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

Advertisements

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

AIMS AND TOPICS

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.

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

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

SUBMISSIONS

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: share-fair@fao.org

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

 “The spread of the web invites us to look at the future from a different vantage point, to see that what we share is at least as important as what we own; what we hold in common is as important as what we keep for ourselves; what we choose to give away may matter more than what we charge for. In the economy of things you are identified by what you own: your land, house, car. In the economy of ideas that the web is creating, you are what you share: who you are linked to, who you network with and which ideas, pictures, videos, links, comments you share. The biggest change the web will have on us is to allow us to share with one another in new ways and particularly to share ideas. That matters because the more ideas are shared the more they breed, mutate and multiply, and that process is the ultimate source of our creativity, innovation and well being.” reads the first chapter of “We think” by Charlie Leadbeater.

As the ICT-KM program continues to develop I cannot help thinking of how this philosophy, this new thinking resonates with the principles of our program: Collaborate, Create, Communicate.

We believe that sharing is a potent platform for innovation and creativity. Reading the book you will see how the 600,000 players in the computer game “I Love Bees” showed that a mass of independent people, with different information, skills and outlooks, working together in the right way, can discover, analyse, coordinate, create and innovate together at scale without much by way of a traditional organisation. Imagine this power applied to agriculture research.

But sharing also brings dilemmas: ownership, rights, privacy, resistance to change…

Apply this to our work and I believe that managing the balance between the rising surge of mass collaboration and the attempts to retain control will be one of the defining areas of work of the ICT-KM program in the CGIAR.

Thanks to Peter Ballantyne for pointing this book to us!