Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

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

I was very happy to attend the Share Fair session where the FAO Official Representatives Web site was presented. Not that I have much to do with its content. But the person who designed and developed the site, Maria Grazia Bovo, was one of our alumni in the first KS workshop. When we started the workshop this web site didn’t exist and Maria Grazia designed the site as the workshop unfolded.

It was fabulous to see it up and running now and I really liked the site:

  • It has a sober FAO design adapted to its user group
  • It has blog lines that are daily updated
  • It also allows non official representatives who work at FAO to access lots of information through the Intranet
  • It has a Google calendar with all FAO events and it allows to follow webcasts and offers podcasts through a clever mash up with other parts of FAOs Intranet.
  • In addition it is now the only way to access important information that was beforehand distributed via fax o paper copies, a good way to get users on board and increase consultations.

Bravo Maria!

Call me old-fashioned…but if there is something I want to know…I ask the expert. I always believe there is someone out there who has an answer to my questions! So here we are at the Knowledge ShareFair, an exceptionally succesful event (forgive my biased views!) where there are lots of people I could ask help me understand what Knowledge Management is. Geoff Parcell, the keynote speaker at the ShareFair, was facilitating a session about “Demistifying knowledge management” – a perfect opportunity, I thought, to find out what this is all about. Geoff, a practitioner of Knowledge Management, not really an expert (at least that’s what he says of himself) did something interesting…instead of trying to define knowledge management (I have tried that many times – and what frustrating experiences those were!), he gave us a self assesment sheet. km-self-assesment. Not a rigorous test, but a way to measure where you are and determine where you want to be: the rest is easy! As Geoff says, a good way to know your strengths is by comparing yourself with others. That’s why Geoff divided the large audience into groups. One for each organization, so the participants could assess themselves but also assess their organization, and determine how collectively they could move forward. A 5-level assessment sheet was given to us all to measure leadership behaviours, networking abilities, our capacity to learn before, during and after….. and then by comparing our organization with the others we could see areas where one could help the other.

Some of my initial reactions?
1- The areas being measured reinforced my belief that Knowledge Management and Sharing is just another way of doing things: a smarter way! .
2- There are many pessimists and optimists amongst us: staffers from one same organization had a very different perspective of where they were, but they started building some common grounds when they were determining where they wanted to be (GREAT!).
3- Maybe where you sit in an organization influences your view of where you are on the scale, but context and perspective are topics for another discussion.
4- You have to own a process: spending the time to figure out “where you are and where you want to be”, setting your own goals (individually and collectively) has a lot of value in ensuring these objectives do not stay just on paper…but you do something about them. It is like setting your own charter of commitment, something you can hang on your wall, remind yourself of, measure your progress….

We will hopefully be able to make this assessment toolkit available on our KS Toolkit
so you can see where you are in moving from the belief that “Knowledge is Power” to the belief



that “Sharing is power” as you can read in one of the thoughts left on the Knowledge of Tree in the Atrium.

I hope this Fair has been a real breadth of fresh air for you as it has been for the colleague who left this other card on the tree.

Fresh air

Fresh air

Learning for policy makers

Learning for policy makers - a Peer Assist

In a Peer Assist facilitated by Meena Arivananthan (ICT-KM/WorldFish), FAO staff shared their experiences on how they’ve worked to translate global climate change models into adaptation activities at farm-level in Bangladesh, and asked workshop participants for their input.

Stephan Baas, Claudia Hiepe and Selvaraju Ramasamy described the basic project Livelihood Adaptation to Climate Change in Bangladesh. FAO had conducted the baseline assessments and knew that farmers were aware of climate impacts but did not know the origin or how to systematically deal with the impacts. The demand for new activities was there and action in the field had to meet that demand. Under the project, FAO developed a suite of communications materials and processes targeted at different stakeholders, from the farming/community level, national/local (i.e. extension workers and NGOs) to the international realm, including climate change negotiators. Tools included an e-learning CD-ROM for extension officers, as well as visual learning tools for local farmers, briefs and reports for policy-makers and many more.

farm level communications materials

farm level communications materials


  • too much material? Is there a simpler way to work with all of these groups without producing so many outputs?
  • How to translate this local learning into higher-level policy making – adopting technologies and
  • How to institutionalize this issue without it being an additional burden on resources?

Suggestions from audience

  • extract key principles for adaptation
  • communications products need to be tailored to context
  • sell the ideas to senior bureaucrats/institutional leaders – if context allows
    FAO staff share their experiences

    FAO staff share their experiences

    • or the team that supports leaders – build capacity for these people to feed information to the heads
  • have the beneficiaries of change be the advocates, i.e. the front-line extension workers
  • be clear about the specific policy change that you want to achieve – and look for points of resistance
    • in theory the issue of adaptation has been taken up but no specific policy instruments. It’s been response-oriented – we need to move towards more pro-active policies, by moving to level below in terms of land tenure, water pricing/management,
  • at farm level,
    • use household flags which are raised after capacity building has taken place. the flag has some symbol of the objectives/elements of adaptation. Can serve many purposes, i.e reminding people of their commitment, and inducing neighbours to get trained
    • using free movies in community theatres
    • marketing characters
    • a tee-shirt with a communication objective printed on it
    • children’s education – training future generations
  • international policy-makers: think about how they learn, their needs
    • easy to read materials in appropriate language
    • physical presence: face-to-face briefings and workshops
    • address demand, rather trying to create demand
  • look at media that are popular in the area, i.e. radio. Feedback from external sources
  • think about how words are translation: different words i.e. drought, sustainability, may not be easily translated, may not convey the right message

In this session two toolkits are being presented:

  1. The Education for Rural People Toolkit (FAO)
  2. RuralInvest (FAO)

Starting with 10 minute showcase of each of the toolkits.

The Education for Rural People Toolkit (ERP):

  • many people are illiterate
  • little formal education possibilities around the world, especially with rural populations
  • want to empower rural people to enable them to participate in the societies in which they live
  • ensuring food security through knowledge and education
  •  initiative aimed mostly at capacity building,


  • How do you market this to people who can make use of this toolkit?
  • What about people in rural areas who do not have access to computers or internet
  • What feedback are you getting for this toolkit? How are people using this? what are the benefits of this toolkit?


  • for capacity building
  • started in Latin America, useful in Africa, introducing it to Central Asia
  • multi-lingual
  • interactive database in which you cando costing of projects
  • small communities, NGOs or individuals can use the modules available online to develop small-scale projects
  • can do own investment planning e.g latrine, bridge, small clinic
  • for larger investments e.g wanting to buy land for developing a crop, or industry, that requires going to the next Phase (module 3) in whcih training is needed
  • still costly to use the toolkit

Success factors were identified for toolkits in general by the participants:

  • local language
  • people knowing about the toolkits
  • packaging them in useful formats
  • partners you work with

One interesting discussion that emerged in this session is what we mean by toolkits and what type of resources cna be designated as toolkits.

We also discussed alot about the the target groups for particular toolkits.

Today is Thursday 22nd January- and the third and final day of the Share Fair. For the first session of the day I am attending the session on ‘Assessment methodologies and learning for policymaking’ being convened in the India Room.

The session invovles the presentation of a group from FAO including Stephan Baas, Claudia Hiepe and Selvaraju Ramsamy. Their presentation is on Livelihood adaptation to climate change- a socio-institutional learning process: experiences from a  project in Bangladesh. 

The session will be run as a peer assist as the group would really like to get some feedback and ideas from those attending the session on their project and tools.

 1. to develop a methodology to bridge the gap between global circulation models and local farmers–needs to be translated into local realities

2. how can we come to some very concrete actions-what can we do at this point while we still have uncertainty

3.based on  analysis-how can we inform policy makers to develop an enabling environment for local actions

First they introduce the context by showing a film looking at the effects of climate change in Bangladesh and some interventions that FAO has been undertaking there.

The project wanted to build on existing processes and make use of them for promoting learning and doing dissemination around climate change adaptation. One example of this was using existing Farmer Field schools and making them into Climate Field schools.

The next part of the session involved Claudia Hiepe showing the group a number of the various knowledge products that the project had produced for various stakehodlers. A list of things developed and available was handed out to the attendees. Products were designed for various groups to disseminate the information. Three main levels were showcased including:

1. Information collection, knowledge generation and sharing at farm/community level

  • picture field guide
  • theatre, drama songs
  • field days
  • demonstrations
  • climate field schools

2. Knowledge generation with and for Field Practitioners/NGOs/national research

  • written adaptation option menu
  • training manuals
  • guidelines and practices

3. Knowledge sharing at national/international level

  • technical reports
  • formal publications
  • BBC radio broadcasts
  • documentary films

Then Salvaraju showed us the online tool that has been developed as a training tool.

It was developed out of a need for a more interactive e-learning tool since it is not possible to reach all extension agents with face-to-face training programs or even published materials. The tool was developed also as a way of fitting into the technology transfer process that is being carried out by the extensionists.

The project found that when they tested out the tool with some extension agents the feedback they got was that the extension personell needed some exposure to working on computers as many of them don’t have much experience in working with computers.

Some issues and challenges experienced:

*overload of materials developed, but still need to find good and effective ways to get information to the particular target groups

*how to translate this learning that is being created at the local level to higher level policy making

*how to institutionalise this issue. Working through extension but struggling with the question of how to do this more effectively and sustainably. Sometimes people go back to business as usual–and just go back to old ways of doing technology transfer and calling it adaptation to climate change—so how to keep them on track.

 One of the big questions that came up in the discussion was really what are the best ways to share knowledge and make effective linkages with the policy makers. This is something that many projects have as  an aim but do not know what approaches to follow. It is not easy!

Some suggestions, ideas and discussion threads included:

  • Need to develop personal relationships with some key players in the policy field
  • Need to build capacity even amongst policy makers and future policy makers
  • Need to be more clear about what policy change you want to bring about to be able to truly develop a strategy for dissemination and interaction
  • Need to consider policy demand and not just push our own supply to policy makers–we need to learn about what policy makers need and what opportunities exist

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