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!

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