Vanessa Meadu

The concept of paying it forward fits in nicely with Vanessa Meadu’s idea of the nature of true knowledge sharing. She strongly believes that when you benefit from someone else’s experiences and knowledge, you can optimize that gift by passing it onto others who can profit from it, too. As such, it’s possible for a single knowledge sharing event to create a ripple effect capable of touching a large number of people outside of the event.

Not only did this Nairobi-based Communications and Project Officer benefit from the recent Share Fair held at FAO Headquarters in Rome, but she also has great respect for the CGIAR’s burgeoning Knowledge Sharing community.

“It’s certainly advantageous to have a knowledge sharing community in the CGIAR,” she said. “Among other things, the members provide a great support system. If I have a question about, say, blogging, I can email Simone Staiger-Rivas (Project Leader of the ICT-KM Program’s Institutional Knowledge Sharing project), and if I have a question about technology, I can email someone else for assistance. It’s good to have someone to turn to for advice.

“Being able to communicate with knowledge sharing experts is invaluable. Events like the Share Fair helped reinforce that feeling, and that’s what I’m trying to do at ICRAF now. I let people know that there are knowledge sharing examples from which they can learn, as well as people who are willing to share their knowledge with them. So I’m going to try to bring that out a little more in the sessions I conduct and also encourage other people to give innovative knowledge sharing examples of their own. The KS community needs to keep growing, and we can only do this by continuing to share knowledge and experience with our peers.”

Walking the Talk  

This dynamic woman admits that the Share Fair has already had a spin-off effect at her Center. “The Fair has been a big incentive towards a movement for better knowledge sharing at ICRAF,” she explained. “Since the event, I’ve held two seminars, one of which I wrote about on the ICT-KM Program’s blog. I conducted a small lunchtime session with the Center’s communications unit and shared with them some of the experiences we had with newsletters and blogging for the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins (ASB), a CGIAR System-wide program.

“I then conducted an open session for the entire ICRAF campus called Blogging for Impact. I talked about how the ASB blog has been used to enhance dissemination and knowledge about our research and our activities. I also gave participants information about our web stats and publication downloads, to show the tangible impact it’s had on research dissemination. This session was extremely well attended. We even had people coming in from off-campus. Most people attending had heard of blogs and had read them, but they’d never had experience using them in their research and in their project activities. I’d say that for about 90% of the people this was a fairly new concept.

“People got really excited. One guy even asked me if we could do a week-long course. It was also heartening to see a lot of scientists in the room. These are the people we want to reach, and these are the people we also want inspire to think differently about communications.”

E-News is not Old News

Getting back to the Share Fair … Vanessa also shared some ideas and insights at this event.

Drawing on her experience coordinating and distributing the monthly email newsletter for the ASB partnership, Vanessa participated in a panel session called E-News is not Old News, which was based on a proposal she developed with her Nairobi-based colleagues at ICRAF, Gender & Diversity, and CIMMYT. The panel responded to questions about the strategic use of email newsletters to reach a broad audience, specifically in the African context, and also discussed this tool as an appropriate means of reaching people who may not have regular or fast Internet access.

“The panel session was well received,” said Vanessa as she summed up the event. “Many participants simply wanted advice on how to put together an effective newsletter. As such, they really hadn’t thought about the great potential of this tool. People asked very practical questions, but I think the more interesting questions concerned the use of email newsletters to broaden knowledge sharing impacts. I think an e-newsletter should be a way of bringing people to an organization’s website. It should be both a standalone tool and a means of increasing hits and drawing people to a site by posing summaries of the stories in the newsletter, with links to the full story online. Many people reacted very positively to this idea. Although it’s a very simple idea, it has so much potential to make a difference.”

The Big Picture
As the interview wound down, Vanessa contemplated the impact knowledge sharing could have on the larger CGIAR.

“There is such a wealth of knowledge and expertise within the Centers, and it’s vital that we encourage people to learn from each other, and let them know about the resources that are out there and the good practices they can build on. We can have a high standard of knowledge sharing throughout the CGIAR System if we capitalize on these kinds of events and keep the momentum going at each of our Centers.

Click to read the latest ASB e-newsletter: March 2009 – ASB endorses call for US leadership on Forests and Climate Protection

Several documents are now available on the Knowledge and Innovation Conference website at

These include the conference synopsis and two background papers.  Two briefs are undergoing final edits, and the book will be finished in 2009.

Conference Synopsis. November 2008

This synopsis is based on a consultative conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in April 2008. IFPRI gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the ICT-KM program of the CGIAR, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Research Into Use (RIU), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), and the World Food Programme (WFP)


  • Partnerships, Platforms, and Coalitions in Agricultural Innovation

Background Paper. December 2008.
Download (PDF 151K)

  • Innovation-Based Solutions for Increasing Agricultural Productivity and Ending Poverty

Background Paper. December 2008.
Download (PDF 165K)

International Public Goods are also referred by Derek Byrelee from the Science Council as Public International Goods…or PIGs…but can we make our pigs fly…that is make them reach the intended users? Read this…

In Maputo on 28 November, the Alliance of CGIAR Centers, the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the CGIAR Science Council organized a technical workshop on ‘International Public Goods (IPGs) in agricultural research for development’.

For the Science Council, Derek Byerlee introduced the basic notions: “public goods have high social benefits that the private sector has no intention to deliver … the international part is that public goods will have products or impacts across borders.”

The cross-border benefits of these public goods depends, among other things, on their “spillover potential — how well does the PG travel?” This ‘potential to travel’ of research outputs was also the focus of a presentation by Peter Ballantyne for the ICT-KM Program of the CGIAR.

Following Byerlee’s argument that “we [the CGIAR] just can’t produce IPGs and put them up on the shelf,” the thrust of the ICT-KM presentation was that the high quality of outputs, based on peer review for example, is not sufficient in itself to ensure wide access to the outputs, across borders. Extra efforts are needed.

Ballantyne used a ‘Triple A’ framework to illustrate how many CGIAR research outputs can’t travel to developing countries and elsewhere because they are not available or accessible. Thus they are less likely to be put to use in development. Indeed, perhaps they should not be seen as international public goods until they have been made truly accessible.

Some take away messages from the presentation and subsequent discussions were:

• That IPGs need to be able to travel; with investment and wide commitment, we can give them this capability, certainly much more than is now the case;
• Traditional outputs as publications and reports are much less accessible to development communities than we wish;
• Publishing peer reviewed articles and books offers excellent pathways to reach into international science communities and a guarantee to science excellence. Alone, this is not a guarantee that the outputs will serve the developmental goals of the CGIAR;
• Using ‘accessibility’ indicators alongside ‘quality’ indicators would help focus attention on the need for uptake as well as production.
• Many outputs are not as permanently accessible as posterity may require;
• The licenses and permissions used by CGIAR centers for their outputs often do not encourage use and re-use of the outputs;
• Open access can be provided in different ways that do not compete with peer review;
• Capable partners are essential to spread the word beyond the reach of the CGIAR;
• The CGIAR should continue to work with other organizations – like GFAR, FAO, CIARD … and specialized communities.

For the ICT-KM Program, next steps in this area include:

• Continuing to focus along entire research cycle, working with intermediate and final products and a wide range of outputs – data, databases and systems, documents, etc.
• Extending efforts to assess and benchmark the outputs, getting them into ‘repositories,’ making them more ‘open,’ and giving them ‘wings’ to travel;
• Supporting policy changes in centers, and across the CGIAR system;
• Strengthening and revitalizing ‘library’ functions across the CGIAR;
• Facilitating system-wide negotiations, with for example publishers;
• Transforming and building on the many smaller innovations across the system to achieve something more like a system-wide ‘movement’ towards truly accessible outputs.

These issues will be followed up in the AAA workshop on 30 November and the workshop on improving agricultural knowledge sharing, education and learning on 4 and 5 December .

Link to ICT-KM background paper

Link to AAA concept on ICT-KM –
Link to CIARD

More stories on access on the IAALD blog

Bioversity International, the CGIAR ICT-KM program, FAO, IFAD and WFP are jointly organizing a 3-day event entitled Knowledge “Share Fair” for Agricultural Development and Food Security to be held at FAO Headquarters on 20 – 22 January 2009.

See the newly launched (but provisional) Knowledge “Share Fair” website


The Share Fair will provide an interactive experience, allowing staff and our Rome-based constituents to:

  • share and learn from each others good practices;
  • experiment with tools and methodologies for knowledge sharing;
  • create linkages and networks for future collaboration between the organizations;
  • develop ideas to support and enhance knowledge sharing within and across our organizations.


The purpose of the event is to showcase examples of good knowledge sharing practices in the field of agricultural development and food security. Specifically, we have structured the Fair to allow staff to learn from each other how knowledge sharing practices, methods and tools have enhanced their work and made their project(s) more successful and effective.

The Share Fair will showcase examples of knowledge sharing strategies, policies and operational practices using case studies, anecdotes, and face-to-face events.

We would like you to tell us a story about how you and/or your project dealt with one – or more – of the contexts (see Section 2 and 3 of the Call for Proposals).

Download Call for Proposals


All projects will be refereed through a peer review process. Potential contributors are strongly encouraged to submit their proposals no later than 15 October, 2008. You can submit your proposals via email to:

Please note that this is a provisional Web page intended to advertise the Call for Proposals of the Knowledge Share Fair prior to the publication of the official Web site

“IFPRI’s call to shake-up research” is the name of the article in the most recent edition of the New Agriculturalist magazine highlighting the recently held ‘Advancing Agriculture in Developing countries through Knowledge and Innovation conference’, by IFPRI in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2008.

The conference, as seen by the New Agriculturalist was part of ‘the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) now joining the growing chorus‘ on necessary changes in agricultural research by ‘issuing its own “roadmap” for development, which champions the importance of innovation and the pressing need to make scientific research relevant to farmers‘.

One key objective that was pointed out in the conference was the need to “identify and promote better research...” since the “academic accomplishments of isolated laboratory staff have often found no practical use, with new findings often failing to trickle down to smallholders. If and when they have, some technologies have either been inappropriate or farmers have lacked the human and financial resources to implement them.” (Source: Article)

The article points out that the conference was looking for ways to address these problems. Some highlights of approaches proposed included:

  • encouragement for researchers (including students) to talk to farmers and find ways of linking indigenous knowledge with more formal research processes and findings
  • fundamental change in research structures and processes so that research is tailored to the needs of farmers and scientists have the technical skills to deal with them

More information about the conference, including key documents, can be found on the IFPRI Conference website

The topic of the event is closely aligned with the principles embodied in the ICT-KM program and its interventions. The ICT-KM is trying to support the “focus on changing systems” by Centres such as IFPRI and the CGIAR as a whole through learning about, sharing knowledge, providing technology and giving support in the types of tools, technologies, approaches, and systemic changes which can bring about and support such changes.

The ICT-KM program through the Knowledge Sharing in Research project provided funds to support this important event. In addition Enrica Porcari-CGIAR CIO and Leader of the ICT-KM program- represented the program at the event, gave a presentation on ICT-KM interventions, and chaired a session.

To see the ICT-KM interventions abstract -view ifpri-abstract-final

To see the ICT-KM interventions presentation-view(Note size = 1.5 MB) ictkm_kiard-addis-1-april1

The ICT-KM interventions presented will be featured in a chapter of the book which will be coming out of the Conference.