The Knowledge Sharing in Research Project Leader Nadia Manning-Thomas recently developed a think-piece for the Science Forum, held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 16th and 17th June 2009.

The think-piece and presentation based on it given during the  Science Forum, were part of the background material contracted by the conveners of the Science Forum Workshop 3:  ICTs transforming agricultural science, research & technology generation.

The think-piece was found to be very interesting by a number of participants and it was asked whether this piece could be ‘re-published’ in other places.

Therefore, it is now available on the Web2forDev: Web2.0 for development gateway (website). To view the think piece–see the full article

ICT think-piece on WEb2.0fordev websiteTitle and Opening part of the article:

Changing the Emperor: ICT-enabled collaboration transforming agricultural science, research and technology into an effective participatory and innovations system approach

The CGIAR Centres and Programs with their many partners are together creating a wealth of knowledge to help increase agricultural productivity and improve livelihoods of poor communities, primarily in developing countries. The knowledge the CGIAR produces is vital to addressing and finding solutions for food (in)security around the world.  However, despite the creation of this wealth of knowledge, certain obstacles to uptake and impact of agricultural research remain. Many of these obstacles are related to the way in which knowledge and innovation are treated within the research process.

To view the think piece–see the full article

The CGIAR Science Forum was recently held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 16th and 17th June 2009. As part of the Science Forum, a number of workshops were convened on key topics. This included:

Workshop 3. ICTs transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation

I (Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader) was asked to prepare a think-piece for this particular workshop and also give a presentation during the workshop session.

My presentation was entitled “ICT-enabled collaboration for agricultural science for development” and consisted of three main sections:

1. ScenariosSlide2

In this section I outlined the evolution in agricultural science from a more traditional research approach which did not involve much participation of others in the research process. While this may have rendered scientifically rigorous results, shortfalls to this approach included a lack of adoption of outputs, little addressing of key needs and priorities on the ground, and poor recognition and inclusion of additional knowledge sources.

The participatory research and innovations systems movements evolved to address this and focus heavily on stakeholder engagement in research. However these approaches have usually focused on face-to-face participation which due to its expense can be limited and may also not achieve as wide participation as possible. Also bringing people together does not necessarily result in meaningful collaboration and participation–key methods need to be used to ensure that this happens.

I then introduced a scenario called ‘ICT-enabled collaboration’ which showed that ICTs-to be considered in  their broadest form of both technology and non-technology approaches- can help to multiply the numbers of stakeholders with whom we can collaborate as well as finding meaningful ways for participation and collaboration to be achieved.

2. Opportunities


While a large number of ICT tools and methods exist it is very often the case that these are not used. One reason is that researchers are unsure of which tools should be used when and for what purpose. One opportunity to address this is the very process through which research is usually conducted–as shown in the diagram. The research cycle actually offers a very good opportunity for making use of ICTs in a meaningful way through the various entry points its stages offers. Each stage has certain objectives it wants to achieve and certain activities that take place. Looking at these ‘entry points’ certain ICTs can be identified which can help to enhance the collaboration during these activities and in achieving the particular objectives.

Some options were shown in a table in the next slide:


3. Issues

Slide5However this will not happen on its own and certain challenges and blockades need to be addressed before the ICT-enabled form of collaboration can really start to move forward within the CGIAR. A number of key issues and questions related to this were raised in the final slide.

The Science Forum ICT workshop documents (program, background notes and think pieces) are all available on the website:

Find the full call for articles and papers for the December 2009 issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal at km4dj_call_for_papers-december-20093

Volume 5, Issue 3, to be published in December 2009, will focus on the effective (and potential) contribution of approaches to learning, collaboration and knowledge management (KM) to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, and the integrated water resource management (IWRM) sector. The issue will introduce various academic and practitioner perspectives, thought pieces and case studies on the possibilities and concrete applications of learning, collaboration and knowledge management strategies, activities, processes and systems to address the critical issues of the water sector in a context-specific way.

The contributions are highly encouraged to explore the following questions:

  • ·How can knowledge management, collaboration and learning contribute to addressing the challenges of the water sub-sector, to achieving sectoral goals, to innovating and to reducing fragmentation?
  • What thinking / concepts guide the KM frameworks, approaches and tools in the water sub-sectors?
  • Where is the current thinking on learning headed in the water sub-sector?
  • Which frameworks, strategies, approaches and tools are being used in the water sub-sector?
  • Which promising learning, collaboration and knowledge management-related developments could have a significant effect on the way water sector actors operate and co-operate?
  • How does the call for increased networking and knowledge management materialise on a personal, organisational and institutional context?
  • Is there a need for a more systemic ‘sub-sector learning’ initiative in the countries and, if so, how could it shape up?

We invite practitioners and academics to submit, in the first instance, an abstract of a full paper, case study, story and or opinion piece by 11 May 2009.

As this is an English language journal, we would, if possible, like potential authors to submit proposals and contributions in English.

Submissions deadlines

Submission deadline for the title and abstract    11 May 2009

Acceptance of paper proposal                                   29 May 2009

Submission of paper                                                       26 June 2009

Peer-review completed                                                17 July 2009

Final version of paper submitted                              14 August 2009

Publication date                                                               31 December 2009

If you would like to submit a paper, or be actively involved in this initiative in any other way, please send your abstract (minimum one paragraph – maximum one page) or your message by e-mail to

With best wishes,

Ewen Le Borgne and the guest editorial team (Jaap Pels, Russell Kerkhoven, Nadia Manning)

There has been a fairly active response to the blog post on

Learning Alliance- light?!: exploring models that work

posted on July 3rd 2008. Some interesting comments and perspectives have been shared–check it out and give us your own thoughts too.

In addition, with a general agreement by a number of contributers to the blog that we do indeed need to look at models that work and highlight their beneficial characteristics and activities, the discussion has also turned to how WE– as practitioners in these multi-stakeholder processes- can share with and learn from each other.

If we want to discuss, share ideas, share documents, make plans, do some other activities, promote the concept etc-what kind of knowledge sharing approach can we ourselves employ?

Should we set up a Community of Practice? a discussion forum? plan a face-to-face meeting? use a wiki, a blog or a account?

The comments included with this post follow the discussion between a few interested people who are trying to answer these questions and find a productive way for practitioners in the area of multi-stakeholder platforms/processes to engage with each other.

Good for us to practice what we preach and have to figure out what KS approach can help us to achieve our goal of finding and using best practices in knowledge sharing.

As many of us work on learning about and promoting knowledge sharing, and this is true of the work in the Knowledge Sharing in Research project, how can we also encourage the sharing of knowledge, experiences and lessons between those who are using approaches with each other and with those not yet adopting these kind of approaches?

Join in with any ideas or inputs you may have on the subject matter or the way in which we can better organise this kind and other discussions and activities to learn about, promote and use effective types of multi-stakeholder engagements.

The latest edition of LEISA magazine- Magazine on Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture (June 2008 volume 24 no.2) features an article by Janice Jiggins entitled “Sustainable agriculture in the news: International study stresses role of farmers”–see article

This article is based on “A ground-breaking three-year study that recently concluded that the agriculture sector should use the know-how of small-holder farmers better“.

This is at the very heart of much of the work that is being done by the Knowledge Sharing in Research project and its Pilots–finding ways to share knowledge with stakeholders, including how to understand the needs and situations of beneficiaries on the ground, recognising and valuing their knowledge, skills, experiences and ideas, and finding ways to collaborate and learn with them.

Janice Jiggins opens her article by stating that “Global Agriculture is not delivering all it should.” She poses the question of “what kind of agricultural knowledge, science and technology do we need to solve these problems?

The article highlights a massive study which has been recently undertaken: the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD). She informs the readers that “the broad conclusion was that agricultural knowledge and technology need drastic changes: ‘business as usual is not an option‘ “.

Interestingly she presents three main transitions that the study suggests to help move practice in the desired direction. Of note to our work in the Knowledge Sharing in Research project are:

“First transition: Science must complement local knowledge…”


“Second transition: Issues like subsidies, markets , access to land and know-how must take the necessities of small-holder farmers into account.”

The article concludes with:

This assessment highlights the contribution of strong collaboration between researchers, formal science, and the knowledge, skills and expertise of small farmers in moving sustainable agriculture forward.

This is an interesting support to work in the KSinR project and some of the Pilot projects who have been experimenting with approaches to knowledge sharing with stakeholders, beneficiaries and end users especially the:

  • International Farmers’ Conference of ICARDA with presentation of stories from farmers themselves
  • Participatory monitoring and evaluation with communities in an adaptive management fisheries project by WorldFish
  • Collaborative work on wastewater research and message dissemination by IMWI in Ghana
  • The use of a Learning Alliance approach in IWMI’s WASPA project to work directly with stakeholders to identify problems and solutions

How can we derive, share and apply lessons and best practices of ways to engage with farmers in order to learn and make use of their needs and knowledge in our agricultural work?

What has been/is working? What should be replicated or mainstreamed?

How can we improve our collaboration and learning efforts?

Hopefully lessons from the KSinR project will start to contribute to this larger discussion and movement.

The 15 Centers supported by the CGIAR and their many national partners are together creating a wealth of knowledge that can help rural communities in developing countries build sustainable livelihoods. Yet, formidable obstacles to uptake and use of generated knowledge as well as impact of CGIAR agricultural research remain. One of the missing elements which has reduced the effectiveness of our research and development (R&D) efforts, is appropriate and effective knowledge sharing, both within Centers and between them and their partners.

There is a longstanding tradition that separates researchers from those that take up their results. The traditional linear, transfer of technology approach has worked at different times for different purpose but does not offer the best solution for agricultural research to contribute to development outcomes. While this approach may have had some success in the past, the ever-changing nature of agricultural products, research development, actors and needs, this approach is no longer appropriate for all the whole of the agricultural research and development arena.

The CGIAR Centers and their partners need to shift to a more demand-driven, interactive approach, in which such methods are developed collaboratively through a shared process of learning and innovation. A key requirement for achieving this shift is that knowledge sharing should no longer be a mere afterthought in research. Instead, it must become an integral part of the whole research process, involving all stakeholders.

Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk and Nancy White offer us today a quick to read 10-pager full of concrete tips and insights on how to make our organizations a better place to work together. Because “collaboration is a set of skills and practices we are rarely taught“, the three authors help us distinguish and understand the success factors between team, network, and community collaboration, and their different collaboration cultures.

Download the whitepaper at: