February 2009

Few would deny that in the 21st Century, biotechnology and materials science have replaced plant breeding and soil science as the frontier areas of agricultural research. What is not really clear is how the application of computers and new ICTs are becoming centre stage in transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation.

High capacity computing power and use of ICTs in bioinformatics and managing massive databases have already demonstrated their effectiveness in generating new, more relevant and useful crop varieties in very short periods of time and at less cost. This will be critical in meeting the challenges of climate change. Modelling and simulation of crop performances, economic impacts and effects of weather and climate, use of geographical information systems and knowledge based systems are making vast contributions to making agriculture at various levels precise, predictable and proficient and more risk-averse. Embedded sensors, networks and ICTs are making farming less arduous and economical.

During the Science Forum 2009, a workshop will be organized to provide a venue to discuss how to exploit the potential of computing and ICTs in agricultural science, research and technology generation especially in the context of technologically less developed countries and for the benefit of millions of resource poor farmers and producers. The workshop will seek to identify the global priorities in research in use of ICT in agricultural science and technology generation and needs for technologically less developed countries to make full use of ICTs in harnessing agriculture science for their development and progress.

A call for proposal for posters to be presented during the Science Forum has been launched. The posters aim to present how Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are enabling agricultural science to be a social endeavor by communities rather something done in laboratories by professional scientists.

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Everything is ready for this event that registers fully booked with 30 communication professionals from 13 CGIAR centers.

We will start for three days with introductions and a short review of our communication goals. Next Tuesday we will hold a teleconference call (in two sessions to cover different time zones). We will talk about what social media is and how it can help us achieve our goals.

For two weeks participants will explore specific tools of their interest (i.e. blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, photo and video sharing, micro blogging etc). For each tool the facilitation team (Nancy White, Petr Kosina, Simone Staiger) prepared a short introduction, recommends some resources and offers a couple of questions as discussion starters.

At the end of the workshop we will discuss via the event platform Moodle and a second conference call how social media might play a role in the new CGIAR communications approach, taking specifically into account the CGIAR change process: What role could / should social media play in future communications strategies? What are the ideas that we could start to try out together?

Watch out this space for regular posts about this event.

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The Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) recently released its newsletter. Please find attached the February 2009 Issue of the GFAR Newsletter. The web edition will be available soon at  http://www.egfar.org/egfar/website/new/newsletters

The Knowledge Sharing in Research project was featured in this newsletter in an article entitled: “The CGIAR: learning how to improve its research effectiveness and impact through knowledge sharing”ksinr-in-gfar-newsletter

florine-limHow long does it take to make an impact on a potential investor? Several days, perhaps? Or several hours? Or a few minutes?

Florine Lim will tell you that The WorldFish Center can get the job done in just 90 seconds.

According to Florine, two WorldFish storymercials shown during the recent Share Fair in Rome, Italy, have been causing quite a stir. These short videos of 90 seconds, which were co-sponsored by the ICT-KM Program and feature the Center’s work on fish farming in Malawi and the rehabilitation of communities following disasters in Aceh, Indonesia, have been enthusiastically received by investors, both current and potential, and have attracted much media interest since their release last year.

Florine, an Office Manager at WorldFish, Penang, talked enthusiastically during her interview about the interest generated by the videos.

“I presented the two storymercials at the WorldFish exhibition booth at the Share Fair, where quite a number of people expressed interested in them as communication tools,” she said. “Although the storymercials were originally created to attract potential investors (busy people who usually don’t have time to sit through lengthy video presentations), we wanted to get as many people as possible interested in this medium of knowledge sharing. The demand for our knowledge kit, a step-by-step guide on how to produce a storymercial, was fantastic. Indeed, almost all the available kits were snapped up on day one of the Fair.”

Click here for a more detailed report on the storymercials.

While at the Fair, Florine also had an opportunity to sit in on a few of the other sessions.

“I found facilitator Nancy White’s session on Low Bandwidth Solutions for Communications to be quite enlightening. She shared tool kits and a link that can be used for lower-cost calls. We also talked about Skype and other Internet communication tools: their pros and cons.

“WorldFish has a number of regional offices in Africa and South East Asia that have Internet connection problems, especially when using Skype, which sometimes doesn’t work well for conference calls or sending large files over low bandwidths. Nancy’s session provided several options that we were encouraged to try out for ourselves.”

Florine also attended a session on Google Apps facilitated by the ICT-KM Program’s Antonella Pastore.

“The response to this session was overwhelming,” she said. “I learnt about online collaboration tools and services like Gmail, Calendar, etc. At WorldFish, we’d already been using Google Documents, a tool that our scientists use when they want to share files online, so it was good to learn about some of the other applications.

“The best thing about these sessions, though, was the best practices shared by some of the participants. It was rewarding listening to the experiences of those who had already tried and tested the various applications.”

Like many Share Fair participants, Florine was also impressed by the eagerness of everyone to share their experiences.

“This was the first time that I’d had an opportunity to come together with people so determined to share,” she explained. “You could feel the enthusiasm. Although the purpose of the event was to share, everyone seemed open-minded and eager to learn too. I also had a lot of fun meeting new people, putting faces to email contacts and catching up with old friends. I can’t wait to do it again.”
Upon her return to Penang, Florine immediately began making plans to share her experiences and the knowledge she had gained at the Fair with her colleagues and other members of staff. During one of the Center’s weekly ‘Food for Thought’ meetings, a session entitled ‘Speed Dating for Knowledge’ used the speed dating methodology highlighted during the Fair. Staff were also given an opportunity give Florine some insights into the sort of knowledge sharing tools they would like to use in the future, while colleague Silvia Renn showed some other knowledge sharing approaches picked up at the Fair.
Although the Food for Thought session lasted a little longer than 90 seconds, you can’t help but be blown away by Florine’s determination to share.

An interview with Florine Lim by Mary Schneider

First of all you may wonder: What is a WhereCamp?

It is an “unconference” for geographers, mobile location experts and social cartographers and all kinds of folks interested in “place”. It will follow the annual CGIAR gathering of the geospatial scientists and on 4th April 2009 will bring together software developers, artists, geographers and academics for a one day extended discussion.

WhereCamp is an opportunity to present on ideas, questions, projects, politics, technical issues that you have – and contribute to and get feedback from other people and to make new friends with similar interests. It’s free and fun.

Why would you want to go?Society is being transformed by new maps and new mapping technology. This is an opportunity to help create a free forum in Africa for people to talk about, present, explore, and learn about projects that involve place.

What’s new about this?This will be the first gathering of its kind to take place in Africa.

What is an “unconference” ?An unconference is a conference planned by the participants. After a morning plenary to help frame the discussion we all convene together, plan sessions, and have break-outs into sessions. The idea comes from FooCamp and BarCamp as a way to give everybody an opportunity to bring to the table the things that interest them the most and lets us talk about new topics that are still new and exploratory. Part of what is important to hearing new voices and getting new ideas is lowering barriers to participation – this event is free and it is driven by the participants.

What kinds of topics will be discussed?This event is community driven and is what you make it. It provide cross pollination between many different kinds of folks from all walks of life.

Although we cannot predict exactly what will happen, topics might include:

Mobile location
Remote Sensing
Mapping and Agriculture
Food Security and Location
Community Mapping
Local Search
social cartography
Crisis Mapping
Iphones Androids and the way the web is falling into mobile

Expect to participate in conversations on the nature of place as described in pixels, with rays, on paper, and by social practice!

How exactly do I get to WhereCampAfrica?
visit www.wherecampafrica.org to find out!

AGCommons is proud to join others in co-organizing this innovative event!


In September 2007, together with Frank Rijsberman, then Director General of the International Water Management Institute, Sanjini de Silva then Deputy Head of IWMI’s Information and Knowledge group, I co-authored the paper “Outcome Contracting: Show me the impact!”, a thinkpiece on how to be relevant and effective and not just a “drop in a bucket!”

I found the principles and ideas presented in that paper still extremely relevant if I look at the current reform efforts of the CGIAR and Agriculture Research in general, at the AAA framework that we are advocating, and our work on Public International Goods. So here is the paper again – good food for thought.

Let’s look at what it is all about: Scientific research has historically been assessed by the level of citations a publication or researcher has – the more the better being the mantra. The reasoning being that the “credible” researcher (or significant work) would automatically lead to citations or popularity: the more “credible” leading to more citations. Problems with this model are quite obvious, as it leads to a “publish or perish” mentality and encourages “popular” or trendy research. In addition, frequently cited publications are, at times, cited for their controversial nature, and not necessarily for their significance or impact in terms of research. But what does that mean for agricultural research? I am not arguing peer-review processes are to be discarded. They are important to ensure the scientific excellence of our work. But my argument: they are not sufficient.

The final product of agricultural research should, at the end of the day, have a measurable positive impact on the lives of the poor. If that is taken as a given, then we must reconsider our current evaluation models for agricultural scientific research. Various other strategies have been considered to address some of the shortcomings of the “publish or perish” model. However, most of these strategies aim to include the end-users either in the developing of the project or in training at the tail end of the project.

Is this enough? Is there not a better way to measure impact? How can we better link outputs to results? What about accountability?

The basis of the proposed “Outcome Contracting” model is accountability, both in terms of project design and funding. If the primary goal of our work and research is poverty reduction, should we not be held accountable for it? In the new model, researchers, along with the end users, partners etc, identify the impact pathway of any particular project, and decide up to which point the project can be held responsible. Accountability is established and funding, or partial funding, is awarded upon achieving the intended goal.

Can such an inclusive model be adopted in our new environment? How would that affect our current approach to research? And the funding?
Last week I participated in a workshop on “Data for decision making” hosted by the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation where I was quite inspired by how the funder was showing direct interest in understanding the factors that affect a project, and work together to find ways to mitigate any negative impact. Real interest was shown on the “impact” rather than just the “outputs”. More on that in a later post.

More work on this new inclusive model to reserach has been carried out by our Knowledge Sharing in Research Project.

The Triple-A Framework developed by ICT-KM seeks to assist CGIAR Centers/ Programs and their scientists decide on the level of availability and accessibility they want for their research outputs, and also the pathways to get there. For that to happen, ICT-KM is benchmarking the outputs of  selected Centers against measures of availability and accessibility. The Centers that have been quick to sign up for this opportunity are: Bioversity, CIAT, CIP, CIMMYT, ICARDA, ICRAF, WorldFish and the Challenge Program for Water and Food.

Based on the current status of Availability, Accessibility and Applicability (AAA) of their research outputs, Centers will be better able to devise pathways to turn these outputs into International Public Goods. ICT-KM will be on hand to help Centers identify their aims within the next 12 months following the benchmarking and also help them identify pathways to implement the AAA roadmap. 

A draft workplan has been set and we’ve begun assessing the availability of research outputs from the WorldFish Center. What will it reveal?

Watch this space…

Silvia Renn

Silvia Renn

We’ve all sat through talks that involve a PowerPoint presentation and conclude with a question and answer session. Although such presentations are not without value, not everyone feels comfortable or motivated enough to speak up at the end of them. Questions on the tip of the tongue can often go unasked, and valuable insights can remain unvoiced.
To encourage and maximize audience participation at the recent Share Fair held in Rome, Italy, PowerPoint presentations were banned from almost all sessions. Several participants, among them GIS Specialist Silvia Renn, voiced their approval of this decision.
“The Share Fair had a good overall atmosphere,” said Silvia when recounting the event. “People really committed and were participating, I think, partly because PowerPoint was banned. As a result, we used methods that were somewhat different to what we were used to. Often the Powerpoint presentation itself stands out much more than the actual topic and all the attention is focused on a screen. But the various tools that we were exposed to at the Fair soon had everyone participating.”
Silvia attended the Fair hoping to find innovations about knowledge sharing methods and tools that she could take back and use in her work at The WorldFish Center in Penang, Malaysia. She didn’t return disappointed.
“I attended an interesting session on geodata: Food Security and Vulnerability Mapping,” she explained. “Hosted by WFP, the session gave an overview of the organization’s work: what it was doing with its data and how and in which form the data was being made available to other organizations and/or the general public. I made many useful contacts during this session and had some interesting discussions, even long after the session had ended.”
Silvia also attended the session on Knowledge Sharing in Research Projects and enjoyed the discussion that got going during the event.
“It was a very practical discussion. People started talking about the challenges they were facing in the field and everyone chipped in to give best practice experiences from their own projects. So, in that regard, it was different from some of the other sessions.”
While at the Fair, Silvia was also introduced to Flash Meeting, a tool that she was eager to try out.
“Usually, I use Skype to have virtual meetings with my international colleagues. But Flash Meeting is much easier – I don’t even have to install anything to begin communicating with it. I just have to send the link to my colleagues, and they can immediately access the meeting, with or without a webcam. A meeting can also be taped and uploaded onto an FTP server, so people who missed it can view it later.”

Silvia has also blogged about another session she attended at the ShareFair on Data Management for logistics, a session where Peter Casier from WFP replaced powerpoint presentations with Rubik’s cubes!

Short after returning from the Fair, Silvia decided to try out this versatile, easy-to-use tool by scheduling a meeting with partners in Mozambique, Malawi, Germany and Zambia.
“I was really surprised at how well the meeting went,” she said afterwards. “Usually it takes some time before people get used to new tools. Everyone caught on quickly and we have agreed to use this tool for our next meetings as well. The best function is that only one person can speak at a time, so no interruptions. If someone would like to say something, they are placed in a queue.”
From the perspective of a GIS specialist, Silvia feels that knowledge sharing is vital in her field. Data generated by most organizations usually has too many restrictions attached to them when it comes making them accessible to others, but especially so with geodata. For example, organizations within the UN collect a wide array of geodata that they don’t share with the public or even other organizations within the UN. So they often end up collecting the same data twice.
“The CGIAR has a geoportal with geodata from many of the CGIAR Centers (CGIAR CSI),” Silvia said, “but the licenses often restrict users outside the research environment from using this data, and this prevents efficient sharing. I think it’s important for the CGIAR to incorporate knowledge sharing into its data policies, especially regarding geodata.”
Restrictions do not only apply to geodata but also to research papers and reports.
“I can’t even access some of the papers or reports generated by colleagues because of the restrictions,” she said.
Like many other participants, Silvia was also introduced to the KM4DEV online community for the first time at the Share Fair and was suitably impressed by the people involved.
“I found the KM4DEV members to be really open and inclusive, and not just online,” she explained. “It’s easy to be inclusive online, you just open a Wiki and everyone can contribute. But in real life the members were very welcoming and genuinely passionate about sharing knowledge. I am also impressed by the KM4DEV website because it has a toolbox of KM tools that is only one click away. I have accessed this site many times since the Share Fair and even sent the site link to friends.”
Needless to say, Silvia is already looking forward to other knowledge sharing events scheduled for the near future, the first of which will take place this month at WorldFish.
“My colleagues and I will give a ‘Food for Thought’ session about knowledge sharing possibilities within the organization. We will use Speed Dating, an inclusive method similar to the World Café, which I learned about at the Share Fair. Thanks to the new methods I experienced first hand at the Share Fair, I will finally be able to leave my laptop with the PowerPoint presentation at home!”

With thanks for Mary Schneider for interviewing Silvia!

On-line Social Media Workshop for CGIAR Communications Professionals March 2-13, 2009

070119_finish_your_rssToday, Communications within the CG must go beyond scientific journal articles, press releases, or static web sites to engage the users of our research in new ways. Social media is an alternative to traditional mass-media that may allow the CGIAR to target its audience in different and more effective manners.

In addition to the exiting forms of communication and marketing of our research processes and results, social media has a huge potential for the CGIAR to increase its visibility, participate in conversations and debates around our research areas, and strengthen relationships with peers, partners and actors in our field of work.

This two-week online workshop offered by the Institutional Knowledge Sharing project will allow CGIAR communications professionals to go deeper and explore how social media can help to innovate in the communications area.

The workshop is a follow-up activity to the KS Workshop that has already involved many center and partner staff.   Nancy White will facilitate our collective exploration with support from Simone Staiger-Rivas (CIAT, ICT-KM Program) and Petr Kosina (CIMMYT).

Blogs, twits and pics are just a few of the online collaborative tools and services that can be used to increase the visibility of an event. The more buzz, the better.

Blogs can help promote an event before it takes off and also be used to report on an event’s activities, as and when they unfold. And once the event is over, what better way to keep everyone informed of the outcome than with an easy-to-maintain blog that allows anyone to leave a comment.

Photos of the event can be uploaded on a service like Flickr for all to view and download, and participants can also leave comments on Twitter, a service that lets you keep in touch with people through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question.

Raising an event’s profile is now as easy as ABC. In fact, most online tools and services are so user-friendly that you’d have to be a twit not to take advantage of them.

The Knowledge ShareFair is just one recent example of an event that benefited from online collaboration and social reporting.

The participants and the facilitators created a lot of buzz about the event with a blog, a Twitter feed, by promoting a common tag and by posting pictures online.

The ICT-KM blog contributed 56 posts tagged with ‘sharefair09’.

Tried different approaches? Leave a comment below.

Since participating in the first Knowledge Sharing Workshop in March-May 2008, I’ve been trying to implement new processes, technologies and methods for KS into my work. Simone wrote a nice post about this back in July. Seven months and one Share Fair later, it was time to do some show and tell with a small group of staff at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) , and show them how new ways of sharing knowledge had made a big impact for our projects.

With our communication director’s consent, we set up a brown bag lunch (ok catered cafeteria lunch) with our communications unit and library last week to share with them what we’ve been doing at the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins. I used examples from our work to introduce them to the concept of blogs (which we use for our news site), rss/feedreaders (how we gather news) and social bookmarking (how we encourage our scientists to share resources), explaining why we chose these tools and how they work for us.

I also showed the commoncraft videos to give an overview of RSS and social bookmarking, which people seemed to like. I asked my peers, a mixed group that included IT people, designers, librarians and communications officers, to think about how these tools might be applicable in a wider ICRAF context or even in their personal day to day work. We had a brief discussion about the benefits of getting comfortable with tools for your personal use before trying to apply them to a project or institution. This led to a request that we hold a technical “hands on” session sometime soon to help people set up their own news aggregators and delicious accounts. People were really interested in general and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to learn these new concepts. People were specifically interested in how we were tracking impact — I pointed to a huge increase in site hits, publication downloads, requests for information and more hard evidence that our research was getting the attention it deserves.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be delivering a modified version of the same session, but this time sharing our stories with the wider ICRAF community. One of my objectives is to invite all the communications staff from the CG institutions hosted at ICRAF (CIMMYT, G&D, MDG Centre etc) to help build a local community of practice on our campus .

An even bigger objective is to get senior leadership onboard, and ask some of my scientist colleagues who have been benefitting from these tools to be knowledge sharing ambassadors. It’s always more convincing coming from someone well-established inside the institution.

Overall I hope that the upcoming seminar will get people aware and interested in new KS approaches and realize they can learn from experiences within ICRAF and within the CG (and that there are many resource people to turn to). I’ll be sharing periodic updates about this process so please stay tuned!

Dgroups is as an online platform for groups and communities interested in international development that allows users to follow email discussions either through email or by logging onto the website and accessing the ‘discussions’ area for a community.

The CGIAR centers have been using Dgroups 1.0 over the past few years given that we’re members of the Dgroups partnership. With over 150 Dgroups created, the CGIAR has benefited from this tool supporting the activities of teams, groups, networks, partnerships and/or communities. 

In October 2008, the Dgroups Executive Committee started working on a new Dgroups version (Dgroups 2.0) to improve its current architecture and provide a more efficient and effective application for the users.

We are glad to announce that Dgroups 2.0 is now up-and-running, and the Dgroups 2 development team is currently finalizing the migration of the CGIAR’s groups to this new version as per their migration schedule:

Dgroup 2 migration timeframe

What’s new in Dgroups2?

  • Dgroups 2 is about simplicity, ownership and email integration.
  • Improved user-friendly interface
  • Getting technology out of the way of real communication. It’s about using what we already know to improve the way we work
  • Taking advantage of a “Shared inbox” that keeps groups of people on the same page.
  • Dgroups administrator can create sub-communities from a parent community



How can I access Dgroups 2? 

http://d2.dgroups.org (login with your Dgroups password)

How do I get Dgroups support in the CGIAR?

The ICT-KM Program provides support to Dgroups for the CGIAR. Please contact cgxchange@cgiar.org to request a new group and/or request support in the CGIAR. We will be adding more posts soon on how to use the new tool.

Until the next update! 

Pleased to introduce you to the e-Agriculture.org community, to which many CGIAR staff are members.

I am sharing here the February 2009 update, written by the team with contributions from members.
The overall aim of e-agriculture.org is to enable members to exchange opinions, experiences, good practices and resources related to e-agriculture, and to ensure that the knowledge created is effectively shared and used worldwide. To improve this task we have updated our YouTube account and linked many new, interesting videos to our list of favorites. Everybody can sign up for a YouTube account. Just follow these steps:

1)      go to www.youtube.com and register and log in.

2)      go to the youtube.com/eagriculture site and subscribe to favorites, so you can share YouTube videos relating to agriculture and rural development, which demonstrate the use of information and communications technologies in facilitating agriculture and rural development.

It works in exactely the same way for the e-agriculture del.ic.ious, Flickr and Twitter accounts. Please also feel free to contribute to the Knowledge Base and the News and Events sections on the e-agriculture website. The more people participate, the richer and broader will be the exchange. You can also set the stage for further forum topics through our new survey about the most important topic to be discussed regarding the role of ICTs in agriculture.

Mobile Telephony

The forum on “Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas” from 17 to 28 November 2008 examined the challenges that rural communities face in enhancing the benefits of mobile telephony, and looked at some examples of interesting initiatives and good outcomes from around the globe. Thanks go to over 150 community members from over 50 countries who participated in this exciting forum. Due to demand, we will keep this topic up on the portal by introducing a new page on key topics starting with mobile telephony. A final policy brief will be posted soon.

As follow-up of the Virtual Forum, Ms. Anna-Maria Walter has had the opportunity to speak with Christian Kreutz, Subject Matter Expert from the recent forum, and Mr. Naimur Rahman, head of the OneWorld office in South Asia. Christian shared his vision for the future of mobile phones in rural development with Anna-Maria, and Naimur talked about his experiences from the LifeLines India project.

1 to 12 December 2008 a group of 53 e-agriculture members from Asia took part in the Online Short Course “Networking in Support of Development”, a follow-up of the Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK). The e-learning course described how information and communication technologies (ICT) are not only a technology but also a medium for communications and concentrated on how the different levels of ICT in a country fit together to provide a workable means of communication. Alexander Flor, Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Information and Communication Studies at the University of the Philippines Open University, facilitated the course and introduced the various topics through a series of interactive lessons which were followed by web-based group discussions. Participants were also assigned a series of exercises and case studies to work during the course. Congratulations to those participants who completed the training successfully.

Knowledge Share Fair for Agricultural Development and Food Security
From 20 to 22 January 2009, Bioversity International, the CGIAR ICT-KM program, FAO, IFAD and WFP organized this innovative event. During the Share Fair over 700 participants had the opportunity to showcase, recreate and invent ways to share knowledge and improve access to it. The Share Fair covered various agricultural development and food security issues through several information sessions that focused on the knowledge sharing aspects of the initiatives. The outcomes are now available online through the event blog and many other forms of social media. Two sessions, the Rural telephony session and the sessionLeveraging Connections Amongst Networks”, were relevant to the e-agriculture agenda.


The e-Agriculture team is looking forward to Your contributions!


Dr. Paul Van Mele, Program Leader Learning and Innovation Systems, at WARDA participated in the recently held Share Fair 09 at FAO HQ in Rome from 20th-22nd January 2009. Paul presented WARDA’s work on Rural Learning.

During the Share Fair Paul interviewed some people on the subject of Rural Learning and also on the efforts made by WARDA.

This includes the following interviews:

  1. Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), presents his viewpoint on WARDA’s integrated rural learning approach (01:29).
  2. Nancy White, visual facilitator of Full Circle Associates, talks about how WARDA enabled cross-cultural learning through video (01:02)
  3. Riccardo del Castello, Communication for Development Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), shares his ideas on how synergies can be built between rural radio and educational videos (02:53)

These interviews in the form of short video clips are now available on WARDA’s Rural Learning webpage- see Feedback on Rural Learning page


Meena in Penang

Meena in Penang

Mary Schneider talks with Meena Arivananthan

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you might have gotten a high out of the recent Share Fair held at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Or as Meena Arivananthan described it “A buzz from the buzz.”

“I enjoyed the adrenaline rush,” said Meena, the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Management & Sharing Officer. “Just the idea that I could meet so many different people from different organizations in one place was quite exciting. When you find out that they’re doing things that you’re interested to know more about, it helps you to open up a conversation. Now that I’m back at The WorldFish Center in Penang, Malaysia, where I’m based, I find myself going back to the Share Fair website in an attempt to relive that feeling. It was a great experience.”

Meena was also asked to facilitate two sessions at the Fair. To make sure she carried out the tasks assigned to her with ease, she began familiarizing herself with the content of the presentations as soon as she’d agreed to be a facilitator and was immediately impressed by the originality of the methodology highlighted in one of the video presentations.

Share Fair participants who sat in on this particular presentation were shown a video of a water contest in Bolivia – an event that helped rural communities to capture and share local good practices. Finalist in the water contest had their practices documented by a film team, and the resulting videos were then shown at an exposition fair in the country. Showcasing the videos in such a way enabled the exchange of local knowledge and experiences on good water use practices. The contest also provided an opportunity to link the rural poor to national policy level and other development institutions.

“People who attended this session were interested to find out who would actually benefit from such a video and also how much it would cost to make one,” said Meena. “Although it can be relatively expensive to put such an effective communication tool together, there is a lot of scope for replication and upscaling. To give you an idea of cost, a similar video shot in Africa using a local film crew cost about US$10-15,000.”

The other session Meena facilitated involved a successful pilot project in Bangladesh that is now looking to upscale its activities with input from others. The project aims to educate policy makers in Bangladesh and seeks their involvement to bring about change.

During this Share Fair session, participants were asked to give their comments and views on the project’s goals.

“I think the project did make some progress,” said Meena. “The session got a lot of people interested in what the project was doing, and I think this may lead to meetings outside of the session. So that meeting really did make a difference.”

Other than facilitating her two events, Meena also attended some of the Fair’s other sessions.

“By far, my highlight of the Share Fair was seeing people from FAO, IFAD and the CGIAR actually talking. Anyone who has been to FAO headquarters before will probably remember it as a stoic-looking building that doesn’t encourage conversation. But during the Share Fair, booths were set up in the atrium, giving it a marketplace feel. People just walked in and out of booths eager to share what they had with others. A lot of interest was generated. Collaboration was in the air, which is what you expect from such an event. People were so open to sharing. I just hope this attitude continues outside of the Fair.”

The Fair also benefited Meena in ways that will help her with her work at The WorldFish Center.

“I attended a hands-on session on podcasting,” she explained. “I was wondering how tough podcasting might be, but Luca Servo of FAO explained it in a simplified way. It was like an “Idiot’s Guide” type of presentation. I found that very useful, and I can see me using it in the future.”

Meena also commented on the impact the Share Fair and other knowledge sharing activities might have on the CGIAR as a system.

“I think that many new linkages were formed at the Fair. There is already an online community of knowledge sharing proponents (KM4DEV), and I think more CGIAR staff are getting involved in this. Beyond that, I also think people are very excited about using the KS Toolkit as a result of its increased visibility at the Fair. A lot of new CGIAR staff also attended the event and were quite excited with the things that were going on. I think that’s also something that’s going to grow.”

Time for another buzz, perhaps.

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