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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