January 2009


Thursday, 22 Jan 09. For the first session I attended the technical session on ‘Technical Tools on RSS’ in the E-learning Lab. The session was facilitated by Pier Andrea Pirani (Euforic) and Romolo Tassone (FAO).  We were joined by Nancy White, facilitator extraordinaire, to help us on the practical exercise.

The session gave us an introduction to the RSS and a very useful practical session on how to sign up for an RSS reader, where to find RSS on a website, how to gather RSS feeds and how to subscribe to websites and blogs. In no time, everyone was busy building up their own RSS!  

You can learn more about RSS feeds, what they are, how to use them at: http://www.kstoolkit.org/RSS

– RSS is a way to get a quick list of the latest story headlines from all your favorites websites and blogs.

– RSS makes it a lot easier and faster for you to get the stories you care about from around the web without having to visit them all individually.

– Look for an RSS symbol on a website, blog or browser window to ‘subscribe’ to their RSS list feed.  

Via RSS, we can pick and choose what we need, take what we are interested in, and use RSS to make navigating the web content a lot more precise and suited to our individual needs.

So what is RSS?  —- I am ready for some stories!  

Several documents are now available on the Knowledge and Innovation Conference website at http://www.ifpri.org/events/conferences/2008/20080407.asp

These include the conference synopsis and two background papers.  Two briefs are undergoing final edits, and the book will be finished in 2009.

Conference Synopsis. November 2008

This synopsis is based on a consultative conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in April 2008. IFPRI gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) http://www.gtz.de, the ICT-KM program of the CGIAR www.ictkm.cgiar.org, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) http://www.jica.go.jp, Research Into Use (RIU) http://www.researchintouse.com, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) http://www.cta.int, and the World Food Programme (WFP) http://www.wfp.org.

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  • Partnerships, Platforms, and Coalitions in Agricultural Innovation

Background Paper. December 2008.
Download (PDF 151K)

  • Innovation-Based Solutions for Increasing Agricultural Productivity and Ending Poverty

Background Paper. December 2008.
Download (PDF 165K)

Time to get connected —The wheel has already been invented

An interview with Geoff Parcell at Share Fair 09

As much as we might try, it’s not always possible to collect and document everything relevant to our work. Nonetheless, if we try, we can usually find a balance between collecting knowledge and connecting people. Today’s organizations need to focus on connecting their people, listening to them, and learning from them. We need to stop reinventing the wheel, over and over again, because the knowledge we need might just be a desk away. And no one knows this better than Geoff Parcell, the co-author of the best-selling book Learning to Fly

 

Geoff, who is also the knowledge management coach for the WHO, UNDP, the World Bank and the Swiss Development Agency, delivered the keynote speech at the Opening Ceremony of the recently held Share Fair organized by Bioversity International, the CGIAR ICT-KM Program, FAO, IFAD and WFP. Held at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, from the 20th to 22nd January 2009, the Fair also saw Geoff convening some sessions on Knowledge Management.

 

The ICT-KM Program’s Nadia Manning-Thomas caught up with Geoff at the end of the Share Fair to capture his impressions of the event, the CGIAR and its knowledge sharing successes, challenges and opportunities.

 

 

Nadia Manning-Thomas: First off, let me ask if you enjoyed the Share Fair and if it was what you’d expected it to be?

 

Geoff Parcell: It was fun and pretty much what I’d expected. I attended the Dare to Share Fair at SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and can see that a lot was used from that model.

 

NMT: What was the highlight of the Share Fair for you?

 

GP: The engagement with the self-assessment process that took place during the session I led on this tool. In particular, there was a striking moment with 35 FAO people sitting outside the Iran Room discussing their own capacity in knowledge sharing with no boundaries or defensiveness. An additionally exciting part of the event for me was being able to witness the overall chaos and energy in the Atrium. (Booths had been set up in the Atrium and served as a focal hub for the Share Fair.)

 

NMT: What were the challenges, if any, that you felt or observed during the event?

 

GP (chuckling and pointing to the meeting rooms with their screwed-down furniture): This is not particularly conducive to this type of event, its activities and goals. This shows that organizations like yours need to be moving towards more flexible room setups with small tables to allow for small group work and alternative and effective methods of sharing knowledge.

 

During the event, I found that there is still a mix of attitudes when it comes to knowledge management and sharing. Essentially knowledge management is an attitude change from ‘we are the experts, telling others what to do’ to ‘let’s look at what’s going on and see how to support those efforts.’ The problem is that people feel threatened by change. What they don’t realize is that it can be a very powerful thing to facilitate processes rather than dictating or leading them.

 

All of the organizations involved in this Share Fair can no longer think of themselves as the authority on food and agriculture. People will get information wherever they can. And especially with new and advancing technologies, information is now available in many more ways than it has been before.

 

NMT: So what is their role now?

 

GP: These organizations need to see a new role for themselves in providing platforms, in facilitating the processes of getting people connected.

 

NMT: The big question that always comes up at events like this focused on new ways of operating is that it is difficult to bring about change, difficult to get organizations and people to make the shift. What are your thoughts on how to encourage and bring about change?

 

GP: We need to tell stories; stories about how these new approaches are being used and are working. We need to encourage people to follow examples—such as the activities carried out at this Share Fair. We should be making connections happen and work.

 

NMT: Coming from the CGIAR, I would like to know if you have any impressions about the CGIAR System in relation to knowledge sharing.

 

GP: I didn’t know much about the CGIAR before this event, but after attending some sessions that presented CGIAR projects and activities, seeing booths with CGIAR materials, and talking to some CGIAR staff, I got some impressions about the System and its successes and needs related to knowledge sharing. I was struck by something in particular I heard about the CGIAR and knowledge management strategies. When I heard that each of the 15 Centers in the CGIAR System plans to write or has written its own knowledge management strategy, I thought, this is crazy! There should only be one strategy developed for the whole System. A knowledge management strategy is mostly about process so it doesn’t matter about differences in content. I assume that most Centers have similar knowledge management goals, so the focus should be on the knowledge management process to achieve those goals – and applying the process to particular content.

 

It is about getting people to have the right conversations. It’s also important to find ways to have learning incorporated into any organization’s project or activity – before, during and after the event.

 

Sometimes it is just simple things that we need to change or adopt, and importantly we must keep our minds open to things that can be transferable to our needs and situations, even if they come from very different sectors, groups, or situations.

 

At one point the Steering Committee of the Share Fair asked me if I could make my keynote speech a bit more relevant to ‘their’ reality – meaning the food and agriculture sector. I replied by saying that “knowledge sharing is not about telling people how to do things. It is about people figuring out how to adapt practices to their conditions and needs.”

 

We’re not as different as we think we are.

 

NMT: There is often a lot of (differing) perspectives on what knowledge sharing is. Do you have a definition that you use?

 

GP: Knowledge is whatever we use to get action. Reports may be fulfilling for the writers but the goal of your organizations is to reduce hunger; therefore, we need to make sure that what we generate gets to the point of application. The situation is like a massive supply chain along which knowledge must flow. Although, you may not be responsible for all parts of the chain, you need to find ways to work together; to make the right connections to make sure that knowledge gets to the end.

 

My model for knowledge management is using knowledge in service of delivering results.

 

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Thank you to Simone Staiger and Meena Arivananthan who also took part in the interview.

Thank you to Mary Schneider for adding the journalistic touch to this piece.

golden-oxto all of our colleagues and friends of Chinese origin, our wishes that this Year of the Golden-Ox be the best year in health, happiness, and prosperity.

…then you should have attended the session on ‘KM strategies and activities for rural development’ that took place in the India Room on Thursday 22nd January from 13:45-15:00 at the Share Fair—or you can at least find out a bit of what went on in the session by reading this blog post.

The session began with a short verbal presentation of two projects on the topics of:

  1. Embedding KM tools such as documenting learning and systematisation in rural development projects—IFAD
  2. Sharing knowledge to do things better: embedding KM strategy in rural development projescts–IFAD-PAMA

Some highlights from the presentations included:

  • workshop was a key instrument used through the project–particularly thematic workshops
  • capturing interesting stories from the field and publishing them using the website and also local media
  • study tours and exchanges between one community and another
  • project website (but more for purpose of collating the materials from the project rather than for daily work)
  • video on the program and its experiences–targetted at bringing visibility to the program and the issue of market linkages to top of national agenda
  • invited politicians to be invovled in a number of visable events–to capture their attention
  • policy workshops, working groups

As you know, we have been trying to promote social reporting and live blogging, the on-line summary of conferences we attend or organize as a way of present a synopsis of each presentation, talk-by-talk, in nearly real time, so that you can feel included in the event even if you cannot travel to it.

At its best, reading the liveblog can be better than attending the talk. All the non-essential bla bla has been removed, and almost every talk captured. While video recordings of conferences are becoming more popular, a good liveblog is much quicker to scan and digest. We want to offer more and more liveblogging, so here we are pointing you to a great resource co-authored by Ethan Zuckerman, of Geek Corp, one of the best conference bloggers alive.

Ethan was the keynote speaker in the Web2fordev conference we organized two years ago in Rome.

We have more than 40 blog posts that our reporters from the ShareFair prepared for you. Hope you find them interesting. Let us know what you think!

Hope you will find these tips useful and they will inspire to join the CGIAR livebloggers movement:
Tips for conference bloggers

Thanks Jenin for pointing us to this resource!

The January 2009 edition of the Europe Newsletter of the International Association of Facilitators recently re-printed the article “ Sharing knowledge – tell us a story”  (Pages 10-12 ) from The New Agriculturist Magazine on how agricultural researchers are using storytelling as a way to collect local knowledge.

The newsletter featuring the story is available from this link

 They also used as a cover picture a photo showing participants during a fieldFront cover of IAF newsletter0featuring photo from Farmers' Conference trip to Souran, south of Aleppo, to visit Participatory Plant Breeding sites (Credit: ICARDA)

Front cover of IAF newsletter featuring photo from Farmers’ Conference

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