June 2008


The Wilgoda Community, a community of mainly Tamils working as labourers for the Kurunegala Municipal Council, is one of the members of the Learning Alliance of the IWMI-led Wastewater, Agriculture, and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (WASPA) project. The Learning Alliance is one of two Learning Alliances set up in the project sites of WASPA- Kurunegala, Sri Lanka and Rajshahi in Bangladesh.

I spent an afternoon talking to the WIlgoda Community recently to find out their perspective on the Learning Alliance approach which has been piloted in the WASPA project through support from the ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing in Research project, which is learning from the piloting of such knowledge sharing approaches in research projects.

The Wilgoda Community were invited to be part of the Learning Alliance which is addressing wastewater agriculture.

Hum?! Doesn’t it seem like a strange group to have involved when looking at wastewater agriculture? Well not if we are looking at more holistic management of water, sanitation and the two combined in wastewater- because the Wilgoda community have been contributing to the (mainly organic) pollution of the canal water which reaches the farmers at the end, by using it as a replacement for broken, communal toilets in their community.

Thus this project realised the need to bring together all the various actors contributing to, making decisions around, and with possibility to do actions etc…but needed a way to facilitate such collaboration, learning and research into action. They chose the Learning Alliance approach.

So how does the Wilgoda Community feel about the Learning Alliance approach used in this project?

We really like the WASPA project and also the Learning Alliance” remarked the Wilgoda Community Organisation Chairperson, one of four members of the community to attend LA meetings.

‘But why’, I pressed, ‘has it helped you?’

As a marginalised community in the eyes of the state-run agencies such as the Municipal Council, these people face many more rights issues when it comes to land, housing, water supply and provision of sanitation infrastructure.

Before the project there were no proper sanitation (toilet and bathing) facilities. The toilets were leaking and there were no doors. “We were forced to use the canal instead“. Before the Learning Alliance approach- “we had no way to tell others about these problems or seek help to address them“. What the WASPA project with its LA process has resulted in for them they told me was “we now have had our toilets fixed and replaced and new systems for use, cleaning and maintenance developed. Our water supply has also been improved. We don’t have to use the canal any more.”

When asked what the larger impact of it all has been, the Chairperson said ” the people are much cleaner now. We have better sanitation behaviour now–not everyone yet, but most people.”

So I continued to explore what the key aspects of the Learning Alliance had contributed to their improved behaviours and lives.

Some key points raised by them were:

  • Before the Learning Alliance they had no avenue for making relationships with groups working in or managing the sanitation (and other) sectors, especially the Municipal Council. They were scared and didn’t feel that they approach groups to help them.
  • The Learning Alliance then offered them a chance to be able to meet and discuss with other groups.
  • Over time they gained more confidence to speak to other groups, even outside of LA meetings
  • At Learning Alliance meetings they felt that they had the opportunity to speak, to share their problems and discuss with others how to solve them.
  • They were able to gain help and collaboration in plans to fix their issues, e.g toilets
  • Before the LA, alot of promises were also made but not followed through. The LA, however, rrmade plans and carried them through to actions.
  • They could be involved in activities in the LA–so gain a sense of empowerment and pride by being allowed, supported and motivated to plan, manage, and carry out activities.
  • They got alot of knowledge, skills and experience by being involved in the LA.

While many of their perspectives on the Learning Alliance were positive, they did indicate a few issues:

  • They feel that Learning Alliance approach requires an external intermediary such as WASPA project team or COSI to manage the meetings and relationships between groups–marginalised groups could still be marginalised in this setting if it is not managed properly
  • How can they continue to have this kind of voice, support and access to relevant groups to help them?

From my own perspective I could see that despite positive results from the project through the Learning Alliance, the larger issues surrounding the marginalisation of these people and the resulting issues could not be resolved by the Learning Alliance.

The quetion of whether the LA eperience has any longer lasting effects comes with two answers from my observations:

  1. On the one hand the benefits seen during the project and LA will not continue without these in place. Without the LA intervention run by an intermediary, this kind of coordinated, collaborative activity will not continue

HOWEVER:

2. The process did build alot of self-confidence and pride amongst the community which will have longer effects on the community taking actions themselves and changing behaviours.

The people are keeping the toilets and showers cleaner now. They have even started throwing shampoo packets into a small garbage instead of everywhere. If someone see someone making a mess or littering they tell them off” the Chairperson proudly told me.

As explained in previous, recent posts the Wastewater, Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (WASPA) project being run by IWMI is using a Learning Alliance approach in the project as part of the Knowledge Sharing in Research piloting activities.

One of the key stakeholders in this project are farmers who are receive water from the end of a canal system to irrigate their agriculture-rice paddies. Over time the water from the canal has become polluted with both liquid and solid, organic and inorganic waste from a number of sources along its path- city, industry, other communities. This has created a situation in which the farmers are using wastewater for their paddy fields with many consequences for health and livelihoods.

On my monitoring visit to the project site in Sri Lanka-Kurunegala, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the farmers from this affected community, mostly those actively involved in the Farmers’ Organisation which represents these farmers in the WASPA Learning Alliance.

When asked if they knew about or were involved in the Learning Alliance-a number of them indicated that they were involved in the Learning Alliance and had attended meetings.

Under the WASPA project the Learning Alliance has allowed us to share information with others and to learn alot from other groups too” commented one of the farmers before I could ask any further questions.

One key success of the Learning Alliance, that these farmers shared with me, was the ability to share their issues of solid waste coming from the canal into their fields with relevant groups, with the hope that they could help to address this issue. The Learning Alliance gave them the opportunity to share also their idea of putting in a garbage trap at the diversion canal to stop the solid waste coming down the canal to their fields. Through the Learning Alliance a collaborative effort took place around this idea. More information was found out by some, a design was proposed by the irrigation department, discussions about location were had between various stakeholders, and a joint effort for putting in the garbage trap was undertaken. This process was something unseen before.

Through the Learning Alliance and the Participatory Action Plans-jointly decide in the LA- being implemented through this mechanism, the farmers learned alot about the water they are using and the situations contributing to the pollution. They were happy that information from the various research surveys and tests undertaken in the WASPA projectwas shared with them through the Learning Alliance. This really helped to build their trust as they believed that their participation would have some benefit as they were delivered knowledge from projects, as promised.

When asked what it was about the Learning Alliance they felt positive about, one of the farmers replied, ” the WASPA Learning Alliance allowed them to share their problems. In the Learning Alliance they got the chance to share their views and problems with relevant authorities“.

A major positive element of the LA approach for the farmers was the opportunity for them to meet and discuss with multiple organisations which play a role in various aspects affecting their lives.

When pressed as to why there should be a LA approach rather than organising small group meetings for them with other groups, the farmers said that they liked the big, open platform where many groups could sit together from many disciplines and sectors to share knowledge, plan actions that are beneficial to everyone and to decide on who will do what.

Benefits of coming together, from the farmer perspective, was not only to talk about project activities but also to have access to other groups to discuss other, related matters such as timing of opening of irrigation anicuts. In this way the forum creates a larger opportunity for sharing knowledge, discussing, and decision-making.

The farmers commented that it was more effective to bring up issues and ideas in this bigger forum as they have visited certain departments many times with no action being made to address their issues. In the LA actions are more likely as various groups present may offer to share the workload, and promises that are made are done in front of many others are more likely to be kept.

Some issues that were raised with regards to the Learning Alliance were:

  • Since the project area for WASPA, and consequently the boundaries of the Learning Alliance, stretches across various political boundaries, it made it difficult to involve all the relevant authorities and caused some confusion about which political authority was responsible for certain people, area and actions.
  • The farmers were concerned with who they would raise issues with after the project and Learning Alliance was finished- and how they would now get actions done to address their issues.

[Note: A question of sustainability of the beneficial process that has been initiated through the Learning Alliance–not just of the Learning Alliance structure itself]

I asked the farmers who I was interviewing, and that are part of the management of the Farmer Organization and attend the LA meetings, how knowledge from the LA is shared with other farmers. They responded that they have a monthly meeting at the Farmer Organisation and at this meeting they share what they have learnt at the LA meetings or activities.

I asked the farmers if there was anything that could be done better or to improve the process of the Learning Alliance. They answered, “we need now even more opportunities to express our own issues in this forum” .

The farmers told me that this was the first time that they have worked with a research project. When I asked them then what their expectations of the Learning Alliance were- they answered ” immediate actions!!”. I explained that often with research it is about gaining greater understanding of an issue and exploring possible solutions first -which takes time-and perhaps actions may not be immediate. The farmers then said that “we were happy to be involved in the research process since we could see that it would lead to action through the Learning Alliance. For example-the garbage trap- was the end result of a whole process of identifying the problem, figuring out a solution and then doing the actual implementation of the garbage trap to address the issue with solid waste coming into our fields.”

On my (Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader) visit to the IWMI WASPA project site in Sri Lanka-Kurunegala to monitor and evaluate the use of the Learning Alliance approach in the project I had a chance to discuss with staff of COSI– the NGO partner working on the project in Sri Lanka.

From COSI I talked to Keerthi, Saman, Ranmeeni, Praba, and Indika-all working on various aspects of the project and have been invovled with the WASPA Learning Alliance.

I first asked them whether they had been involved with a project before that developed or used a Learning Alliance. For all of them this was the first time they have been exposed to or been involved in the Learning Alliance approach.

Using the Learning Alliance approach is new” Saman told me, ” but it has been very interesting and provided alot of new opportunities to us, the stakeholders involved, and the Project overall“.

Key benefits of using the approach that were identified by varous members of the team were:

  • It is a good way to keep stakeholders aware and involved who would be the appropriate groups for taking over the project or carrying on the type of activities the project has been doing–it can help with sustainability of efforts during the project
  • The LA is a combination of the all the relevant parties for a particular issue or topic being addressed- e.g wastewater
  • This kind of forum helps to create awareness amongst various groups of issues and needs, projects and initiatives, and ideas and plans in the area.
  • It provides a mechanism for stakeholders to voice their problems and issues and ask for help from other members and projects-“usually there is no chance to tell problems and ideas to relevant groups
  • Decisions can be discussed and made together at LA meetings-with greater buy-in than the usual top-down approaches. “All feel that they are contributing
  • Key problems are highlighted in the LA and discussions can be held about what should be done and whose responsability it is
  • Provides an opportunity for collaboration
  • It facilitates greater knowledge sharing in multiple directions
  • Provides ideas for research and action- “new ideas emerged from the LA”
  • The LA is a good way to develop innovative ideas and plans
  • The LA has created opportunities to bring together groups who usually don’t get involved in certain issues

Keerthi gave an example of this saying that “Agrarian services usually isn’t an actor which participates in issues of or projects looking at waste–even though it is something affecting farmers. But this is a big issue for these farmers. Now through the LA the Agrarian Services are involved in looking at this issue which affects farmers and agriculture in this area.”

  • LA provides an opportunity for multiple stakeholders to come together.

The Learning Alliance is really good. Never before has there been such a platform which allows farmers and the Municipal Commissioner to sit together to discuss joint problems” praised Saman.

The COSI team also expressed that what is also interesting is that side and related issues are also raised and brought to the attention of all others. This can help to inform projects and other processes.

Some challenges that they noted were:

  • There was an initial problem to bring together all the various stakeholders–this has not been done before
  • Some stakeholders were reluctant to join the Learning Alliance as they thought that they would be required to pay or contribute some money to it
  • Explaining the Learning Alliance can be difficult both in terms of language and conceptual ideas
  • It takes a while for stakeholders (and even those running the LA) to really grasp and understand the LA concept
  • It takes alot of effort, time and administrative work to gather all the stakeholders for the general assembly meetings of the LA (all stakeholders).
  • There is a problem of continuity of participation in the LA. It is not the same people who attend each meeting-so you often have the problem that those attending have little background on the LA, previous meetings, overall Project and activities.
  • The participation of government officials is often quite low
  • Concept is new for many people and so they are not always ready to engage with it
  • Many groups are busy and have many issues and projects to deal with. This particular issue and project (WASPA) is not their only project and not always their priority.
  • Need to have buy-in from top government officials
  • Difficult to get individuals participating in LA meetings and activities to share with their organisations

The project has tried to be innovative in making the LA work. One way was through forming a separate core goup with 7-8 key stakeholders as members which can meet more often. The representatives in the core group are not top officials so they have time to come to more regular meetings.

This lead to an interesting discussion about who should or would be best to participate in the Learning Alliance. ” While you want the authority and influence of those at the top, they are usually too busy to regularly attend meetings or get involved in Learning Alliance activities. But then you don’t want someone too junior only to attend who may have time, but is not able to give feedback to the necessary people in their organisations or have enough authority to make decisions. It is about finding the right people” commented Saman.

I was told by the COSI team that some key successes of the Learning Alliance approach can be seen from the most recent LA meeting, held in early June. In this meeting the innovation in knowledge sharing was that rather than the implementing team presenting information, there were presentations given by three Learning Alliance members:

  • Greater Kurunegala Sewerage Treatment project
  • Agrarian services
  • Municipal Council

This shows greater buy-in now from LA members.” remarked Keerthi, ” It was also very interactive with other LA members asking questions and giving suggestions. We all learned alot.

The LA was a great technique for the project period, but we are not sure what will happen afterwards“. The big question, therefore, is what will happen after the project, and what will have been the impact not only of the overall project itself but of the Learning Alliance too. We discussed various perspectives on sustainability and success of LAs.

One key measure of success of the LA from COSI’s perspective, even if the LA itself does not continue after the end of the project, is whether the various groups who were involved now are more aware of each other and have confidence to go to various members to share their problems and ideas, seek help, share knowledge, and look for collaboration on activities.

Actions and improvements cannot and should not always have to depend on having intermediary groups like us (COSI) involved. The true test of the value of having introduced and used the LA approach, is whether the relationships forged during the process can continue on their own towards creating the same kind of benefits as during the LA” said Saman.

My final question to the team then was ‘Could the WASPA project been done without the Learning Alliance?

The resounding answer from the whole team sitting in front of me was ” Yes, but not with the same results and overall impact”

They all said that the research could have been done on its own but it would not have always been directed at real problems being faced on the ground, would not have linked to direct actions and implementation, and would not have provided the added benefits of greater knowledge, networking and coordination between groups in the sector.

The Learning Alliance helps to provide the link, to coordinate knowledge being generated to actions to be implemented on the ground. The Learning Alliance brought ownership and buy-in, otherwise it would have been top-down and even if it brought some benefits to the recipients they would not have been engaged in the process like they were through the LA-which we believe has alot of impact.

As part of the continued monitoring and evaluation of the knowledge sharing activities and strategies being piloted in the 6 CGIAR research projects for the Knowledge Sharing in Research project, I (Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR project Leader) have been visiting with the IWMI WASPA LA KSinR Pilot Project, based in Sri Lanka. In previous blog posts recently the project as a whole has been outlined, the use of the Learning Alliance approach highlighted and the recently held monitoring visit to the Bangladesh site described.

On this monitoring visit, I have been talking to the researchers involved in the project and Learning Alliance, the NGO- COSI- which is a big local partner working on the project for Sri Lanka, and a number of key stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project in Kurunegala- the WASPA Sri Lanka project site.

The main objectives of the KSinR project are to generate, share and support application of knowledge sharing principles, frameworks and approaches in research projects, programs and initiatives for the CGIAR.

The knowledge generation component is particularly key, and is being undertaken through three main pillars:

  1. Supporting and learning from the piloting of KS within 6 pilot projects in the CGIAR
  2. Exploring and learning from other KSinR-type initiatives ongoing within the CGIAR
  3. Reviewing literature and other key materials on and related to knowledge sharing in research, even from beyond the CGIAR

Therefore, as part of learning from the Pilot Projects the monitoring and evaluation of their piloting activities is necessary to help capture knowledge and experiences, derive lessons, and enhance our overall understanding of the process and impact of using KS in research.

The M&E plan being used builds on the Impact Pathways methodology which was used in the inception workshop for more refined and detailed planning of the projects with a focus on how to achieve impact from their work.

The M&E framework designed and used in the KSinR project includes:

  • Review of planned project activities-looking at the activities planned, description of them, success and challenges of carrying out the activities
  • Review of the outputs-considering whether the outputs planned have been achieved and how are they being used
  • Revisiting of the Vision- exploring how various groups are acting differently and what is being done, enjoyed or achieved because of the project
  • Review of changes in actors involved with the project (or targeted by the project)- namely indicating whether the changes in practice, knowledge, attitude and skills that were foreseen or desired by the project have in fact happened
  • Evaluation of the strategy (KS approach) used to bring about changes and impact- describing how the strategy was employed, what change it contributed to, what worked and didn’t, and the perceptions of the strategy by various stakeholders

While the M&E plan is being used throughout the project period, the current M&E work being documented and shared is part of a more focused mid-project review being done with all the pilots through reporting, virtual discussions and face-to-face visits.

The results of talks, discussions, M&E questions, and observations with the various groups named above will be presented in the next set of blog posts–so stay tuned!!

The IWMI Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot project- IWMI WASPA LA is using and monitoring and evaluating the Learning Alliance approach within the “Wastewater, Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation” (WASPA) project in both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The Project is piloting a Learning Alliance approach within which to embed the research on wastewater, agriculture and poverty alleviation in order to foster more collaborative planning, research, dissemination, and adoption of research results and proposed actions.

The project is designing, using and promoting a M&E system for better charting and understanding the value of this multi-stakeholder oriented approach. The system being developed and tested is known as process monitoring, which will provide better understanding of the approach and lessons for future Learning Alliances. To find out more check out the IWMI WASPA LA Pilot webpage.

The main IWMI project team-consisting of Alexandra Clemett and Samyuktha Varma- recently made a trip to the project site in Bangladesh between 26 May and 6 June 2008.

The objectives of the trip were:

  • To undertake the process monitoring for WASPA LA.
  • To review and update the progress of the project in relation to the Participatory Action Plans (PAPs) and project work plan.
  • To plan the next LA meeting.

The trip consisted in the carrying out the following main activities:

Conducting monitoring for WASPA LA in Bangladesh using new process monitoring method

The methodology of process monitoring uses a defined monitoring framework which includes change processes to be monitored, indicators and data collection methods. One major part of the process monitoring is structured interviews with Learning Alliance members to assess the change process including changes in awareness of the issues and changes in mindset. The community interview questions were therefore reviewed with the team in both English and Bangla and some changes were made. The interview was tested on 28th May and adapted accordingly. A further six interviews were conducted and written up.

Project Planning and Review

One of the key components of the WASPA project is the development of Participatory Action Plans (PAPs) whose implementation is aimed at improving livelihoods of wastewater farmers. The PAPs are co-developed and funded by the WASPA project as well as stakeholders involved in the Learning Alliances.

The logframe and work plan of the project were updated to now reflect the Participatory Action Plan (PAP) activities that have been identified and to try to tie the activities more closely with the results proposed in the original logical framework

Local Level LA Development

It was also clear from the review that the LA was not self-sufficient and that although many stakeholders had become aware of the project thanks to the efforts of the project team, they were not yet ready to take responsibility for this. The project team therefore discussed further the structure and responsibilities of the LA, and how to get the stakeholders to agree on a structure and start taking some responsibility. A structure and activities has been proposed, but this will have to be decided on at a meeting held with the key stakeholders in June for them to decide what they want to do.

Another issue that arose was that the farmers attending the LA did not really represent all the farmers or the community members, but this is largely because there is currently no form of organization at the local level. However it means that they do not necessarily present the interests of the wider group or report back to LA members. This issue was discussed and a plan to address it was devised.

PAP Development

Since the Participatory Action Plans have bene identified, it was necessary to now look into operatioanlising them. During this trip, planning for the farmers training programme(PAP) took place. Another PAP was initiatied throught eh contracting of a Rajshahi University Professor of Law to write a paper on the laws relating to wastewater management and use in agriculture. The Terms of Reference was completed and discussed with RUET regarding a study on water quality and options to improve the treatment capacity of Bashuar Beel. Overall the Project team reviewed the PAP activities and prepared a detailed plan to continue the work.

Follow-up activities

On return from the trip the key follow-up activities will be:

  • To analyze the review and process monitoring findings
  • Collect meeting minutes and other documents from stakeholder organizations and analyze according to the outline
  • Share and review revised work plan and logframe with entire project team
  • Undertake agricultural data collection and write an article on the findings in Bangla
  • Hire a LA facilitator to develop the national level platform
  • Prepare for the LA meeting
  • Prepare the first newsletter
  • PNGOs to work with farmers in Bashuar and Silinda village to set up a system of representation in the LA.


One of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Projects being lead by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is the piloting of the Learning Alliance approach in its ‘Wastewater, Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation’ (WASPA) project in Asia. The project is being undertaken by IWMI, SEI, IRC, COSI and the NGO Forum. For more information, see also the IWMI WASPA LA KSinR PIlot Project webpage.

The main issue being addressed by the WASPA project is that in many cities the urban and peri-urban farmers are utilising wastewater, often storm-water drainage mixed with household and sanitary waste, to irrigate their crops. This is quite often due to the farmers being at the downstream end of canal systems which are used as dumping grounds for various industrial and community waste ranging from organic to inorganic, solid to liquid waste.

This of course has both positive and negative livelihoods implications, especially on health, and requires good management to reduce risks and maximise benefits. Good research is required to better understand the situation and to find solutions to address this, however any resultant actions would need to come from the communities themselves, government departments or others involved in water, sanitation, health, or irrigation.

The project is working in two cities- Kurunegala, Sri Lanka and Rajshahi, Bangladesh- where over 300 farmers are involved in wastewater irrigation practices. Furthermore, hundreds of residents are affected by poor sanitation and environmental conditions in the cities.

This is a complex system which involves multiple stakeholders’ issues as well as requires their contribution to changing the situation. The situation requires problem identification, better understanding of the situation and possible options to address it, and then necessary actions to be undertaken to resolve some of the issues.

The overall problem is one of poor integration of planning in the sectors of water supply, sanitation, wastewater management and urban agriculture. The root causes of this problem are: sectoral (rather than holistic) planning; inadequate communication between government officials; no involvement of community members, especially poorer members of society; lack of knowledge about other sectors and alternative technologies; and in some cases ignorance that wastewater irrigation is even taking place. Only by overcoming the problems of lack of awareness and communication can the issues of wastewater agriculture be addressed.” WASPA LA proposal

This is not the kind of recipe that a traditional research program approach can easily or successfully work with or contribute to.

The WASPA project therefore decided to try a different approach, and through supporting funds from the ICT-KM KSinR project has been able to try out a new approach.

The new approach in question is the Learning Alliance approach which has at its very core a strong principle of knowledge sharing.

A Learning Alliance is a set of interconnected, multi-stakeholder platforms which is then a mechanism through which research and activities can be planned, researched, interventions made and coordinated, and knowledge is shared. For more information on Learning Alliances-see the IRC webpage on Learning Alliances

“The objective of this project is therefore to test and evaluate a methodology to holistically plan and manage sanitation and wastewater in the city, for end-use in agriculture. This can only be done through collaboration between all the major stakeholders: government officials, community members (city residents and farmers), NGOs and researchers.WASPA LA Proposal

As a new approach for embedding research, the Learning Alliance approach can offer:

  • an opportunity to become aware of real issues, needs and options on the ground–to help with more appropriate research planning
  • access to various stakeholders involved in the situation or area to facilitate possibility for collaboration with and between various groups
  • platform for sharing knowledge from research and other projects to other stakeholders from which actions can be planned and implemented

To better understand the use, process and value of the Learning Alliance approach in this project the WASPA project initiated a Monitoring and Evaluation component:

The ICT-KM project proposed here would augment that project by monitoring and evaluating the knowledge sharing approach being utilized, through “process monitoring”. It would result in a better understanding of the approach and lessons for future LAs.” WASPA LA Proposal

We look forward to some interesting results from using and learning from this innovative, multi-stakeholder approach within a research project.


This year we were 4 CG participants at the annual meeting of the Km4Dev Community:

CGIAR participants at KM4Dev 2008

  • Andrea Pape-Christiansen from ICARDA. Her participation was sponsored by the Institutional KS project as a means to further foster the KM capacity of a KS workshop participant. Andrea was very interested in the KM strategy discussions that the International Labour Organization (ILO), FAO and Care have been initiating as Open Space topics.
  • Eva Schiffer who just left IFPRI, but will be working with the CG as a consultant. Eva volunteered to lead a session on Day 0, an attempt to map the KM4Dev network and make us realize that we are all linked at some point! (see earlier post) The exercise raised some controversial and rich discussions, and led also to the project of one Open Space working group: Map out our sister and brother communities.
  • Pete Shelton from IFPRI was another participant invited by the Institutional KS project. Pete has proven to be an important resource person for many people in the CG and other agricultural organizations because of his knowledge in ICTs and information management.  Not surprising then that Pete went to the techie sessions, like the one on “speading up the Km4Dev Web site”, or the one on “Personal Learning through social networking” or “Using Mobile Phones for KS”.
  • Finally myself. It was my fourth participation in a Km4Dev meeting and every year it proves to be inspirational and energizing. I attended amongst others sessions on KM and the private sector, the future of KM4dev, and I led a session on the KS Workshop and toolkit as a means to encourage developemnt organizations to re-use the materials produced for their capacity building efforts. I also presented a poster on the KS project. More on that in a seperate post….

See the Km4Dev wiki for the Open Space session reports: http://www.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Open_Space_Discussion_Reports

On Saturday morning the KM4Dev core group was joined by all those participants who were interested in KM4dev community “business”. The morning was divided in two sessions: One that was looking at the history, context, purpose, challenges and opportunities of the Km4Dev core group, and a second session where we explored in groups issues, and ideas related to our community.
The first session was handled in a Fishbowl format and generated quite a lot of interest, the second session was again an Open Space and participants came up with the following topics / ideas for discussions:

  • Technology issues in relation to Dgroups and the Re-structuring of our KM4Dev Tech Infrastructure
  • What are possible Criteria & KM4Dev quality standards of joint projects?
  • Writing a  proposal to fund a Km4Dev incubator
  • Create KM4Dev Regional chapters
  • What are the expectations from KM4Dev for sponsored participants?
  • How can we finance our meetings?
  • Lets organize a Community Action Day
  • Ways to move forward the Network of Networks work

You can find already some details about each idea and the notes from the reporting back session at the Km4Dev wiki:
http://www.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/KM4Dev_Workshop_-_Lisbon_(Almada),_June_2008:_information_for_participants#Core_Team_Meeting

Some points that pooped up very strongly in the discussions:

  • The need to coordinate funding efforts
  • The need to crystallize some principles for the community with respect to governance and finances if we go the path of fundraising
  • The strong feeling that it is time to open regional chapters and that there is lots of energy out there to go ahead. Yeah!
  • The wonderful idea of the community day: straightforward, easy, and energizing!

Africa Rice Center (WARDA), one of the 15 CGIAR Centers, seeks a highly qualified individual to fill the position of ICT Manager at the Internationally Recruited Staff level at its temporary headquarters in Cotonou. Deadline for application 20 July 2008.

WARDA is an international and intergovernmental research association and believes that staff
diversity contributes to excellence. WARDA therefore encourages women to apply

 

 

 

 

So as the Knowledge Sharing in Research project moves past its mid-way point and starts to generate and gather lessons, experiences, and knowledge the question comes up of how best do we share all of these things-effectively and for impact!

This has also been the focus of discussions that I have been having with the ICT-KM team, the KSinR Pilot Projects, the Communications personell at some of the Pilots’ Centres/Challenge Programs, and others.

How best do we share the knowledge generated on ‘knowledge sharing in research’? How do we tell the stories? share the lessons? communicate the experiences? promote the approaches?

We have the website (www.ks-cgiar.org) which is continuously being populated with information; a toolkit and soon to be developed-web resource (planned);the blog which highlights our news, activities, events and outputs as well as helps us to develop discussions around all of these and key questions and suggestions; various printed products already available and those in process of being developed, ranging from reports to more popular outputs;and certain face-to-face activities and events attended.

But is this reaching YOU? Is it reaching the people we want and need it to? Are these good strategies? Are they enough?

How do we avoid only ‘preaching to the converted’ (and internal communication only) and get the information, ideas, and influence out to those that we would like to see adopt and support the adoption of knowledge sharing in research?

What do they want and need to hear? and how can we approach them and provide this?

I guess first of all we need to think about WHO we want to share this with and why–then we can develop a strategy.

Are others facing this issue?

Do you have any ideas? good examples?

With construction going on all around us at the new IFAD building, it seemed quite symbolic to have a panel discussion on knowledge sharing emphasizing the need to build it into the foundations of a project, not just at the tail end.  The panel, made up of IFAD staff and management in addition to Enrica Porcari, discussed the different aspects of knowledge sharing and its importance.

Panel members highlighted that knowledge management is the key to remain competitive, and that it is up to staff to release the knowledge trapped in projects.  This is all part of IFAD’s new action plan which places knowledge management at the core of its activities (http://www.ifad.org/pub/policy/km/e.pdf)

Enrica was invited to share her thoughts and lessons learned through the ICT-KM Program.  She raised the point that knowledge sharing is no longer optional, as we can no longer afford not to practice KS in any organization.  She emphasized the importance of placing people at the heart of knowledge sharing and that the key to success is to build a enabling framework, networks, and environment for knowledge sharing. 

While the discussion was going on downstairs, upstairs many IFAD project offices (in addition to the CGIAR ICT-KM Program) shared their KS experiences. The exhibits, tables, leaflets, and handouts demonstrated various KS techniques being used, allowing an opportunity for trapped knowledge to be released.

The KM4Dev workshop started with a Day 0, a day for newcomers to discover the community, it’s core group of people, it’s history, it’s communication channels, and the context and challenges that community members are involved in.

“This first day was much about identity issues”, said Ewen Leborgne from IRC.
After a first icebreaker (would you define yourself as a Northern versus Southern, Newbie versus oldie, KM versus Development orientated member, techie versus process focusing?), we had a chance to discover the history of KM4Dev commented by Lucie, the “oldest and wisest “ community member present at the event, accompanied by a live and visual illustration done by Nancy White and Allison Hewlitt. A chat show hosted by Nancy White gave us the opportunity to discover different contexts in which KM4Dev members are developing their activities: rural development, development communication, international research…

When we reconvened in the afternoon we already have had a chance to talk to many participants, but the real first in-depth interaction took place around a network mapping exercise led by Eva Schiffer. Eva is passionate about SNA and she was brave enough to use us as guinea pigs for a first attempt to make “individuals map individuals”. We were 8 at a table and as a first step we shared among us sister networks we are involved with. The result was a huge and impressing list that we put together in plenary. We then started to draw individual network maps and to link them at our tables of 8. Things got a bit complicated when we were asked to identify content and community drivers within these network maps and give them a number between 1 and 5 as an expression of importance. At our table people felt reluctant to put numbers on people’s names and rate them. Other’s had a problem with the exercise as a whole: what is this useful for? Here are three of the many reactions that were shared afterwards:

  • We could have done the mapping exercise around the sister communities to highlight their importance and relevance
  • It seems that some people here are very into the community and enjoy mapping it whereas other participants are users of KM4Dev resources and don’t feel the need to map relationships.
  • It was incredibly brave that Eva took the lead on the exercise and showcased the value of experimentation with Km tools.

All the reactions and workshop notes are documented on the KM4Dev wiki.
If you want to know more about Social Network Analysis, go to the KS toolkit
Follow the KM4Dev workshop blog.

We are invited to participate in the knowldge management launch at IFAD were all IFAD programs are showcasing their knowledge management interventions and projects.  Every project and office shares their information/experiences/materials on how they approach knowledge management. 

Many of the challenges and approaches IFAD has taken are similar to that of CGIAR and our experiences at ICT-KM: from access to major resources and records (similar to our approach with CGVlibrary) to participatory mapping (in close alliance with knowledge sharing and reasearch project).   

While this is indicative that these interventions are needed and appropriate, it also highlights the fact that still a lot needs to be done.  We need to share information across organizations more readily and easily, something also being discussed today at the fair. 

With the current food prices crises at the center of everyones attention, it makes this all the more important.   

Natasja Sheriff, Project Leader of the WorldFish KSinR Pilot Project, together with Tonya Schuetz (IWMI)-who helped facilitate the WorldFish Pilot’s training workshop, wrote and submitted a paper for the workshop ‘Rethinking impact: Understanding the Complexity of Poverty and Change‘ which was convened in Cali, Colombia 26-29 March 2008.

The paper, entitled “Monitoring for change, assessing for impact: the WorldFish center experience” can be viewed from the following link- paper. This paper was based on the experience gained from the initial introduction to and use by the Project of Outcome Mapping and Most Significnat Change-the workshop which was described in a previous bog post.

According to the paper “like many CG centers, a traditional emphasis on the development and dissemination of new technolgies has shaped impact assessment within the WorldFish center” and ” assessing the impact of projects undertaken…has largely been quantitative in nature, applying economic models to assess productivity, welfare and technological efficiency for example”.

This paper contends that “in comparison to ex post impact assessment activities, less attention has been given to monitoring and evaluation, and to the process of learning and adaptation, during project implementation”.

This paper outlines the new trend of research towards a broader approach to addressing poverty alleviation and the move towards development and application of methods which increase the impact of agricultural research on poverty and which facilitate learning and change.

The paper posits that “there is a lack of appropriate, effective tools for participatory monitoring and evaluation for application in a natural resource management context” and “simultaneously there has been a trend towards increased partner collaboration and impact-oriented research which requires a more responsive and adaptive approach to impact assessment and M&E than has been previously applied”.

This was the driver behind the proposal of the CP35 project at the WorldFish Centre to the Knowledge Sharing in Research call for proposals, to pilot new M&E methods to compliment existing quantitative M&E tools, and to support a more open and responsive approach to change occurring in communities involved in the project. This paper outlines the initial experiences of the project in piloting new approaches to M&E and impact assessment mainly in the form of Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change methods.

The paper provides a rationale for the choice of particular approaches, examining what potential fit and benefit they would have with the research project into which they would be integrated.

Next a clear description of the activities undertaken to introduce and initiate such methods was provided.

The real ‘meat’ of the paper comes in the strong review and analysis of the piloting of these kind of methods which is presented in the form of annotated lists of ‘benefits’ and ‘issues hindering effectiveness’ of each of the methods being employed. While there were some initial positive signs of benefits that would/could be derived from using such methods, the challenges, issues and concerns raised were more of a highlight.

Some benefits include:

  • Creating a longer term vision for sustainability and impact
  • Identifying unanticipated problems and constraints to project success
  • Revealing outcome and impact priorities held by project participants and stakeholders
  • Creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for project success
  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities
  • Articulating where change is needed and monitoring progress towards required change

Some disadvantages identifed were:

  • The potential for unequal power relationships amongst stakeholders (and even team) to influence the process/method
  • Relative complexity of the approach
  • Difficulty in communicating terminologies and processes in various languages
  • Substantial time investment of project team and stakeholders to work through OM
  • Potential for misinterpretation and inappropriate application of the concept of ‘behavioural change’

Although some negative consequences were described, these were proposed to be valuable learning experiences from which specific attention could be paid to relevant modifications and adaptations which could be made for future use in the project-in its other country sites.

The authors concluded, therefore that “there is a need to carefully evaluate alternative methodologies available to research scientists and to put forward appropriate tools for impact assessment and M&E that can be readily taken up and applied in R4D, particularly in the natural resource management context”.

The CGIAR WorldFish Centre also has a Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project. This Pilot is working on the “application of KS tools to impact monitoring and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) in a community-based fish culture project in Vietnam”. The Pilot is part of a large multi-country Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) project known as CP35. For more information on this Pilot project-check out the WorldFish Pilot webpage. The main KS tools being piloted in the project are Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change–for more information on these tools check out the KS toolkit.

As part of this Pilot a start-up workshop was held 19-22 of February 2008 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The workshop was organised and run by Tonya Schuetz who has alot of experience in applying Outcome Mapping to various research projects. The workshop involved two major activities:

  1. training of the CP35 project team in Vietnam in the use of Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change methodologies using lecture-based training and practical exercises
  2. community meetings (2) at the project sites to initiate outcome mapping with project beneficiaries

The objective of the whole workshop was “to define and prepare the implementation of Knowledge Sharing tools- Outcome Mapping (OM) and Most Significant Change (MSC)- as a complementary project monitoring and evaluation component”.

Other objectives were also to :

  • build capacity of the project team in planning and using participatory M&E tools
  • develop the content of the relevant OM steps
  • develop the participatory impact monitoring system (journals), and also MSC approach to be used

Training the project team

The project team were introduced to and were lead through the Outcome Mapping steps of the intentional design stage and went through the monitoring stage, Outcome Journals and some of the Strategy journals.

The Most Significant Change approach was also introduced and titles of most significant change stories were collected from the CP35 team members, to be developed into full stories later.

One particular challenge that was experienced in the workshop was dealing with the diversity of the team’s level of English language command. Since the facilitator was not a Vietnamese-speaker it was decided that the team could develop the outcome mapping components in Vietnamese. This allowed the team to feel comfortable working in their own language and was used as an opportunity for certain staff with a good level of English to be trained in the role of co-trainers for their peers.

Community meetings to initiate methods

The meetings with the communities involved informing them of a new project review process-using OM- that the project will be using and which they want the communities to be involved in . The purpose of it was explained that the project team wants to get some feedback and recommendations from the community for further strategy and implementation of the project. In groups the participants:

  • formulated a vision (for 2013) for the project
  • formulated their contribution to the vision (outcome challenge)
  • the five partner categories produced a set of progress markers for timelines of 2009, 2001 and 2013

The progress markers were written directly into outcome journals and the next step-since the project has already started- was to do an evaluation (in percentage) of how much of the progress markers have already been realised.

Also in the community meetings, every participant was asked to capture a most significant change story- telling a story about a change that they think was brought about through project activities. Since all participants were literate, they wrote their stories into a provided format.

Follow-up steps

The immediate follow-up to the workshop was firstly to involve translation and documentation of all OM steps and MSC stories developed during the workshop since they were all done in Vietnamese. The CP 35 team also will develop progress markers for each community group to capture what changes the team itself expects from them. The two sets of progress markers for each boundary partner (those from themselves and those from team perspective) will be discussed, and agreement on one set will be made. Further follow-up will take place during the next trip to Vietnam in July and include:

  • using the Outcome Journals with each group for a next round of evaluation-using agreed set of progress markers
  • review of the progress markers developed
  • evaluate how the approach is working and what it is bringing to the project
  • consider possible modifications and adaptations to the methods to suit the project context and needs

Conclusion

The project team, now having been trained, needs to make a decision on how many communities they want to implement Outcome Mapping. It is also recognized that the OM method cannot be applied in the same way and to the same degree in all of the communities depending on their involvement in the project, their attitude towards the project and taking into account the individual situation and context of each community, e.g how used to participation they are.

A report on the workshop was prepared by Tonya Schuetz and Natasja Sheriff and is available on the KS website.

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