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!