In the Most Significant Change story approach it is usual for the participants as a whole to listen to the stories and make a selection of that story or those stories which they consider to be most significant for the group or the program.

In the recently held Knowledge Sharing in Research Synthesis workshop, the review and selection of stories was done in a different way. Instead of the participants judging the stories themselves as a group, two people, somewhat outside of the direct KSinR project, were asked to listen to the stories and make comments and selections. These were:ksinr-synthesis-workshop-164

  • Meredith Giordano (IWMI)-Senior Researcher involved in Impact work at IWMI and supervising the Project Leader of KSinR
  • Debbie Bossio (IWMI)- Senior Researcher and Theme Leader of Productive Water Use Theme–not involved in the KSinR Project at all

And instead of them making their comments and selection just between the two of them (in private), the workshop used a fishbowl technique which involved Meredith and Debbie sitting in the middle of a circle made up up of all the other participants of the workshop.

ksinr-synthesis-workshop-169

Meredith and Debbie then commented on all the stories, indicating things they liked about stories, important points, key elements of packaging stories and their thoughts on the importance of particular changes indicated. They also talked about how well these could be ‘sold’ to their research Centres and projects. Everyone was asked to listen to them without interrupting first–and only after they finished their ‘internal’ discussion was it opened up to the wider group.

Some key points made in the fishbowl were:

  • Need to focus on ONE significant change–not tell everything about the project
  • To show significant change would be good to indicate what was done before/how things were done before–so that a difference can be seen–as Alessandra did in her story
  • Give evidence of or demonstrate with an example the change you are talking about–like in Phillip’s story
  • Interesting to indicate change in one’s own knowledge, skills, experience as the most significant change–this is very real and important–as shown in Natasja’s story
  • Ben’s story showed the importance of finding common interest
  • Liked how some stories showed the implications and consequences–what would happen next as a result
  • Use of numbers is appealing for scientists–Tonya’s story gave some numbers of farmers and percentage of adoption which made the change seem more concrete
  • Debbie pointed out that she couldn’t take anything in particular that she heard to the donors–need to consider target groups when developing stories
  • Should indicate what the impact has been or could be due to the change–Alexandra indicated this in her story
  • Need to feel free to tell ‘negative’ stories as alot cna be learned from these as well
  • Should consider the language we use in our stories
  • …and much more!

In the Knowledge Sharing in Research(KSinR) project, the 6 Pilot Projects have beksinr-synthesis-workshop-014en piloting a range of knowledge sharing approaches in particular research projects, programs or domains. Their experiences have proven to be as diverse and interesting as their initially proposed approaches. Many of the Pilots have carried out a wide range of activities and experienced many things in using knowledge sharing in research.

In the previous exercises of the KSinR Synthesis Workshop the participants had been asked to describe and evaluate the whole host of activities, outputs and outcomes of their Projects.

In this session the Pilot projects were asked to present the most significant change thksinr-synthesis-workshop-165at they think has/had happened in using knowledge sharing in their research projects or domains. This was to be done through the use of the ‘Most Significant Change story approach’. Participants had been informed of this prior to arriving at the workshop and an explanation had been given on Day 1 to allow them to prepare their stories.

The question asked was:

” Looking back over time of implementing knowledge sharing philosophies and approaches in your research project, what do you think was the most significant change in the research project?”

On Day 2 the workshop moved out into the ILRI Campus gardens to present and listen to stories of most significant change from using knowledge sharing approaches in research.

The ‘most significant change’ stories consisted of:ksinr-synthesis-workshop-148

  1. From the IWMI Pilot Project ‘ Learning Alliances for Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (LA WASPA)’ the story presented by Alexandra Evans was about–
  • improved links between hygiene and wastewater use in agriculture
  • all research and actions that took place were known about and understood by all stakeholders involved
  • can work much easier with the various stakeholders after this experience

ksinr-synthesis-workshop-1462. From the IRRI Pilot Project ‘ Knowledge Management harmonising research output” the story presented by Ben Samson was about—

  • the initial workshop bringing together stakeholders brought about increased awareness and change in attitude of the various actors involved
  • the workshop provided a meeting point for people who needed something and those who could meet that need.

3. From the WorldFish Pilot Project ‘ Applying KS tools to Impact Monitoring and Project M&E” the story presented by Natasja Sheriff was about—

  • the way we (usually) do M&E in our projects is not very responsive
  • this Pilot Project provided an opportunity for Natasja to try something new out for her project and created a space for her to increase her own learning which she could then apply to other projects, share with others, and hope to influence how M&E is carried out in her institute

4. From the IWMI Pilot Project ‘ A Knowledge Sharing Approach to Safe Food”

—–a story presented by Tonya Schuetz was about—

  • a key thing that was done through this project focused on knowledge sharing was to increase and improve interactions with user groups
  • we sought feedback from stakeholders at many stages in the research process
  • through talking to potential users of the research results about the results and how messages could be effectively formulated helped the project to develop effective messages which lead to the achievement of early adoption of project recommended practices
  • took advantage of key opportunities such as the revision of the city by-laws and irrigation ksinr-synthesis-workshop-152policy which only happens every ten years
  • important to implement knowledge sharing throughout the research process

—–a story presented by Phillip Amoah was about—

  • we learned that it was necessary to work on a (national) policy level as well in order to support local action messages that we were trying to promote amongst farmers and caterers on the ground
  • it was important to work closely with the relevant ministries–in this case Ministry of Agriculture

ksinr-synthesis-workshop-1585. From the CIFOR Pilot Project ‘Shared Learning to Enhance Research Priority Assessment Practices’ the story presented by David Raitzer was about—

  • ex-ante has not previously had any systematic support
  • this was the first attempt to pull together methods and experiences and to find ways to give them visibility
  • there has been as a result of this work of this Pilot to share knowledge on this subject matter, been more attention to ex-ante and priority setting amongst those doing impact assessment

6. From the ICARDA Pilot Project ‘International Farmers Conference’ the story presented by Alessandra Galie was about—ksinr-synthesis-workshop-166

  • There was empowerment of women farmers through this process. For example Ruqeia a young female farmer was at first nervous to present her story but after she did she was congratulated by many participants of her good agricultural knowledge and skills. She then took the initiative to approach an FAO representative to ask for help on Integrated Pest Management which he had presented on.
  • The knowledge of women farmers was more appreciated and a greater recognition was gained in the institute that more efforts need to be made to include this in the Participatory Plant Breeding Program
  • The implementers became more aware of the fact that knowledge sharing approaches may need to be tailored to work with marginalised groups-thus it is necessary to refine approaches to be appropriate to varying types, uses, needs etc of knowledge by different groups.

For what happened next..stay tuned for the next blog post!

The Pilot Project run by The International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is focused on research/researchers recognizing the value of farmer knowledge, getting farmers to value their own knowledge and ideas, and finding ways to share farmers’ and other sources of knowledge between farmers. The main activity of the Pilot Project revolved around the organizing of an International Farmers’ Conference.

Farmers' Conference website video quilt

Over 50 farmers attended this conference of a different kind. Instead of being passive participants, listening to presentations by researchers, the farmers were instead asked to present their situations, knowledge, experiences, ideas and skills using storytelling. The stories of the farmers were recorded in video, audio and text forms to be disseminated in various ways. All will be made available on a Conference website to be launched soon.

Farmers’ Conference website video quilt
Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Additionally the conference organizers uploaded small story clips onto mobile phones of farmers present and showed them how to send these to other farmers with mobile phones. This was done to stimulate some knowledge sharing and a sort of farmer-to-farmer extension system to help facilitate the spread of useful ideas, techniques and knowledge around agricultural activities, specifically plant breeding.

A small video clip was made to show farmers how to share the stories with each other and other farmers. This and other video clips will be available on the website.

Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Yes this technology exists and works in Syria and some of the other countries involved! No it doesn’t work for everyone-that is true.

When we interviewed some of the participants after the conference we asked about how they felt about the stories made available and shared on the mobile phones. Some of the comments made were:

  • “It is better for me, since I cannot read”
  • “I like it, but I cannot keep the video on my phone forever so I would like a printed copy of the information too.”
  • “I feel very proud to have the stories on my mobile phone and to be able to send them to others”
  • “Not everyone has a phone, especially women”
  • “It is nice to get the information as a story from a real person”