Co-designing a democratic knowledge platform to aid action in the water sector.

INREM foundation is an NGO working in the water quality sector in India. To aid the transfer of ideas, knowledge & learnings, amongst the various actors in this sector, they identified the need for a ‘knowledge platform’. It was in this context that we came in— to help better define the ‘platform’, and then to build it.

The key project outcomes included:

  • Product design & development, with a specific focus on the ‘storytelling use-case’
  • This project is still underway.

Go straight to outcomes:

5 months (Nov ’18 - Mar ’19 : ongoing)
INREM Foundation
Strategy . Product Management . UX . Web Development
Core Team
Abrar . Sheneille . Akshay
Website Username: guest
Password: gue123


Project Kick off: Understanding the water sector and the actors within it
Our first exposure to the water quality sector happened at the Fluoride Network Meet. After which, we workshopped with a varied set of players, to map out the various actors and their relationships in this sector. Certain recurring archetypes started to emerge.

Co-defining actor archetypes
Archetype knowledge ‘needs’ & ‘superpowers’

Understanding the role of 'storytelling' within their knowledge systems
Many types of 'knowledge' in various shapes & forms were explored, but one particularly stood out— the invaluable stories from the ground, that tend to get lost in the chaos of bureaucracy.

The question that we found ourselves thinking about was, how can the platform ‘guide’ such content contributors, to tell more compelling stories? In the months to come, this question grew into the idea of 'storytelling templates'.

Knowledge comes in many shapes and forms
Exploring user stories and corresponding UX flows

BUILD. Test. Iterate
Our product design & development philosophy was grounded in the analogy— first build a skateboard, then a bicycle, and only then, the car.

We'd narrow our focus down to the most crucial user flows, quickly build out its 'minimum testable version', and take it out in the field for testing.

More wireframes
The knowledge platform has been built using the opensource dokuwiki framework.

Build. TEST. Iterate
Webinars with 8 different district teams, as well as in-person field visits have been, and continue to be conducted. Other than testing the platform at whatever stage it may be, this has helped activate the community, by engaging in feedback and co-design sessions with them.

Storytelling, feedback and conversations
One of the NGO resource people, contributing a story in Hindi.

Build. Test. ITERATE
Going back to the drawing board and iterating, redesigning, developing, testing— the cycle continues...

How can a storytelling template accommodate for the non-linear nature of stories?
How can the template 'hint' users in the right direction, without being too prescriptive?
The evolution of the storytelling template. And it continues to evolve.

Outcomes So Far

A democratic platform for the actors working in the water sector in India, to share & learn, in the service of aiding contextual action.

The platform is evolving continuously, with refinements & updates being pushed out every week. Below, are some of the screens of knowledge platform 0.2, as they stand, at the time of writing this piece.

Knowlegde platform 0.2— UI Screens
Knowlegde platform 0.2— UI Screens
The storytelling template assists the writer from the get go itself.
Knowlegde platform 0.2— UI Screens
Knowlegde platform 0.2— UI Screens
Introducing hints.
In an earlier version, users were using '_' & '*' to format text in html forms. So we introduced a few formatting options this time.
The storytelling template is also available in local languages, along with 'English to local language' transliteration
Knowlegde platform 0.2— UI Screens


Practicing participatory design has been a fulfilling experience
We co-designed the platform with many of the folks who are currently using it. And we plan to continue doing so.

Lean design and development was hard, making it a great learning.
I realize now why they say it takes a team that is experienced with agile methods, to pull off agile efficiently. But this was a good start for us!

Limited funds. Part-time team.
This meant multitasking, and taking on tasks outside one’s primary skillset. Many challenges. Many learnings.

Current Status & Roadmap Ahead

Stories have been trickling onto the platform, and so has feedback. New insights are turning into new updates on the platform quite regularly.

Multilingual stories are slowly trickling onto the platform.

Other than continuing to refine the story-telling templates, we are working on enriching & incentivizing the platform experience, by introducing varied content types (data, tutorials, resources) as well as community engagement features (discussion boards, commenting & appreciation).