Sunday, February 22, 2009

A month later: Reflecting on the lessons and feedback from the Share Fair

Only a month ago, during the Knowledge Share Fair, the FAO building and atrium was buzzing with energy and had become a learning and meeting hub for members of management and colleagues from Bioversity, CGIAR ICT-KM programme, FAO, IFAD and WPF.

For three days it was a common sight to see the organizing committee's members of management running into each other, engaging in formal and causal conversations. For three days it was a common sight to see colleagues having an opportunity to engage in casual conversation with members of senior management.

Only a month ago, the knowledge tree in the atrium was experiencing a wonderful spring as participants added leaves carrying their ideas, experiences, words of wisdom and inspiration.

Only a month ago the various meeting rooms at FAO saw meetings held in a different and innovative way and witnessed enthusiastic participants rushing from one session to another.

Only a month ago the e-learning lab and facilitation room witnessing a wonderful buzz as participants were telling each other about the new knowledge sharing tools, methods and techniques they had just learnt.

A month down the road, all of us feel more enriched. We now have bigger networks, new friends and new peers. The Share Fair has managed to demystify KM for lots of people. As a result, the various organizations are embracing and embedding KM methods, tools and techniques in their core processes. There is more awareness about the power and potential of Web2.0 tools as KM enablers which has led to more willingness to use these tools. The Share Fair has also helped create new networks and partnership between and among organizations.

The results of survey launched during the Share Fair shows that 67.3% of the respondents considered the Share Fair as a breath of fresh air, while 55% thought it was innovative. 66.5% of respondents rated the sessions as interesting, 52.2% said that they learnt something new, and 31% considered the various sessions as creative.

The hands-on sessions were a smashing success, followed by the booths and the technical sessions. The poster and video sessions were far from being successful.

The feedback also indicated that there were far too many sessions and a suggestion was put forward to repeat sessions. Another useful feedback came from our non-anglophone colleagues pointing out that they could not fully benefit from the various sessions because of language barrier. All of these are priceless feedback and will help make the next edition better.

Only a month ago we lived the energizing buzz of Share Fair. Together we learnt that is possible to bring about change, convert the KM cynics to KM practitioners. Now the challenge is to keep up the momentum and as Anatole France once said: "Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another." So when are we going to start working on the 2010 edition of Knowledge Share Fair?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Tree at the Share Fair

The tree is an all-encompassing symbol of creation, knowledge, life, inter-connectedness, wisdom... and most assuredly, one of sharing across cultures. In Africa, in particular, stories are exchanged around a baobab tree, whose trunk is often remarkably reminiscent of human shapes, intertwined and suggesting communication from the roots lying under the soil and the branches above. The tree represents a transformation of what lies unseen and unformed in the dark into concrete outputs represented by its leaves and flowers – ultimately food (e.g. fruit), shelter (e.g. umbrage) and natural energy (e.g. timber). Its seeds are scattered by the wind.

And so the Fair had its tree... born from the hands of Nancy White. A
tree with bare branches in need of leaves... thoughts... inspiration. A tree in winter, which was able to make passers by stop, and fill it with leaves. A strange process was enacted: the more someone would clothe the tree, the more they would expose their own ideas, revealing their feelings and attitude towards sharing. Leaf after leaf.

During the three days of the Fair, everyone passing by the Tree would either stop to read what others had written or, wrote something on the spot, as inspired by the question appended to its foliage: What are your thoughts and ideas about knowledge sharing and the Fair?

Following the outline of the tree leaves, one could find that barriers no longer were there, as an entirely new geography had been designed. One where Asian wisdom (“Of all one’s riches, wisdom is the best gift” – in Hindi) lay close to European poetry (“Do you know the land, where lemon trees grow?”- in German). For sure, one would see that "knowledge is not power..... sharing is!" And so, let us cultivate ways to nurture this spirit of sharing. How? For instance, strengthening the contents of what we share (interview to Margaret Zito, FAO Library). Talking about what we can do (Patrizia Cocca, Global Environment Facility). Bringing back home new beginnings and projects, as arising form the contacts we’ve made at the Fair (Paul Quek, Bioversity International). Mindful that sharing challenges our beliefs, the silo we are confined in and the barriers we have grown fond of. Ultimately, sharing requires daring, for “only creative people can work for sharing” as Ryszard Kozlowski, Editor of the Journal of Natural Fibers, has stressed – in Polish and English.

The tree also benefited from the insights received from the Going Green Group based at FAO. Instead of keeping their initiatives and tips confined to their stall, members of GGG brought spring to the tree, adding a lot of thoughts on how to respect the environment – directly on the tree branches. Many thanks to GGG for sharing directly on the tree!

Further to all this, the tree did one other thing – silently, gently, the tree transformed the Atrium into a garden, into the garden of sharing. And what is a garden?

A garden is a room populated with trees and plants. For some, it is a room to be shared with friends or relatives, a room which can be visited and where time is spent. Many things occur in a garden - the changing of seasons, the aging of trees, the withering of leaves from green into yellow, the blossoming of buds on barren branches, shadow and light… anything happening resumes images from our life.

The experience of the garden is one of true sharing among living beings, between nature and man. So much so that zen practitioners can see gardens buzzing with activity and life even in barren surroundings. More correctly: as springing from barren rocks and sand. How can they do it? Is that why some are talking about the zen of knowledge sharing?

The tree is currently hosted in the FAO Library.