided a knowledge platform to advocate with the policy makers. The recommendations emerging from the consultation on the Sexual Harassment Bill were shared with the National Commission for Women and are reflected in the recommendations of the report of the Parliamentary committee.
Furthermore, in August 2011 UNDP has taken over the chair of the Solutions Exchange Steering Committee and, in consultation with other UN agencies, has outlined the series of strategic directions aimed at regaining the momentum and taking Solutions Exchange to the next level. Specifically, the Steering Committee will review budgets and plans to ensure long-term financial sustainability of the Solutions Exchange. Recommendations are being developed for enhancing upstream policy impact of Solutions Exchange, and positioning it strategically as a vehicle for South-South cooperation and channeling of ideas not only within but also to and from India to the rest of the world.
Knowledge for Action: United Nations Solution Exchange Receives Global Recognition
The United Nations flagship knowledge management initiative, Solution Exchange has received the eWorld Public Choice Award at the Second eWorld Forum in New Delhi on 15 June. The growing network of over 35,000 members has been recognized in the category of ‘Best Initiative for Localized Application/ Content’.