(photo credit: bikeracer)

On the second and last day of our Maputo workshop we wanted to to hear back from the groups. We used the fishbowl technique: the group listens in as three participants (sitting in the middle of the circle: in the fishbowl) question each other about what was discussed in their groups. Anyone can move to the middle. Read more about this and other methodologies in the KS toolkit.

Although at first somewhat uneasy, later on the Fishbowl worked really well to have a more conversational, more open and more participative summary and digest of the group work.

Here are some notes on the Fishbowl session: notes-on-fishbowl-session-maputo.

Here are some notes of the last session of the KM group, about capacity building: capacity-building-and-km-exploring-commonalities.

UPDATE 31 December: another post on this session is here

In the Most Significant Change story approach it is usual for the participants as a whole to listen to the stories and make a selection of that story or those stories which they consider to be most significant for the group or the program.

In the recently held Knowledge Sharing in Research Synthesis workshop, the review and selection of stories was done in a different way. Instead of the participants judging the stories themselves as a group, two people, somewhat outside of the direct KSinR project, were asked to listen to the stories and make comments and selections. These were:ksinr-synthesis-workshop-164

  • Meredith Giordano (IWMI)-Senior Researcher involved in Impact work at IWMI and supervising the Project Leader of KSinR
  • Debbie Bossio (IWMI)- Senior Researcher and Theme Leader of Productive Water Use Theme–not involved in the KSinR Project at all

And instead of them making their comments and selection just between the two of them (in private), the workshop used a fishbowl technique which involved Meredith and Debbie sitting in the middle of a circle made up up of all the other participants of the workshop.


Meredith and Debbie then commented on all the stories, indicating things they liked about stories, important points, key elements of packaging stories and their thoughts on the importance of particular changes indicated. They also talked about how well these could be ‘sold’ to their research Centres and projects. Everyone was asked to listen to them without interrupting first–and only after they finished their ‘internal’ discussion was it opened up to the wider group.

Some key points made in the fishbowl were:

  • Need to focus on ONE significant change–not tell everything about the project
  • To show significant change would be good to indicate what was done before/how things were done before–so that a difference can be seen–as Alessandra did in her story
  • Give evidence of or demonstrate with an example the change you are talking about–like in Phillip’s story
  • Interesting to indicate change in one’s own knowledge, skills, experience as the most significant change–this is very real and important–as shown in Natasja’s story
  • Ben’s story showed the importance of finding common interest
  • Liked how some stories showed the implications and consequences–what would happen next as a result
  • Use of numbers is appealing for scientists–Tonya’s story gave some numbers of farmers and percentage of adoption which made the change seem more concrete
  • Debbie pointed out that she couldn’t take anything in particular that she heard to the donors–need to consider target groups when developing stories
  • Should indicate what the impact has been or could be due to the change–Alexandra indicated this in her story
  • Need to feel free to tell ‘negative’ stories as alot cna be learned from these as well
  • Should consider the language we use in our stories
  • …and much more!

Fishbowls involve a small group of people -usually 5 to 8- seated in an inner circle, having a conversation in full view of a larger group of listeners sitting in a larger circle around the discussants. Fishbowl processes provide a creative way to include the “public” in a small group discussion. Fishbowls are useful for ventilating “hot topics” or sharing ideas or information from a variety of perspectives. Although largely self-organizing once the discussion gets underway, the fishbowl process usually has a facilitator or moderator. The fishbowl is almost always part of a larger process of dialogue and deliberation.

How did we apply it? For a general discussion to tackle an issue that participants of phase 1 identified as important (What are our challenges for KS within and among our organizations). We used a variation called the Samoan Circle, that offers others a chance to speak only if they join the ‘inner circle’.

After the discussion, we did a debrief on the method. Participants highlighted that it is not easy to get started. It seemd to many as being a good dynamic for brainstorming discussions, but not really for reaching conclusion. Participants thought that it could be used as a starting point for a meeting and in combination with other dynamics. We made the point that Fishbowl is a method that opens up (divergent) and does not lead to conclusion (convergent).

During coffe break Davy Simumba from the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute mentioned how much he liked the fishbowl: “ It helps to bring out issues and everybody was trying to jump in. I have to try to bring this into my organizations, within my group.”

See the KS toolkit on Fishbowl:

Nancy explaining the Fishbowl method

We started day two of our workshop with a conversation about KS within and among development organizations: What are the challenges? We used a fish bowl dynamic for this session and here are some of the issues that came up:

  • How can we know what Knowledge we need to share in order to “get it right” and avoid information overload?
  • The importance of partnerships to reach farmers
  • The potential of FAO / FARA collaboration to facilitate use and access of information
  • KS with farmers: Most of us work for level of extensionists and policy makers, or universities. Dady from FARA shared their beginning experience with Innovation Platforms, CIFOR on conflict resolution
  • How to measure impact of KS? Partially through SNA
  • What are the incentives for KS and the important role of KS champions.
  • Obstacles to KS: Evaluation and impact measurements based on publications, internal competition. There is a paradox with our mission to produce Global Public Goods.
  • About creating a KS culture: We share more outside our organizations than inside (result of a FAO study)