Simone Staiger-Rivas

Simone Staiger-Rivas

Simone Staiger-Rivas has an intensity about her that leaves a mark on almost everything she does. She knows nothing about half measures or being just good enough. At least, not when it comes to her work. And once again, this knowledge sharing exponent was in top form as she went about her business helping to facilitate the recent CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop in Penang, Malaysia.

The event, which brought together communications experts from almost every corner of the CGIAR System, took place a few short weeks after many of the same participants had taken part in a two-week online workshop, which Simone also helped organize.

“While I was helping to prepare and design the Penang meeting with Nathan Russell (CIMMYT) and Laura Ivers (CGIAR Secretariat), I thought it would be a good idea to organize a workshop on social media for the participants,” she said. “I thought it would be especially interesting for this particular group, because social media is not something that many of them use strategically enough. It was great to get the CGIAR Secretariat’s green light, and most of the participants who made it to Penang took part in the online event. Over the two weeks, the participants were exposed to social media tools like wikis, blogs, Twitter, Yammer, etc.”

Simone had also hoped to examine the different ways in which social media can contribute to the new CGIAR.

“Unfortunately, we ran out of time,” she said. “I think the participants wanted to learn more about the CGIAR change initiative before coming to any conclusion about the role that social media could play in a revitalized System, and understandably so.”

The feedback from the online event was mostly positive, and thus it was a buoyant Simone who arrived in Penang, eager to meet the participants face-to-face again.

“Over the two years that I’ve been involved in the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing Project, I’ve met almost all the participants at some workshop or another,” she said. “So it was great to meet up with them again.”

Simone used a number of different workshop dynamics in Penang: River of Life to review the past and prepare for the future; Samoan Circle to reflect on communications in the new CGIAR; Card Sorting to prepare the matrix for the 2009 work plan; Spider diagram to evaluate the workshop; and a speed Open Space to share with and learn from colleagues. A popular lunchtime session was Simone’s demonstration of Twitter and Yammer (Yammer like a Twit). The communication specialists were duly impressed, to the extent that the group immediately created their own space on Yammer.


The positive feedback from the Penang event was overwhelming: Here are just a few of the comments: “The best workshop with this group in 20 years,” said one participant. “It was fantastic. I am full of ideas,” said another. “The different session formats along with the facilitation helped us to achieve an enormous amount of things,” said yet another.

Another notable testimony to Simone’s skills as a facilitator came after the first day of the workshop, when one of the participants announced that the facilitation approaches used had enabled him to achieve more in one day than he would normally achieve in a week.

When this feedback was relayed to Simone, she simply smiled.

“Although I appreciate positive feedback just as much as the next person, because it tells me I’m on the right track, I’m  no stranger to negative comments,” she said later. “Over the years, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of skeptics – people who have scoffed at my knowledge sharing techniques and written them off as childish nonsense. Nonetheless, I still believe in what I do.”

Come to think of it, Simone probably deserves a few kudos just for hanging on in there.