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Practical Answers: Knowledge sharing for development

Practical Answers (available online and as an app) provides information on a wealth of technical expertise in areas such as Agriculture, Disaster Risk Reduction, Water and Sanitation and many more.
Practical Answers transforming lives

Introduction

Practical Answers is a knowledge sharing service the UK based NGO, Practical Action. It generates information and learning from Practical Action’s development work, its partners and networks which it shares with practitioners and the wider development community.

Although Practical Answers resources are not dedicated to Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) issues exclusively, there is considerable information that is relevant to CCA. Relevant themes include: –

Practical Answers realizes that people need knowledge that is packaged in the right format and available when they require it to improve their lives, and thus aims to package and disseminate the knowledge into appropriate formats to reach its target audience better. Therefore, the information is provided in multiple languages and in accessible formats.

Practical Answers aims to supports users, for instance by providing guidance on how they can effectively use the information. Practical Answers believes that access to this technical information can help create jobs, improve health and support better and more sustainable livelihoods.

Sharing Knowledge

Whose Knowledge?

Much of Practical Answers’ knowledge comes from the experience of Practical Action in implementing its projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This is combined with the experience of Practical Answers’ partners, associates and users. The users are encouraged to provide details of their own experience that could help others as well as feedback on how they have used the knowledge they have acquired from Practical Answers and how they have modified the knowledge to make it locally relevant.

From p.2 of the info sheet: An overview of how Practical Answers works

Practical Answers aims to provide an up-to-date repository of knowledge resources that can be shared using both modern and traditional channels. Practical Answers offers:

  • Free answers to technical enquiries. Practical Answers provides an enquiry service where specific questions can be answered on a range of topics including agriculture, clean energy, waste management, crop and food processing, animal husbandry, water supply, sanitation, building and construction, adaptation to climate change, disaster mitigation and risk reduction, etc. Questions can be submitted via the website form or by email [email protected].
  • Advice on opportunities for training and demonstration.
  • Free access to information on relevant subjects.
  • Support and guidance on how to effectively use the information.

How the knowledge is shared

  • Technical Enquiries Response:Through this service, Practical Action provides contextualised information to enquiries received by face-to-face visits, telephone, email and traditional surface mail.
  • Mass Media: Radio is accessible by many communities in remote locations.
  • ICTs and Internet: Websites supporting different regions and languages.
  • Knowledge centers/nodes at the cluster offices: In addition we work closely with partners that have facilities in far flung locations to ensure that our services are widely available.
  • Partnerships: Practical Action is keen on sharing knowledge across geographical distances, diverse cultures, different subjects and educational backgrounds. This cannot be done singlehandedly and so is always on the lookout for like-minded organizations that are willing to freely share their knowledge or have facilities that can be used to channel development content. The reach of such organizations is key in reaching grassroots communities that need this knowledge.
  • Mobile app:See below.

Practical Answers mobile app

The Practical Answers app was the first of its kind and allows development practitioners to access more than 2000 practical ‘how to’ guides on a wide range of topics using a smart phone. The guides enable practitioners to advise and share information with poor communities and help improve lives. The app was developed and tested by Practical Action’s Nepal team and is used by development practitioners working in the field.

The Practical Answers mobile app being used in the field in Nepal (sourced from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/practicalaction/26323146314/)

“The app was built to provide our users with the power of our knowledge in their hand held devices. It is often the case that people have mobile phones but don’t have a laptop or a PC, particularly farmers and field workers, so we hope this app will help us reach the last mile. It really has the potential to change millions of lives for the better ….

… The app is far more productive and consumes less internet bandwidth than the website and this was very important to us to ensure the app is useful for low end mobile phone users.”

Sachin Sapkota, Digital Manager at Practical Action Nepal

The app has the followingfeatures:

  • Users can search within a range of themes.
  • Users can tailor the app to their interests, saving favourite resources to a personal library
  • It can be used offline which means information, such as technical briefs, can be downloaded over a Wi-Fi connection and then accessed when out in the field where internet and mobile signal access can be scarce.
  • Users can also submit questions for technical advice which will be answered by the Practical Answers’ international team.
  • Users can view blogs from Practical Action.
  • Users can get notifications.

The free app is available for both Apple and Android users, with the following requirements.

  • Android 4.1 or later.
  • iPhoneRequires iOS 9.0 or later.
  • iPadRequires iPadOS 9.0 or later.
  • iPod touch Requires iOS 9.0 or later.
  • MacRequires macOS 11.0 or later and a Mac with Apple M1 chip or later.

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