April 2008

The second part of the KM4D Journal on the subject of ‘Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Management in Latin America and the Caribbean’ is now available for download. This issue has been produced by the team of Guest Editors comprising: Margarita Salas, Kemly Camacho, Simone Staiger-Rivas and Camilo Villa, working with Julie Ferguson and Sarah Cummings as chief editor of this edition. This issue offers 6 contributions, exploring recent approaches, case studies, practices, tools, concepts and methodologies applied in knowledge management in Latin America and the Caribbean is now avaialble. Part I of this Special Issue was published in December 2007.

The issue contains two CIAT-led publications:

  • Knowledge management and communication to address information access and power asymmetries for resource-poor producers in value chains.  
    Reinhild Bode, Dora P. Arevalo Valencia, Paola Andrea Victoria Muñoz 
  • Forming a community of practice to strengthen the capacities of learning and knowledge sharing centres in Latin America and the Caribbean: a Dgroup case study Abstract PDF 
    Andrea Carvajal, Odilia Mayorga, Boru Douthwaite 

To enjoy this issue, please click on: 

27 of the 32 active participants of the KS Workshop expressed their overall satisfaction with the workshop in an evaluation survey. 26 participants rated the event as excellent (50%) or good (46%). 23 respondents think that their initial expectations were met; 24 feel that the workshop increased their ability to apply KS principles, methods and tools in their work. All respondents state that the pre- workshop communication (Online survey, Web site information, e-mail exchanges, individual calls) helped them to understand the objectives and dynamics of this workshop. Each week was almost equally useful for participants, week 1 (Welcome and introductions, Why share knowledge discussion, Network Mapping exercise) being the most useful for 18 respondents. The communication channels and resources were almost equally appreciated with a preference for the weekly summaries and the KS toolkit.

The Moodle platform got overall good ratings with suggestions for improvement in the organization of the information. 19 respondents think that the facilitators were excellent, 7 rated them as good. Participants had mixed feelings about the size of the group: 16 found that the size of the group was just right, and 10 found it too big. Also the interaction among participants was rated as average by 12 respondents, 23 respondents say that they made useful contacts beyond the workshop, 4 said no, mainly because of lack of participation in the event. All respondents found it very useful (54%) or useful (46 %) to be with participants from other organizations.

When asked for main strengths of the workshop, participants highlight firstly the aspects related to participation and interaction, like the diversity and energy in the group, the richness of experiences, and the combination of fun and serious interactions. Respondents also appreciated the wide range of tools, methods and resources available, specifically the KS toolkit. On the design of the workshop, respondents highlight the flexibility, the scope and the structure of the event. They appreciated the effective support, the availability and the experience of the workshop facilitators. Finally, respondents found the Moodle platform useful, as well as the Email notifications, and the teleconferences.

The 27 respondents also have suggestions for improvement, mainly on the design of the event in the sense that they feel that more time was needed to make most out of the workshop. A need was also expressed to introduce the Moodle platform and the resources beforehand and to give participants more time to become familiar with them. Indeed many expressed the feeling of being overwhelmed with the richness of the workshop environment. Some also suggested the group of participants to be smaller.

Lucie, Petr, Nancy, and Simone have started drafting the agenda for the KS workshop face to face meeting in Addis.

Day 1


  • Early morning Aerobic with Petr
  • Introductions / Agenda / Workshop principles
  • Reconnection and Online phase reflection: A World Café
  • Project Sharing – Brief sharing of your project to the rest of the group
  • Identify shared threads in projects to create working groups (A thematic network map?)


  • Planning methodology conversation 
  • Action planning, Part I: Break out into project groups (3-4): What, Why. Identify shared and unique challenges, networks (now and future), our ideas
  • Quick check in plenary
  • Reflect and Day 2 agenda overview/adjustments
  • Dinner together

Day 2


  • Early morning Yoga with Nancy
  • Action planning, Part II: With Whom, How ?
  • Individual writing – working on plans with facilitators as resources


  • Conversation: Social methods for implementing technology
  • Sharing in plenary or mixing up groups 
  • Review of Day 2/adjustments to Day 3
  • Dinner together

Day 3


  • Early morining jogging with Simone 
  • Conversation: KS within and outside our organizations – KS for Development Debate (CGIAR/FAO/FARA)
  • Individual writing
  • Action Planning, Part III: When: Our project timelines


  • Flexible agenda – KS: What still needs to be talked about
  • What will we be doing together after the workshop
  • Publication: Could we produce together a publication / case studies?

Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk and Nancy White offer us today a quick to read 10-pager full of concrete tips and insights on how to make our organizations a better place to work together. Because “collaboration is a set of skills and practices we are rarely taught“, the three authors help us distinguish and understand the success factors between team, network, and community collaboration, and their different collaboration cultures.

Download the whitepaper at: http://www.anecdote.com.au/whitepapers.php?wpid=15

Thomas Metz from IRRI is leading a KS pilot project about collecting, publishing, and sharing good practices in research data management. Thomas is building this information and capacity building resource in wiki format. He is also supporting the development a Community of Practice around the wiki. In an interview this week, I asked Thomas to tell us about his perception of wikis, their usefulness, potential, and weaknesses.

Here is an excerpt of his reply:
We have decided to use the wiki technology for the collection and publishing of those good practices. When I talk about this process, I frequently use the analogy of cooking and cookbooks. While most of use have some basic cooking skills, we need recipes in order to cook a descent meal. Expert cooks have published their lifelong experiences in the form of cookbooks for us to use. Our collection of good practices in research data management aims at just that, a cookbook with expert recipes for data management. The wiki technology helps us to do this collaboratively, incrementally and quickly. […] We need many contributors, but we need to keep the transaction costs for contributing as low as possible. Wikis are very good at reducing the transaction cost for individual contributions, especially small incremental contributions. On the other hand, wikis can’t be easily managed in the sense of a central control over content and contributors. In that sense, the use of a wiki gets us into some new territory that may be out of the comfort zone for some. However, the newer generation has a completely different attitude to contributing content that is visible on the web and we believe that we just need time, patience and support to introduce this new way of web-based collaboration.”

Read the complete interview

The annual KM4Dev meeting will be held this year from 18-21 June at the Pousada de Juventude Hostel in Almada, Portugal (just outside Lisbon).

As with previous meetings, KM4Dev wants to use the opportunity of KM4Dev participants – new and old – getting together to discuss real issues with which we are dealing in our ongoing work. In other words, KM4Dev 2008 is meant to bring us together for collective thinking about a range of key challenges, solutions, experiments, and ideas with a view to helping each of us go back to our individual work contexts with renewed energy and new thoughts about how to do what we do – and how to help others with whom we work do what they do – better!

The 3-day meeting will be held in Open Space Format.

More at the KM4Dev Wiki.

In our last week of the KS workshop we are sharing experiences, links and many questions about KS tools and methods. Have a look at those, also… you might really get curious to see the answers 😉

  • I’m thinking now that storytelling might be a gender-sensitive method because it brakes down the hierarchies and puts all the tellers and their knowledge on the same level. However, the most important part to make sure it works at its best could be the ‘facilitation of the story telling’. That is making sure men and women are given equal time slots,  equal opportunities to ask questions… What do you think?
  • What features shall intranet have in order to attract users and become a dynamic platform for knowledge sharing within organization? Or is the era of intranets over with all web 2.0 tools (wikis, blogs, social networks)?
  • What portal platform are you thinking to use as a central point for linking all the web 2.0 tools suitable for diffeent functions of your intranet?
  • Does anyone use things like iGoogle or Netvibes as personal home pages rather than a centralize intranet? or is the openness of that antithetical to most ag/development organizations?
  • Podcats: What do you need and can you just use telephone softwares like Skype and JustVoip to record and create sound files? What format is the best for storing these files?
  • I just tried to edit something on Mobiles on the KS Toolkit wiki, since it is fairly empty. I am not sure about the language I used, perhaps too casual…It feels that this kind of language should be used more for blogs and not so much for wikis. I am wrong?
  • Can we delete a blog after it is no more useful (or we want to use a different blogging tool)?
  • Are there blog tools more appropriate than others for professional (most of them look like private blogs)? I am looking for a blog tool with many other scientific blogs.
  • I have just tried to set up a blog and found that it is very easy to do. However, the major diffiulty that I am facing now is what you have just indicated – “what should be posted to a Blog and what not”?
  • Does anybody have any successful story about converting scientist into blogger? 
  • The one downside i see with Dgroups is that it does not organize messages into discussions. it is quite confusing to see a list of messages and try to figure out where the discussion starts, branches off, ends… has anbyody found this to be a problem? can anybody propose an alternative discussion group that offers organized conversations?
  • Will the pages of the course still be available after the course is finished? I think it would be really great if we could be able to read them for many months for now. How can we share them with other colleagues that might be also interested in the subjects?

As week three of the KS workshop is starting we are defining the specific tools and methods that participants would like to explore. We do this through the teleconferences and through our moodle platform.

It looks like the network mapping exercise triggered a lot of interest and Social Network Analysis is something that many would like to learn more about. Other tools and methods that we will look at more specifically are: Wikis, blogs, Dgroups, interactive use of mobile phones, to mention only a few.

Nancy White guided one group this morning via conference call through the KS toolkit which was at the same time a way to do a wiki-tour.

Some of the very positive things that popped up today:

  • Our participants from ICARDA who work on a Farmer’s Conference set up a wiki for this event. It contains lots of elements and ideas that have been discussed during the last 2 weeks in the workshop.
  • Michael Riggs from FAO decided to really start his blog that he set up earlier with feedback and posts on the workshop
  • Andrea Carvajal from CIAT offered her experience on how to introduce social network analysis with easy to use group dynamics in workshops.
  • Several participants mentioned that they will talk to their IT colleagues and engage with them in discussions on how to start to use some of the tools they start to learn about.
  • Two participants from Africa finally joined after two weeks motivated to catch up!
  • It appears that participants are choosing among the different possible channels for interaction that the course offers (discussion topics, learning logs, toolkit, conference calls, podcats, readings) to pick out what works best for each of them.

Today, while we are tuning towards the end of week 2 of our workshop, we are having our second set of teleconferences.

The suggested agenda was to go over the network mapping exercise (a main activity of the week where we discovered already 17 network maps!), as well as to start thinking about possible tools and methods to improve KS within those networks. We also invited participants to give some feedback on the first two weeks: What worked well, what could be improved, and what could we do individually to make most out of the event. Overall most participants emphasize that they “learn a lot” but admit at the same time that the amount of information to digest is tremendous, a feeling that many expressed already at the first week’s call. We also heard often that participants will try to find more time to dedicate to the course.

Some things that worked well for participants:

  • The podcasts
  • The network mapping exercise
  • The possibility to read all across the discussions
  • The possibility to get all posts through e-mail or RSS
  • Moodle as a platform for the workshop
  • The weekly teleconference calls
  • Having fun
  • The toolkit

Some things that could be improved:

  • Have less different activities and discussions ongoing at the same time
  • The amount of information is overwhelming
  • Summarize more frequently
  • Make the teleconference calls more dynamic
  • Have something around gender specific tools
  • Have more on low technology tools.

What can we do?
We decided for next week to invite participants to focus on Activity #3 where we try to split up in groups of interest and think about scanning and picking KS tools and methods that could be appropriate for the different topics, and also have a short experience in virtual team work. The suggested themes are based on our interactions of week 1, but participants can also create new discussion topics.

Looking forward to the next days of interactions…

img_1398.jpg I had the pleasure to co-facilitate the Learning Laboratory Planning Meeting of the Institutional Learning and Change (ILAC) Initiative here at CIAT, Colombia

Around 25 participants representing 8 different cases gathered to launch the so-called learning lab. The objective of the learning lab is to identify, support, draw and record lessons from promising collaborative pro-poor agricultural innovation programs.
Highly motivated and committed researchers and development workers from the CGIAR and partner organizations worked themselves through project network maps and change models based on the Participatory Impact Pathways Approach (PIPA) in order to identify opportunities for developing ILAC components into their existing projects and for joint learning within the group. Some of the areas of interest that came out of the exercises were: Capacity building in ILAC related topics, the evaluation of the projects as far as learning and change dynamics are concerned, and the support to policy influence of stakeholders, among others. 

Besides the PIPA methodology, we used lots of group discussion dynamics. In several opportunities, participants used cards to highlight or summarize their thoughts, suggestions, and reactions which were then sorted into categories that helped constantly visualize the possible focus for the learning lab activities.

A number of participants had been invited as external resource persons, which generated very useful moments of reflections within the group.

Participants had overall very positive comments about the workshop design, the PIPA methodology, the value of the resource persons, and in general the value of sharing experiences among projects, Centers, and continents.

KS toolkit We are in the middle of the second week of the Knowledge Sharing (KS) Workshop.
While the first week’s rich discussions focused on the Why? of KS, we are now sharing our ideas on the With whom? And How? through three entry points: (1) Our network maps to understand selected project environments, (2) a discussion on our target groups, and (3) a screening of our KS toolbox in order to start to think about possible tools or methods to improve KS within our selected networks. We hope to get more network maps posted on our Moddle platform and to have a rich discussion on our phone conference calls on Thursday.