Search Results for 'storymercial'

As mentioned in earlier posts, the Institutional KS Project supported WorldFish in their exploration of videos as a way to convey short and sharp messages about research that shows impact on the ground. The “storymercial” experience has recently been presented at the Share Fair by two colleaugues, Florine Lim and Silvia Renn from the WorldFish Center.

Here is the story of the  “storymercial”:

 “Story telling is the oldest form of sharing information. Videos appeal to the senses. We hope the storymercial encourages greater interest in our work.”
Helen Leitch, WorldFish

As its name implies, the “storymercial” tells a story (, in this case centering on an Indonesian community’s efforts to cope with the devastating tsunami of December 2004. In explaining how WorldFish works with partners to rehabilitate livelihoods following natural disasters, it promotes an idea about people-centered development. In just two minutes, it makes that message quite clear: research can help communities diversify their livelihood options, with a view to making local economies more resilient.

A few lines accompanying the video provide context: “Half the world’s poor live in coastal areas. These areas are often already under threat due to poorly planned development but challenges are made worse with natural disasters and climate change causing more floods and extreme weather events such as hurricanes.” And for those interested in further details of WorldFish’s work with partners to rehabilitate livelihoods following natural disasters, a four-page PDF brief titled Waves of change can be downloaded..

When you click on the video button on the WorldFish website, you are presented with a YouTube screen. “Fish for life: rehabilitating lives after disasters” begins with scenes of crashing waves and trees being hammered by high winds in the Aceh region of Sumatra. Ibrahim Makam, the chief of a small fishing village, cuts to the chase: “The wave was over 20 meters high. My 200 palm trees over there were all gone.”

The video is a mix of village scenes, translated interviews, voice-over narration, local singing, dance, and rhythmical handclapping and percussion. These are punctuated by just a few written titles to introduce key options for diversifying livelihoods: crab harvesting, lobster farming, mangrove rehabilitation, and aquaculture.

“WorldFish has widened our perspectives and helped to stabilize our economy,” Makam says in the concluding scene of the video. “But success also depends on our own efforts.”

Between early September and late October, the YouTube site had counted over 370 viewings of the video (which doesn’t include hits by visitors to the WorldFish website). Helen Leitch, WorldFish Center’s Director of Business Development and Communications, headed the KS pilot project. Why did she opt to communicate the WorldFish message via a video? “Story telling is the oldest form of sharing information,” she says. “Videos appeal to the senses. We hope the storymercial encourages greater interest in our work.” 

Leitch notes that most of WorldFish’s public awareness materials have traditionally been text-based, but that in an era of information overload, other communication channels are needed. Besides the two-minute version, WorldFish has also produced a 90-second clip which will be made available to television stations and other outlets in the region. Meanwhile, Leitch and colleagues are carrying out a survey of partners and donors to obtain feedback on the video. Among those surveyed are the organizations that funded the video: the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Caritas Internationalis, Force of Nature Aid Foundation, Ford Foundation, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States Agency for International Development, and the CGIAR.

Practical advice

WorldFish has recorded its experience in producing “Fish for Life” as a set of guidelines in the KS toolkit (
The guidelines are organized in step-by-step fashion under six headings: Is your project newsworthy?; introduction to making a storymercial; guide script; pre-production; production; and post-production.

Here are a few examples of the advice given for making an effective storymercial:

  •  “Using one example instead of five will keep the video from being monotonous and boring. Show critical aspects of your project that are most visually pleasing and convey the overall philosophy of your organization.”
  • “Using a professional film producer maximizes the chance that the film will be picked up by CNN, BBC or incorporated into a documentary for TV.”
  • “A video is not a report; it must connect with people, be relatable and entice the audience to keep watching…. Include the most dynamic and knowledgeable staff and the most visually compelling settings.”
  • “A short video (1 to 3 minutes) can take from 1 to 3 days to film, depending on location and weather. Shooting must be planned for the most effective use of time and lighting in the day.”

As announced in a previous blog post, WorldFish delivered it’s storymercial, a short and punchy video that aims at attracting investors, partners and media to support research and apply its outputs.

WorldFish now shares this innovative KS approach through a “how to” guide.

stone_judgeFinally, I’m happy to share with you the results of the ICT-KM Program’s recent external review. Although I was a little nervous about the actual review process, not to mention the review report itself, I feel my team and I have all benefited from having outsiders look at our work. We have been forced to take a long hard look at ourselves; what went right, what went wrong, and where we hope to go from here.

It’s always good to have the fresh, impartial eyes of an external team look at your work and give you feedback in an open, constructive manner. “Nemo profeta in patria!” as my ancestors would say (“No one is a prophet in his own country”).

In today’s world, it’s absolutely vital to get some sense of perspective before one can successfully navigate all the challenges presented by any profession or career. One’s worldview is by default limited — geographically, culturally, historically, linguistically — chances for success in meeting those challenges will be equally limited. So, it was important to have diverse perspectives contribute to the way we charter our course, as we recently explored at our leadership course in IMD.

In coming to their conclusions, members of the review team were more than thorough. They diligently and systematically combed through six years of paperwork and web content, spoke to people familiar with the Program, and asked for opinions from people who knew of our work but who didn’t know the people behind the scenes. In short, no stone was left unturned.

Overall, the review is extremely positive. Here are just a few comments:

“The Program has important accomplishments that have:

But that doesn’t mean that the panel agreed with everything we’ve being doing. Nonetheless, we appreciate the excellent suggestions on how we can improve, just as much as the recognition we have received for the things that went well.

One of the recommendations suggested “that the ICT-KM Program sharpen its communications strategy to build awareness of the value of ICT-KM initiatives to CGIAR operations and research results.” This is one area that we are definitely focusing on, starting with this message.

Many of our projects and activities have chartered new waters in the CGIAR. We have taken on new ideas, adopted and adapted new technologies, and attempted to change mindsets – all without being 100% sure that we would succeed. In that regard, I see the similarities between our work and that of a venture capitalist: we are willing to take a calculated risk or two in the hope that some activities will turn out well. And some of the activities that turned out well, turned out really well, as highlighted in the panel’s comments above. Some of our outputs and outcomes are also changing the way things are done in the CGIAR, and that’s both gratifying and motivational, because there is still so much more that we can do.

I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to my team members: dedicated professionals who demonstrate on a daily basis their commitment to and belief in what we do. I applaud their resiliency and look forward to having them on board for the next stage of our journey. An expression of heartfelt appreciation to our reviewers too, for their objectivity, willingness to understand and explore and their constructive comments.

From a personal perspective, leading the Program has been interesting and rewarding. I’ve had an opportunity to support innovative approaches that have changed the way I work, been exposed to ideas that have opened my mind, and met people who have changed me as a person. It’s not always been easy, but it’s been a memorable and rewarding ride.

“What next for the ICT-KM Program?” you might ask.

Well, I have to say I feel heartened by the panels closing remarks:

The ICT-KM Program has made great strides and has the potential to contribute much more to the CGIAR System and its research objectives. The Program should be an integral part of the new CGIAR. It should no longer be a fee-for-service operation. In the Panel’s view, the CGIAR should maintain its commitment to ICT-KM during this time of transition so that the Program will not lose momentum or valuable staff, and can build on past experience to better serve the future CGIAR.

Now that we’ve learned and made adjustments, we’re more than ready to move forward … to support the new CGIAR!

I hope to see you all there.


Photo courtesy M. Meynsbrughen via stock.xchng

As you can see from my previous three posts, I am wrapping up the Institutional KS project. This doesn’t mean that ICT-KM stops working on KS realted issues, far from that. However, as the project ended, we are going through a process of final evaluations, reporting and sharing of the results. Here is the summary of the final project report. Have a look at the lessons learnt and help me improving those / adding lessons I might have overseen.

Download the full report (650kb)

The Institutional Knowledge Sharing (IKS) project has completed its second phase (January 2007 to April 2009) to improve the CGIAR’s effectiveness. It promoted collaborative learning and innovation. It also supported effective use of KS approaches and tools throughout the CGIAR and its R&D partnerships. The project assumes that knowledge-sharing (KS) principles, attitudes, and skills can support organizational development; that these would help build internal capacity so that staff can work more effectively towards their institutional missions and sustain their organizations over the long term. These assumptions led the project to work at three different CGIAR levels: system, center, and community.


A Revitalized CGIAR - Video

At the system level, the project demonstrated how KS methods and principles can open up meaningful spaces for face-to-face dialogues by enabling the establishment of explicit objectives and carefully designed group dynamics. The IKS also enhanced those virtual communications processes and products in the system that are related to current change processes. Furthermore, the project strengthened the capacity of CGIAR communications leaders in the area of innovative tools and methods.


CIFOR's strategic planning process

At the center level, the project supported three pilot projects in three centers—IRRI, WorldFish, and CIFOR—to experiment with innovative KS techniques. Each pilot project led to concrete outcomes or products that can be replicated in other centers or partner organizations. KS activities in six CGIAR centers, carried out by the IKS project during phase 1, were evaluated for progress, challenges, and lessons learned. Center communications staff also attended a KM strategy workshop to think about collective action in this area. The IKS project’s host center, CIAT, also benefited from project leadership and has incorporated KS tools and approaches into its communication plans and activities.


ShareFair 09

At the community level, the project designed and delivered workshops on knowledge sharing and social media. So far, 110 CGIAR staff and partners have been trained; a KS Toolkit has been improved and expanded to become a key resource for knowledge practitioners; partnerships have been formed with FAO and other development organizations, as well as with KM4Dev, for capacity strengthening efforts; the Share Fair 09 at FAO demonstrated the project’s key inputs into the thriving KS movement. Through its network of 180 strong contacts, the project involves an estimated 9,000 users.

The initial project framework was prepared, conceptualized, and widely shared among interested centers and partner organizations, who then identified the three possible entry points for KS, as described above.

Simone Social Media

Social Media Talk CIAT

The project pioneered communications and documentation efforts that were relevant beyond the ICT–KM program. The use of social media has helped raise the profile of both project and program in the research-and-development arena. The project also delivered products such as leaflets, posters, and a peer-reviewed journal article with eight co-authors, all KS workshop participants.


KS Toolkit

An end-of-project survey highlighted the project’s achievements, especially the usefulness of its workshops, KS Toolkit, and Web resources. Most of the 37 respondents considered the project’s achievements as excellent (36%) or good (53%). They (94%) also stated that project participation increased their understanding of KS issues and/or improved their ability to apply KS principles, methods, and tools to their work. The project leader’s effectiveness in supporting project participation was rated by 70% of participants as excellent, and 27% as good. Also, 97% stated they had made useful contacts during their participation in the project. All 37 respondents declared that as many as 1,850 people had been reached through the project’s activities or products as a consequence of their participation. If this ratio is upscaled to the project’s 180 strong contacts, then about 9,000 people have probably been reached through project activities.

Principle Lessons Learnt

The second phase of the Knowledge-Sharing project and its activities crystallized some important lessons:

Lever the multiple entry points: The project showed how effective working on three levels—system, centers, and community—is for mainstreaming KS and allowing bottom-up approaches and leadership support to confront challenges and create an amplifier effect.

Clarify definitions: The phase 1 evaluation study revealed that the project had neglected to work continuously on the issue of KS definitions and to make explicit the evolution of those definitions. By doing so, KS could be better positioned and promoted.

Learn by doing: At the center level, the pilot project approach delivered three products (IRRI’s Research Data Management Wiki, WorldFish’s  video “Storymercial”, Cifor’s processes for participatory strategic planning). However, the call for proposal and “classical” project implementation model was counterproductive to the KS principle of joint learning by doing. This didn’t facilitate the socializing and promoting of the experiences.

Facilitate: We are not experts, but facilitators for research for development. Hence, the effort to cultivate networks and relationships in accordance with relevant thematic inputs has paid off. The decision to share unfinished content was good: it encouraged dialogue; opportunely delivered useful material; and left time and space for adaptation, improvements, and adoption.

Partner up: The project showcased how strong and successful involvement in related but external communities of practitioners (KM4Dev and FAO) can make a project stand out and thus raise its profile within its host institution.

Adapt management: The ability to make needed adjustments and benefit from unexpected opportunities was crucial to the project’s success. It was relevant to have planned the budget accordingly.

Monitor and evaluate: The project consistently evaluated its activities. However, a more consistent M&E framework could have been identified and implemented from the beginning to increase the value of current M&E efforts.

Future possibilities

Opportunities were identified at all three levels of intervention:

  • System, for example, supporting consultations on change processes, and sharing knowledge on those in innovative and transparent ways
  • Center, in terms of capacity strengthening and collective action
  • Community, through continuous improvement of KS resources and partnership development

Evaluation demonstrated the power of KS principles, tools, and methods for revitalizing the CGIAR. Indeed, they are crucial in times of globalization, networking, intense research and development, and CGIAR change. Hence, these principles and products will continue to be used, and to be strengthened as they are adopted, adapted, and improved.

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

Next week I will join the Share Fair in Rome.

The Institutional KS project is happy to support some sessions as facilitator, and to present at a booth and together with FAO the KS Toolkit and the KS Workshop. It is also rewarding that one of our pilot projects on “Storymercials” will be presented as a way to effectively communicate project results through short videos.

As the end of this projects comes nearer (end of April), I am very much looking forward to the event which will allow many colleagues and friends who have deeply contributed to the project, to meet, like Nancy White and Lucie Lamoureux who put their brain and energy into the workshop and toolkit, or Gauri Salokhe from FAO who’s enthusiasm made it possible join forces with FAO on the KS workshop and the toolkit. I am also looking forward to meet for the first time Michael Riggs from FAO who was a first class workshop participant, and then mentor. And there are all these other incredible people and colleagues who work so effectively on knowledge management and sharing in their organizations:  Sophie Treinen, Luca Servo, Andrew Nadeau (all FAO), Petr Kosina from CIMMYT, Andrea Pape-Christiansen from ICARDA, Vanessa Meadu from ICRAF…

I am also looking forward to meet new people, to facilitate sessions in which I hope to be able to help the groups to “do their best thinking”, to listen and learn from the experiences of others, and I hope to see us close to a tipping point where participatory communication processes become as essential as a project report, or any kind of publication.

This booklet summarizes the project achievements of the Institutional Knowledge Sharing project of the ICT-KM Program in the areas of:

  • Capacitiy builing, M&E and learning;
  • Strategies and change management;
  • Problem solving and good practices.

The booklet also tells the story of the three pilto projects that have been supported at CIFOR, IRRI, and WorldFish:

  • Transforming IRRI’s  research data into global public goods
  • The storymercial: Fishing for donor support and partnerships
  • Strategic planning at CIFOR

Download the booklet (850 kb)

Based on a former post on a framwework for institutional knowledge sharing, the project has now published a Web page with the revised framework and the achievements of the project in the different areas of intervention:

We can use knowledge sharing (KS) principles, methods, and tools to support our organization’s development. They can help us build internal capacity so that we can work, in even more effective ways, towards our mission and to sustain ourselves over the long term. That is:

  • KS can help us recognize and deal with today’s complexities, while strengthening our skills and attitudes. It also supports organizational learning and evaluation processes. 
  • By incorporating KS tools and methods into its strategic planning and change processes, our management can promote involvement, buy-in, and follow-up action of both staff and stakeholders. 
  • Systematic KS can make organizational day-to-day business more effective, visible, and transparent. 

The Institutional KS Project supports activities for three strategic areas, and looks at the potential impact of KS for organizational development from both a transformational and practical perspective.

We use the following action framework to plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate our KS interventions in those three areas. The text below also highlights our Project’s achievements.

KS Framework

KS Framework

1. Capacity building, M&E, and Learning: Dealing with complexity to empower staff

KS Workshop

  • Workshop concept and design developed, and two workshops held.
  • Reached 13 CGIAR centers and 7 partner organizations, involving 80 participants.
  • FAO took the lead for the second workshop.
  • Seven participants are co-authoring an article on challenges and experiences in their areas of work at the time of the Workshop.
  • A pool of facilitators and mentors is being built—two workshops had eight facilitators and/or mentors, with four being former participants.
  • Read more

Evaluation study

  • KS activities for Phase I (2004–2006) evaluated in 6 centers and the CGIAR Secretariat.
  • Criteria and indicators for an M&E framework developed.
  • Preliminary Findings :
  • KS approaches are crucial if we aim to build our work upon the collective knowledge of our staff and research partners
  • When introducing KS, it is best to start small
  • KS enables us to pay attention to the process of our interactions and create spaces for people to be heard, and unintentionally suppressed talent is freed up.
  • KS assures continuity in institutional cultures while facilitating change processes.
  • KS works best when applied simultaneously at the grassroots and the leadership level
  • Building capacity in KS pays off
  • Read more

Involvement with the KM4Dev community

  • Visibility of CGIAR raised among practitioners of knowledge management (Km) for development 
  • KM4Dev journal on “KM in Latin America and the Caribbean” guest-edited.
  • Sponsorship of two CGIAR staff participating in the annual KM4Dev meeting.
  • Participation in the community core group.
  • Pool of co-workers and consultants created.
  • Visit KM4Dev

2. Strategies and change management: Promoting involvement in organizational change processes

CGIAR change process and stakeholder engagement

  • Support within the organization for strategic meetings (AGM 06, 07, and 08), applying KS principles.
  • Advised on and facilitated consultation processes with stakeholders, whether through virtual (e.g., blogs) or actual means (e.g., face-to-face meetings).
  • Contribute and facilitate engagement with civil society organizations (CSOs).

CIFOR pilot project

  • Promoted participation of staff and Board in CIFOR’s strategic planning.
  • KS approaches used to increase participation, and identify and address common issues and concerns.
  • Framework included to monitor and evaluate the implementation of strategies.
  • Read more

3. Problem solving and best practices: Making organizational processes more interactive, visible, and transparent

Pilot projects

KS Toolkit

  • This resource, in wiki format, targets professionals working in international development. It has been expanded and improved. A user community has been created and membership promoted, particularly through active linkages with the KS Workshop. So far, the Toolkit wiki contains 70 tools and methods for sharing knowledge, receives more than 10,000 visits per month, and has 68 registered members.
  • It also contains descriptions, experiences, how-to guides, and relevant links for Web-based applications and face-to-face group processes. It features a “context” page where users can search for appropriate tools and methods by either defining the nature and needs of their work or using keywords (tags).
  • FAO has become an offical partner for the Toolkit.
  • Visit the Toolkit

KS Project’s website

  • Continuously updated through the incorporation of Web 2.0 tools.
  • The Toolkit wiki is the main resource featuring on the website.
  • A photo gallery, housed in Flickr, contains more than 1200 images (including photos and illustrations). As of October 2008, it records an average of 120 viewers daily.
  • The KS blog receives more than 1000 visits per month.
  • More than 160 important resources are bookmarked, tagged, and dynamically shared on the home page.
  • Users can also subscribe to website updates via RSS feeds.

The Institutional Knowledge Sharing project is supporting three pilot activities in three CGIAR centers in order to contribute to institutional innovation, and learn about the effectiveness of KS approaches. Two of the pilots have now made available their products.
“Recovering from natural disasters” A ‘Storymercial’ by WorldFish
“The storymercial is e a combination of video, audio and images.  At the heart of the storymercial is the story; the oldest most proven way humans learn and remember information.” says Helen Leitch, Project Leader. “Despite a huge investment in communications, awareness of the CGIAR Centers’ work and contribution to development is often low. Since knowledge products with more mass appeal are needed, this project examined the role storymercials can play to attract our donors and partners to knowledge, thus increasing the uptake of research outputs”.  Have a look at:

Best Practices in Research data Management (IRRI)
“There is still little experience in using wiki technology within CGIAR. The openness and visibility of a wiki is often seen as a risk, rather than an opportunity for increased participation and collaboration in communities of practice.” states Thomas Metz, Project Leader. This project developed, collected, recorded, and applied good practices in research data management, and initiated a communities of practice for research data managers.  It is enabling scientists to produce better quality research and release their primary data as global public goods that will be available and usable for future secondary use. See the wiki at:

More to come soon…

The Institutional KS project is suggesting and looking for feedback on a framework for action that has two main objectives:

  • Imbed KS action into a strategic and practical  framework.
  • Create a baseline for monitoring and evaluation of future KM/KS interventions.

This is an initial attempt which should be fine-tuned over the next months through:

  • Discussions with the ICT-KM Program, and a wider KS practitioner community.
  • Collaboration on the evaluation activity of KS project Phase 1
  • Preparation and the outcomes of the CGIAR KM strategy workshop which is currently being prepared for December 08.


Knowledge sharing and organizational development

We argue that institutional KS is to be analyzed and developed as an integral part of organizational development. Organizational development “is the process through which an organization develops the internal capacity to most efficiently and effectively provide its mission work and to sustain itself over the long term. “ (see Wikipedia).

Organizational development takes place in a constant interaction between Power (decision making and effectiveness managed from the top) and Empowerment (processes that allow us to gain the knowledge, skill-sets and attitude needed to cope with and influence the changing world and the organizational circumstances in which we evolve). We also argue that organizational development is unfolding in a constant effort to the cope with the duality between Complexity and organizational Effectiveness. Complexity is increasing by the scientific research problematic itself, the scope, and the geographical spread and cultural diverse teams that are involved nowadays in our research work to mention only a couple, and Effectiveness is a condition for sustainability. Power, Empowerment, Complexity, and Effectiveness are main pillars and challenges in the path towards beneficial and positive organizational development and are represented in an axes chart (see below).

4 interrelated fields of action

  • Three of the four fields of action created by the axes represent possible areas of KS intervention whereas the forth field between empowerment and effectiveness is the desirable stage where all organizational development efforts are aiming at: Momentum of adoption, impact and satisfaction.
  • The field between Complexity and Empowerment is an area of action that aims at improving skill-sets, knowledge and attitudes. They address issues related to capacity building, and strengthening, M&E, Impact assessment and organizational learning.
  • The field between Power and Complexity deals with strategic planning, development, or change management, as an effort to approach them in a systemic perspective and inclusive approach, based on an active interaction with the whole organization.
  • The field between Effectiveness and Power deals with corporate aspects related to: administrative issue, business reengineering and development, as well as communications, all those efforts that intend to make organizational processes more effective, visible, and transparent.

The left side of the axes is the area of organizational development that deals with transformative issues; the right side is the area that deals with practical aspects of organizational development.

The circle around the four components reflects their constant interaction; they are all essential to organizational development. We can for example state that: Empowerment which is based on the acknowledgement of organizational complexity and which benefits from management support and participatory decision making processes leads most probably to organizational effectiveness.  We could also say: An organization that empowers its personnel but does not manage a momentum of decision-making is going to reach levels of complexity that are difficult to handle and are getting in the way of effectiveness.   

A framework for Institutional KS project activities
Within this suggested framework, the activities of the Institutional KS project can be clustered as follows:

  • The KS Workshop, the KS Toolkit, the evaluation study of Phase 1 of the KS project (2004-2006) as well as the involvement with the KM4Dev community are activities that aim at empowerment of CGIAR staff  based on the acknowledgement of the complexity of organizational realities and our related KM/KS efforts.
  • The involvement in the CGIAR Change Management Process, and AGM events, as well as a planned KM strategy workshop are activities that support strategic planning processes in order to evidence the usefulness of KS approaches in that area. The pilot project with CIFOR on their strategic planning process is also part of this group of activities.
  • The pilot projects with IRRI (research data management) and WorldFish (effective communication through ‘storymercials’) are to be considered as an effort to showcase innovative ideas to make CGIAR daily business more effective and attractive. The KS Web site featuring Web 2.0 tools, and this blog are also to be considered part of this area.

The KS Project is looking forward to promote the use of Web-based collaborative tools. To do so we need to share easy-to-understand resources.  One good example is this series of short explanatory videos, developed by Common Craft (, which “goal is to fight complexity with simple tools and plain language”.   The series contains so far videos on Social Bookmarking, Social Networking, Wikis and RSS.

It is interesting from the content perspective: The Institutional Knowledge Sharing (IKS) pilot project on Best Practices for Research Data Management (RDM) will use a wiki to develop a RDM cookbook. But it is also of interest from a process perspective: The use of short videos, downloadable from the Internet, which can be used for a variety of objectives, explanatory like in the Commoncraft series, or for marketing like in the “Storymercial” IKS pilot project.

Weather update: Still overcast, with scattered showers predicted throughout the day.


The workshop continued from where it left off yesterday, with project coordinators explaining their problem trees.  Once again, peer review featured largely in this process.  Among other issues, the trees highlighted the plight of Ghanaian people who often fall sick after consuming vegetables that are exposed to contaminated water; the power of storymercials in getting a message quickly and succinctly to the people that matter; and the difficulties associated with monitoring and evaluation in a project that is spread over five countries.


Peer review pointed one project leader in a new direction, highlighted oversights in the problem tree of another, and generated a lively discussion on the effectiveness of storymercials.


One participant felt all types of commercials were “subtle and deceptive”, while another argued that some TV networks run commercials that are, for the most part, more appealing than the scheduled programs.


As with all feedback, the receivers were tasked with deftly separating the grain from the chaff.


Appreciative Inquiry: Gems or Crystals
While the problem trees were being digested, Andrea Carvajal presented an infomercial that highlighted the use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a KS tool that can help capture the positive features of a project and energize the team members to strive for a higher level of performance. More information on this tool can be found under the Tools section of the KS website. 


Consensus was not reached on the effectiveness of AI.  One project leader extolled its virtues as a tool for communicating a project’s logic, while another asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Where are the crystals?” This was a reference to the touchy-feely, new age reputation that some people have accorded certain knowledge sharing activities.


The Second Perspective
Boru Douthwaite then introduced the participants to network models and explained how they give an actor-oriented perspective to a project, capture real-life complexity, and clarify innovation processes.



                                  Network Map 


Key actors in each project were identified, and network maps were developed to reflect the current status of each project, showing the relationships and different levels of power that the various actors have relative to the each other.


Check out our afternoon update for more on these models!

After lunch, Simone, Fiona Chandler and Tonya Schuetz, who had all donned wizard costumes ala Harry Potter, participated in an infomercial that introduced participants to “open spaces”, a tool used to conduct meetings where attendees are responsible for deciding the agenda.

Many participants reacted to the bad press they felt PowerPoint presentations were being subjected to you during this activity.  It was generally felt that PPTs still play a valuable role, especially when it comes to illustrating complex issues.  Concern was also expressed about agenda-less meetings that might allow attendees to get carried away with their favorite topics – going from open space to outer space, as someone aptly described it.

Simone explained that reality checks should be part and parcel of the open space process, and users were always free to choose the tool deemed the most appropriate in any given situation.

Infomercials are similar in many ways to storymercials, story-driven communications designed to attract people to knowledge, as opposed to pushing it at them.  The development, application and evaluation of storymercials also happen to be at the heart of the pilot project led by Helen.

Although a little late in the day, participants shared their workshop expectations, which ranged from learning more about the pilot projects, to writing better project proposals, to applying impact pathways, to learning facilitation techniques.

Impact Pathways for Individual Projects
Boru Douthwaite resumed his talk on IPs, with the emphasis now on individual pilot projects.  Project leaders completed a problem tree relative to their respective projects and were encouraged to develop a vision of project success two years hence.


Problem tree 

Project leaders then took turns to explain their problem trees to the plenary.  This exercise encouraged peer review and raised a few points that were taken on board by project leaders.

For example, continuing with Helen’s culinary theme, Thomas Metz outlined the problems that have given rise to the development of  a set of “recipes” to help researchers simplify data management at IRRI and CIMMYT.

Then, after a brief feedback session, there was nothing left to do but retire for dinner.

Check back tomorrow for updates on Day Two!