Practical Answers: Knowledge sharing for development

Submitted by Julia Barrott | published 13th Jun 2016 | last updated 13th May 2019
Practical Answers is available online and as a mobile app.

Introduction

Practical Answers is a knowledge sharing service of Practical Action. It generates information and learning from Practical Action's development work and that of their partners, and shares it with practitioners and the community free-of-charge.

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 the target audience better. Practical Answers also supports users, for instance 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.

This free service*, which is also available as a mobile app (see below), is available to individuals, researchers, students, self-help groups, producers, small entrepreneurs and development workers and their organizations.

*See below for more detail on this service and the associated mobile app. You can also download the Practical Answers info sheet from the right-hand column of this page.

Sharing Knowledge

Whose Knowledge?

Most of Practical Answers' knowledge comes from our experience in implementing projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This is combined with the experience of Practical Answers' partners, associates and users of Practical Answers' technologies. The users of the information are encouraged to provide feedback on how they have used it or how they have modified the knowledge to make it locally relevant.

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

  • Free answers to technical enquiries. Practical Answers engages its experts to provide information on energy options, waste management, food production, crop and food processing, animal production and care, water supply, sanitation, building and construction adaptation to climate change, disaster mitigation and risk reduction, etc.
  • 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, we provide feedback to enquiries received by face-to-face visits, telephone, email and surface mail.
  • Mass Media
  • ICTs and Internet (websites and Blogs)
  • 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. We cannot do this singlehandedly and we are 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.
  • Our new mobile app - see below!

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

Now available as a mobile app!

The ‘Practical Answers’ app is the first of its kind and allows development practitioners to access and disseminate more than 2000 practical ‘how to’ guides on a wide range of topics from building a wind turbine to making a clay pot fridge using a smart phone. These guides are already used by millions and enable practitioners to advise and share information with poor communities and help improve their lives.

The app has a useful offline feature, which means information such as technical briefs can be downloaded over a Wi-Fi connection and then accessed 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 charity’s team.

Users can search within a range of themes including agriculture, construction, disaster mitigation response and recovery, energy, environment and adaptation to climate change, water and sanitation. Users can also tailor the app to their interests, saving favourite resources to a personal library, and access the resources in many languages from across the globe.

The app was developed and tested by Practical Action’s Nepal team and is already being used by development practitioners working in the field.

This FREE app is available for both apple and android users. For Apple devices download from the Apple Store or for Android use the Google Play Store.

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

 

Comments

This seems to me a good idea! I downloaded the app. I would like to give a suggestion: the various categories are still too broad: agriculture, construction etc. A sub-division is needed in order to find more easily what you want.

Personally I do not like that "Environment and adaptation to Climate Change" are mentioned as one category. Environment is about wetlands, forests, nature, bush, coastal zones etc. At the other hand, climate change adaptation can and should take place in agriculture, water, construction, energy and many other sectors, including environmental sectors. 

Hi Arend ,

Thank you for your comments and suggestions for the Practical Answers app. When using the app you can click into each collection which will give you further subdivisions of the broader theme. The chosen categories for each collection are based on the thematic goal areas of Practical Action: energy, agriculture, DRR and WASH, and also link to our work in markets, technology justice and knowledge.

Please do get in touch sarah.begg@practicalaction.org.uk - I would be interested to learn more about your suggestions for our taxonomy. Thank you!

pas photo torsten mandal 2015 - climate adaptation.

I developed and documented improved low-cost solutions that e.g. small-scale farmers can use to easily and effectively to establish soil and water conserving contour hedges and other multipurpose fodder trees in the tropics and subtropics. Can I contribute with solutions that are better than the standard methods?

Freelance agronomist (research and capacity building in climate-smart agriculture and agroforestry) 

Hi Torsten, 

Thank you for your message, I would be interested to hear more about your work. Please contact me on sarah.begg@practicalaction.org.uk 

Best wishes,
Sarah