We just concluded the CGIAR ICT annual meeting and the Alliance Deputies meeting on the shape of the Shared Services in the new consortium… . More on the results of these meetings later…

To prepare for the meetings, I looked at the proposed “Strategy and Results Framework” to how we could support the new CGIAR.

Mega programs

The proposed ‘Strategy and Results Framework’ introduces seven interlinked Mega Programs and two platforms — gender and capacity strengthening – that will serve as the building blocks for the work of the ‘new’ CGIAR.

How do information, knowledge, ICTs and related areas fare in these proposals?

Let’s see…. Mega-Program 3 is titled ‘Institutional Innovations, ICTs, and Markets.’ Its focus will be on: “Knowledge to inform institutional changes needed for a well-functioning local, national, and global food system that connects small farmers to agricultural value chains through information and communications technologies and facilitates policy and institutional reforms.”

This mega program “aims to unleash an ― institutional and information revolution – with and for farmers and the rural poor that improves and secures their livelihoods, and also promotes innovation along value chains.” It speculates that the “next big breakthrough in institutional innovation to be unleashed in support of poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, and environmental sustainability” might include: “linking of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to value chains and services for the poor in rural areas, through, for example, the cell phone and its increasing range of sophisticated derivatives.”

Within Mega Program 1 on ‘Crop Germplasm Conservation, Enhancement, and Use’, a program will “integrate bioinformatics and crop information systems.”

These proposals seem to recognize the importance of knowledge and information as well as ICT applications and tools within both CGIAR research processes and the agricultural innovation systems where organizations doing research and development interact. Hopefully, it will boost scattered efforts to increase research uptake, interaction and collaboration using ICTs and other innovative approaches to knowledge sharing in research.

Two cross-cutting platforms have been identified. The one on ‘capacity-building platform’ will “strengthen the capacity of the CGIAR and its partners through improved research networks, information technology, knowledge management systems, and training. The expected result is a dynamic knowledge creating and -sharing system comprising CGIAR centers, strong independent national agricultural research systems, and other research partners sharing knowledge.”

According to the plan, the capacity strengthening role of the CGIAR should “have two purposes: strengthening capacity for all Mega Program partners by fostering research collaboration and networking, and strengthening capacity for weak national agricultural research systems.”

The report goes on to say “An important element of both activities will be the development and use of advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) and knowledge management and innovation systems, including access of Mega Program partners to applications and resources such as databases.”

These proposals seem to include work by CGIAR centers to make their data, information and knowledge accessible (see recent work on AAA and CIARD), so often limited-access knowledge is freed to be exchanged and re-used. Hopefully, they will not forget the importance of open licenses such as creative commons, and open access in general. The ‘public goods’ need to be made public! as Peter Ballantyne pointed out.

The results of our external review and the expectations laid out on the new Mega Programs will be the basis for a renewed ICT-KM strategy.

Photo credit: Harry Nesbitt/2000 IRRI (Creative Commons)

Photo credit:H.Nesbitt/2000 IRRI (Creative Commons)

In 2008, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) launched a Change Initiative to identify how best to adapt to anticipated global changes and challenges.

The reforms will help to strengthen the CGIAR by establishing a results-oriented research agenda .

As part of this process, the CGIAR, in consultation with its partners, is presently seeking feedback on what can be done, through research and innovations, to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience.

The Chair of the CGIAR Strategy Committee now invites all frontline researchers (including those in universities, national agricultural research and extension systems, farmer organizations, private sector and NGOs) to take part in a survey developed to identify agricultural research opportunities, offering large scale development impact.

The survey is available online until August 20, 2009.

At the conclusion of the survey process, the CGIAR Strategy Committee will synthesize and make the overall results available as part of its reporting.

Donate 30 minutes of your time to help shape the future of international agricultural research for development!

Social media is using the Internet to collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, and causes we care about, powered by web based tools.” – [We Media]

Background
From the learnings from the successful pilot (See blog posts about the event), and second  Social Media Online Workshop, the CGIAR through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer a new online opportunity for social media explorations, this time with the specific objective to embed social media in participants’ contexts of international development work. This fully online workshop will run from September 7 to 25, 2009.

Social media offers development practitioners and organizations a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents, listen and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders. If facilitates collaboration in the lab and in the field.

Social media also offers so many options that it can be overwhelming. This workshop focuses on exploration of social media from some specific development contexts. So instead of saying “there is a tool, how can we use it,” this workshop seeks to answer “we need to do this activity, how can social media support it and under what circumstances.”

If you ask yourself questions like these, you might consider joining the workshop:

  • How can I support collaboration in wide-spread teams?
  • How can I provide opportunities for open dialogue with my stakeholders?
  • How do we support communities of practice and thematic networks, online and offline?
  • How do we share our content and knowledge effectively online?
  • How can we make use of social media under low-bandwidth constraints?

This online workshop is designed for researchers, research and development communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners.

Objectives of the workshop
This three week online workshop will provide a collaborative, peer based learning opportunity for you, as development practitioners, to address if and how social media can help address your needs, opportunities or challenges related to collaboration, participation, or communication. By the end of the workshop you should be able to understand and analyze the opportunities that social media can offer in the view of your specific research and development context, identify some potential tools and create a plan of action.

During this workshop you will:

  • Identify possibles usages of social media through small group synchronous and full group asynchronous conversation, exploring opportunities and constraints related to your work.
  • Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
  • Explore 2-3 different social media tools which may be appropriate for your context.
  • Start to plan the implementation of one or more social media tools that fit our work environment.
  • Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

  • Week 1 to 2 – Context and Application of Social Media: Introductions, and telephone conversations in small groups to assess your research for/and development context and identify opportunities for social media practices.
  • Week 2 to 3 – Testing Social Media Tools. Explore select social media tools in small groups.
  • Finalizing week 3 – Reflection for Action. Reflect on individual and group learning of the past two weeks and  create an initial plan for social media implementation.

Maximum Number of participants: 18

Language: English

Participant Requirement/Dedicated time: This workshop offers an in-depth exploration of social media tools adapted to your specific context with personalized support and work in small groups. To do this, we ask the following of each participant:

  • Organize your agenda to dedicate up to 1-1/2 hours per day during the three weeks. If you will be on travel and won’t have time in a particular week, save some time for “catch up.” If you will not be able to participate in more than one week, please consider taking a future workshop. It will become hard to catch up after missing significant time.
  • Participate in weekly telecons of  60-90 minutes. These are scheduled for the afternoons for those in Europe and Africa, mornings for North and South American, and evenings for Asia. We will try to accomodate all time zones as best we can.
  • Read and respond to blog posts
  • Explore at least 2 tools
  • Reflect and share your learnings on the workshop blog and wiki
  • Complete a pre- and post-workshop survey.

Open to: CGIAR staff, not for profit partners, agricultural and development organizations. Individuals, consultants and members of for profit organizations may join on a space available basis as the unsubsidized rate. (See costs below)

Platform: Blog, Skype and/or telephone, email and wiki. Our teleconference platform allows you to call for free using Skype. If you choose to use a landline for the conference calls, you will be responsible for long-distance costs. You should have regular access to the Internet. Some tools may not be accessible for those with low bandwidths. You may need to check with your IT department, as some web-based services you wish to explore may be currently blocked in your organization and you may need to seek support to access them.

Facilitators: Nancy White (Full Circle Associates), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CGIAR-CIAT), Pete Shelton (IFPRI)

Cost: USD$ 850. Individuals who work for for-profits or consultants: USD$ 1050.

Contact: Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger[at]cgiar.org) for questions and subscription by August, 10 at the latest.

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.

Video

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

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

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.

toolkit

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.

There was a distinct buzz in the air immediately following the dialog session (Finally, a CGIAR Reform Initiative with Legs) between the CGIAR Transition Management Team (TMT) and the group of communication specialists attending the second day of the CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop in Penang, Malaysia. A shift in perceptions had been brought about by the open, straightforward discussions that had just taken place.

Susan MacMillan

Susan MacMillan

Susan MacMillan, Head of Public Awareness, ILRI, was not alone in thinking that the candor of the TMT was refreshing. For the first time, she felt there was a distinct possibility that the communication specialists would be able to contribute to the CGIAR change process.

As she said after the dialog, “It always pays to be more straightforward, because you’ll get people’s engagement. The four TMT members said it the way it really is. For example, we heard them say that, yes, the CGIAR change process has been donor-driven.

“When people are straight in their speaking, I find myself trusting them. When people push information at me first, I find it hard to keep listening to them because I have no relationship with them. I would advise the TMT members not to be afraid to tell the truth, but to be themselves and honest about negative aspects of the change process. That will engender our trust.”

This one has legs

Part of Susan’s optimism has to do with some of the things said by TMT member Jonathan Wadsworth, who brings a donor perspective to the Team.

“Jonathan said the reason this reform initiative is different from previous CGIAR reforms is because it has legs,” she explained. “That bit of exciting news – that this change process, unlike former ones in the CGIAR, is going to go to the very end of the change process – has been missing in the CGIAR Change Management newsletter, blog, website and in messages from CGIAR Chair Kathy Sierra.

“In person, these are obviously honest, forthright, committed and intelligent men. But those engaging qualities are not yet reflected in their written communications about the change process. I would like to see more of their personalities and ideas featured in future communications by and about the TMT. I’m actually interested in what they have to say.”

The personal touch

Susan feels that face-to-face meetings are necessary to gain the trust of CGIAR staff.

“With about 10,000 people spread across the CGIAR Centers, real-time meetings with everyone would be impossible, but we mustn’t discount the effectiveness of such interactions,” she said. “For example, I first heard Ren Wang speak when he delivered an 8-minute talk to my Center’s entire assembly of staff. Although I was impressed with what he had to say and how he said it, his message wouldn’t have had the same impact conveyed in a blog or a newsletter. Perhaps we could communicate messages using videos.

“Even during today’s dialog session there were three things brought up that weren’t mentioned in the change strategy or any of the change management communications: change is necessary to keep our jobs; there’s a lack of efficiency in the System; and there’s a lack of leadership that’s palpable. None of this would have surfaced without a face-to-face meeting.”

The need for leadership

“If we don’t know the reasons behind change, if they haven’t been articulated, we can’t even begin to work on a message. We need leaders to tell us how things really are and give us their message for us to work on. Jonathan Wadsworth and his team, who seem to have an appetite for the way it really is and to have the natural ability to tell it like it is, make great spokespeople.”

Want to find out what was cooking at the CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop in Penang, Malaysia?

Below, you can find out the ingredients that went into this four-day event. Read what the Transition Management Team had to say; what the CGIAR Communications Heads had to say; what the CIO had to say; what one of the facilitators had to say; and much more …

Then you can have your say, simply by leaving a comment or two.

Yammer Like a Twit

The Rise and Fall of Future Harvest – An Interview with Ruth Raymond

What Gets our Communications Leaders Excited?

Pictures Tell the Story

Finally, a CGIAR Reform Initiative with Legs

Giving the Sleeping Giant a Voice – An Interview with Klaus von Grebmer

A Collective Slam Dunk – An Interview with Nathan Russell

All You Have to Do Is Expose Yourself … So said Enrica Porcari

Fiona Chandler: Waiting for the Next Dance

Of Brick Bats and Kudos – An Interview with Simone Staiger-Rivas

What the participants are saying …

What the Transition Management Team is saying …

Spider Diagrams: CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop Evaluation

On the last day of the CGIAR Strategic Communication Workshop in Penang, Malaysia, some of the participants kindly agreed to give their feedback on the four-day event. Find out what they had to say: what worked, what didn’t work, and what they hope to see happening as an outcome of the workshop …

Savitri Mohapatra, Communications Officer, WARDA

Savitri Mohapatra

Savitri Mohapatra

I didn’t realize that we would meet all the Transition Management Team members and have an in-depth conversation with them. So that was the best part of the workshop: to see that there is a vision, that the changes are really going to take place, and that communications has a role to play in the change process.

I also liked the social media exposure, because that’s something new for me. I’m excited to continue with that when I get back to WARDA.

The meeting was really participative and focused. I have been to other workshops where some people talk too much, and others don’t get a chance to speak. Simone Staiger-Rivas’s facilitation kept us focused and got output from everyone. Sometimes, we thought, “Ooh, she’s not letting us speak”, but I think it’s good to control the group. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been enough time to cover everything. It happens a lot during meetings.

In fact, the only problem was the lack of time spent on the new story ideas that are already on the calendar, but we can probably continue those via email.

Paul Stapleton, Head of Communications and Public Awareness, CIP

Paul Stapleton

Paul Stapleton

As far as I’m aware, everyone was very happy and satisfied about the whole workshop process. It was disrupted slightly by the Transition Management Team (TMT), but that was good because it gave us a chance to contribute to a very important process. We still managed to develop our stories, but perhaps not as intensively as planned. I think the work that we did looking at the CGIAR change process was very important and, obviously from what we heard, the TMT was very impressed with the contributions that were made. So, all in all, I think it’s been successful

I think Simone Staiger-Rivas’s facilitation was very good. Few of us were restrained about making our opinion heard, so Simone did a very good job of controlling us. She made sure everyone spoke in turn and guided the contribution. So I think most people were happy with the discussion part of the workshop as well as the presentations.

Nonetheless, I feel there should have been room for a discussion about the future of the communications group. If we could form a group with a clear identity, we might be able to make our voices heard in the CGIAR.

Mike Listman, Interim Head, Corporate Communications, CIMMYT

Mike Listman

Mike Listman

I came to Penang to see how CGIAR communicators can work together better in the future, whatever the form of CGIAR change.  After hearing the Transition Management Team talk, my early skepticism about the change process was mitigated somewhat. The meeting was very productive, both for my own particular work agenda and, in my opinion, for the CGIAR.  After not having interacted directly with the other communicators for quite some time, I was newly impressed with their professionalism, their knowledge and their enthusiasm to work together.

The workshop facilitation was very effective for what we needed to do. It helped bring out good ideas and got people working together on a common agenda. One particular aspect of facilitation that I hadn’t seen before was the Samoan Circle. I thought it was interesting and fun.

Sophie Clayton, Media Relations Manager, IRRI

Sophie Clayton

Sophie Clayton

I’ve only been with IRRI for six weeks, so I appreciated the importance of having a network of professionals and expertise coming together. Sessions like Nathan Russell’s that provided an historical perspective were really useful for a newcomer like me. It helped to understand where the organization has been, the support communications has received over the years, and the individual experiences and expertise.

I came into the workshop without knowing anything about the CGIAR change process, so trying to understand that, the communications of the change process, and who was responsible for what, was confusing at times. But the discussions within the communications group and with the Transition Management Team have clarified that somewhat.

The communication group’s positive outlook and willingness to contribute to the greater good, while continuing to get support for communications, was impressive. A community of communications professionals is very important.  The group’s feedback into the transition process is a positive step in ensuring that the expertise within the network is in the System – I can benefit from that, too.

Michael Hailu, Director of Communications, ICRAF

Michael Hailu

Michael Hailu

Before the workshop, I’d hoped to meet with the other CGIAR communicators to talk about story ideas and also to see if we could have some interaction with the Transition Management Team (TMT). What we actually achieved exceeded my expectations. I was really impressed with the TMT’s openness, the way they took on our ideas, and the intensity of the interaction between them and the communications group.

Last year, we came together as a communications group to work on specific story ideas for the media.  But it’s been two or three years since we’ve met to really think strategically and work on a plan. So it’s been nice.

Simone Staiger-Rivas did an excellent job in keeping the energy going and allowing people who are quieter to actually participate. Had the workshop not been facilitated, it would have been hard to hear everyone’s voice – in previous meetings, you’d have to fight for attention. I think overall the results were very good and the meeting has recreated the team’s enthusiasm and energy to keep it going, which I think is important.