gcard_logo_21_5 FinalThe ICT-KM Program is supporting the GCARD process, starting with the e-consultations that should contribute a great deal in enhancing the development value of research.

Organized by GFAR, the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) is more than just a Conference – it’s a multi-year process of learning and continuous updating of the global agricultural research for development (AR4D) system. The aim is to create new ways of working together to enhance the development value of research. GCARD will be an open and inclusive process for consultation and change, which will aim to reshape agricultural research and innovation, improve resources for research, and increase its development impact.
The GCARD 2010 will result in an action plan and framework to improve agricultural research and innovation globally.

Through CIAT’s Simone Staiger-Rivas, the ICT-KM Program provides the coordination of the e-consultation process as well as support in their facilitation.

Get involved by subscribing to the regional e-consultations of your choice, following the GCARD blog or tweets.

Listen to an interview of Nancy White with Simone Staiger on the GCARD process

More about the e-consultations

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Here is the flow of blog posts that document our recent social media workshop:

  1. Workshop Announcement
  2. Introductions Summary: A Mind Map
  3. Conference Call 1A Summary
  4. Conference Call 1B Summary
  5. The Challenge of introducing new tools: About attitudes and preferences
  6. The web site is not the community: it’s the people
  7. You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!
  8. Workshop Evaluation

For information about social media tools, please go to the KS Toolkit at www.kstoolkit.org.

You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!

In the very recently released final Institutional KS Project report, one of the lessons I am sharing is the one about Facilitation:

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.

It was not surprising that we had a discussion in the recent social media workshop around the issues of publishing unfinished content. A couple of workshop participants wanted to be convinced about the usefulness of frequent publishing of unfinished content. Some of the worries they raised were:

  • Unfinished can mean factually wrong, and can include spelling and grammatical mistakes. There is a risk of going off subject.
  • Unfinished can also reflect badly on the image of the organization, and can bring legal problems.
  • Social media like blogs contain often too much information with diluted quality which might confuse the public about the messages we’re trying to convey.  We need to make sure that content is focused and has an editorial quality.

Now, those points about control and rigorous editing are all very relevant.  So, why did the workshop facilitators argue in favor of sharing unfinished work? ¨It depends on the context¨, says Nancy White.  ¨Are we representing ourselves to the world, or collaborating with peers? When we seek to work with partners and diverse staff, social media allows us to start a new way of working, of learning in public, of not always knowing, or ‘being right´. If we want to increase participation, we need to get comfortable with typos – especially with people working in languages other than their first language, and with stuff that is “in process” and not polished and complete. Messy? Yes¨, says Nancy.

This is so true for us who work in the development sector.  Participatory approaches have shown how the chances of adoption of technologies increase if the process of their creation is shared and if there is room for improvement and adaptation. Social media allows us to think, improve and adapt online. Together.

Below I summarize some opposite keywords that I found in our workshop discussion:

Unfinished vs. Finished
Conversation vs. Lecture
Community vs. Expert
Learning vs. Teaching or Selling
Collaboration vs. Representation
Diversity vs. Quality
Process vs. Product

Related post: Unfinished is good news (Learning Alliances)

Social media workshop evaluation

We, the workshop facilitators invited participants to review the activities through comments on the workshop platform, as well as through an online survey. We have set up surveys for all the workshops in the past. We did our own facilitator debrief as well. Here are some conclusions and ideas that emerge from the synthesis of the three types of reviews:

  • If we compare the results below with those from the evaluation of the first social media workshop, we can say that they are very similar and overall very positive. Respondents rated the workshop as excellent or good. However the group in the first workshop was smaller and more homogeneous, and the feeling of the participants was of better interaction. It seems that we should consider to limit the number of participants, perhaps to a maximum of 20.
  • Among the useful learnings, participants mention the importance of a needs and use analysis before setting up an application; The well shared resources, typology and context of tools; The useful discussion around social media practices for low-bandwidth issues; The reflections about social media strategies and the integration of tools. Some were happy to get into the use of specific tools like slide share, social reporting, delicious, twitter, wikis, the clock method for teleconference calls; The idea behind: sharing knowledge
  • In a next opportunity the workshop facilitators would like to make it more conversational, less focused on questions and replies. We would like to design a third social media workshop with a shift of focus from tools to contextual challenges i.e. :  Low bandwidth, networking / community development / stakeholder involvement, communication of research results, collaborative research / teamwork, online meetings, etc. This could make the workshop more conversational, bring in different audiences and weave in tools as they arise.

Results from the Survey:

17 participants replied  and 6 rated it as excellent (38%), and 9 (56%) as good, 1 as average.

15 respondents (88%) consider having increased their understanding of Social Media principles and tools.

In a range of 44 to 59%, participants found the different activities (introductions, tools explorations, teleconferences etc) very useful, the tools exploration getting the highest rates.

The tools that participants are already using are Photo-, Video-, and Slide sharing sites (56%), as well as Social networking sites (50%) and blogs (36%). Among the tools that respondents are most interested in exploring are: E-newsletters that incorporate social media (73%), RSS feeds (69%), social bookmarking (67%) and wikis (62%). Half of the respondents say that they don’t have plans to explore social media listening.

The moodle platform was considered as good with some 3 participants rating it as average or poor.

88% rated the effectiveness of the facilitators in supporting the learning experience as excellent

The size of the group was considered as just right for 69%.

The interaction with other participants was scored as average (47%) or poor (13%)

Among the suggestions of improvements are: more teleconference calls; hands-on sessions, make the workshop longer, work on smaller groups

Workshop facilitator’s debrief

  • This time we had some very active participants and a large lurker group. It is good to know that participants took time to read and browse through the site even if they didn’t actively contribute with comments or questions.
  • Next time we should try to give more focus in the introductory session and we need to create opportunities for more active interaction among participants. The purpose and needs of each participants could be crystallized more in this session.
  • The Tools explorations were animated and served to exchange lots of additional resources.  Most of those have been included in the KS Toolkit by the facilitators.
  • Time commitment is a real issue in on-line workshops
  • We felt that as facilitators we have been always was responsive and present; Nancy was present continuously, Jo gave valuable technical input and links to tool alternatives, Simone did lost of behind the scenes and administrative work in addition to some contributions on the site; Meena was less visible online but very active in observing and learning which was great; Antonella contributed with some great specific posts. Meena, Nancy, and Simone were continuously skype chat connected and coordinated interventions and tasks.

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.

As the end of the Institutional KS project came closer I decided to design an evaluation survey and sent it to over 200 contacts: People who had been involved with the project through the workshops, as consultants, and partners, as well as ICT-KM team members, and users of project products like the toolkit.

Here are some results of the survey analysis that was done by an independent consultant:

We received 37 replies, 60% from CGIAR center staff, 17% from consultants (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they acted as consultants for the project), 9% from partner organizations. Most respondent’s involvement (33%) was as workshop participants.

In the survey we asked “What is knowledge sharing to you?” The earlier mentioned evaluation study of Phase 1 of the KS Project had addressed the same question and concluded:

“While KS practitioners themselves are quite clear about what KS means for them and what goals they work towards it is striking how widely differing definitions of KS were being offered. In the absence of commonly agreed on foundational concepts KS remains a contested and there is still a lack of conceptual clarity of what KS actually is and involves (Hack 2009).”

There is still not much common ground when KS practitioners try to define what KS means to them. Beyond the somewhat circular explanation that KS is about exchanging knowledge, ideas and perspectives, mentioned by nine out of 32 respondents, opinions diverge significantly. This question reinforces the evaluations study conclusion that much needs to be done to position KS clearly among our target audiences.

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.

Respondents rated the usefulness of the following products, activities, and services:

Usefulness of products, activities, services

We finally asked respondents to share considerations about the main challenge for KS in agricultural R&D. Seven of the twenty-eight respondents brought up the challenge of creating a culture of collaboration. This concern came in various guises: A preoccupation with the corporate culture of the CGIAR, particularly its culture of hierarchies, inappropriate incentive structures, knowledge ownership issues, and the increasing complexity of collaborating in multi-stakeholder projects. Four respondents highlighted buy-in of senior management and lack of support. Also mentioned by four respondents were Funding, Finance and Investment early on in the process. Three were concerned about defining KS better, and about keeping up with the development of technology. Two thought the biggest challenge is showing the value of KS and two mentioned time. Other challenges mentioned were knowledge translation in vernacular languages, demographics of decision makers, and the digital divide.

Some quick comments:

  • The participation in the survey was not very high (less than 20%).
  • The issue of a definition for KS came up again. What about if the project was successful because we never defined KS that well? I will blog about that later…
  • The challenges are not a surprise. Incentives structures and knowledge ownership… It looks like initiatives like  Triple A and the global partnership on Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development CIARD is well positioned to tackle those issues.
  • Of course, thanks to all for expressing appreciation of my work as project leader 😉

In July 2008 the Institutional Knowledge Sharing (IKS) Project commissioned RE4D.net to conduct an independent evaluation of the first phase (2004-2006) of the Knowledge Sharing project. This study assesses the results of the four pilot activities, illustrates the systemic impact of the project, and presents lessons distilled from the combined experience of KS professionals in six CGIAR centers.

The study used semi-structured, open-ended telephone interviews to gather feedback from 14 CGIAR staff and consultants who were involved in the first phase of the KS project or undertook similar initiatives at the same time. This anecdotal feedback was then categorized, allowing for a meaningful analysis of the benefits of the KS project and the challenges it faces.

The study issues three major recommendations:

1. Common front for change initiatives
The various initiatives promoting innovation, learning, KS, and change in the CGIAR should develop a common advocacy strategy enabling them to insert key messages into organizational development processes. The aim of this strategy should be to generate commitment at the top end of the hierarchy to those interlinked issues in order to increase impact.

2. Show benefits better, specifically for senior scientists
The challenge for the KS community is to lower the threshold of KS for first-time users and to change the perception of KS as time-consuming. Furthermore, senior scientists are a powerful constituency with the potential to obstruct new KS initiatives. They often have little to gain from KS and other participatory techniques because they already have a voice and a network. To increase senior scientist buy-in and therefore impact the impact of KS, the KS community needs to make more obvious to senior scientists the benefits of the initial investment.

3. Work on definition
The KS community should invest time to define the fundamental concepts of knowledge sharing so as to create a specific body of knowledge on KS and establish it as a separate discipline.

10 Key Lessons summarize the project learnings that have been reinforced and worked upon since then in project phase 2.

  1. When introducing KS, start with a small project and with people willing to experiment. Getting early wins and finding the right people in the right context is important.
  2. A successful intervention needs funds as well as explicitly mandated staff with the right skills and enough time to do the work.
  3. Without a specific focus, a KS initiative will grow beyond what is feasible to manage. Setting the initiative’s scope is important.
  4. KS enables us to pay attention to how we interact with each other and creates spaces where people can be heard.
  5. Formulating strategies using KS principles, tools, and methods allows staff to engage in the process and gives them a sense ownership of the results. This in turn ensures continuity in institutional cultures and facilitates the management of change.
  6. To successfully communicate KS principles and methods to scientists, practitioners need to show how KS can contribute to their research organization’s objectives.
  7. KS works best when applied simultaneously at the grass roots and the leadership level. Senior management buy-in is critically important for integrating KS principles, methods and tools into meetings.
  8. KS tools are not enough. To be successful, the KS Project needs champions to advocate for it and continue the work.
  9. It is important to build institutional capacity in KS principles and methods. In-house expertise will increase effectiveness of meetings and lead to mainstreaming KS within the institution.
  10. KS works best when it is integrated into the organization’s overall business plan, alongside communications and other activities, not as a separate department.

Download the full report