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.


  • 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.



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

In November 2008 the Knowledge Sharing in Research project held its Synthesis Workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A number of blog posts were written on this workshop and more information will be made available over the next few months.ksinr-workshop-in-newsletter-contents

The newest ICT-KM newsletter for 1st quarter of 2009 also features an article about the KSinR Synthesis workshop.


The ICT-KM program puts out an electronic newsletter every quarter filled with updates and information on the projects and activities in its portfolio, upcoming events and more.

The newsletter for the 1st quarter of 2009 is now available at http://ictkm.cgiar.org/Newsletter/newsletter.html


The Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research (YPARD) was launched in November 2006 to serve as a global platform through which young professionals can express their ideas and realise their full potential towards a dynamic agricultural research for development.

I firmly believe agricultural research needs young, capable, motivated professionals, so I have been supporting the group by offering training opportunities, mentoring…..helping in any way we can.

Now we are trying to identify good candidates for their Steering Committee, to help guide this group of young professionals. Below is the call….

“The YPARD Steering Committee is looking for a new steering committee member. Are you interested to contribute actively to a growing YPARD and help steering the strategic development of YPARD? Help YPARD achieve its ambitious goals with your commitment as a new SC member!

An SC member is expected to voluntarily work and communicate electronically for 1-2 days per month, and participate for about 1 week per year in the annual SC meeting and one or more ARD related events to represent YPARD. The functioning and role of the SC are described below, copied from the Charter that is also available on the website. The following items should be considered as they are important for the SC to select a new member:

1) Being a YPARD member and committed to YPARD

2) Having strongly supported YPARD till now

3) Good knowledge of ARD environment

4) Good knowledge of the working language of YPARD, English

To manifest your interest to serve as SC member, please send a letter of motivation plus a max. 2 page CV toandres.tschannen@gmail.com and giuliani.ale@gmail.com, chair and vice-chair of YPARD. The SC will screen all received files and invite a suitable SC member to complement the present team. Please send your files until 8.February 2009.”

In November 08 I posted: CGIAR, Change and another way to look at it! where I used Wordle to give an visual representation of what people were discussing in the CGIAR Change management blog.

I thought I would use Wordle again and use the feeds from the ShareFair blog on ICT-KM

Sharefair through Wordle

Sharefair through Wordle

A picture is worth a thousand words…

The ShareFair 09 has just come to a close. Months of preparations, negotiations, discussions, worrying whether this was a good decision, will people come, will they understand?….

When Mrs. Williams, Assistant Director General for the Knowledge Department in FAO declared the ShareFair closed, I had shivers down my back, and more so when the crowd in the Green Room spontaneously clapped seeing the names of all the people who contributed to the Fair and its success displayed on the screen in the closing ceremony. It was done..a job well done by all of us. We should all feel very proud!

Only 3 days earlier I was sitting in the main podium of the Plenary Hall trying to explain in two minutes that knowledge sharing was just a way of doing things smarter.

Three days of ShareFair…what are my 3 take home messages:

– You cannot manage knowledge, let is flow, let it grow. Allow others to stand “on the shoulders of the giants”.

– Given the chance, people are eager to share and learn. Reward those who ‘dare to share’.

– People speak differently when they speak to their superiors. Create a safe space where they can talk, express their ideas, their creative juice. Let them grow, your organization will only benefit from it.

Usually at the end of such an intense period, you feel a certain anticlimax. This time it has not happened to me, I still feel the buzz of people walking along the corridors, meeting and talking to people they had not talked to before, even if they worked in the same organizations for years, finding out they had similar issues and together they could find solutions. People asking “when can we do this again”? What else can we, as organizers, ask for?

A heartfelt “thank you” goes to all who worked so hard to make this possible, from the steering committee, to the management who “dared” to support such an event and be ready to ‘face the consequences’, to my fellow CGIAR colleagues who traveled from afar to participate, to the volunteers, the translators, all the unsung heroes….

It is never fair to try and single out a person….but if I were pushed to do so, no hesitation. Gauri Salokhe, an information management officer in FAO, who worked so hard, so relentlessly, so creatively and always with a smile. She has been dubbed by a fellow Steering committee member as the “Saint of the Fair” a title well deserved!

Keep up the energy, we started a movement and we must keep it up!

I presented the KS workshop at the session on KS for Teams. 

I was surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed that the session focused so much on tools and less on KS and teamwork as a process and the principles of it.

Here is a summary of the session:

The first presenter, Benoit Thierry from IFAD, claimed that when he came from the field to bureaucracy he realized how little knowledge staff had about IFADs own projects. He considers each project having its own value Chain which goes from evaluation to KM to Communication. That is why the M&E system has to be strengthened so that KM issue can be identified and communication processes improved and fine tuned. Benoit asks each of his project teams to have its own website and to work along a Project Knowledge Pyramid that links the project value chain to HQ as well as to local governments and users. He insists in the use of tools like YouTube or Google, or any other media to show his teams that they are able to produce relevant Knowledge. ¨It is amazing how the local teams were strengthened through this process¨ he said.

In my presentation of the workshop I highlighted the action learning principle of our concept where participants get to understand their context better through a Social Networking Analysis and select a project or issue related to their work and to which they would like to apply the learnings. The workshop is a team exercise in itself where each online session or face to face dynamic unfolds using KS tools, methods and principles.

Nicholas MacGowan von Holstein presented us Twidox, a document uploading tool that allows organization to create digital repositories and libraries.

Wolfgang Prante introduced us to the context in which he developed a team working and information sharing tool for a internal division at FAO. The software allows the team members to share information, keep documents, to have online discussions and more. First feedback is positive, also the team uses more the information sharing features of the application then the interactive ones (forums, blogs)

Johannes Keizer from FAO brought up his case about the moment when he wanted to create a better work environment through an online tool where his team was asked to share their work. The first attempt was quite a failure as he admits and the application was called The Devil as it created an atmosphere of competition and also because the media wiki was not the right tool. Johannes didn’t give up but changed his strategy. He decided to change the tool and to use it just for himself at first, and sharing the updates with the team who could join, but this time it was not mandatory. The tool is a HTTP setup that all FAO can see, which a login for team members, and a mash up of news, the colleagues own blogs, and a tagging system that allows to retrieve content easily

In the discussion a question was about how to help users to get tool to be used and how much discipline should have to use the same tool. I was happy to be able to make my point on the need to build trust in a team through strong f2f interaction, which allows the team then to feel more comfortable in their online interaction. I was also emphasizing that in my experience it is much more efficient to choose one tool per purpose, even with the risk to have to use multiple tools within a team, rather than trying to find or develop the “one tool that does everything”. Finally my third point was to build on the strengths of a team-champion who is excited about team work and who the others trust and follow in the exploration and adoption of tools and approaches this person suggests.

At the end of the session we went around the circle to summarize some important points for the participants, as:

  • There are many tools: which one is right?
  • We can strengthen teams by showing them that they can produce relevant Knowledge
  • We need to build trust. No trust, no team work.
  • The right tool is the tool you like
  • There are many tools but you need to control your time and have a clear purpose
  • Choose the right tool for the right job
  • I feel dizzy by the number of tools out there
  • For KS to happen we need a cultural change in our bureaucracies
  • Choose the tool and adapt it to people’s way of working
  • Life is an experiment
  • Tools work better when there is trust among the team members
  • Team work is not easy. We need tools

After a mad dash through the Colosseo to get into FAO this morning, I barely have time to acknowledge that this will probably be the last time I use this route for this week anyway – Sharefair 09 ends today. On that note, my first task is to facilitate discussions on ‘Assessment Methodologies and Learning for Policy-making’. A quick check-in with the FAO presenters working on ‘Livelihood adaptation to Climate Change’ reveals their need for recommendations to take their project to policy makers – How do we get their attention?

A peer-assist is what we decide on. The participants here are resources who would be a great opportunity for the FAO group to tap into. Following an extensive look into their project and the communication tools they produced based on their research in Bangladesh, we jump right into a discussion on the challenges the group was facing. It was exciting to see such involvement and sharing, which reinforces my belief that people generally like to share BUT lack the time and the trust-based environment to do so.

It was with some difficulty that I had to bring the session to a close, when obviously, many in the group had warmed up to debate and explore the issues/recommendations put forth.

A little note though – someone in the group said “we need a whole day to get to the heart of this”. I disagree. If the project problem/ challenge is visualised clearly in less than 10 mins, I believe 2 hours of facilitated discussion is probably what you would need to get the desired results. Explaining your problem in a concise, crystal clear manner goes a long way in starting a discussion with people whom you reach out to. Having a facilitator helps to cut out the white noise and keeps the focus on the desired outcome. Just my two cents…

Peter Ballantayne, given the honour of leading us through the closing to this exciting event, told us that we will be getting an idea of what information is already available on the Share Fair and then we will have a conversation.

He started by running through some key highlights (on powerpoint!) from the Share Fair:

  • More than 700 registered, 112 sessions, 160+ official contributions
  • Photos available online
  • social reporting has been going on throughout the fair
  • Tree of Knowledge-was an interesting feature (that even moved during the event)
  • Plenary opening
  • conversations in the booths
  • a fishbowl-with glass bowl included!!
  • alot of training–despite the short time people got to get a taste of what some tools can be valuable for and a little of how to use them
  • THE BAR!
  • …” and finally the inaguration of Obama!”

What did we all talk about?

Peter presented a tag cloud of the words that were used in the programme. Major words included- knowledge, sharing, iafd, fao, cgiar, rural

Again last night he went onto a share fair blog and used woordle again to develop a tag cloud to see what had been talked about–knowledge, methods, see, sharing, people, useful, project

Who made this possible?:

  • alot of volunteers
  • facilitators and trainers
  • steering committee
  • participants

What are some of the visible outputs?

  • 40+ video blips
  • 150+ tweets
  • 130+delicious bookmarks
  • 50+blogposts (30 from ictkm)
  • 250+ photos
  • only 3 powerpoints
  • 22 training sessions with more than 400 people going to them
  • Facebook page
  • 90 second challenge (video clips of people saying what knowledge sharing means for their organisation)

What is the added-value of knowledge sharing?–let’s see what people had to say:

  • “is nothing but added value!”

A survey was done about the Share Fair and so far from the results we can tell you that the best learning moment was—Hands-on training sessions.

Peter then invited all participants to think about what the Share Fair meant for them, what they liked or not, what was a highlight, what did they learn. He asked people to gather with a few people around them and to discuss this and then he will go around and see what the groups came up with.

“What do you take away with you from this fair?that you will act upon?”

Peter went around the room getting people to share their perceptions–and these were captured on Twitter immediately and shown on the screen(available on Share Fair website).

 Lorraine Williams from FAO gave some concluding remarks, congratulating all on a successful event.

 “Knowledge is not power–sharing is power” a quote from Peter’s favourite leaf from the Tree of Knowledge

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