MOOCing on Lake Malawi

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Sunset on Lake Malawi.
Photo: Jane Jamieson
I never planned to get so involved with sharing knowledge when I started my career as a civil engineer. However, last week saw the culmination of two intense but extremely rewarding pieces of work for me that were all about knowledge sharing and learning.

First of all, I was in Malawi, together with my World Bank and IFC colleagues, to help with a two-day workshop on public-private partnerships (PPPs) in water with more than 60 professionals from across the region, in collaboration with Malawi’s Ministry of Agricultural Irrigation and Water Development.  Over the course of the workshop, we all learned a lot from sharing experiences with our peers both public and private and discussing how the private sector can play a role in expanding and improving water and sanitation services. Everyone took to the exercises with gusto as they played the roles of the public and private sector negotiating the risk allocation of a PPP project.

This lively and stimulating debate was mirrored by the virtual debate I was following on-line in the margins of the workshop. Over the last six months, I have been helping put together a free on-line learning course on how public-private partnerships can help deliver better services.

The PPP MOOC (Massive Open Online Course – yes, that was new to me too) launched on June 1 and will run for four weeks. It includes video lectures, readings, quizzes and other learning materials that are designed and taught by experts from academia, government and the private sector. It has been fascinating to pull together the materials for the course and work with the range of presenters, who so graciously gave us their time and expertise for the course.

I’ve learned so much myself from putting together the course, from Colombian highways to South African wind farms and Caribbean water treatment plants. I even learned what PPPs have to do with Brazil’s ignominious defeat in the World Cup! I knew 22,000 people registered for the course, but maybe I hadn’t quite appreciated the scale of this endeavor.  Within hours of the course’s launch on June 1, my colleagues and I were blown away as the discussion boards were humming with debate and introductions from across the world, from Somalia to Singapore.  Within 24 hours, someone from Vietnam had already written their own summary of the week one videos to share with their classmates.

What I took away from both these experiences last week is the more we know — and in particular the more we understand the perspectives of others — the more we can find new and innovative solutions to delivering better infrastructure and services.  That is what I am passionate about, so it’s such a privilege to be able to share my experiences both virtually and in person.

I offer a big, big thank you to all the teams who made both events possible, and the thousands of participants from around the world, without whom, knowledge sharing would not be fun. If you are not part of the MOOC, it is not too late to join, and participate in our upcoming live google hangout straight from London - simply register to join here.  Also see our recent data on private participation in infrastructure commitments covering 139 emerging economies and the water sector.


Jane Jamieson

Program Manager for the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility and the Quality Infrastructure Investment Partnership

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