Thursday, January 29, 2009

There is no "I" in "teamwork"!

As Roxy said in her post, Who made the Knowledge Share Fair possible?, "many colleagues, facilitators and volunteers worked hard and long hours to make the Share Fair a success." As the saying goes, there is no "I" in "teamwork"! Lots of people participated and helped us make this a successful event. We were all a great team and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone.

We will start with those who helped us with the logistics: from set up of the Atrium to the set up of the bar and from making all computers have internet to ensuring that each room had flip charts and projectors! A big thank you to all of you!

Aida Luberto (FAO), Alain Savary (FAO), Alessandro Pastori (FAO), Alexis Crespel (FAO), AnnaPaola DeSantis (FAO), Arslen Bounemra (FAO), Brigitte Bellemare (FAO), Carlo Crescitelli (FAO), Diane Calderbank (FAO), Dominique Burgeon (FAO), Elio Bargigli (FAO), Erwin Northoff (FAO), Fabio Lotti (FAO), FAO Staff Coop (FAO), Fernando Servan (FAO), Fiammetta Piperno (FAO), Fulvio Delli (FAO), GianFortunato Cangemi (FAO), Ingrid Alldritt (FAO), Johnny Hua (FAO), Leone Corazza (FAO), Livia Cellini (FAO), Luca Lodovichi (FAO), Luisa Guarneri (FAO), Marco Evangelistella (FAO), Marco House (FAO), Margaret Zito (FAO), Maria Barroso (FAO), MarieJose Piredda (FAO), Mario Alessandri (FAO), Massimiliano Bruzziches (FAO), Massimo Albanesi (FAO), Maurizio Cerrai (FAO), Mauro Caponetti (FAO), Michele Setaro (FAO), Ornella Loniti (FAO), Paul Anthem (FAO), Pauline Farrugia (FAO), Pierre Abramovici (FAO), Pierre Fournier (FAO), Piervito Muscaridola (FAO), Pietro Trecca (FAO), Rafael Rodriguez (FAO), Rebeca Andarias (FAO), Regina Gambino (FAO), Roberto Altomare (FAO), Roberto Bonafede (FAO), Scott Grove (FAO), Security Services (FAO), Sergio Ferraro (FAO), Sergio Perciballi (FAO), Sharon Lee Cowan (FAO), Silvana Leonardi (FAO), Simplice Ngathe (FAO), Stefano Scategni (FAO), Stephen Dembner (FAO), Stephen Dowd (FAO), Theresa Panuccio (FAO), Vincenzo Marciano (FAO)
Event such as this one needs support through out the days (and days leading up to it) to ensure that everything runs smoothly. At this point, the organizers can't be everywhere! We had great support from all the volunteers who took time out to help participants and ensure that everyone had a smooth sail! A big thanks to all of you!

Alberto Antonini (FAO), Alessandro Falasca (FAO), Angela Mancinelli (FAO), Angelica Abrina (FAO), Anna Maria Walter (FAO), Carole McCutcheon (FAO), Christiane Monsieur (FAO), Cinzia Noce (FAO), David Evans (FAO), David Lanzi (FAO), Domenica Baniak (FAO), Domenica Scola (FAO), Dyaa Ajkabache (FAO), Fabiola Franco (FAO), Francesca Launaro (FAO), Francisco del Pozo (FAO), Rosana Frattini (FAO), Gudrun Johannsen (FAO), Imma Subirats (FAO), Jane Russel (FAO), Jasmina Tisovic (FAO), Julia Matthews (FAO), Kirsten Geist (FAO), Kristin Kolshus (FAO), Laura Madrignani (FAO), Lisa Cespedes (FAO), Laura Rinnovati (FAO), Luciana Ianiri (FAO), Marco Danzi (FAO), Maria Folch (FAO), Marta Antonelli (FAO), Marta Iglesias (FAO), Mary Redahan (FAO), Massimiliano Fani (FAO), Massimiliano Martino (FAO), Monica Nutile (FAO), Montse Barba (FAO), Nicholas Waltham (FAO), Peter Bruggeling (FAO), Pilar Cabestany (FAO), Roberta Nettuno (FAO), Stefania Maurelli (FAO), Stefano Anibaldi (FAO), Stefano Pesci (FAO), Stefano Suozzo (FAO), Cristina Torquati (FAO), Tullia Baldassarri (FAO), Valentina Delle Fratte (FAO), Virginie Viollier (FAO), Vittoria Gliddon Ercolani (FAO)
Then there were the facilitators who made sure that the 112 sessions started in time, ended in time and of course during the session there was great discussion, sharing and learning! Thank you!
Andrea Pape-Christiansen (ICARDA), Anna Maria Walter (FAO), Anne Aubert (FAO), Antonella Pastore (CGIAR ICT-KM Program), Christiane Monsieur (FAO), Cristina Sette (ILAC), Eduardo Marinho (WFP), Françoise Trine (FAO), Geoff Parcell (Consultant), Gunila Olsson (IFAD), Günther Hemrich (FAO), Hugo Besemer (Consultant), Jean Balie (FAO), Johannes Keizer (FAO), John Preissing (FAO), Kristin Kolshus (FAO), Laura Madrignani (FAO), Luca Servo (FAO), Lucie Lamoureux (Consultant), Mami Wada (FAO), Manuel Flury (SDC), Marco Boscolo (FAO), Marco Piazza (FAO), Maria Grazia Bovo (FAO), Meenalosany Arivananthan (World Fish), Michael Riggs (FAO), Nadejda Loumbeva (FAO), Nadia Manning-Thomas (IWMI), Nancy White (Full Circle), Nick Waltham (FAO), Peter Ballantyne (IAALD), Peter Casier (WFP), Petr Kosina (CIMMYT), Pier Andrea Pirani (Euforic), Rasha Omar (IFAD), Riff Fullan (Helvetas), Romolo Tassone (FAO), Roxanna Samii (IFAD), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CIAT), Sophie Treinen (FAO), Stefka Kaloyanova (FAO), Stephen Katz (FAO), Stephen Rudgard (FAO), Valeria Pesce (GFAR), Yves Klompenhouwer (FAO)
Last but not least, the steering committee, who tried their very best in the last 10 months to ensure that the Fair would be a great learning and fun event! It was a pleasure working with all of you!
Andrew Nadeau (FAO), Ekram El-Huni (WFP), Elena Di Paola (FAO), Enrica Porcari (CGIAR), Gauri Salokhe (FAO), Jim Garber (FAO), Johannes Keizer (FAO), Nadejda Loumbeva (FAO), Patti Sands (Bioversity International), Ramin Rafirasme (WFP), Roxanna Samii (IFAD), Sophie Treinen (FAO), Stephen Rudgard (FAO), Stephen Katz (FAO), Willem Bettink (IFAD)
If we forgot anyone’s name, our apologies and a thank you!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What have the participants been telling us?

We have been receiving feedback from participants of the fair and here are just few snippets of what they have told us!

Congratulations to you and your whole team for a very well conducted Share Fair! I found it innovative in many aspects, and my colleagues who spent more time than me in the fair have given positive comments. -- Jan Heino, Assistant Director General, FAO Forestry Department
Great job. I really enjoyed what I could from the Fair. I felt the atrium was more alive than I have ever seen it before. -- Jim Hancock, FAO Technical Cooperation Department
The Share Fair was a unique opportunity for networking, connecting and learning between the three Rome-based agencies. The Atrium was an ideal place to do it and the organization and design of the space was excellent. I hope that the event encouraged organizers to repeat it every year. -- Judita Jankovic, FAO Consultant

I wish to extend my deepest gratitude and thanks to all of you for the highly commendable efforts you each displayed in the preparation for, and in the course of the Knowledge Share Fair, last week. The Fair has received very positive and favourable reviews from all sectors of the Organization, and I am sure that we are all very proud to have been associated with its success. -- Lorraine B. Williams, Assistant Director General, FAO Knowledge and Communication Department
As a facilitator I was really impressed by the energy in the sessions. It speaks well to the organizing group and the participants. In particular, I thought that the video sharing was effective. Each video one showed different perspectives - the need for water management policy and development, a women's entrepreneur training project, and a rural community development presentation. The participants had questions ranging from how to make the videos, to their purpose, and to their impact and use. It was an informative way to share! -- John Preissing, Senior Officer for Extension Systems, FAO Natural Resources Management and Environment Department

Congratulations! What an enriching experience & it brought much closer the UN agencies in Rome. We have gone from formal interactions among colleagues to collaborative & friendly communications & knowledge sharing. If it was up to me, I would have attended the 112 sessions! Thanks! -- Miriam Blanco,
Project Coordination and Communications Consultant, IFAD Finance & Administration Department

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Knowledge Share Fair for Agricultural Development and Food Security : an unqualified success for FAO!

This is a summary of the Share Fair, written for FAO Senior management :-)
From January 20 to 22, FAO was the stage for an innovative event called the Knowledge Share Fair for Agricultural Development and Food Security. This initiative was co-organized by Bioversity International, the CGIAR ICT-KM program, FAO, IFAD and WFP.

700 registered participants roamed the building, taking part in the numerous activities on offer. The 112 sessions covered various agricultural development and food security issues but focused on the knowledge sharing aspects of the initiatives. The sessions also used innovative and interactive means of presenting projects, focusing on experiences and lessons learned, as well as engaging other participants in discussions. Overwhelmingly, the sessions elicited a positive response from both presenters and participants. This alternative way of organizing an event struck a chord and is completely in line with the cultural change that is currently underway at FAO.

The Share Fair also proposed a variety of trainings on tools for sharing knowledge, such as blogs and wikis. The trainings were completely booked even before the Fair started, so the organizers acted quickly to add extra sessions to fill the need. There is definitely scope for organizing more of this type of training, due to the incredible enthusiasm and curiosity expressed by participants. Already, FAO has received requests for more trainings. In all, 400 people participated in the 20 tools sessions.

The Atrium turned into the nub of the Share Fair, was the place to meet people. The Bar set up for the occasion greatly contributed to creating a convivial atmosphere, conducive to starting dialogues. In the 12 booths, Fair participants found all types of informative materials but also, and perhaps most importantly, they found people eager to talk about their project experiences. Over 50 people took the "90 second challenge", explaining the value-added of knowledge sharing in a short digital video, which are available on the Share Fair website. The Tree of Knowledge stood majestic in the Atrium, each leaf representing ideas and thoughts on knowledge sharing, handwritten by the participants themselves.

A team of social reporters documented the event in a variety of tools, such as the Share Fair blog and Twitter. Through these means, thousands of people were following the Fair at a distance, in real time. Over 250 photos were put on a photo sharing website called Flickr.

Overall, the Share Fair garnered incredibly positive feedback. Participants felt they had a better understanding of knowledge sharing, concretely saw the benefits of interaction and dialogue, established new contacts and networked, shared experiences with others and learned a few new things, all the while having fun.

The Share Fair over but this is just the beginning for FAO!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who made the Knowledge Share Fair possible?

Well, it looks like all our efforts and hard work of the last 10 months was worth every bit of it. The Share Fair seems to have been a positive and rewarding experience and has created a certain buzz. On Friday my colleagues came up to me saying: "The Share Fair was great, I learnt so many new things, met interesting people and caught up with old friends and colleagues".

We are running a survey to assess the impact of the Share Fair and to find out the overall perception of the participants so that next time we can do a better job.

Many colleagues, facilitators and volunteers worked hard and long hours to make the Share Fair a success. A big thank you to each and every one of them (see slides 7-9).

And then there is Gauri Salokhe alias "Share Fair Mother Teresa" who made it all possible. Without Gauri we would not have made it. She is an amazing lady. I learnt so much from her. I was amazed how she never lost her calm, how she always had a smile on her face, how she continuously reached out to everyone, how she was always tactful and understanding with everyone, how she did what she could to please everyone, how she never shied away from taking on new tasks, how she took charge, how she never said "no", how she was there for everyone, how she had an innovative solution for every challenge and how she never lost her wonderful sense of humour. For the last 10 months Gauri was our beacon. We all have a lot to learn from her. A very special and heartfelt thank you to GAURI SALOKHE.

At the end of the day, the Share Fair provided us not only an opportunity to learn and share rural development experiences but also to learn from colleagues such as Gauri and others how to effectively work and collaborate with others.

So, now that we all feel enriched, when shall we start planning the next Share Fair?!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Session Report: Role of KM in Rural Development Projects

Session on Role of KM in Rural Development Projects, 23 January, 2009, 10.45 to noon at facilitation room
Comments by Cristina Sette

Session had four presenters, Emerson Ndovisai Zhou (IFAD - PAMA), Danilo Saavedra (FUNICA), Adrian Marbaniang (NERCORMP), and Kevin Gallagher (FAO).

Emerson (IFAD) presented a work he is involved in Africa, with market chain and support to farmers. The KS activities his project is currently carrying out are:
  • Disseminate what they were doing
  • Bring stakeholders together
  • Document lessons
  • Record what goes inside the project
  • Use consultants
  • Workshop
  • Printed documents (e.g. policy briefs)
  • Reflection
  • Disseminate what is working
  • Media (radio, video/tv) to bring awareness; publish stories (newspaper) at national and IFAD level
  • Training
  • Local workshops
  • Forums
  • Reach farmers
  • Platforms (national level) for discussions
Lesson: when to introduce the instruments of KM?
  • There isn't a KM department or a focus person for KM
  • Right KM tools
  • Involve stakeholders (local stakeholders)
  • Web as repository
  • Project implementation team (consultants)
  • One department taking the leadership
  • KM is important to improve project; feeding into M&E cycle

Danilo from FUNICA in Nicaragua presented a project related to food security in Nicaragua. He emphisized that the project had the incentives they had for KM were the following:
  • Resources/investments
  • Technological assistance
  • Improve the organization
The methodologies for KM were:
  • Farmer field school
  • Farmer to farmer (lead by National farmers organizations. They have their own methodologies)
Some of the lessons were:
  • Involve other institutions to support the project
  • Each institution look at KM to reduce poverty
  • Work with farmers

Adrian from NERCORMP in India presented a project they call "Systematization" which is a participatory tool for evaluate projects, which builda pool of knowledge and documents lessons learned. Website:
The project phases are:
  • Preparatory
  • Grounding
  • Documentation (achieved through field visits, reporting, and post documentation)
The project activities are:
  • Identify areas/topics
  • Facilitators for each topic
  • Team assigned to an area
  • Team plan activities and present for feedback
  • Field visits by the team where they interact with the community
  • Reporting/documenting (it is a challenge)
  • Look at all resources (other types of reports)
  • Present
  • Pos documentation
  • Policy briefs

Some of the lessons were:
  • Participatory tool. Community evaluate themselves
  • Disseminate to other project areas
  • Identify topic must be done carefully
  • Sometimes we sounded too vague and we were not sure what to do
  • Make people write is difficult
  • Timing must be planed carefully
  • Having a KM specialist is good
  • Communication must be linked with M&E
  • The topics are chosen at district level
  • We asked ourselves if after the project if has been any changes
  • Doing this exercise requires time and funds

Kevin from FAO presented his work with farmer field schools in Sierra Leone.
The project consisted of introducing different methods with the FFS approach, build confidence/groups, and transfer knowledge.
Kevin's expereince with KM were as following:
  • Farmers own the knowledge
  • Farmers build business schools (agricultural business center)
  • Takes time to develop the processes and to build confidence
  • Focus on integrated pest management
  • FFS is a group of people who meet in the field
  • Farmers facilitate the procecss
  • Experts can present
  • Self organized
  • Cost
  • Radio
  • Up taking low in some countries (no promotion at international level, e.g. FAO and World Bank)
  • Info available but documentation expensive

Session Report: Making Networks Work Within Institutions

Session on Making Networks Work Within Institutions, 23 January, 2009, 9.00 to 10.15 at Queen Juliana Room.
Comments by Cristina Sette

After three presentations (The Bluebar Group, FAO; IFAD Communities of Practice; Informal Commercialization and Agri-Business Interest Group, CABIG), a member of the audience asked presenters how senior management sees these initiatives, according to their perception.
Bluebar thinks that the informality is the success of this initiative. They don't need to interact with senior management for meeting once a month to interact and learn from each other. But they do need a facilitator to bring people together and carry on the interactions. IFAD is also informal but the group has a terms of reference. It is an output oriented group and their resources are very limited as they have no funds to cover costs with face to face interactions and no time for meeting. The CABIG group is also informal group.

The difference between the Bluebar group and the others is that the first is a network related to common interests and functions individuals perform in their units/departments. The others are related to a theme. Those groups are moving from an informal interaction to a formal network, however they have no funds to operate, using funds from other projects or sources.

Let's build on the Share Fair energy and momentum to bring about change

Seven hours ago the Share Fair came to end. As of 5pm today we have approximately 700 people more colleagues who have a better understanding of knowledge sharing and see the value-added of knowledge sharing. 700 people established new contacts and networks. 700 people learnt something new and shared something with others. And most importantly 700 people had fun.

I commend my colleagues for having proactively participated in great numbers. I commend my leadership who despite their busy schedules set aside at least half a day to come over to the Share Fair to visit the booths, talk to people and see for themselves the organization's knowledge in action. I commend senior colleagues and directors, who over the last three days visited the Share Fair more than once and spent considerable amount of time going to sessions and learning something new. I commend all my colleagues who spent many hours attending sessions and taking an active part in the Share Fair.

Kudos to all members of senior management, the Executive Director of our Change and Reform programme, our directors of HR, IT, policy, communications, technical advisory division, chief of staff and regional divisions directors.

Thanks to the Share Fair, we've increased the number of KM champions within the IFAD and converted some cynics. We've strengthened our partnership with the other agencies and built new networks, made new contacts and new friends.

Three days ago in my blog I said: "The fair's inauguration coincides with President-elect Obama taking oath of office. While history is being made across the Atlantic, in Rome, we too are taking an important step to bring about change by demystifying knowledge management and showing that KM is not a fad but a fact and a way of living." And YES we did it!!

We should all go proud of our achievement. The challenge is to keep the momentum and build on the positive energy. The closing ceremony may have closed the Share Fair but the real work starts now. And we are in a better position to do it, because thanks to our expanded networks we have more opportunities to draw on each other's knowledge.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Session Report: Capturing Knowledge through Stakeholder Engagement by Simone Staiger-Rivas

Session: Capturing Knowledge through Stakeholder Engagement
Room: Facilitation Room
Time: 21 January, 13:45 - 15:00

I was the facilitator of this session and we started with a short introduction of the 16 participants, 3 of whom presented their related experiences.

I asked the group to pair up and have a very short discussion on their individual understanding of the title. Some participants were more interested in the Knowledge capturing side of the topic while others wanted to learn more about innovative stakeholder engagement approaches.

Our three cases linked nicely the two aspects.
  • Emerson Zhou from IFAD presented in his 5 minute short talk the different knowledge tools that the PAMA (Market access for smallholder farmers) Program in Mozambique used as the project progressed.
Read more on the ICT-KM Blog..

Session Report: KM strategies and activities for rural development by Nadia Manning-Thomas

Session: KM strategies and activities for rural development
Facilitator: Marco Piazza
Reporter: Nadia Manning-Thomas
Time: 22 January, 13:45 - 15:00

The session began with a short verbal presentation of two projects on the topics of:
  1. Embedding KM tools such as documenting learning and systematisation in rural development projects—IFAD
  2. Sharing knowledge to do things better: embedding KM strategy in rural development projects–IFAD-PAMA
Some highlights from the presentations included:
  • workshop was a key instrument used through the project–particularly thematic workshops
  • capturing interesting stories from the field and publishing them using the website and also local media
  • study tours and exchanges between one community and another
  • project website (but more for purpose of collating the materials from the project rather than for daily work)
  • video on the program and its experiences–targeted at bringing visibility to the program and the issue of market linkages to top of national agenda
  • invited politicians to be involved in a number of visible events–to capture their attention
  • policy workshops, working groups
Original post available from ICT-KM Blog.

Session Report: Knowledge Sharing within Teams by Simone Staiger-Rivas

Session: Knowledge Sharing within Teams
Facilitator: Guenter Hemrich
Reporter: Simone Staiger-Rivas
Room: Canada Room
Time: 22 January, 13:45 - 15:00

I presented the KS workshop at the session on KS for Teams.

I was surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed that the session focused so much on tools and less on KS and teamwork as a process and the principles of it.

Here is a summary of the session:

The first presenter, Thierry Benoit from IFAD, claimed that when he came from the field to bureaucracy he realized how little knowledge staff had about IFADs own projects. He considers each project having its own value Chain which goes from evaluation to KM to Communication. That is why the M&E system has to be strengthened so that KM issue can be identified and communication processes improved and fine tuned. Benoit asks each of his project teams to have its own website and to work along a Project Knowledge Pyramid that links the project value chain to HQ as well as to local governments and users. He insists in the use of tools like YouTube or Google, or any other media to show his teams that they are able to produce relevant Knowledge. ¨It is amazing how the local teams were strengthened through this process¨ he said.

In my presentation of the workshop I highlighted the action learning principle of our concept where participants get to understand their context better through a Social Networking Analysis and select a project or issue related to their work and to which they would like to apply the learnings. The workshop is a team exercise in itself where each online session or face to face dynamic unfolds using KS tools, methods and principles.

Nicholas MacGowan von Holstein presented us Twidox, a document uploading tool that allows organization to create digital repositories and libraries.

Wolfgang Prante introduced us to the context in which he developed a team working and information sharing tool for a internal division at FAO. The software allows the team members to share information, keep documents, to have online discussions and more. First feedback is positive, also the team uses more the information sharing features of the application then the interactive ones (forums, blogs)

Johannes Keizer from FAO brought up his case about the moment when he wanted to create a better work environment through an online tool where his team was asked to share their work. The first attempt was quite a failure as he admits and the application was called The Devil as it created an atmosphere of competition and also because the media wiki was not the right tool. Johannes didn’t give up but changed his strategy. He decided to change the tool and to use it just for himself at first, and sharing the updates with the team who could join, but this time it was not mandatory. The tool is a HTTP setup that all FAO can see, which a login for team members, and a mash up of news, the colleagues own blogs, and a tagging system that allows to retrieve content easily

In the discussion a question was about how to help users to get tool to be used and how much discipline should have to use the same tool. I was happy to be able to make my point on the need to build trust in a team through strong f2f interaction, which allows the team then to feel more comfortable in their online interaction. I was also emphasizing that in my experience it is much more efficient to choose one tool per purpose, even with the risk to have to use multiple tools within a team, rather than trying to find or develop the “one tool that does everything”. Finally my third point was to build on the strengths of a team-champion who is excited about team work and who the others trust and follow in the exploration and adoption of tools and approaches this person suggests.

At the end of the session we went around the circle to summarize some important points for the participants, as:
  • There are many tools: which one is right?
  • We can strengthen teams by showing them that they can produce relevant Knowledge
  • We need to build trust. No trust, no team work.
  • The right tool is the tool you like
  • There are many tools but you need to control your time and have a clear purpose
  • Choose the right tool for the right job
  • I feel dizzy by the number of tools out there
  • For KS to happen we need a cultural change in our bureaucracies
  • Choose the tool and adapt it to people’s way of working
  • Life is an experiment
  • Tools work better when there is trust among the team members
  • Team work is not easy. We need tools

Session Report: Demystifying Knowledge Management: The Naked Truth

Session on Demystifying Knowledge Management: The Naked Truth (facilitated by Geoff Parcell), 22 January, 2009, 9.00 to 10.15 at Iran Room.

Comments by Cristina Sette

In this session we learned the process of self assessment on knowledge management. The session had a great attendance with the room almost full. After Geoff presenting a matrix with the levels of assessment and a sample of topics to be assessed, such as KM strategy, leadership behavior, networking, etc), the participants divided themselves into groups, according to their organizations. Those without colleagues from the same organization formed a group as well. Self assessment table presented below:

After 30 minutes of group discussion, Geoff asked us to place our organization within the ranking of levels given, 1 to 5, indicating where staff felt they are. Additionally, Geoff asked us to indicate which level we would like to be, as an organization.
He, then, demonstrated where each organization is on the river diagram. Based on where each topic appears on the diagram, they can seek improvements with the existing knowledge within the organization (as appeared in the self assessment) or, it the topic falls 'outside the water', it is likely that the organization needs external consultants to help them improve the topic. More on self assessment is at Geoff's book 'Learning to Fly'.
According to participants, the exercise was very useful and they had an overview of the process of self assessment.
Geoff commented that this self assessment also help individuals to learn from each other and how their perceptions from KM within their organizations may change after hearing the experiences of other colleagues.

Session Report: Leveraging Geographically Distributed Expertise through KS

Session on Leveraging Geographically Distributed Expertise through KS, 22 January, 2009, 10.45 to noon at Gabon Room.

Comments by Cristina Sette

The session was presented by German Escobar (IFAD - RIMISP), Tawfiq El-Zabri (IFAD - IDRC), Chase Palmeri (IFAD) and Huyen Tran (FAO).

German presented a network in Latin America which is currently in its 4th phase. The network involves the public and private sector, promotes learning and innovation, search results for problems and policy application, and value information. There is a part-time coordinator and am assistant involved in coordinating the network. The activities related to knowledge sharing and knowledge management happening at this project are the following:
  • KM analysis at National level
  • Bulletin (‘hosted’ independent from IFAD website)
  • Electronic conferences (designed with farmers and developing programs, 1-3 years)
  • Website library
  • Communication Tools (evaluate each method/tools every 3 years; qualitative indicators).
  • Field work to capture information
  • Training facilitators

Chase presented the activities she is involved in Asia and the Pacific. The KS activities going on depend highly on connectivity and the commonalities between the several projects and are as following:
  • Website
  • Email
  • Disseminate Info
  • Face to Face
  • Open to all members to participate
She mentioned the language constraints and the need to improve the network.

Huyen presented the global forum on food security which was created in October 2007. The forum is open to any user and has daily facilitated discussions (with invited subject matter specialists). It serves as a repository of information and also a way of involve people.
Some of the constraints are as following:
  • connectivity
  • involve more people (including FAO staff)
  • improve the visibility of the forum
Asked about the quality control of the information posted, the group mentioned that the moderator of the forum does the quality control, who also summarizes the discussion and translates into Spanish and French. Two full time staff are involved in moderating the forum. Recent evaluation showed that the forum is considered very useful

Tawfig presented the network called Karianet and his experience on building a regional network. The motivation of people to participate in the network are related to learning and improving performance.The way the network works focus on processes, practionaires, documenting knowledge and working with pilot projects. The lessons:
  • sustainability of the network:ownership, interest, symbolic membership fees, validate, involve private sector and rural communities.
  • in 2004 a needs assessment was carried(ownership) together with activities on capacity building targetting project managers to help them reflect. The process was supported by a knowledge facilitator and activities were carried out face to face to build trust and confidence. Participants learned about their own projects, beginning a change in culture.
  • The network concentrates on themes (e.g. M&E)
  • Documents (Reports)- K products
  • Demand driven
  • Sustainability after end project:
  • Topic relevant (views on it, stakeholders, share experiences)
  • Thematic and Regional Network

Session Report: Assessment methodologies and learning for policymaking by Nadia Manning-Thomas

Session: Assessment methodologies and learning for policymaking
Room: India Room
Time: 22 January 2009, 9:00 - 10:45

Today is Thursday 22nd January- and the third and final day of the Share Fair. For the first session of the day I am attending the session on ‘Assessment methodologies and learning for policymaking’ being convened in the India Room.

The session invovles the presentation of a group from FAO including Stephan Baas, Claudia Hiepe and Selvaraju Ramsamy. Their presentation is on Livelihood adaptation to climate change- a socio-institutional learning process: experiences from a project in Bangladesh.

The session will be run as a peer assist as the group would really like to get some feedback and ideas from those attending the session on their project and tools.
  1. to develop a methodology to bridge the gap between global circulation models and local farmers–needs to be translated into local realities
  2. how can we come to some very concrete actions-what can we do at this point while we still have uncertainty
  3. based on analysis-how can we inform policy makers to develop an enabling environment for local actions
First they introduce the context by showing a film looking at the effects of climate change in Bangladesh and some interventions that FAO has been undertaking there.

The project wanted to build on existing processes and make use of them for promoting learning and doing dissemination around climate change adaptation. One example of this was using existing Farmer Field schools and making them into Climate Field schools.

The next part of the session involved Claudia Hiepe showing the group a number of the various knowledge products that the project had produced for various stakehodlers. A list of things developed and available was handed out to the attendees. Products were designed for various groups to disseminate the information. Three main levels were showcased including:

1. Information collection, knowledge generation and sharing at farm/community level
• picture field guide
• theatre, drama songs
• field days
• demonstrations
• climate field schools

2. Knowledge generation with and for Field Practitioners/NGOs/national research
• written adaptation option menu
• training manuals
• guidelines and practices

3. Knowledge sharing at national/international level
• technical reports
• formal publications
• BBC radio broadcasts
• documentary films

Then Salvaraju showed us the online tool that has been developed as a training tool.
It was developed out of a need for a more interactive e-learning tool since it is not possible to reach all extension agents with face-to-face training programs or even published materials. The tool was developed also as a way of fitting into the technology transfer process that is being carried out by the extensionists.

The project found that when they tested out the tool with some extension agents the feedback they got was that the extension personell needed some exposure to working on computers as many of them don’t have much experience in working with computers.

Some issues and challenges experienced:
  • overload of materials developed, but still need to find good and effective ways to get information to the particular target groups
  • how to translate this learning that is being created at the local level to higher level policy making
  • how to institutionalise this issue. Working through extension but struggling with the question of how to do this more effectively and sustainably. Sometimes people go back to business as usual–and just go back to old ways of doing technology transfer and calling it adaptation to climate change—so how to keep them on track.
One of the big questions that came up in the discussion was really what are the best ways to share knowledge and make effective linkages with the policy makers. This is something that many projects have as an aim but do not know what approaches to follow. It is not easy!

Some suggestions, ideas and discussion threads included:
  • Need to develop personal relationships with some key players in the policy field
  • Need to build capacity even amongst policy makers and future policy makers
  • Need to be more clear about what policy change you want to bring about to be able to truly develop a strategy for dissemination and interaction
  • Need to consider policy demand and not just push our own supply to policy makers–we need to learn about what policy makers need and what opportunities exist
Original post on ICT-KM Blog.

Session Report: Making Networks Work Within Institutions by Nadejda Loumbeva

Making Networks Work Within Institutions by Nadejda Loumbeva
Day 3 at 9am in Queen Juliana

About 20 people (including 5 presenters) were part of the discussion. Two of those joined from FAO RAP via a video link. We first introduced the BlueBar network, then a couple of IFAD communities of practice. After, we played a video describing a third FAO RAP community. Discussion and questions were lively. Time was not enough to touch on all issues. Everyone seemed quite happy with the process. A couple of people told me they really enjoyed the session.

Process Challenges:
  • The quality of the video link sound was bad. We (more or less) overcame this by asking the people in FAO RAP to place the microphone the furthest away from them as possible. We still had to try hard in order to make out what they were saying. ... Understanding each other was difficult!
  • A short video had to be projected. We could not do this because Queen Juliana does not allow projecting a film and having something running over a video link at one and the same time (the projector screen 1. takes time installing and 2. is right in front of the video screen!). We ended up showing the video on a small computer screen ... it worked sufficiently well. We played the sound very loud.
  • There were ONLY TWO microphones (of the type that has cords and which you can not easily pass around ...) in the room. Each time a person wanted to speak, he/she had to have a microphone in front of him/her so that the people in FAORAP could hear them. This made us have to place the microphones in front of those who wanted to speak, each time! Logistically, this complicated the session.
  • The messenger was not in the room for the whole time! I really needed her to help with the above microphone issue.
  • The presenter from IFAD had prepared a 10min ppt. I had to discourage him from using it.
Summary of some of the discussion:
  • To make networks work within institutions, these would need to start as and build on informal communities, driven by interest, and demand for information/knowledge in a certain domain. The element of at least some informality is crucial to ensure the network is as organic as possible. This would be what would be enabling its members to learn together.
  • In some cases, it is good to have the financial and/or other support of the institutions within which the networks form, especially so were the networks to play a more strategic role with regards to the work of the organisation. (This was the case with IFAD's communities.) This would be in terms of network participants being encouraged:

    1. to take time to participate in the network

    2. to think together of concrete strategies and other ways (like commenting on strategies and plans of action, better even creating such) which feed into the business of the organisation

    3. to meet regularly by having financial and logistics support for such meetings (depending on the need for such)
  • Institutions should not be trying to manage these communities but rather cultivate them (like flowers in a pot).
  • The BlueBar community is an informal group of communicators in FAO meeting for coffee once a month in the BlueBar to share and learn. This process leads them to inform the work of each member and give him/her more access to the information they need. The community has also contributed to the FAO Communications strategy.
  • The CABIG network is a group of people who share issues related to AgriBusiness. Their objective is to share knowledge and experiences on agribusiness across technical groups in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. One goal is to contribute better to the strategic thinking on agro-industries development at FAORAP.
  • The IFAD communities of practice (in terms of the Wenger's model, with an inner circle, and an outer circle) are driven by their own ToRs and work plans. They have, also, influenced IFAD policies on the issues of their interest (microfinance).
  • In some cases, senior managers may be supporting institutional networks openly which helps to make it work; however, in others, they may be preventing people from being members!
  • Sustainability of the groups: It is important to have a champion/champions and in some cases a more formal structure to the network in order to sustain it. The Bluebar does not need a champion as it is vital for its members to meet to share information. Even if the two current focal points left, the group would still exist. The need for a coordinator or champion was recognized by CABIG. It was questionable if CABIG would still function without the two current coordinators. The IFAD groups on rural finance are sustainable thanks to their recognized contribution to the IFAD strategic process.
  • Relationship with Management and achieving recognition: The Bluebar group did not intend to seek any sort of formalization or endorsement from FAO managers. CABIG is currently in a midway as informality allows greater flexibility of information sharing, but not having a formal existence within RAP does create hurdles to some activities the members would like to undertake. The IFAD rural finance networks are satisfied as their management sees great value in the existence and outputs of these informal groups.
  • The Manager of the Innovation Cell at IFAD asked all three groups to share one emblematic product and one great frustration for each of the groups. As far as CABIG was concerned, the FAO RAP publication 2007/13 "A Practical Manual for Producers and Exporters from Asia" was partly a result of CABIG. The sharing of information was in itself a product worth recognizing. It would be good to formalize CABIG in some form as the informal nature of the group sometimes led to some frustration when dealing with formal structures of the Regional Office.

Session on "Keeping Institutional Memory (Part 1)" by Meena Arivanathan

What a morning?! The plan was to catch the GoogleApps session–but they ran out of space. Quelle suprise..

So that’s how I zoomed in on ”Keeping Institutional Memory (Pt 1)”. And what a great idea that was! Using the Fishbowl technique of having a group sitting in a circle in the middle of the room and others sitting outside, allowed democratic discussions. See the KS Toolkit for more info. People could share their insights in a non threatening way–it was nurturing to say the least.

Read full post on ICT-KM Blog..

Session Report: Development of Land Policy and Land Reform Frameworks by Mami Wada

Session: Development of Land Policy and Land Reform Frameworks
Facilitator: Mami Wada
Date and time: 22 January, 10:45-12:00 (extended until the next session started)- India Room

Attendance: 35-40 people, the mix of different organizations such as FAO, WFP, IFAD, NGOs, and CGIARs.


Went very well. Time was too short to accommodate 4 presenters and discussion. Session participants agree to continue discussion and they continued until the next session started ( I have left around 12:20)
  • Four 10 minutes presentations. Messages were communicated based on a common ground of 3 interactive levels (basic, second and third) of knowledge sharing)
  • Discussion on the presentation
  • Focus on important factors for development of land policy and issues.
  • Conclusion
Result of discussion and recommendations:
  • Knowledge sharing is important for all three levels. Especially importance of inter personal/face to face communication was brought up by many participants.
  • Multi stakeholder involvement
  • Good communication/dialogues
  • Lack of sustainability for knowledge sharing/networking was presented as an issue.
  • Importance of knowledge generation by civil/farmer's organization
  • Government and inter-government involvements
  • Land issues to be as a global agenda
  • Active participation by men and woman, gender segregated data
  • Bio energy and land policy
  • Result of balance of interests
  • Knowledge sharing for policy formulation
  • Who needs information? Land tenure information based on demands
  • PBES (IFAD presented a system to rate countries' performance)
  • Knowledge sharing for implementation
  • Knowledge change initiatives
  • Capacity capacity building
  • Promoting knowledge sharing
  • Interacting among actors.
We have concluded that networking and dialogue are crucial for development of land policy and issues. Then, participants voluntarily remained in a conference room to continue discussion.

A room could be bigger to accommodate all participants. It was impossible to change a layout. In order to accommodate 4 presenters and discussion (real knowledge sharing!), I recommend the the time for session be considered for at least 90 minutes.

Participants' names and E-mail address will be disseminated for further discussion and knowledge sharing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Patterns from Session Feedback

As part of the facilitation team, I was asked to gather some form of feedback after each session. As I did not want to take too much time away from the session itself, I was fishing for a useful and generative feedback mechanism. Here is what I came up with today. At the start of the session I asked why people picked the session (as they had a LOT of choice) and what they expected to get out of it. This works well for smaller sessions. I capture these ideas on a flip chart page. At the end of the session, we do a "reality" check and give a +, - or +/- for each of the "wish" items. Then I asked what they wanted to learn or do next.

The reason this is feeling useful is because the breadth of the Fair give people a tiny tastes of many Knowledge Sharing flavors. It introduces possibility, but it is much harder to go deeper or develop skills in many of the new methods and tools. This gives us some good suggestions about "what next" after the Fair, both for individuals, organizations and the group of sponsoring organizations as a whole.

So as we go into day three, what do YOU want to do next? What would you like to see happen to deepen and further your KS competency going forward?

Session Report: Social Bookmarking by Kristin Kolshus and Valeria Pesce

Session: Social Bookmarking
Facilitator: Kristin Kolshus
Date and time: 21 Jan 09:00-10:15 Uemoa Room
Attendance: 7 people, expressed satisfaction at the end of the session

Session: Social Bookmarking
Facilitator: Kristin Kolshus and Valeria Pesce
Date and time: 22 Jan 09:00-1015 Uemoa Room
Attendance: 15 people, expressed satisfaction at the end of the session


Went very well. Introduced topic, showed 3-4 min video on social bookmarking and talked about topic, demoed Delicious online and also talked about how it could be useful on personal level and for working in groups or for a conference/event. Then hand-on demo of bookmarking and social aspect and tagging for last half hour.

Very mixed prior technology knowledge in group. Some said outside session they had no idea what it was about and were embarrassed to come, might have need more intro text about this in promotional material and how it is useful in work context. Eight people (from FAO) who could not come have already contacted me for a brief training in social bookmarking. Definitely a need for followup on this.

At the end everybody said the tool was definitely useful, two of them created an account on the fly and the others said they would do it at home because it's so easy! They also seemed interested in advanced features like adding people to their networks, bundling tags, re-adding browser buttons on another computer etc...

More information about the session and documentation are available via the Share Fair Website.

Session Report: Keeping Institutional Memory - Part 1

This session really made me think on two fronts: first, about the methodology used (the fishbowl. See a brief description on the kstoolkit site); and second about trying to approach institutional memory systematically.

The content: we started talking about several initiatives, including a collaboration platform for Human Resources staff, an online country brief intranet platform, and a manual for designing and implementing projects (see: I1004a, F1070 and X1030).

They, and other initiatives that came up, were quite different from each other in various ways (technologies, users, institutional contexts, etc.), but the conversation began to converge on some of the most difficult nuts to crack: how to generate enthusiasm and understanding of potential and actual benefits, how to ensure the content providers you depend on actually provide the content, how to ensure those who do share feel they are appreciated, etc.

I may be wrong, but I felt a real coming together among many participants around these issues and I certainly had a deeper appreciation not only of their importance, but more crucially of the importance of consciously integrating these issues into the design and implementation of knowledge sharing initiatives (in a project context, institutional context, network context, whatever).

We also talked about the fishbowl methodology itself: having a conversation within a group of about 25 people can be difficult, but a fishbowl can keep it manageable so only a few people talk at once, but everyone gets a chance to provide input if they want to. It also helps to get you physically out of the people around a u-shaped table scenario into one that is much more informal and relaxed, and where the energy is focused on the people as they face each other. It reinforces my belief in getting rid of tables as much as possible, and in the power of physical layout to promote interaction and participation. All in all, it was time well-spent :-)

Session Report: Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas by Stephen Rudgard

Session: Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas by Stephen Rudgard
Room: Flag Hall
Time: January 21, 2009 - 15:30 -16:45

The facilitator explained that the e-Agriculture global community of expertise focuses on enhancing the role of ICTs in rural development. The initiative started in 2007, and it has evolved rapidly to include 4284 individual members in 154 countries in January 2009. The web-based community platform offers information and opportunities to interact such as online discussion forums. Over 150 community members from more than 50 countries participated in the most recent forum on “Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas” in November 2008. The ShareFair session was partly aimed at discussing some of the issues arising in the forum.

Major features of Telephony in Rural Areas
The panel members noted that mobile telephony in rural areas has emerged as a principal and vital tool for connecting people in rural areas, allowing efficient exchange of knowledge. Given its widescale availability, it has bridged a gap in the sector given that the internet is much less accessible to rural people. ITU statistics show that there are 3.3 billion subscribers in Africa, which is equal to about 40% of the population. It has been shown that up to 15 different people with different SIM cards in some villages may be using a single mobile handset, and that low income households are willing to spend 4-8% of their income on mobile-related costs. The London School of Economics alleges that 10 additional mobiles per 10,000 people improves GDP by 0.5%.

Uses of Mobiles
Farmers and other rural people have rapidly learned how to use their mobiles in various ways apart from phone calls. Farmers use SMS in relation to market access, interacting with traders and middlemen to distribute and receive information about products, prices, and availability. Some examples of concrete evidence were offered in reference to the direct benefits to farmers from telephony in rural sectors found in some IFAD projects:
  • Zambia: Farmers’ productivity has greatly increased along with their income.
  • Tanzania: Fishermen on the Great Lakes are able to communicate with one another and share information about the demand of fish and the prices in the various markets in which they sell. In this way, their productivity and income have increased, while they have avoided over-fishing and are protecting the natural resources.
Limitations of mobiles
It was noted that handsets used by poorer people in developing countries normally offer very basic limited functionality, including small monochrome screens, which cannot support many of the uses available in high income countries. However, service providers have successfully used mobile telephone alongside other media such as radio and the internet, recognizing each medium’s limitations and exploiting its advantages.

Useful sources of information:

Session Report: Knowledge Sharing and Good Water Governance

Session Report: Knowledge Sharing on Good Water Governance
Room: Facilitation Room
Time: 21 January 2009, 15:30 - 16:45

When I reviewed the submissions for the last panel I was facilitating today (Knowledge Sharing Methods on Good Water Governance), I was struggling to imagine the "hook" for the conversation across the projects. There is this interesting tension in many of the sessions, which is how much focus should we put on the domain/content (in this case governance in water issues) and how much on the theme of the fair, knowledge sharing? Because we all value the practical application of KS, this balance is important. We want to increase our KS skills, but not in some theoretical vacuum. So the hook between the content and the KS issues is important to me.

Well once Moses started talking about the application of Net Mapping to a dam project in Northern Ghana, the use of Knowledge Profiling in identifying knowledge as a product of a project and Frank shared the application of contests in a water governance initiative in Bolivia, I had a little aha. It should have been obvious, but sometimes we need to hear stories of use to see the light.

This was a really useful case of seeing various methods as not just the methods themselves, but as knowledge sharing methods. Why is this important? I think when we look at our work with a KS "lens" we see some different things. For example, in the NetMapping story of Ghana, Moses stated they used it initially at the close of a project as more of a post evaluation method. But as they used and deepened their knowledge of the method application, they saw that not only did they gain social network analysis data, but they observed how the method influenced the communication in the work, and how people begin to see new possibilities through this very visual method. Moses noted that they now see the method as something they can use at any phase of a project and that while it requires trust, it also generates some deeper communication. So this very act of knowledge sharing, as I understood it, changed the dynamics of the work.

We had less detailed information about the profiling method from Rudolph. My sense it was a more structured and detailed process, but again, it helps the participants "see" the learning in a different way. And thus share it in a different way. They noted that the Knowledge Profile results were useful in an academic setting and more formal evaluation. While the NetMap addressed the social and power aspects of the work.

Finally, Frank observed that using contests was both a well documented method useful in many contexts and domains, but a real insight for me was his suggestion that it is a good starter method to uncover knowledge that can be more formally assessed with the Knowledge Profile and to help guide the design of work.

How do we pick these methods? What is a good mix or sequence? Does the selection vary widely by context or are there some useful use practices we can uncover?

We can't know this unless we continue to swap stories as we did this afternoon. So for me the hook is to add a layer of learning while doing about methods and process, then share that learning outside and across our work to see if we can surface the range of methods and their applications for knowledge sharing in agriculture and food security.

Session Report: Leveraging Connections Among Networks by Nadejda Loumbeva

Leveraging Connections Among Networks
Facilitator - Nadejda Loumbeva
Day 2 at 13.45 in Espace Gabon

15 people (excluding the facilitator) participated in the session. 3 of those were presenters. We started off with describing the initiatives (ESCORENA network, e-Agriculture network, IMAWESA network). Then we moved onto a discussion. In the process of this, we used some of the computer and projector to show the websites of the featured networks.

Challenges to the process were:

  • All three initiatives were incredibly complex and we had to struggle with ensuring these are being shared concisely and ''to-the-point'', in ways that encourage people to see linkages among them and discuss.
  • Some of the presenters were taking a long time giving the background to their initiative. I had to work with them so that they focus more on the mechanisms underlying the network. It was a question of reinforcing them whenever they talked about mechanisms and gently stopping them when they would give away details that were (in my opinion!) distracting the discussion.
  • The Espace Gabon room is difficult in terms of 1. having a few flip chart sheets written on at one and the same time (there is no where to put them but stick them to one of the walls) and 2. having all people see those sheets (all would sit in an oval around a big table and so some people would always have their backs on them). This was making difficult the synergy between notes I would take on these sheets (one for each network and a fourth one for challenges and lessons learnt) and the actual discussion. I guess it would have been good to enable the session in a way that is more holistic (i.e., people seeing all notes, and making connections among them whilst participating) however I do not think this worked.

Summary of some of the discussion:

IMAWESA network
This initiative aims to influence policies, attitudes and investment priorities in agricultural water management. This is intended to happen via different stakeholders (ministries and other public institutions, people on the ground, researchers) being brought together in the context of process documentation, dialogue, learning assessments, capacity building initiatives, peer reviews, amongst others. Such would create linkages between different stakeholders in agricultural water management to encourage and build upon. A few different organisations have joined in support of the initiative, one of which is IFAD. The initiative currently spans 23 countries. It has no online platform to more interactively connect the participating stakeholders and leverage their connections, however it is understood this may need to change in the near future.

ESCORENA network
This network was established in 1974. ESCORENA is a network of 14 other networks, each of which is focused on researching and raising a particular crop (i.e., walnut network, flax and other bast plants network, olive network) or animal (i.e., buffalo network). The networks that are members of ESCORENA are all Europe-based but beginning to expand to other regions as well, in addition to being thematically focused quite specifically. The purpose of ESCORENA is to enable linkages among the participating networks that would be in terms of joint projects, sharing of knowledge, etc., in ways that add to these networks. It is also to enable a bigger body of research and agricultural knowledge to be continuously developed that would in itself represent an interest to outside parties (such as the European Commission). A challenge behind making the network work has been the lack of consistent and appropriate communication among all members (so far, this has been mostly during face-to-face meetings with an otherwise permanent email-based contact being maintained via a Coordination Centre) . The intention is to overcome this via an ESCORENA online platform (already created).

The purpose of the e-agriculture network is to bring forward the use of ICT in rural development and food security and enable a dialogue on this within and among different groups. The network was officially launched in September 2007 by a few co-sponsoring organisations who believed in the importance of this issue. Individuals are able to join the network via the network's online platform. So far, there are about 4300 people from 154 countries who have joined the network. A challenge has been to keep the focus of the network clear, while at the same time meeting the variety of interests of those who are part of it. A critical part of the community is having face-to-face meetings (as part of larger events organized by other organizations), as well as the intention to support the establishment of regional e-agriculture communities in order to keep local issues and interests synchronized. In the meantime, would remain a global platform. The network frequently engages in on-line discussions and e-forums on issues related to ICT in agriculture. The demand for what topics to dialogue on comes from the network itself, and when necessary, expertise is brought in from outside the network. Some of this can lead to in-country interventions where local expertise is brought to the service of a local problem through the action of the network.

  • Lack of continued and appropriate funding may hurdle any network and especially initiatives as complex as the ones part of this session; financial support, as well as other in terms of coordination and facilitation, are crucial.
  • In some cases, it may be good to get people to give something back to the community in return for learning and thus ensure there is continued practical support underlying the network.
  • Sometimes network membership may grow way too quickly (when the network is open to everyone) and difficult to keep in synchrony and synergy; this may be overcome by keeping a good balance between supporting demand from within the network and providing some guidance and formats for different network activities.
  • In other cases, despite there being many members to a network, there may not be involvement and participation in the network; in such cases leveraging the use of web platforms may be helpful.
  • Is it possible to and how can we measure impact of such initiatives? the discussion seemed to agree on using secondary rather than primary indicators for impact, such as referencing the network in publications and other research centre activities.
  • How can we monitor and evaluate? it would be better to focus on monitoring and evaluating the process underlying the network rather than its thematic focus and content; this would be more indicative of whether and how the network is a healthy environment for collaborative learning.
  • A question on the importance of substance was raised, to pinpoint the importance of a clear purpose driving complex networking initiatives such as the ones featured in the session; unless there is a clear purpose to drive the dialogue, there is the danger of the network becoming a dry framework with no real substance to it.

Session Report - Leveraging Geographically Distributed Expertise Through Knowledge Sharing (Part I)

Session Report - Leveraging Geographically Distributed Expertise Through Knowledge Sharing (Part I) Day 2
Espace Gabon
Facilitator: Nadejda Loumbeva

About 15 people participated in the session. 3 of those were presenters. We started off with telling each other about the initiatives being presented (EastAgri network, Biotechnology Forum, SolutionExchange network). Then we moved to a discussion focused on making geographically distributed expertise through knowledge sharing work. In the process of this, we used some of the computer and projector to show the websites of the featured initiatives. I also took notes on several flipchart sheets, one for each network and one for the overall discussion and conclusions. Despite that the Espace Gabon room does not allow all participants to face several flip chart sheets all at once (you need to stick the flipchart sheets to the walls and so some participants would have their backs on them), we had no problem with participating in a shared discussion and following on notes being taken. This was because all participants were very willing to suit with a discursive and flexible session format. In the process of the session, this took a tendency towards a peer-assist, with the SolutionExchange and the Biotechnology Forum presenters offering insights to the EastAgri presenter on starting off and maintaining network online discussions. If I could do this again, I would spare some of the time we spent on telling each other about the initiatives being presented and cut straight to challenges and opportunities.

Summary of some of the discussion:

EASTAGRI network:

EastAgri is a network of financial institutions investing in agriculture and agribusiness in Central and Eastern Europe. Currently, the network has 24 institutional members, of which some are international organisations (i.e., IFAD, FAO), some are private sector organisations (i.e., Rabobank), some are bilateral organisations, and some are international financial institutions (i.e., European Investment Bank). Country ministries are also part of the network. EastAgri is intended as a flexible and informal platform via which good practices and lessons learnt in institutional investment in agriculture and agribusiness in the region are shared and institutional synergies are found. So far, members of the network have come together in the context of several annual meetings. There have also been the opportunities of study tours within member countries to learn about a specific agribusiness aspect. The coordinators of the network have been using google analytics to track EastAgri website visits and thus judge about the popularity of the website and its underlying initiative; the number of website hits has been steadily increasing. In addition, the EastAgri website has a password-protected member section; it has nevertheless been difficult to get network members to communicate/participate in online discussions. A next step would be to explore online communication opportunities with the network members.


The FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture (FAO Biotechnology Forum) was established in March 2000 with the aim of providing quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries and to make a neutral platform available for people to exchange views and experiences on the subject. It has hosted 15 moderated e-mail conferences so far on biotechnology and topics such as bioenergy, water or genetic resources. Membership of the Forum is currently about 3,000 people and is open to everyone. Greatest participation in its conferences is from people working in universities and research institutes, although all other relevant stakeholders are also involved in the discussions, and they are more or less evenly distributed worldwide (for example 1/4 of messages have come from Europe and 1/4 from Asia). Normally between 10-20% of Forum members subscribe to any one of the e-conferences. The e-conference topics are chosen by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology and the choice is motivated by factors such as the actuality of the topic and potential interest for FAO member states. Prior to each conference, a document summarising the latest scientific research and background on the chosen topic is sent to all Forum members. Each online conference is moderated, to ensure the messages posted are clear, understandable and follow acceptable standards for an e-mail discussion and to allow the moderator to add relevant explanations and scientific information. There has, in general, been little need to reject messages. After each e-conference, a summary document is sent by email to all Forum members as well as put on the Forum website. The Forum has a very well organised structure and process which has apparently worked very well with the nature of the Forum's membership. At least in part, this may also be due to the very clear purpose behind the Forum.


Solution Exchange, an initiative of the United Nations Agencies in India for the harnessing the power and passion of Communities of Practice to help attain India’s development objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. There are 11 communities with a total of 15,000 members as part of Solution Exchange. The Food and Nutrition Security Community of Practice is facilitated by FAO and co facilitated by Nutrition Foundation of India. The purpose of this community is to enable sharing of experiential knowledge that helps meeting of the respective Millennium Goal. The main principle underlying the Solution Exchange communities is ''knowledge on demand'', i.e., what is discussed within the community is driven by its members. Members send email-based questions to the moderator of the community, which is then circulated to the members via an email distribution list. Anyone can join the community and participate in e-discussions (which aim to answer questions being asked to the community by community members). Face to face discussions are also organized to facilitate further collaborations and knowledge sharing among members. During those meetings, methodologies such as fish bowls, knowledge café, open space, appreciative inquiry, AAR and peer assists have been used in order to get people to know each other better and develop a sense for their community.

- Ensuring participation in online discussions can be very challenging - important to identify a strong case for members to seek to know about and learn from each other (what's in it for me?) as well as be aware of good practices in online facilitation.
- It is important that network/community activities, discussions, etc., are driven by incentives and demand. This would make them effective at leveraging the knowledge of network/community members.
- For networks/communities to work well, it is important to develop their face to face aspect in addition to their online aspect. This would be via workshops, round tables, and informal meetings.
- When starting an online discussion, it is important to ensure the issue of discussion is topical and one in which at least most members are interested in. In addition, circulating a document summarising background research, if appropriate, can help to get members involved in the topic. The participation of a known expert in the online discussion can help, too, as well as network/community members leveraging their own networks to participate in the discussion.
- It is good to keep e-conferences 2 to 4 weeks long.
- It may be challenging for network/community members to share failures, despite that sharing failures is good, too!
- It may be challenging for network/community members coming from different sectors (public vs. private) to communicate and exchange, either face to face or online. Overcoming sector barriers is important, by building strong incentives for collaboration and then building on this with online facilitation and community building activities.
- The fact that network/community members may speak different languages and not always English can be a great challenge. This can be tackled by enabling sub-communities form driven by different languages, then cross-fertilising among them as much as possible.
- Liability disclaimers can be a good way of enabling open and free discussion on somewhat sensitive issues (more generally, so long as a specific issue is not being debated, there may not be the need for a disclaimer)
- When networks/communities have a broad membership, it may be difficult to keep them focused when a topic/issue is being discussed. In such cases, it is good to work as closely with the network/community as possible in order to keep the focus of the discussion clear and explain to individual members why a certain post may be inappropriate, etc.
- Often, community/network moderation/facilitation is a full-time job, especially when it has an e-conference component. A considerable part of this may be taken by ''IT management'', or the management of information related to the network, online moderation, discussion summaries, etc.
- Monitoring and evaluation are important for keeping track of progress. It may be better to base those on community process rather than on content; however, depending on how clear the network/community objectives are, it may be good to also monitor and evaluate for content in addition to process.

Session Report: Partnership-based Information Sharing Models

Session: Partnership-based Information Sharing Models
Facilitator: Christiane Monsieur
Date and time: 21 January, 13:45 - 15:00
Room: Pakistan Room

About 20 participants; three initiatives were presented by five presenters.

Process: smooth, but time too short for enough discussion, lead questions identified could not be sufficiently dealt with.
  • introduction by facilitator on process and objective of the session.
  • five 10 minutes presentations (three initiatives by five presenters).
  • brief summary by the facilitator on the issue of partnership that was tackled in all presentations.
  • questions and answers.
Elements related to partnership
  • factor of success
  • need of political vision
  • need of good understanding of the project benefits
  • empowerment of partners
  • champions
  • partners at different levels (governmental, private, field, intermediaries, academic, etc.)
  • interactivity between partners, at global, regional, national levels.
  • communication: importance of human and technology component.
  • context (language, translation, existing systems)
  • flexibility
  • Success factors (at different levels according to each initiative)
  • funding (through pilot projets under Technical Cooperation Projects)
  • available human resources
  • attracting donors
  • engagement by partners
  • exchange visits
  • targeting intermediaries
  • communication for development aspects
  • critical mass to be formed
  • time (impact takes time).
Others issues discussed: quality control of data, feed-back from end-users, bridging with other initiatives.

General recommendations regarding the process
  • avoid a too ambitious programme (in terms of number of presenters and lead questions to discuss).
  • time management is a key issue.

Session Report: Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems training session
Trainers: Johannes Keizer, Giorgio Lanzarone, Valeria Pesce, Antonio Petti, Nicholas Waltham
Date and time: 21 Jan, 13:45 – 15:00
Room: Queen Juliana
Attendance: 35 people (see list), plus 5-6 late comers

After the first minutes, when we had to decide how to split so many participants into groups, everything went very well. We had a very short introduction and then split into 4 groups according to the knowledge of CMSs and the specific CMS demonstrated (groups: Drupal beginners, Typo3 beginners, Drupal non-beginners, OpenCMS). Each group gathered around a computer with one or two trainers. People stayed on until after the end of the session and kept asking questions and showing interest.

Very little prior knowledge in the group (which is why we decided to demonstrate only one of the Java-based CMSs, which are less user-friendly). Some participants were interested in the main advantages / disadvantages of a system over another, which we did not tackle in depth because of the introductory character of the session and the limited time at disposal.
There was demand for a repeat, which Giorgio conducted the following day.

Session Report: Leveraging Knowledge to Influence Policy by Gunilla Olsson

Session: Leveraging Knowledge to Influence Policy
Facilitator: Gunilla Olsson
Date and time: 21 January, 13.45 - 15.15 Canada room
Attendance: about 20 people, majority from IFAD; expressed satisfaction at the end of the session

Went very well. The structure of the session was:
  • three brief introductions by the presenters
  • three more in-depth contributions from partners of each project
  • Two rounds of questions on the presentations
  • Discussion on the relationship of knowledge and advocacy
Discussion outcomes:

1. On the role of knowledge in evidence based pro-poor policy making
  • Basing the priority-setting of public policies and development interventions on evidence implies involving the rural stakeholders in all phases of the process - from the monitoring, setting of indicators and analysis that precede planning, to the evaluation of concluded interventions.
  • A variety of tools such as participatory assessments on peoples' needs exist - these should always be used before planning and making resource allocations.
  • Evidence itself is not always enough to influence – level of impact depends on the power of the ones using the knowledge (whether they are taken into account or not). Coalitions between different actors can help overcome the gaps in power.
  • Leveraging knowledge on different levels simultaneously has proved to be the most efficient advocacy approach. How to institutionalize multi-actor partnerships that best support this approach?
2. On how knowledge can help create a level playing field between less and more powerful
  • There are different knowledges, each of which should be recognized as legitimate.
  • Access to information alone is not enough to create level playing field - opportunities to use the knowledge are also necessary.
  • Donors' role: convincing public sector of the importance of stakeholder inclusion; and building rural peoples capacities to participate.
  • Knowledge has to be converted into a useful format before it can be used for different ends – this another possible role for donors/dev.interventions.
  • Farmers' organisations and development agencies/interventions can ensure continuity of knowledge in a politically and institutionally unstable context.
  • To avoid risks of manipulation or marginalization and to achieve constructive outcomes, a balance between power, knowledge and information is necessary, both in the case of governments and farmers' organisations.
  • Effective partnership between policy makers and civil society requires a solid knowledge base. Yet there is a lack of capacity, both by the governments and the civil society, of monitoring and using knowledge to orient policy processes.

Session Report: ‘Empowering through Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing at Grass Roots Level’ by Nadia Manning-Thomas

Session: Empowering through Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing at Grass Roots Level
Room: Canada Room
Time: 21 January, 9:00 - 10:15

To kick-off my second day at the Share Fair, I am attending what looks to be an exciting session entitled ‘Empowering through capacity building and knowledge sharing at grass roots level’ being convened in the Canada Room.

The facilitator of this session- Manuel Flury from SDC- has started off the session with a go-around of introduction from all in the room and asking us all to tell everyone something about why we are attending this session and why we are interested or believe in this topic.

Some threads that came out where:
  • how can we improve our research process
  • bridging the gap between the stakeholders and implementers and researchers
  • important to listen to grass roots people
This session will include the following ‘presentations’:
  • Improving the Performance of Private sector and local public administration in non-farm rural enterprise[Stephen Bamidele Dada]
  • Role des Groupements de developpment agricole (GDA) dans le developpement local [Bejaoui Mourad]
  • Development of Integrated dairy schemes in Afghanistan [Tek Thapa, Lutfullah Rlung (FAO)]
  • Empowering communities to document their knowledge [Paul Quek (Bioversity)]
  • Economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and family farming: farmers’ organisations acquire knowledge to engage in negotiation processes [Roberto Longo (IFAD)]
  • Safe food despite wastewater irrigation: A knowledge sharing approach to safe food [Tonya Schuetz (IWMI-CGIAR)]
Rather than having long presentations the submitters will each give a ‘60 second’ advertisement about their project ” this is my business, this is what we do” as a teaser to the participants from which they can choose one of the topics to visit for a longer, small group session (for ten minutes).

Adverts included:
Roberto’s advert encouraged us to come and hear about the economic partnership agreements that have been arranged through joint relationships and demanded for by the communities.
Tonya told us ” I would like to discuss the right marketing links for disseminating our knowledge. How do we find the right tools? how do we know that we got it right?. I will give an example of using knowledge sharing in public health in wastewater irrigation in Ghana. Come and hear about how we turned around a situation from the government jailing farmers for using wastewater to giving out a prize each year to the best farmer on Farmer Day!”

Paul: “we have been able to empower communities to document their own knowledge on agriculture, bioversity and business. How can scientists make use of this? How can scientists learn to interact with such communities? How can communities sustain this knowledge and keep documenting and using their own knowledge- what after document?’

I then visited Tonya’s group for a more in-depth discussion on her project. Some highlights of this discussion were:
*Used world cafe approach to bring together various stakeholders at the point when research results were first developed and to discuss these with them and also how these can be defined in messages and developed into appropriate interventions
*Developed, together with users, various training and communication products such as
  • DVDs
  • training manuals for catering schools
  • flip charts for extension agents which they can use in the field with their communities
  • radio programs
  • road show along the contamination pathway to learn about necessary approaches at each stage
What was successful?
  1. tapped into and brought together four related projects
  2. managed to change the researchers way of thinking
  3. adoption rate= >75%
  4. Private sector taking up many of these approaches and products
  5. starting up of farmer award
Report-back and interesting questions emerging from the discussions:

Roberto’s group on environmental partnership agreements came up with-
*how was the level of organisation of farmers critical to participate?
*what were the achievements of the collaboration with farmer organisations?
Paul’s group discussed–
*how did the community perceive the process and how did they consider it to be useful for them?
*how community can perceive the value of documenting their knowledge and exposing it to outsiders?
Tonya’s group discussed how to communicate research in different ways–
*can marketing also be used for empowering–with them end up marketing the ideas, practices etc themselves?

An interesting discussion amongst all participants about the various presentations and topic as a whole then happened for the last fifteen minutes of the session.

At the end of the session we asked “What people felt about the process?”:
  • presenters like the format
  • gave people more time to talk
  • made it more informal and comfortable
  • worked well but frustrated at not being able to hear what other groups talked about
Original post on ICT-KM Blog.