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.

Picture1

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.

KsinR context-pic

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

Vietnam_Vist to WorldFish Pilot_09-08 576

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

080507-015

  • 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.

Advertisements

It’s good to talk:

An interview with Alexandra Clemett from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘Learning Alliances for Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (WASPA-LA)’

Achieving complex change often involves many different people, with many different priorities, who are engaged in many different things. And, if you need all of them to cooperate for your change to be successfully implemented, you have quite a challenge.

This was the challenge faced by Alexandra Clemett, Project Leader of a Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project awarded to IWMI, when working on a wastewater agriculture project in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In each of the cities where we work you’ll quite often have different organisations that are responsible for quite similar things,” says Alex. “You might have the urban development authority that does the planning and then the municipal council that has to implement. So you really need them to know what each other is doing, planning together and working very closely.

Different stakeholders need to be connected

Different stakeholders need to be connected

And this has not been happening-the results of which are reflected in sectoral planning, poor communication among government officials, no involvement of community members, lack of knowledge about other sectors and alternative technologies, and, sometimes, ignorance that wastewater irrigation is even taking place.

The team decided to use a ‘Learning Alliances’ approach to try to bring people together to share knowledge and collaborate more effectively to achieve their goals.

Stakeholders getting together to discuss in the WASPA Learning Alliance

Stakeholders getting together to discuss in the WASPA Learning Alliance

The idea was to bring all the different stakeholders together to talk to each other and understand each others’ issues so that they could try to build a better plan for addressing the wastewater and sanitation situation in the two Cities. So we brought together the municipal council, the water board, local government officials, the hospital, local people and farmers. We tried to bring in universities, too, because they could potentially bring in technical solutions.

A Learning Alliance is supposed to have platforms at different levels: National, intermediate, and community – which bring stakeholders together to promote and facilitate learning within them and also between the different levels. It is very strongly focused on effective sharing of knowledge and not just bringing people together.”

Although she believes knowledge sharing was useful, Alex says that she would, in the future, use an altered version of  the particular approach chosen- the Learning Alliance- if at all.

The approach was very time-consuming and a lot of the research became geared towards learning about and evaluating the Learning Alliance methodology itself.”

Unfortunately we haven’t really had any research results on whether this new approach improved health or livelihoods,” she says. “I think, whilst the method was useful, it was really time-consuming. I would not use it in that way again. I would modify it and use particular elements of it. And I wouldn’t even call it a Learning Alliance, because that just confused people. Not everyone knows the names of these types of approaches. It is what they do to serve a project which is better to focus on.

For Alex, the overall goal of the project was to find ways that wastewater can be managed properly so that household sewage and industrial waste does not enter the canals which then run into the paddy fields. While this overarching ambition wasn’t completely achieved, something did happen while the project was running. People became more aware of the issues involved.

This is not something that Alex underestimates.

If what we have achieved by the time the project ends is that all of the stakeholders are much more aware of the issue, then we still will have achieved a lot” she says.

Some people didn’t even know that wastewater was being used for agriculture, says Alex.

And some didn’t want to know because it’s actually illegal. But because these farmers don’t have access to better quality water they just go ahead and use it. So I think that at least some of the people who were involved in the planning and management of wastewater through the Learning Alliance now have better understanding of the issues.

The idea to involve universities in the Learning Alliance also achieved some new awareness and change amongst the other stakeholders.

Conducting studies on the canals

We’ve got some universities doing studies on small–scale appropriate treatment,” says Alex. “In the beginning the municipal councils were just not interested in things like this. They just wanted large–scale treatment, but now they’re starting to realise that these are good options that they can potentially achieve and potentially afford.”

Conducting studies on the canals

So even if the situation has not been completely resolved, some changes – especially in awareness – have happened from the various stakeholders coming together and sharing knowledge in the Learning Alliance.

So it is in fact good to talk.

For more information and outputs from this project- see the IWMI WASPA LA KSinR Pilot Project page

Sharing knowledge can save lives:

An interview with Phillip Amoah and Tonya Schuetz  from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the KSinR Pilot Project- ‘The Knowledge Sharing approach to safe food

A lack of knowledge in Ghana can get you thrown in jail or even killed. Such are the stakes when dealing with the food that people eat.

In Ghana a lot of vegetables are produced using wastewater,” explains Philip Amoah, leader of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project.

Vegetables being watered with wastewater

Vegetables being watered with wastewater

“These vegetables are likely to be consumed raw. Lettuce, cabbage, raw onions. And this can have a lot of health implications.

IWMI has been undertaking a number of projects that are trying to conduct research to come up with simple risk-reduction options that can be used on farms, at markets and at food preparation points to make food safer. The teams test various interventions from farm to fork to enhance food safety and the potential to institutionalize such interventions so they become common practice.

The projects are then compiling techniques that can teach food growers, sellers and producers easy ways of improving food safety. Once these techniques have been devised the challenge is to ensure that as many people as possible hear about them and put them into practice.

This is where knowledge sharing (KS) comes in. A grant from the CGIAR ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research Project helped them to be able to explore and try out ways to take these results, make them easily understandable and useful and get them out to the stakeholders who need them.

We get the results from these projects, modify them in a way to make messages that the end–users will understand and then we come up with simple communication methods to get these messages out to those who are growing, selling and catering these vegetables which may be at risk,” says Philip.

Knowledge sharing has been used in this project in two main ways.

Knowledge sharing approaches were used to help the project, and its researchers, to interact and collaborate better with various stakeholders within the research process, to help to understand better the situation and needs, as well as to get feedback on project results and support in developing appropriate messages and communication mechanisms.

IWMI Wastewater farmer discussion

World Cafe conducted by IWMI Wastewater project

We started off with a series of World Cafes during the research project. The World Café is a methodology where you put people in a room together-in a café style setting, to try to make them as comfortable as possible to discuss with others, and get them to tackle certain key questions.” The World Café approach was used to facilitate an open discussion with key stakeholders on the messages develop by the project and the appropriateness, viability, constraints and effectiveness of these in achieving adoption of suggested innovations.

With a greater focus on knowledge sharing, the Project also looked for more effective ways of getting the key messages out to the target groups.

Radio was believed to be a perfect medium for communicating the findings to as wide as possible an audience and in various local languages spoken in Ghana.

We did radio programmes in local languages because radio is accessible in Ghana even for the farmers. Almost everyone has a small radio,” says Tonya Schuetz who has been also working on the project.

6-CD Case_Farmer-training-small

COver of DVD produced to share good practices with farmers

The projects also produced a series of DVDs on safe food practices and presented these to farmers and householders, extension agents, as well as caterers too.

The caterers are interesting because we didn’t have them in mind at all when we set up the project,” says Tonya. “When we thought of end-users, we thought on a household level. But then we conducted  a study that showed that it is more often caterers in the street who prepare the vegetables that are consumed raw.

As she explains, progress has been swift. “With this KSinR Pilot project I really felt like a lot went very well,” says Tonya

Before beginning a concerted campaign of knowledge sharing in research, Philip says he sometimes had difficulty communicating even simple messages like the need for farmers to water crops at the root so as not to splash soil on to the leaves, causing a potential health hazard.

One time I was chased out of a vegetable growing site in Accra when I went to take water samples because at that time the farmers were not involved in the project,” he says.

They said that people had come before and taken water samples, after which some of the farmers had been arrested and people wouldn’t buy their vegetables. But now that we’ve got them involved, we better understand their situation and find better ways to communicate the results of the research to them to help them make changes and improvements. I’m free to go there at any time, to take samples and to do what ever research I want to do. And that has really helped a lot. So knowledge sharing is something I really want in my future research. I’ve even joined the farmers association now, attend meeting and pay dues and they now recognize me as one of them.

Tonya says it was not only farmers, but researchers, too, who changed their attitudes.

We started off working with researchers who were open to it but did not really believe in it,” she says. “They felt that knowledge sharing was something they had already been doing for a long time. But when they saw how we used various knowledge sharing methodologies even at a very early stage in our project and the results we got, they realised that it was slightly different to what they’d been doing before. It’s a lot more about continuous interaction with stakeholders, rather than just going there once, talking to your partners and then just going and doing your research.”

Knowledge sharing has changed the way they work.”

Hopefully knowledge sharing will help us to save lives.

For more information and outputs from this project- see the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot Project page

As part of the efforts of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot project “Safe Food despite wastewater irrigation: a knowledge sharing approach” lead by the International Water Management Institute(IWMI), an innovative knowledge sharing approach has been developed to help share appropriate knowledge generated by research projects working on wastewater with key stakeholders.

Described as a ‘roadshow’ this knowledge sharing approach is designed to bring relevant stakeholders together to follow the contamination pathway from farm to fork to understand how the contamination occurs, what the health risks are, and then to look at and learn what practices could be used to reduce the contamination and health risks. Key in all of this is that all stakeholders from farmers, to market vendors to caterers to extension officers and policy makers observe , discuss and learn together.roadshow-title-slide

The overall objective is to improve the adoption potential by application of an knowledge sharing activity that brings together representatives of all involved groups along the contamination pathway in wastewater irrigated vegetable production.

Specific objectives include:

Bring together representatives of all stakeholder groups, researchers, farmers, vendors, market women, caterers and authorities to:

Ø discuss/ demonstrate identified health risk reduction options in a sequence along the contamination pathway.

Ø create a better understanding for each group of identified methods used at each level from the production, processing and up to the consumption what is involved and what is needed to jointly ensure the reduction of health risks

Ø show the correlations between the different levels of application of the health reducing methodologies, i.e. the accumulative effect or draw-backs in case of failure at individual stages.

Ø create a platform for exchange of related questions, challenges on the adoption potential of the identified option with all groups involved.

Ø see if the feeling of joint responsibility for the participating groups can be strengthened by knowledge sharing activities into research projects and thus the impact of our research.

Ø monitor and evaluate the benefits of knowledge sharing activities into research projects.

The KSinR pilot project has been developing and trying out various knowledge sharing approaches to:

  • find better ways to interact with stakeholders during the research process
  • increase learning throughout the process
  • find better ways to share valuable research results with target groups

The roadshow is one of a variety of approaches that has been used.

The roadshow approach was first used in Accra, Ghana by the project in November 2008-with resounding success. The other cities in Ghana where wastewater work has been done also wanted such an approach to be done there. So in March 2009 a roadshow was organised in Kumasi and Tamale Cities in Ghana.

I had a chance to visit during the roadshow in Kumasi, so will be posting some updates, photos etc from this exciting event.

Tonya and her colleague Phillip Amoah

Tonya and her colleague Phillip Amoah

When Tonya Schuetz arrived at the Share Fair in Rome earlier this year, her main goal was to see and do as much as possible. She was especially keen to expose herself to new knowledge sharing methodologies and talk to as many people as she could about their experiences. However, after looking at the event’s packed program, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to cover everything that piqued her interest. At least, not on her own. That’s when her resourcefulness came into play.

As Tonya explained, “The program was very, very full. Sometimes, I couldn’t make up my mind as to which sessions I should attend. I wanted to go to so many. So I enlisted the help of a few people who went to the sessions I couldn’t attend. Then we would meet up during the breaks to exchange notes. I also managed to visit all of the booths and probably talked to the people manning half of those. I got some really good ideas from them.”

“Some of the sessions were very inspiring and exposed me to new methodology that I’m keen to use. For example, I loved the competition approach shown in a Latin American application that was exhibited at one of the booths; knowledge was shared when the competitors came together to present their submissions. I’m interested to explore the possibilities of using this methodology in Africa, but without the formal written application. Radio phone-ins might be a suitable alternative or we could have someone go out to collect the applications through interviews.”

Safe Food despite Waste Water Irrigation
In between attending sessions, Tonya also presented the work of a pilot project she had led under the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project.

“The Safe Food despite Waste Water Irrigation project was extremely well received,” she said. “People were interested in both the knowledge sharing methodology we’d used and the year-long research IWMI and its partners had done in health risk reduction with waste-water-irrigated vegetables, so I was happy with the response from the participants.”

Tonya also talked about the project’s poster presentation, which showed the different knowledge sharing methodologies that had been used to support the research and how the project had benefited from them.

“Over the course of the research project, we conducted World Café sessions for individual target groups to test the health-reducing methodologies developed, aired radio programs in local languages, and produced training DVDs on good practices, one for on-farm and the other for caterers preparing food with raw vegetables. Together with representatives of the agricultural extension agents, we also designed some outreach materials, such as flip charts with messages that the extension workers can use as cues.”

“During a road show, we brought the various stakeholder groups (farmers, buyers, caterers and local authorities) together along the contamination pathway on a bus tour and had representatives present the health reduction methodologies we’d developed at each station. The road show closed with a discussion, interaction among the different stakeholder participants, and a quiz. Contacts with the private sector were also established and resulted in their uptake and use of the training materials at their marketing events, where they showed the post-harvesting, safe-food-handling videos.”

“You could say it was a knowledge sharing methodology mix”, concluded Tonya.

Getting the Mix Right
Despite the success of the project, Tonya did wonder if they’d used the right mix of methodologies to support their research in an optimal way, a topic she had talked about during another Share Fair session, where she was one of four presenters.

“I talked about the tool mix that we used for our research projects and how we can evaluate ourselves to see if we’ve got it right. I posed the question: At what point do you know that you have the right methodology mix? Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to discuss this in any depth during the session, so I would love to be able to pick this up again at some point.”

What the Organizers Got Right
Like many Share Fair participants, Tonya was glad to see PowerPoint presentations taking a back seat for a change.

“The organizers did a great job, and it was good to see an event of that magnitude being successfully conducted without the use of PowerPoint presentations,” she said. “And the quality of exchanging knowledge and information certainly didn’t suffer. Quite the opposite. When people get the chance to talk to each other, they love it. Whenever I attend a conference, it’s the talking bit and the experience exchange and the other person’s lessons that I’m interested in.”

Of course, Tonya is aware that some people still think that such methodologies cannot possibly get across the same amount of information as a PowerPoint presentation can.

“I process information by talking to others, so it was good to talk during the breaks. Others processed their information by blogging and twittering during breaks, thereby making their experiences available to people who were not able to participate in the Share Fair.”

Looking Ahead
Although the Share Fair was a resounding success, Tonya feels that many people are not yet confident enough to do things in a different way, especially when the support they received while initiating a methodology is no longer there.

“We have to follow up, and provide back-stopping” she said. “We also have to realize that some people are more talented than others when it comes to conceptualizing and realizing interactive knowledge sharing methodologies in their research work. The CGIAR has so many different events, and they can all incorporate different knowledge sharing methodologies into their various activities. That way, techniques can be experienced by other people and also improved.”

So many events, so many possibilities …

A “Roadshow on health reduction along the contamination pathway” has been developed by the International Water Management Institute office in Ghana to use as a knowledge sharing approach for its work on wastewater. With funds from the ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing in Research project, the IWMI Wastewater Pilot Project developed this approach and first used it in Accra. With the success and popularity of this event in Accra it was decided to undertake a similar activity in Kumasi and Tamale-other major urban areas in the country where wastewater is also used in irrigating vegetables.

The next event in line is the Roadshow to be held in Kumasi on the 5th March 2009.

I will be participating in the event and will be reporting on it via this blog…so stay tuned!

At the recent Annual Research meeting of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the KSinR Project leader- Nadia Manning-Thomas, was asked to develop, together with the Communications Director and Director for Impact, a session on “Creating a Culture of Impact”.

The two hour session started with an introduction about ‘WHY?’ we need to think about impact more systematically within the institute and the changes it may require in the ‘way we do business’. Following on from this was a presentation on the Impact Pathways approach as a framework for planning, tracking and evaluating impact- given by Nadia Manning-Thomas. The presentation introduced the four main stages in the impact pathway:

  1. Developing a logic model to make explicit the goal being worked towards and the causal links to achieving this
  2. Identification of key actors, what relationships and activities they currently have and what is needed for the future. In this case it is also good to further identify those Boundary Partners which a project/program can most realistically work with and influence, and can take project results forward.
  3. Development of key strategies to be undertaken by the Institute/project/program to bring about the necessary changes using project results and outputs. This helps tie the project activities to the final goal.
  4. How to monitor and evaluate all of this

The next part of the session consisted of three ‘stations’ in the conference room which everyone was expected to visit for a 20 minute session. The stations, representing some key strategies or frameworks were:

1. Knowledge Sharing in Research: ideas, experiences, lessons–Nadia Manning-Thomas

2. Uptake Strategy–Joanna Kane-Potaka

3. Outreach strategy designed for a a specific project being proposed–Meredith Giordano

These stations elicited so much discussion that groups were only able to make it to two stations before it was time to return to plenary for a quick discussion, before breaking for lunch, on:

* How to operationalise this at IWMI?

*What strategies can we use at IWMI in our projects?

*How can we do this?

The whole session was very interesting and filled with lively discussion. The overall result was that most people now seem to accept and believe in the fact that we should be doing things differently to achieve imapct and need to learn to think and act differently, making us of new tools and approaches. The big question that then came up was ” How do we do it?”. There is now a need to bring in information, experiences, guidance, training etc to make this a reality at IWMI.