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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See in the most recent (Sept 08) issue of the New Agriculturist. An article on the CGIAR ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing in Research project-highlighting the ICARDA Farmers’ Conference called “Sharing knowledge-tell us a story”

Magazine can be found at: www.new-ag.info 

Sharing knowledge – tell us a story

“My story with farming began when I was a child,” says Mahmoud Shlash, whose village lies near the ancient city of Aleppo in northern Syria. “At that time, the rainfall was high unlike the rainfall this season. I watched my father when he collected spikes (barley seedheads) from here and there and brought them home. I asked him, ‘Why are you collecting the spikes and nothing else?’ Now I realise that he was doing the same as ICARDA is currently doing with the farmers.”

Selecting plants with high productivity and resistance to local threats like disease, drought or frost, would find its place in many farmers’ stories, ancient or modern. It is also at the heart of participatory plant breeding, where researchers and farmers work together to select desirable crop traits and test plants under a range of management systems. But how can farmers’ knowledge, whether from recent plant trials or their wider experience, be used to improve the research or plant breeding process? The Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR) project, of the CGIAR’s Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) Program, is examining the value of storytelling, as a way of helping farmers to share this kind of information, both with fellow farmers and with scientists.

The two year project, started in 2007, aims to improve the impact of CGIAR’s work by investigating how to integrate knowledge-sharing into different stages of the research process. In May 2008, more than 50 farmers from Syria, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Egypt and Eritrea met with researchers at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria for a four-day International Farmers’ Conference. But instead of the standard conference format, the farmers were asked to share their experiences of farming and plant breeding through storytelling.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Stories are a common tool used by farmers to enrich discussions and get their message across. 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 who attended the conference, explained that she had taken on the farming duties in her family following the death of her father, and since then had been trying to improve her crop yields in many different ways. On arriving at the conference, she felt scared and shy at first, being with new people in a new place. Talking to other farmers, however, she became more comfortable and when she told her story, she found that the other participants were impressed by her knowledge and encouraged her to continue in agriculture. Ruqeia 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, a key benefit of the conference, of particular value to farmers from countries whose formal extension services are weak or non-existent.

In addition to the storytelling, the conference participants visited ICARDA facilities and farmers’ fields and showcased their seeds and products at a food fair. Dr Stefania Grando, one of ICARDA’s principal barley breeders and the KSinR Pilot Project leader, thought the conference had succeeded in collecting and consolidating farmers’ knowledge, which, she believed, would help scientists in better targeting their research to address farmers’ needs.

Spreading the word

The Farmers’ Conference is one of six strategies now being explored under the KSinR project. Other approaches being piloted include the use of radio programmes, training videos, and databases to communicate research findings. The farmers’ stories will now be featured on a website to document the conference, 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.

With contributions from Nadia Manning-Thomas, IWMI

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September 2008

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