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Summary of en-net user survey findings

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By Tamsin Walters, en-net moderator

In April and May 2015, the ENN undertook a user survey of en-net. An online survey was distributed to ENNs mailing list and an invite to participate posted on the en-net and ENN websites. There were a total 289 responses. The following is a summary of the main findings and ENN’s reflections on them.

Awareness and use of en-net

Over half of the respondents (57%) who use en-net have registered and set up a profile.  Of those who are not registered users, but view en-net discussions, their main purpose in using en-net is “to learn about the field experiences of others” (70% of 45 responses). Seventy-nine per cent of 107 respondents said they had recommended en-net to others.

Among registered users, 81% had signed up to keep up with the latest debates and issues in nutrition in emergencies; 65% to keep aware of the latest guidance on technical topics (people could tick more than 1 option); while 16% signed up purely to ask a specific question after which they have not used en-net much at all.

In terms of obstacles to the use of en-net, 70% of 46 non-registered respondents stated that nothing prevented them from using en-net. Where something did, lack of or poor internet access was the most common reason cited, followed by not having enough time.

For registered respondents a similar 70% (of 101 respondents) said nothing put them off using en-net. However, lack of time, followed by the consideration that questions seem to be adequately responded to by others were the primary reasons that put some people off contributing.

A very small number of comments criticised the occasional response from users with inadequate expertise to advise others, and en-net technical experts providing inaccurate advice or dominating responses and raised the need to encourage differing opinions by academics. 

The purpose of en-net is to provide an open platform to encourage sharing of experience, as well as providing best practice advice. ENN is continually seeking to engage more people and the sharing of more experiences through en-net. We will continue to promote the site widely and encourage greater participation of experienced nutritionists to respond to questions, calling in our Technical Moderators as necessary when conflicting advice is provided or there has been a lack of response to a particular question.  

En-net content: its relevance and value to those working in nutrition in emergencies

Seventy per cent of 141 respondents (non-registered and registered) stated that en-net had provided significant added value to their work; with a further 28% noting a small added value. It is clear from the varied responses that people value both the shared experiences of people working in the field as well as inputs by experts in technical areas. Knowledge, experience and guidance from en-net are being used in programming and training as well as research and policy development.

Users who had posted a question were asked whether the response directly influenced their work or study: 68% of 40 respondents replied positively.

Forty-one percent of 44 non-registered users responded that there were additional topics that they would like to see on en-net. A smaller percentage (28%) of registered users said there were additional topic areas they would like to see. The suggestions by both groups were very varied and it is difficult to pick out common themes.

There were requests for more discussion on livelihoods and agriculture/nutrition links. There is an existing forum area for livelihoods, which is currently poorly used. There may be an opportunity to direct this more towards nutrition/agriculture links as there is increasing global interest in this.

Several requests for discussion of cross-sectoral or integrated programming were raised, including DRR/nutrition, WASH/nutrition, cash, nutrition and health, multisector programming and coordination.

In the light of these comments and the evolving global interest, ENN will close down the forum area on livelihoods and set up a new area for nutrition sensitive programming where a variety of issues can be discussed. If there proves to be substantial interest in specific sectors, such as WASH or food security, further forum areas can be set up to focus more exclusively on such topics.

Reference materials and research papers were sought alongside many requests for training opportunities, links to online training courses and capacity development materials, e.g. “sharing video lectures and tutorial from field finding”. We will further examine how we can develop the ”Upcoming trainings area” and host links to online courses/opportunities.

Another area of request was around community mobilisation, community awareness-raising and how to conduct programming in the community. Currently, if these types of questions are not specific to particular programmes, they can be raised in the cross-cutting issues forum area. We will promote this area further to ensure users are aware of this option.

A few comments also highlighted the need to keep adapting en-net in the light of the changing global policy dialogue and challenged the specific emergency focus: “Topics should better reflect the change in the environment in recent years”; “Recognise that management of acute malnutrition is not only an issue during periods of acute emergency with significant external resources available” “ I think the word "emergency" should be kept out to talk about nutrition in and out of emergencies”.

ENN is seeking to address these issues more broadly. However, en-net aims to adapt to the needs of its users and accommodate the most pressing areas of discussion and debate. Therefore we hope to encourage a more inclusive dialogue through new forum areas to include nutrition sensitive programming, stunting prevention and nutrition contextual analysis.

Mechanism and user-friendliness of en-net

Nearly one –third (29%, 108) of respondents visit en-net weekly to view discussions; a further 15% report visiting the site on a daily basis. One fifth (21%) rarely visit the website as they read the discussions in their inbox, whilst 18.5% infrequently visit the site.

Most (94%) of 105 respondents find en-net to be user-friendly and 77% of 107 respondents find the amount of emails they receive to be just right; 17% find them too many. Some of the latter did not appear to be aware that there is an option to select notification of questions only. To address this, we will prepare a notification with a reminder of the available functions of en-net.

Again, most (94%) of 31 people who had asked a question said it was posted to the forum in good time; 84% said their question was answered in good time; 81% said they received a useful and adequate response. Of those who did not, the issues were non-response to a question, being provided with links to an old document, and receiving an opinion from the technical moderator but nothing more.  The en-net moderators endeavour to ensure that questions are responded to by peers or by a technical moderator. However, we will seek to tighten up our mechanisms to ensure all questions receive a useful response.

Ninety-three percent of 41 respondents said they would use en-net again to post a question. 

Forty-two per cent (of 110 respondents) said they had been alerted to a training opportunity or job vacancy of interest through en-net. Of the 15 respondents who provided further detail, seven described training opportunities and eight job vacancies.

Overall summary

In conclusion the survey was extremely positive and reflects that en-net continues to be relevant to its users and provide a useful service, encouraging debate and sharing information that can be practically applied in programming, as well as policy development, training and research.

However, there is room for improvement in some areas and the respondents to this survey have provided the en-net team with very helpful guidance and suggestions to move forward and continue to maintain a forum that responds to its users’ needs and keeps pace with the global agenda.

We welcome feedback and suggestions on en-net at any time. Contact: Tamsin Walters, en-net moderator  

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