Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

In the afternoon we went back to our groups and worked further on our projects. We asked participants to think about the following: What are the next steps? What do you need to explore further? What are the gaps and what are your needs? When we came back into plenary, we asked participants to write each need or gap on cards and we sorted them into groups.

The following overall topics emerged and will be further discussed tomorrow morning:

  • Identifying user needs
  • How to choose the right tool?
  • Get buy-in, commitment and engagement from the people we need to make KS work
  • M&E of KS
  • Peer Coaching
  • RSS Feeds
  • Communities of Practice Best Practices
  • More Tools (Delicious, Dgroups, blogs, yellow pages)

Here are Grace, Gauri, and Sandra sorting the cards into thematic groups:

A short talk during the morning break with Peter Shelton from IFPRI about his perception of yesterday:

Our small group discussions worked really well where we went through our projects and we identified pertinent questions, and issues related to each others projects and then from there we went through the SWOT analysis. Doing that collectively was a great exercise.
So far the workshop has been really good. The time for preparing our project posters and 2-minute presentations was too short. We focused then mostly on our posters to get the finished and couldn’t really listen to the other presentations. But so far I really enjoyed it.

Peter Shelton

Before launch we did a 2 hour session on KS tools. Participants had identified previously a set of tools that they wanted to get to know better and discuss further.

We used the Commoncraft Show videos as an introduction and than shared our experiences, questions and answers. Here are some examples:


  • Can two people edit a wiki at the same time?
  • What does History meanand what is it good for?
  • SPAM is often a problem. It is better to have login and password protection.
  • A specific version of Tiki Wiki allows you to work offline which is useful for those with bad connectivity (like our colleagues at ILRI campus in Ethiopia 😉 Also Google just released a service.
  • Is the administrator is the only one who can change and go back to previous version?
  • What are the weaknesses of wikis? Formatting issues, not easy to see tracked changes.
  • Wikis focus on content and not on the voices of the contributor. Not good for conversations.


  • Stories: hard to keep up.
  • It is useful to use plugins to send the same blog post to different blogs.
  • When we have project blogs we tackle the problem of writing our personal thinking versus institutional messages. We need to get language right.
  • Blogs don’t need to be a discussion forum, they can be used as an announcement mechanism.
  • Difference between discussion forums and blogs. As far as blogs are concerned, there is a main blogger and the comments are secondary. In discussion forums everybody is on the same level which is better for equally distributed conversations.
  • It is difficult to promote blogs when the center restricts access.


  • With RSS feeds we subscribe to content and take it from one place to another.
  • Does the use of RSS limit our spirit of discovery?
  • RSS allows knowing quickly when our organizations are mentioned in the news.
  • Gauri shared with the group which is a services where feeds from different web sites have been aggregated. It allows us to subscribe to selected feeds related to our specific interest.

Social Bookmarking

  • How can I see what others are bookmarking?
  • Being rigorous with tags is important.
  • Recognition of tags in different languages will help to create multicultural bridges.

Fishbowls involve a small group of people -usually 5 to 8- seated in an inner circle, having a conversation in full view of a larger group of listeners sitting in a larger circle around the discussants. Fishbowl processes provide a creative way to include the “public” in a small group discussion. Fishbowls are useful for ventilating “hot topics” or sharing ideas or information from a variety of perspectives. Although largely self-organizing once the discussion gets underway, the fishbowl process usually has a facilitator or moderator. The fishbowl is almost always part of a larger process of dialogue and deliberation.

How did we apply it? For a general discussion to tackle an issue that participants of phase 1 identified as important (What are our challenges for KS within and among our organizations). We used a variation called the Samoan Circle, that offers others a chance to speak only if they join the ‘inner circle’.

After the discussion, we did a debrief on the method. Participants highlighted that it is not easy to get started. It seemd to many as being a good dynamic for brainstorming discussions, but not really for reaching conclusion. Participants thought that it could be used as a starting point for a meeting and in combination with other dynamics. We made the point that Fishbowl is a method that opens up (divergent) and does not lead to conclusion (convergent).

During coffe break Davy Simumba from the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute mentioned how much he liked the fishbowl: “ It helps to bring out issues and everybody was trying to jump in. I have to try to bring this into my organizations, within my group.”

See the KS toolkit on Fishbowl:

Nancy explaining the Fishbowl method

We started day two of our workshop with a conversation about KS within and among development organizations: What are the challenges? We used a fish bowl dynamic for this session and here are some of the issues that came up:

  • How can we know what Knowledge we need to share in order to “get it right” and avoid information overload?
  • The importance of partnerships to reach farmers
  • The potential of FAO / FARA collaboration to facilitate use and access of information
  • KS with farmers: Most of us work for level of extensionists and policy makers, or universities. Dady from FARA shared their beginning experience with Innovation Platforms, CIFOR on conflict resolution
  • How to measure impact of KS? Partially through SNA
  • What are the incentives for KS and the important role of KS champions.
  • Obstacles to KS: Evaluation and impact measurements based on publications, internal competition. There is a paradox with our mission to produce Global Public Goods.
  • About creating a KS culture: We share more outside our organizations than inside (result of a FAO study)