August 2007

One of the main efforts of the CIO office is to strengthen collaborative efforts with CGIAR partners. This has translated to participating in conferences to conducting knowledge sharing workshops and sessions. One of the more successful partnerships strengthened has been with the FAO. Main focus of the CGIAR-FAO partnership as lead by the Program focuses on sharing information, opportunities and knowledge, while looking for opportunities for concrete collaboration and resource sharing.

Such efforts in the past include joint efforts and projects include FAO’s staff involvement in the CGVlibrary project, metadata work, translation undertakings, and the CGIAR’s participation in the new AGRIS Alliance.

New opportunities continue to arise, one of which is the upcoming Web2fordev conference ( being hosted by the FAO. As a member of the steering committee the CIO office has worked closely with the FAO and partnering organizations in organizing and planning for the event. This also provided an opportunity for joint appointments, furthering strengthening the partnership.

We continue to look for and seek new areas of collaboration with the FAO and other partner organizations; areas in which working together increases efficiency and impact for both.

For more information on our latest efforts, please click read the attached article. We look forward to exciting and new opportunities.

A good workshop agenda should be flexible enough to allow attendees to explore relevant issues in-depth if the majority feel there is a need to do so.  Based on participant feedback, the facilitators shifted the focus of the morning session to enable participants to concentrate on concerns specific to their individual projects.  The two umbrella project leaders, Nadia Manning and Simone Staiger, facilitated this process by spending one-on-one time with their respective pilot project leaders. 

IKS Umbrella Project
In the afternoon, Simone presented a problem tree and network maps for the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project.  Participants came away with a better understanding of this umbrella project: the obstacles it faces and the relationships that need to be strengthened and forged to further institutionalize knowledge sharing System-wide.   

KSinR Umbrella Project
Nadia then presented a problem tree and network maps that showed how the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project could help increase the impact of CGIAR agricultural research.  Since six of the nine pilot projects fall under this umbrella project, this session generated much discussion. 


                                                                Network Map 

After Action Review
The workshop concluded with a brief evaluation.

What worked:
• Interaction and learning from other group members.
• New knowledge about Impact Pathways.

What didn’t work:
• Too much time spent on Impact Pathways caused things to drag.
• Working alone on projects.

Suggestions for improvement:
• Spend more time on different knowledge sharing tools and their applications.
• The inclusion of an evaluation plan in Impact Pathways.

Thanks to IRRI for hosting this event and for the great job with the catering.

After lunch, participants developed another network map to reflect the expected status of their projects 1.5 years hence, showing any new and/or strengthened relationships with the various actors.  Each project leader then had an opportunity to present both maps to the plenary. Once again, peer review played an important role. 


Future Network Map 

Most participants, even those who were already familiar with impact mapping techniques, found merit in the exercise.  One project leader felt it had helped define her project, while another found real value in doing the exercise because it had forced her to think logically through the process.

Time for another infomercial
Andrea introduced the new KS website and explained some of its features, including this blog. This sparked off a lively discussion about the merit of blogs and wikis as effective communication and collaboration tools. Several participants use wikis and blogs on a regular basis, while others have no experience whatsoever with the tools. 

Here we go-around again
Feedback on the days activities was both constructive and encouraging:

“I can see the possibilities more in other things I do,” said one participant.

“I have a feeling this is becoming an overloaded workshop,” said another.

“The network maps were useful for me. I also enjoyed the time working with the different projects,” said yet another.

Look out for updates on DAY THREE!

Weather update: Still overcast, with scattered showers predicted throughout the day.


The workshop continued from where it left off yesterday, with project coordinators explaining their problem trees.  Once again, peer review featured largely in this process.  Among other issues, the trees highlighted the plight of Ghanaian people who often fall sick after consuming vegetables that are exposed to contaminated water; the power of storymercials in getting a message quickly and succinctly to the people that matter; and the difficulties associated with monitoring and evaluation in a project that is spread over five countries.


Peer review pointed one project leader in a new direction, highlighted oversights in the problem tree of another, and generated a lively discussion on the effectiveness of storymercials.


One participant felt all types of commercials were “subtle and deceptive”, while another argued that some TV networks run commercials that are, for the most part, more appealing than the scheduled programs.


As with all feedback, the receivers were tasked with deftly separating the grain from the chaff.


Appreciative Inquiry: Gems or Crystals
While the problem trees were being digested, Andrea Carvajal presented an infomercial that highlighted the use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a KS tool that can help capture the positive features of a project and energize the team members to strive for a higher level of performance. More information on this tool can be found under the Tools section of the KS website. 


Consensus was not reached on the effectiveness of AI.  One project leader extolled its virtues as a tool for communicating a project’s logic, while another asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Where are the crystals?” This was a reference to the touchy-feely, new age reputation that some people have accorded certain knowledge sharing activities.


The Second Perspective
Boru Douthwaite then introduced the participants to network models and explained how they give an actor-oriented perspective to a project, capture real-life complexity, and clarify innovation processes.



                                  Network Map 


Key actors in each project were identified, and network maps were developed to reflect the current status of each project, showing the relationships and different levels of power that the various actors have relative to the each other.


Check out our afternoon update for more on these models!

After lunch, Simone, Fiona Chandler and Tonya Schuetz, who had all donned wizard costumes ala Harry Potter, participated in an infomercial that introduced participants to “open spaces”, a tool used to conduct meetings where attendees are responsible for deciding the agenda.

Many participants reacted to the bad press they felt PowerPoint presentations were being subjected to you during this activity.  It was generally felt that PPTs still play a valuable role, especially when it comes to illustrating complex issues.  Concern was also expressed about agenda-less meetings that might allow attendees to get carried away with their favorite topics – going from open space to outer space, as someone aptly described it.

Simone explained that reality checks should be part and parcel of the open space process, and users were always free to choose the tool deemed the most appropriate in any given situation.

Infomercials are similar in many ways to storymercials, story-driven communications designed to attract people to knowledge, as opposed to pushing it at them.  The development, application and evaluation of storymercials also happen to be at the heart of the pilot project led by Helen.

Although a little late in the day, participants shared their workshop expectations, which ranged from learning more about the pilot projects, to writing better project proposals, to applying impact pathways, to learning facilitation techniques.

Impact Pathways for Individual Projects
Boru Douthwaite resumed his talk on IPs, with the emphasis now on individual pilot projects.  Project leaders completed a problem tree relative to their respective projects and were encouraged to develop a vision of project success two years hence.


Problem tree 

Project leaders then took turns to explain their problem trees to the plenary.  This exercise encouraged peer review and raised a few points that were taken on board by project leaders.

For example, continuing with Helen’s culinary theme, Thomas Metz outlined the problems that have given rise to the development of  a set of “recipes” to help researchers simplify data management at IRRI and CIMMYT.

Then, after a brief feedback session, there was nothing left to do but retire for dinner.

Check back tomorrow for updates on Day Two!

Dark rain clouds may have hung heavily above IRRI headquarters on the first day of the Knowledge Sharing Inception Workshop, but the climate inside the room was anything but gloomy.  Although many participants had crossed several time zones to get to the Center’s campus at Los Banos in the Philippines, enthusiasm was high, with no sign of the sleep deprivation that usually plagues such inter-Center events.


Of course, a successful meeting often owes much to the preparation that goes into it, and the participants were kept on their toes with back-to-back, hands-on activities that introduced them to knowledge sharing techniques and encouraged them to present their own views on knowledge sharing. 


Nadia Manning, Leader of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project, kicked off the meeting by giving a brief overview of the workshop objectives, after which the reins were handed over to Simone Staiger, Leader of the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project, who had everyone up on their feet courtesy of a spirited icebreaking session.    

World Café Session

Thoroughly warmed up and raring to go, participants found themselves in the right mood for the lively World Café session that followed.  For the uninitiated, a World Café session involves participants splitting into small groups and sitting around a table covered with large sheets of paper, upon which they are encouraged to write the salient points of their discussions. 

The following questions were asked:

           What is knowledge sharing for you?

           What is in it for me? and

           What are the key issues that a KS project should address? 

The non-threatening, intimate atmosphere created by a small group around a table encouraged even the most reticent of speakers to air their views.  Indeed, when it was time for the participants to move onto the next table to discuss another point, many were reluctant to do so. 


World Cafe Session 

Helen Leicht from the WorldFish Center, Penang, compared knowledge sharing with baking a croissant. Look out for her post “Anyone for a Croissant?” later. 

“Most people think it [knowledge sharing] sounds like something loopy (silly) when they hear about it for the first time,” said Ben Solomon reiterating one of the comments made at his table.   

Despite this misconception, most participants felt that knowledge sharing techniques can help them do their work better and increase the uptake and impact of their research.   

Check back later for more thoughts from Ben. 

Institutional Knowledge Sharing: An Overview

Simone then gave a delightfully illustrated overview of the work carried out by the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project to date, going back to the early days when the Project’s knowledge sharing activities were only undertaken at a few select CGIAR Centers.  

Since then, she was happy to report, interest in KS has gained momentum, and relationships with external communities have been strengthened through activities like KM4DEV and last year’s IAALD meeting in Africa and the GFAR meeting in India. 

The second phase of the Project will try to get more Centers involved in KS activities, create more connections between the Centers, develop a training module, nurture an open-source philosophy, and explore more virtual communities. 

Another Overview: Knowledge Sharing in Research

Next up, Nadia shared her ideas on how to increase the uptake of knowledge from research by incorporating KS and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) into the different stages of the research cycle. She spoke about the need to build more flexibility into the research process, so it can be tailored to adapt to things happening on the ground.  

Both overviews elicited numerous comments and questions from the participants. 

The Big Onion

With the aid of her onion-like diagram, CIO Enrica Porcari, who is also the Leader of the ICT-KM Program, explained how the KS Projects are part of a larger portfolio of investments. “Initially, these projects were viewed skeptically,” she said, “but more people are now seeing different ways of doing things.” 

Do Impact Pathways Matter?

Of course they do. Just ask Boru Douthwaite! With the project overviews concluded, Boru, the facilitator for the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA), explained the role of impact pathways (IPs) in the pilot projects.  

For more on IPs, read about our afternoon session in the next post.

The leaders of the pilot projects selected as a result of the ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing call for proposal gather today at IRRI headquarters.   

The three-day workshop (August 21st – 23rd) provides all project leaders an opportunity to share ideas and knowledge regarding their projects and experiences, in addition to working with project leaders to refine and their project as needed.  Project leaders will also apply the impact pathway model to their projects and discuss how best to capture, document and share knowledge from the awarded projects.   

Organizers and participants will start a daily blog about the workshop, their experiences and achievements.   

Please join us to read more about the workshop, the project leaders, and their projects:  

For more information about the pilot projects and the workshop agenda, please visit 

ks-homepage.png The ICT-KM Program and the KS Project are launching their new Web sites. The KS Web site features news items, sections on Knowledge Sharing in Research and Institutional Knowledge Sharing, a resource page and the KS toolbox, now also available in Spanish and French. My colleague Andrea and a systems engineer worked really hard to get it done before the beginning of the KS pilot project inception workshop next week. We used Joomla! Open Source software and followed the design guidelines of the ICT-KM Web site. We have lots of ideas to further develop the site: The toolbox should pretty soon feature information on Web-based collaboration. We also hope to get good stories from the pilot projects for many of the tools. We also will have new photos in our gallery to illustrate our experiences. Have a look at the site and give us feedback!

nancy-ciat.jpg The one-day workshop on Web-based collaboration was co-sponsored by the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project and CIAT. The 32 Participants also contributed with a small inscription fee. It was a successful joined effort and we were lucky to be able to catch Nancy on her trip to Colombia where she will also work with the Ministry of Education.  After a chat-show introduction, the agenda followed with a Tag-game, a purpose checklist exercise, and a session on Web 2.0 tools. Participants felt that the workshop was useful to get basic knowledge on the available tools; they also appreciated the exercises on the 3-step process that Nancy recommends while planning on-line events: Check the purpose, plan the different activities, choose the appropriate tools! Finally, many participants would like to receive further training on specific tools, like wikis, and blogs.

The links and resources that Nancy used and that were discussed are available on the workshop wiki that Nancy set up for the participants:

 I love Nancy’s style and appreciate so much her knowledge on principles and methods of Web-based collaboration. This is definitively an area to explore with our CG colleagues around the globe.

simone.jpg   Next week the Knowledeg Sharing project will start its Pilot Project Inception Workshop. The 9 pilot project coordinators will meet at IRRI HQ with the Knowledge Sharing project leaders. Enrica Porcari will join us and we get support with documentation by Mary Schneider. Boru Douthwaite from CIAT will be our main workshop facilitator, and guide us through the Impact Pathway methodology. The KS team hopes to achieve the following:

  1. Discuss and learn as a group about knowledge sharing, at an institutional and research level, its role and value, and how to practice it.
  2. Design the pilot projects: objectives, process, expertise, resources, timeline
  3. Come together to foster a team of pilot project leaders who will share their findings and experience throughout the process. 

Organizing the workshop is quite a logistical on-line challenge: The workshop will take place in IRRI, Nadia is based in Ethiopia, I am working from Colombia, Enrica and Jenin are based in Rome… We are using a wiki, which was so far of great help, and we are using skype to talk and chat. We also use a Dgroup to get in touch with the participants, and assure that everybody knows who is who.  My hope is that the participants don’t feel overwhelmed by the messages to the Dgroup, and the preparative work that we asked them to do.

I am looking forward to this event and to meet new CG colleagues!

This blog will feature news and announcements about the ICT-KM Program’s projects and events, as well as other developments involving information and communications technology and knowledge sharing techniques that help improve the effectiveness of the CGIAR’s work on behalf of the poor in developing countries.

Our latest online tool will also allow you to comment on postings and help promote dialogue with ICT-KM Program staff, Project Coordinators, and people from other organizations who are involved in similar endeavors.

Each of our projects will soon develop a blog of their own, making it possible for you to find specific information easily and quickly.

We hope that you will take advantage of this tool; use it to connect and collaborate with others who are striving to make a difference in the livelihoods of the less fortunate.