Search Results for 'peer assist'

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

This week I have been attending the Face-to-Face part of the Knowledge Sharing Workshop at ILRI in Addis. The F2F part builds upon a month of online discussion on KS tools and methods. Today I had the opportunity to benefit from the collective knowledge of colleagues working at various CG institutions, FAO and FARA and at the same time, learn about an extremely useful KS Method called  Peer Assist.

We started off the session by watching and getting introduced to the Peer Assist Method. As we were more than 10, we were divided into two different groups. As a Peer Assistee, the person or team facing a challenge or problem, I had the opportunity to discuss the issue of getting buy-in from the Staff members of the Rome-based agencies (Bioversity International, IFAD, FAO, WFP) to participate in the upcoming Knowledge Fair. The discussion was facilitated by Vanessa.


During the first group discussion, I had the opportunity to detail out my issues and gather feedback from the colleagues. Once we finished the first session and moved to the second, the task of explaining the problem seemed much lighter. I detailed out the problem, refining it slightly based on the feedback I received in the first group. Vanessa then read out the points we had gathered from the first discussion. Because we already had covered some of the ideas, the participants felt that in the second round, they had the opportunity to build-on the ideas and give additional suggestions.

Here are just few of the ideas that surfaced during the two rounds of discussions we had:

  • Prepare a strong marketing strategy to raise awareness and build interest
  • Ensure that the event is perceived as a collaborative effort rather than led by just one organization
  • Show examples of cross organizational, multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual knowledge sharing
  • Involve staff from different departments from participating organizations who are currently doing activities that demonstrate knowledge sharing.

I thought the role of the facilitator was crucial in ensuring that the discussion stayed on track and that important points were well captured.

More information on the Peer Assist Method is available from the KS Toolkit Wiki.

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

Session report by Andrea Pape-Christiansen

Session: Keeping institutional memory; 10:30 Wednesday 21 Jan

Format: peer assist

Facilitator: Nancy White

Issue: institutional memory drain at FAO, high rate of retiring staff, poor handover to young staff, retirees often are hired back as consultants, hence no need to train young people; no system in place for mentoring of young staff;

suggested ways forward:

find out what other related institutions have done

contact G&D Vicki Wilde/the website for info on mentoring guidelines for mentors and mentees

build empowerment teams

HR matters: inform the cultural change team

personal take home message:

– there is a quality issue to the information passed on through handover/exit interviews, and knowledge is subjective, can be interpreted differently by management – this will give me an entry point to reopen a discussion I am having with my management on the content of the exit interviews;

– piggy back on related efforts, such as an external review, when trying to engage with management on the bigger issues

In the second session period of the day (15:30-16:45), I am facilitating the session on ‘Knowledge databases on good practices’ in the Pakistan room.

This session had only one project being presented (in the end), including:

**TECA- Technology for Agriculture: Proven technologies for smallholders (FAO)

We are starting with a brief introduction to each project, then moving into a more in-depth ‘peer assist’ type method, and ending with a discussion on effectiveness of approach and any challenges.

 “Iit is about sharing technologies for small scale farmers worldwide” explained Karin Nichterlein (FAO)

There are som principles behind this approach:

  • good practices
  • technologies which have been field-tested in multiple locations, multiple seasons
  • that the technologies should have a level of maturity
  • they have to be public goods
  • they should be developed through participatory development involving users and other stakeholders
  • should contribute to food security
  • should increase yield
  • should be easily adaptable to locations and user groups
  • should require low inputs
  • should contribute to sustainable use of natural resources

They are working closely with a number of partners.

Content is available in a number of languages.

The process for the input of  technologies into TECA is as follows

  • Classification
  • Synopsis
  • Description

Luis, also working on TECA, then gave a demonstration of the website to the group.

Since all the technologies are classififed you have a number of crieteria you can use for searching for technologies.

ksinr-synthesis-workshop-0191 The Knowledge Sharing in Research project’s Synthesis Workshop, held 17-19th November 2008 on ILRI Campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was designed to bring together the Pilot Projects (6) and those working on the umbrella project (KSinR) to carry out a number of activities to look back over the project activities to better understand them and to capture lessons.

ksinr-synthesis-workshop-020The workshop followed the roadmap seen in the picture to the left over the three days of the workshop to enable the achievement of a number of objectives–listed in photo to the right.

The workshop used a number of key approaches to help facilitate review, discussions, evaluation and documentation including:

  • Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis
  • River of Life exercise
  • Most Significant Change
  • Peer Assist
  • Card sorting exercises
  • Matrix approach

…and how the workshop roadmap intended to achieve the objectives is shown below.


The tools and methods discussions are still ongoing on our workshop moodle platform. Here is a summary of some of the tools discussions that participants and facilitators initiated:

Peer Assist

Tags / Tagging

Michael gives a really nice introduction to the topic:

  • A tag is a keyword or term that is given to a bit of information (a bookmark, an image, a blog entry, etc.) in order to help find it later and also to associate it with other, similar or related bits of information.
  • Many of the web2.0 tools we are discussing in our workshop make use of tags. Indeed it is because of these tools that tagging has become popular and widely used.
  • Tags are chosen by the individual at the time they are put into use. They are more flexible than the formal metadata and can sometimes be used as leading indicators of new concepts. However, they can also be somewhat inconsistent and lack the relationship specification of defined taxonomies.
  • When many users have tagged many items within an application or around a set of items, this collection of tags becomes what is called a folksonomy (i.e. an informal taxonomy generated by the people or “by the folks”).
  • Explanatory video in relation to Social Bookmarking at: by Common Craft 

Social Reporting

  • Social Reporting is the practice of capturing and sharing the learning that happen at F2F events online for the group and possibly others not at the F2F. Nancy launched this topic as a way to suggest some practice in this area during the f2f meeting in Rome.
  • Here are some tools used for social reporting: wikis to take life notes from sessions and document them; online photo galleries like Flickr to upload each day visuals of the event; Live blogging to capture impressions or results of a session; video interviews to give a voice to participants and tell their own story and perspectives on the event, a topic or a session. 
  • Resources:; ;

Discussion Groups

  • Jo launched this thread with the question: Can anybody share stories about success and frustration on different discussion group interfaces? Which interface and provider to choose from for best result for all participants having and “equal position” in the group and possibility to manage email to customize involvement?
  • Jo took the lead to explore some of the suggested options: Yahoo groups, Google groups, Dgroups, Ning, Drupal. And it seems he really liked our Ning community that we set up in order to allow us exploration and perhaps the creation of a longer lasting bond between various workshop editions.
  • Some of Jo’s findings: The interface is centered on the members; its a free public discussion group interface, and we get topic-related advertisements in the right-hand column of the site through Google ads; Ning group members can customize their own page to make it look different from the rest; When you ask to become “friends” with another member, you get faster access to their personal pages and blogs
  • Cristina mentioned her experience with Dgroups and her move to a restricted blog on her new Drupal site, because of the complaints by her team and stakholders about the Dgroup email overload. Her challenge now: “stimulating people to visit the website and comment on the issues raised.”

Blogs and Blogging

I started a discussion on blogs:

  • Nancy points to examples of blogs in development work with her delicious tag, devblogs
  • Different uses of blogs. Chronological ordered and News based website for project reporting and communication (important to use tags to distinguish different aspects of the project or authors)
  • When do blogs work well. Nancy shared a post from Pete Cranston to the KM4Dev community: be personal, less obviously institutional, update regularly, acknolwedeg that spending time on communicating your perspectives is valuable,  have a group of bloggers for organizational blogs, be open, don’t control. “Blogs work when they are constructed and maintained so that they become part of the blogosphere, get linked to – and link to others – and generally have access to audience.  Blogs designed for a bounded audience have a much harder time.” Blogs are also a welcome alternative to progress or back-to-office reports, or for specialist groupings that focus around meetings, or issues.
  • Blogs versus discussion groups: Blogs are not tools for team communication. They can’t really replace email.

A wiki is a web site that allows users to add, remove, and otherwise edit and change content. At its core, a wiki is a simple online database in which each page is easily edited by any user with a Web browser

  • Wikis are really rather flexible … not just as a shared document writing/editing tool, but they can be used as an entire website platform (with pages open for editing or not), as a growing knowledge base, like Wikipedia and the KS Toolkit, or even as a simple intranet. There are commercial wiki packages now that are pitched that way.
  • Obstacles to broad wiki use: All members can overwrite; no track changes directly visible. Publishing of “unfinished material” => cultural shift. Needs accountability, rewarding and facilitation.
  • Kay compares a wiki with her actual sharpoint application and finds it friendlier, easier, quicker
  • Public / private: When do I need to make that choice? Options: open to all for viewing and editing (be aware of spam problems if you use this option); open for all to view but membership request for editing (ex: our KS Toolkit); membership request for viewing and editing (if you need a confidential space for groupwork, i.e. before publishing)
  • Nancy shares some lessons learnt while doing wiki training session: Use any training opportunity to also build relationships; make sure there is hands on practice/use – don’t just talk about it; create a short “how to” document to send in advance with screen shots  – but keep it simple; don’t over describe all the features the first time.


  • Should we use a platform “one package solution” or should we integrate bits and pieces?
  • Pete thinks that “there is no all-in-one package out there and even if such a platform existed to meet our staff needs today, this certainly is no guarantee that it will meet all of our needs tomorrow.” I think this is an important lesson for working with Open Source software as well as within the context of Web 2.0. At the end of the day, it’s all about interoperability and integration of services. If you have a system that can produce RSS and uses tags, then that content can be easily shared on other pages within your intranet. “Sharability” is a key feature.
  • There is a group of intranet curios participants of this thread who meets a group of skeptical ones: No one really has an example of a successful intranet site; I am asking; How much information is there really besides financial and project management information that need to be closed and internally only? Or: “I’m also cynical enough to believe that some prefer to keep information on the intranet because there it is not likely to be questioned or challenged by “outsiders”.

Other KS methods and tools that have been suggested / discussed:
• Online collaboration
• Language translation technologies
• Participatory Impact Pathways
• River of Life % samoan Circle
• PhWeet
• Icebreakers
• Twitter. Many set up an account and we are nor following each other 😉
• Joomla- a CMS tool for Websites

Last but not least we went through an evaluation of the workshop. As a way to share reflections and to crystallize trends, we asked participants to reflect individually and answer three questions, then to share those answers in pairs and finally in groups of four.
When asked what was useful for them from the last three days, participants highlighted the relational aspects: Learning with peers, meeting and working with people who have similar problems, networking… those have been primary positive and useful aspects of the workshop. Participants also appreciated learning about methods and tools. The Peer assist methodology was mentioned several times, as well as the hands-on sessions about tools.
The second question was about things that our group still wants to learn more about, and this are: tools, tools, and more tools. The use of RSS feeds is a real learning need for many participants. But our colleagues are also intrigued to learn more about some methods, like facilitation techniques, and approaches related to monitoring and evaluation, and impact assessment, specifically of KS approaches.
When asked “What would you do differently in the workshop based on your experience of the last three days?” participants gave us the principle suggestion to have more time to explore tools, and if possible hands-on (which requires internet connection ;-).

Evaluations questions

How do we get buy-in and commitment to KS, how do we engage our target groups?
This is an issue that came up over and over again as a principle challenge for KS during phase 1 of the workshop and also now in our meeting here in Addis. That is why we decided to give us an extra opportunity to tackle the issue in our first morning session. We choose the Peer Assist methodology and provided space for two groups: Grace Ndungu from ILRI wanted to get feedback on possible ways to engage participants into ILRI’s upcoming dialogue on climate change and health. Gauri Salokhe asked in her group for ideas and suggestions on how to get broad buy-in at FAO for the Knowledge Fair planned for December this year. Here is a summary of the two discussion rounds around Grace’s challenge:
IlRI and partner organizations have identified climate change and its consequences on human and livestock health as a niche for further research. Google provided funds to undertake a broad consultation in order to define pertinent research questions and be able to formulate proposals. ILRI has set up a working group composed by “champions” who represent the various actors. The following consultation process has been designed:

  • A “challenge paper” has been written by scientists that lay out the overall framework and challenges
  • An invitation has been sent to 200 stakeholders for participation.
  • Their feedback on the paper will be taken into a count and build the starting point for an online dialogue to be held between June and August.
  • A face to face meeting will be held in September.

Grace’s issues were summarized by the group and with the help of the facilitator, Florencia as follows:How to get buy-in from researchers from the climate change, health, and livestock sector, people who are not used to work together? How can we reach a level of trust that motivates participation? How could we address different types of participants with different levels of knowledge and different perspectives?

Here are some examples of feedback that Grace got from the two groups:

  • Strengthen the group of champions (conference calls, pre-meeting) and promote the event through the champions to attract attention from stakeholders. Create short podcast with champions who could share the importance of the topic and consultation process.
  • Don’t start from scratch, build on what you have (people, resources).
  • Multiply the communication channels to address multiple publics and information consummation habits: A Web site with basic information resources, e-mail invitations that are forwarded by champions, a blog that could help diffuse the content of the challenge paper by small bits and cover the whole event.
  • Create perhaps a linkage to the high-level conference on climate change in Rome in September.
  • For the online dialogue, pay attention to the platform (e-mail or web based or both), the need of a facilitator, the rythme and structure over the weeks. Give options to time-poor participants to digest the dialogue.
  • Look at materials, existing experiences and evaluations of on-line events.

Peer Assist

Vanessa Meadu

The concept of paying it forward fits in nicely with Vanessa Meadu’s idea of the nature of true knowledge sharing. She strongly believes that when you benefit from someone else’s experiences and knowledge, you can optimize that gift by passing it onto others who can profit from it, too. As such, it’s possible for a single knowledge sharing event to create a ripple effect capable of touching a large number of people outside of the event.

Not only did this Nairobi-based Communications and Project Officer benefit from the recent Share Fair held at FAO Headquarters in Rome, but she also has great respect for the CGIAR’s burgeoning Knowledge Sharing community.

“It’s certainly advantageous to have a knowledge sharing community in the CGIAR,” she said. “Among other things, the members provide a great support system. If I have a question about, say, blogging, I can email Simone Staiger-Rivas (Project Leader of the ICT-KM Program’s Institutional Knowledge Sharing project), and if I have a question about technology, I can email someone else for assistance. It’s good to have someone to turn to for advice.

“Being able to communicate with knowledge sharing experts is invaluable. Events like the Share Fair helped reinforce that feeling, and that’s what I’m trying to do at ICRAF now. I let people know that there are knowledge sharing examples from which they can learn, as well as people who are willing to share their knowledge with them. So I’m going to try to bring that out a little more in the sessions I conduct and also encourage other people to give innovative knowledge sharing examples of their own. The KS community needs to keep growing, and we can only do this by continuing to share knowledge and experience with our peers.”

Walking the Talk  

This dynamic woman admits that the Share Fair has already had a spin-off effect at her Center. “The Fair has been a big incentive towards a movement for better knowledge sharing at ICRAF,” she explained. “Since the event, I’ve held two seminars, one of which I wrote about on the ICT-KM Program’s blog. I conducted a small lunchtime session with the Center’s communications unit and shared with them some of the experiences we had with newsletters and blogging for the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins (ASB), a CGIAR System-wide program.

“I then conducted an open session for the entire ICRAF campus called Blogging for Impact. I talked about how the ASB blog has been used to enhance dissemination and knowledge about our research and our activities. I also gave participants information about our web stats and publication downloads, to show the tangible impact it’s had on research dissemination. This session was extremely well attended. We even had people coming in from off-campus. Most people attending had heard of blogs and had read them, but they’d never had experience using them in their research and in their project activities. I’d say that for about 90% of the people this was a fairly new concept.

“People got really excited. One guy even asked me if we could do a week-long course. It was also heartening to see a lot of scientists in the room. These are the people we want to reach, and these are the people we also want inspire to think differently about communications.”

E-News is not Old News

Getting back to the Share Fair … Vanessa also shared some ideas and insights at this event.

Drawing on her experience coordinating and distributing the monthly email newsletter for the ASB partnership, Vanessa participated in a panel session called E-News is not Old News, which was based on a proposal she developed with her Nairobi-based colleagues at ICRAF, Gender & Diversity, and CIMMYT. The panel responded to questions about the strategic use of email newsletters to reach a broad audience, specifically in the African context, and also discussed this tool as an appropriate means of reaching people who may not have regular or fast Internet access.

“The panel session was well received,” said Vanessa as she summed up the event. “Many participants simply wanted advice on how to put together an effective newsletter. As such, they really hadn’t thought about the great potential of this tool. People asked very practical questions, but I think the more interesting questions concerned the use of email newsletters to broaden knowledge sharing impacts. I think an e-newsletter should be a way of bringing people to an organization’s website. It should be both a standalone tool and a means of increasing hits and drawing people to a site by posing summaries of the stories in the newsletter, with links to the full story online. Many people reacted very positively to this idea. Although it’s a very simple idea, it has so much potential to make a difference.”

The Big Picture
As the interview wound down, Vanessa contemplated the impact knowledge sharing could have on the larger CGIAR.

“There is such a wealth of knowledge and expertise within the Centers, and it’s vital that we encourage people to learn from each other, and let them know about the resources that are out there and the good practices they can build on. We can have a high standard of knowledge sharing throughout the CGIAR System if we capitalize on these kinds of events and keep the momentum going at each of our Centers.

Click to read the latest ASB e-newsletter: March 2009 – ASB endorses call for US leadership on Forests and Climate Protection

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…