Are you a researcher? Do you work in a research organisation, project or program? Are you looking for ways to better conduct your research for development, share knowledge, engage with stakeholders, and achieve impact?

To help answer those questions, visit Improving impact through knowledge sharing in researchthe newest context page to be recently added to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit.  The new page offers people ideas, experiences and inspiration on recommended tools and methods to share knowledge during the research project cycle.

The Knowledge Sharing toolkit has consistently provided lots of information on tools and methods for knowledge sharing. However, it has been striving to make this information more relevant and accessible to people’s needs and situations.

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To help its visitors even better find what they are looking for or figure out what they may need and could use- a ‘What is your context?’ page was also developed.

The new context page on knowledge sharing in research-‘Improving impact through knowledge sharing in research‘- takes people right into the research process with a basic diagram of the research cycle and its key stages.

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These stages are presented as ‘entry points’ through which knowledge sharing approaches can be made use of to address certain shortcomings and limitations which traditional research may experience such as:

  1. a lack of inclusion of priorities, needs and realities from the ground
  2. inadequate use of other sources of knowledge in planning research
  3. poor collaboration with stakeholders during research activities
  4. limited understanding of how research results can most effectively be made use of
  5. ineffective ways of getting knowledge to target groups
  6. limited opportunities for learning within research process

To address these, the context page invites visitors to consider which stage of research they are in- and asking a key question related to improving that stage. The page then provides a list of suggested methods- both Online tools and Methods as well as Other Knowledge sharing Tools and Methods- to try out. These tools and methods are linked to other pages within the toolkit. Tags of related topics are also provided.

Example:

Stage 1: Identifying research (questions) to undertake

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This information has come out of the resources collected, knowledge generated and experiences of the recently concluded two-year CGIAR ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project (2007-2009). The framework on which this context page is based was developed and tested particularly through 6 Pilot Projects.

These Pilot Projects are all projects of CGIAR Centres or System-wide or Challenge Programs which proposed to pilot the use of various knowledge sharing approaches and principles in their activities. This included:Picture3

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  • The convening of a Farmers’ Conference to bring out the knowledge, experiences and needs of farmers to help in planning of activities of the Participatory Plant Breeding department at ICARDA005
  • The use of a learning alliance approach by the IWMI WASPA project to bring together relevant stakeholders to link research to action
  • The IRRI-lead Pilot Project worked with key stakeholders to 2009_01150033_resizeunderstand how to write and package research results from projects working on rice in the Northern uplands of Laos, and created factsheets which were uploaded into the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (online tool)

The selection of tools for each of the stages of the research cycle is based on the results and experiences of these 6 Pilot Projects as well as other projects and other documented cases. Documentation of the Knowledge Sharing in Research project, its pilot projects and other activities  can be found on the Documentation and Outputs page of the KSinR website section.

But this is not a blue print approach and each research project needs to find what fits with its own context, needs and objectives–the tools presented in this context page are just some suggestions to help.

If you have also used knowledge sharing approaches in your research let us know what you have done and how it worked. If you try any of these suggested approaches out, also let us know how it worked. You make contributions to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit to keep it a living and dynamic resource by signing up and adding your methods, ideas and experiences.

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Never underestimate a quiet farmer:

An interview with Alessandra Galiè from the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) about the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘The International Farmers’ Conference’

They say you can learn a lot from sitting on a thorn. Apparently, when it comes to plant breeding, you can also learn a lot from getting a few of them stuck in your hand.

Plant breeding is something that has always existed,” explains Alessandra Galie. “The idea is that you breed plants to be the best plants. So farmers usually pick up the seeds of the best plants to replant next year. That’s already a contribution to crop development.”

More formal plant breeding involves taking seeds from the best plants and crossbreeding them in an attempt to improve the plants slowly over the years. And this is something the ICARDA, and other research organisations, have been doing for years.

But now the basic question is- what is a better plant?” asks Alessandra “And who decides what are the criteria that make a plant better?

The problem with formal plant breeding, as done by research organisations, is that much of the knowledge that is needed to make such decisions was coming only from science, not from the farmers; farmers’ knowledge of plant breeding was being lost. Often there was no concerted effort to record the experiences of farmers as, season by season, they found ways to improve their plant breeds. And, sometimes, when efforts were made, they sought only the opinions of scientists and not of the people who handled the plants everyday: the farmers.

Alessandra also found that the opinions of women were being ignored.

Those who always got to choose what plants they liked best were men,” says Alessandra.080507-043

Therefore you exclude all the other criteria that women might have. For example women have very often cleaned the cotton plants from the field after the cotton has been harvested. And they complain if the plant is too hard on their hands. Or they themselves are cooking what they are growing so they can tell you if the taste is not good or if it’s very hard to cook the stuff they are growing.

There is an example of a woman in Jordan who was very interested in the straw of barley because she was making handicrafts with it. And she was saying ‘This one breaks so it’s not good for me’. And all of these criteria, all of these alternative priorities, are very often overlooked. If you don’t involve women then the improvement is only partial.”

So it was realised that greater knowledge sharing was needed- to find out about the knowledge and experiences of farmers, and to show researchers how valuable it is for plant breeding.

Alessandra was part of a team from the Participatory Plant Breeding program at ICARDA that organised an international farmers’ conference to help share knowledge between farmers and researchers and to give those involved in plant breeding a space in which to do that. Farmers, researchers and scientists came from countries such as Iran, Eritrea, Syrian, Jordan, Algeria and Egypt.

The Farmers’ conference involved farmers telling stories as a way of sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Farmers telling stories of their knowledge and experience with plant breeding

Farmers telling stories of their knowledge and experience with plant breeding

There was also a ‘Food and Seed Fair’ and a Network Mapping exercise.

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Network Mapping at Farmers' Conference

Food and Seed Fair at Farmers' Conference

Food and Seed Fair at Farmers' Conference

For some farmers, it was the first time scientists and researchers had listened to them.

The very important effect was the empowerment effect of the conference because the farmers really appreciated the fact that they were given a space,” she says.

The farmers appreciated that, for the first time, they could be on stage and could talk. Some of them had been to conferences before but were always in the audience. But this time they were so proud since they were sitting where the scientists usually sit and they told us that this time the scientists were actually listening to them.

For the women, too, the impact of the conference was remarkable.

The self esteem of the women farmers increased so much when they started talking,” says Alessandra.

They said that they really had trouble at the beginning talking to men and older participants. They were shy and uncomfortable but, when they started telling their stories, they started to receive positive feedback and people told them ‘Wow, you really know a lot about agriculture’ they really started feeling so much better and so much more confident.”

Many of them also learnt a lot. And they said that they will use this knowledge when farming.”

Alessandra says that, almost without knowing, she has been working on knowledge sharing for most of her career. But the more formal understanding of it she has developed during the opportunity to try out knowledge sharing through the grant received to carry out this pilot project, has helped her KS work become more structured.

It’s not like I can go back anymore,” she says. “It has very much changed my approach to doing research and thinking about how to interact with others.

Knowledge sharing helps you to recognise and unlock the value of farmers’ knowledge—so you don’t run the risk of underestimating them…even the quiet ones.

For more information on and outputs from this project- see ICARDA Farmers’ Conference KSinR Pilot Project page

Two ICT-KM supported activities were among those selected to be showcased at the Science Forum in the Poster Competition:

Well done!!!!

The full list of posters is in this EGFAR E-News

The work of one the Pilot Projects of the Knowledge Sharing in Research(KSinR) Project  has been recently documented as dfid-r4d-case-study-series-ksinr-highlighted-in-listpart of the DFID Research for Development (R4D) case study series. The case study focuses on the exciting and innovative International Farmers’ Conference (www.icarda.org/farmersconference) that was organised by ICARDA as part of its grant from the KSinR project to try out new knowledge sharing-oriented approaches to improve interaction and learning between researcher and stakeholders.

Check it out at http://www.research4development.info/caseStudies.asp?ArticleID=50391.

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The text from the Case Study is below:

Sharing knowledge – tell us a story

Stories are a common tool used by farmers to communicate and get their message across. So could storytelling be a useful way for farmers to share experiences and information with scientists? The Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) program of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) wanted to give it a try, in order to demonstrate to researchers the value of farmer knowledge in plant breeding processes. With support from the Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR) project, of the CGIAR’s Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) Program, this ICARDA-led Pilot Project is examining the value of storytelling, as a way of helping farmers to share their findings during PPB trials, and discuss their experience of farming more generally.

In May 2008, a four-day International Farmers’ Conference was organised bringing together more than 50 farmers from Syria, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Egypt and Eritrea with researchers at ICARDA HQ in Syria. Instead of the standard conference format, the farmers were asked to share their experiences of farming and plant breeding through storytelling. The importance of better communication between crop breeders and farmers was underlined by Dr. Stefania Grando, Senior Researcher of the PPB at ICARDA: “PPB is being adopted relatively slowly, despite its proven efficacy, often due to a reluctance to work with farmers, amidst doubts of the knowledge and experience that farmers may have.

” Are you sitting comfortably?”

According to two of the conference organisers, Alessandra Galie and Bernhard Hack, the storytelling format was flexible enough to accommodate whatever issues the participants wanted to discuss, while also being less formal than conventional presentations. Participants found them easy to understand, with farmers from Syria commenting that the stories were “better than speeches, because they felt more like real life.” Ruqeia, a young Syrian farmer, believed she had learned a lot, particularly from the other Syrian farmers, about planting, fertiliser use, harvesting and storing seeds, and would use this new knowledge in her fields during the next year. Such farmer-to-farmer extension was, according to scientist and participant Maatougui Mohammad (ICARDA), a key benefit of the conference, of particular value to farmers from countries whose formal extension services are weak or non-existent.

Spreading the word

The Farmers’ Conference is one of a number of strategies now being explored under the KSinR project. Other approaches being piloted include the use of farmer fairs and participatory evaluation workshops, as well as radio programmes, training videos, and databases to better communicate research findings to target groups. The farmers’ stories will now be featured on a conference website (www.icarda.org/farmersconference), in the form of audio files and written transcripts, translated into all the languages spoken by the participants. The site will also contain video clips of the storytelling, which can be sent by mobile phone. Sami Jaber, a farmer from Al Sweida in Syria, began his story with a saying: “If you don’t plant it, you don’t experience it.” The organisers are hopeful that retelling the stories, whether in person, online or by phone will help to spread the knowledge that comes from experience, for the benefit of other farmers and the crop breeders who work on their behalf.

More information:

* This case study is based on an article originally published in the DFID-supported New Agriculturist in September 2008

* DFID provides core funding to the CGIAR centres, including funding specifically allocated to ICARDA.

Source: WRENmedia Categories: Information and Communication, Sustainable Agriculture Date

Added: 31 March 2009

The January 2009 edition of the Europe Newsletter of the International Association of Facilitators recently re-printed the article “ Sharing knowledge – tell us a story”  (Pages 10-12 ) from The New Agriculturist Magazine on how agricultural researchers are using storytelling as a way to collect local knowledge.

The newsletter featuring the story is available from this link

 They also used as a cover picture a photo showing participants during a fieldFront cover of IAF newsletter0featuring photo from Farmers' Conference trip to Souran, south of Aleppo, to visit Participatory Plant Breeding sites (Credit: ICARDA)

Front cover of IAF newsletter featuring photo from Farmers’ Conference

Research-oriented organizations cannot be satisfied just knowing they have produced high quality science. It is essential that the outputs of research are communicated and put to use, in the village, on the ground, in the lab, or across the negotiating table.
 
On 30 November 2008, the ICT-KM Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Forum on Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID – through its R4D initiative) will organise a practical briefing session as part of the CGIAR Annual General Meeting in Maputo.

The session starts from the premise that research outputs can – and must – be much more open and accessible. For this:
–         We need to give priority to the ‘accessibility’ as well as to the ‘quality’ of research outputs.
–         We need a better overview of the various research products and the ways and means we can make them accessible.
–         We can use a ‘triple A’ policy and action checklist to maximize both the accessibility of these outputs and the chances that they will be applied and put to use.
–         We need to build communication partnerships with ‘adaptive and delivery’ agents that will take and apply knowledge from research, reinforcing their capacities as required.
 
The session draws on expertise from three partners – the CGIAR ICT-KM Program, FARA, and the DFID/R4D project led by CABI.
 
–         We will demonstrate the ‘accessibility gap’, showing how truly inaccessible some research outputs actually are.
–         We will illustrate ‘paths to accessibility’, showing concrete changes that help to make research outputs more accessible.
–         Participants will take away a checklist of questions and actions to help assess and improve the accessibility of their research.

For more information write to us at ictkm@cgiar.org or visit our site www.ictkm.cgiar.org

Eight participants, and two facilitators of the first KS Workshop are joining efforts to write a joint article about their multiple perspectives around knowledge sharing in the context of our workshop experience. I am talking about Alessandra Galié (ICARDA), Ben Hack (consultant), Alexandra Jorge (ILRI / Bioversity), Florencia Tateossian (CGIAR Secretariat), Andrea Pape-Christiansen (ICARDA), Vanessa Meadu (World Agroforestry Centre), Michael Riggs (FAO), Gauri Salokhe (FAO), Nancy White (consultant) and myself.

What are we trying to do?
We want to share and document a snapshot of our professional lives, at the moment when the KS workshop took place. Clearly, our backgrounds, current responsibilities, and applications of tools and methods learned in the KS workshop are diverse and we hope that we can provide readers with multiple perspectives on, and examples of, the contributions of “modern” KS approaches to our development work. Overall we will look at the value or significance of KS approaches (and the KS workshop itself) to us as international development professionals?

How are we getting this done?
In order to get such a joint article done, we benefit from the help of Gerry Toomey, a science writer who will coordinate our efforts and edit the different pieces as a whole. Gerry had short interviews with each of us and just sent us some guidelines so we can work on our individual contributions. For this enterprise we use a wiki set up as a private space. Each of us has a personal page where we can compose or paste in our texts. While we will not be editing anyone else’s text, we are all encouraged to leave comments, questions, suggestions, or words of encouragement on each other’s pages. Gerry will then work with each of us individually on our drafts.

We are all looking forward to it and hope to come back to you soon with a useful piece. Happy writing to all!