As the end of the Institutional KS project came closer I decided to design an evaluation survey and sent it to over 200 contacts: People who had been involved with the project through the workshops, as consultants, and partners, as well as ICT-KM team members, and users of project products like the toolkit.

Here are some results of the survey analysis that was done by an independent consultant:

We received 37 replies, 60% from CGIAR center staff, 17% from consultants (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they acted as consultants for the project), 9% from partner organizations. Most respondent’s involvement (33%) was as workshop participants.

In the survey we asked “What is knowledge sharing to you?” The earlier mentioned evaluation study of Phase 1 of the KS Project had addressed the same question and concluded:

“While KS practitioners themselves are quite clear about what KS means for them and what goals they work towards it is striking how widely differing definitions of KS were being offered. In the absence of commonly agreed on foundational concepts KS remains a contested and there is still a lack of conceptual clarity of what KS actually is and involves (Hack 2009).”

There is still not much common ground when KS practitioners try to define what KS means to them. Beyond the somewhat circular explanation that KS is about exchanging knowledge, ideas and perspectives, mentioned by nine out of 32 respondents, opinions diverge significantly. This question reinforces the evaluations study conclusion that much needs to be done to position KS clearly among our target audiences.

An end-of-project survey highlighted the project’s achievements, especially the usefulness of its workshops, KS Toolkit, and Web resources. Most of the 37 respondents considered the project’s achievements as excellent (36%) or good (53%). They (94%) also stated that project participation increased their understanding of KS issues and/or improved their ability to apply KS principles, methods, and tools to their work. The project leader’s effectiveness in supporting project participation was rated by 70% of participants as excellent, and 27% as good. Also, 97% stated they had made useful contacts during their participation in the project. All 37 respondents declared that as many as 1,850 people had been reached through the project’s activities or products as a consequence of their participation. If this ratio is upscaled to the project’s 180 strong contacts, then about 9,000 people have probably been reached through project activities.

Respondents rated the usefulness of the following products, activities, and services:

Usefulness of products, activities, services

We finally asked respondents to share considerations about the main challenge for KS in agricultural R&D. Seven of the twenty-eight respondents brought up the challenge of creating a culture of collaboration. This concern came in various guises: A preoccupation with the corporate culture of the CGIAR, particularly its culture of hierarchies, inappropriate incentive structures, knowledge ownership issues, and the increasing complexity of collaborating in multi-stakeholder projects. Four respondents highlighted buy-in of senior management and lack of support. Also mentioned by four respondents were Funding, Finance and Investment early on in the process. Three were concerned about defining KS better, and about keeping up with the development of technology. Two thought the biggest challenge is showing the value of KS and two mentioned time. Other challenges mentioned were knowledge translation in vernacular languages, demographics of decision makers, and the digital divide.

Some quick comments:

  • The participation in the survey was not very high (less than 20%).
  • The issue of a definition for KS came up again. What about if the project was successful because we never defined KS that well? I will blog about that later…
  • The challenges are not a surprise. Incentives structures and knowledge ownership… It looks like initiatives like  Triple A and the global partnership on Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development CIARD is well positioned to tackle those issues.
  • Of course, thanks to all for expressing appreciation of my work as project leader 😉

27 of the 32 active participants of the KS Workshop expressed their overall satisfaction with the workshop in an evaluation survey. 26 participants rated the event as excellent (50%) or good (46%). 23 respondents think that their initial expectations were met; 24 feel that the workshop increased their ability to apply KS principles, methods and tools in their work. All respondents state that the pre- workshop communication (Online survey, Web site information, e-mail exchanges, individual calls) helped them to understand the objectives and dynamics of this workshop. Each week was almost equally useful for participants, week 1 (Welcome and introductions, Why share knowledge discussion, Network Mapping exercise) being the most useful for 18 respondents. The communication channels and resources were almost equally appreciated with a preference for the weekly summaries and the KS toolkit.

The Moodle platform got overall good ratings with suggestions for improvement in the organization of the information. 19 respondents think that the facilitators were excellent, 7 rated them as good. Participants had mixed feelings about the size of the group: 16 found that the size of the group was just right, and 10 found it too big. Also the interaction among participants was rated as average by 12 respondents, 23 respondents say that they made useful contacts beyond the workshop, 4 said no, mainly because of lack of participation in the event. All respondents found it very useful (54%) or useful (46 %) to be with participants from other organizations.

When asked for main strengths of the workshop, participants highlight firstly the aspects related to participation and interaction, like the diversity and energy in the group, the richness of experiences, and the combination of fun and serious interactions. Respondents also appreciated the wide range of tools, methods and resources available, specifically the KS toolkit. On the design of the workshop, respondents highlight the flexibility, the scope and the structure of the event. They appreciated the effective support, the availability and the experience of the workshop facilitators. Finally, respondents found the Moodle platform useful, as well as the Email notifications, and the teleconferences.

The 27 respondents also have suggestions for improvement, mainly on the design of the event in the sense that they feel that more time was needed to make most out of the workshop. A need was also expressed to introduce the Moodle platform and the resources beforehand and to give participants more time to become familiar with them. Indeed many expressed the feeling of being overwhelmed with the richness of the workshop environment. Some also suggested the group of participants to be smaller.