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.

KsinR context-pic

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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Technology continues to change; the way we collaborate with others has changed; and the way the CGIAR conducts its business is currently undergoing radical change. With the present air of change that is permeating the entire System, it was inevitable that CGXchange would, sooner or later, have to answer the call for a portal that meets current needs. As such, CGXchange’s intranet concept has been exchanged, so to speak, for a dual-concept application that satisfies both the need for public content and the need for ‘private’ collaboration spaces.

Past and present in the CGXchange 2.0 logo

Last month, we introduced the new, improved CGXchange 2.0, a platform based on Google Apps that satisfies our current needs by facilitating online collaboration and exchange both inside and outside the CGIAR.

Why Google Apps?” you might ask.

Well, with a highly decentralized set up like that of the CGIAR, over 8,000 staff in 120 offices, mostly in countries where connectivity is a challenge, and with a dire need to collaborate with colleagues and partners, we are always on the look out for solutions that simplify our work. So last year, we tried out Google Apps as a suite of collaboration tools and were suitably impressed. You can read the results of our experiments in the CGIAR Google Apps report.

A few months later, during the first half of March 2009, a selected group of testers evaluated a beta version of the site. The summary report of the test results is just out on CGX 2.0: tried, tested and passed with flying colors! We have included our replies to the comments and questions from the test participants.

So what’s so new with CGX 2.0?, you might as well ask. In a nutshell:

  • Public content: the tutorials, guides, links to useful resources, outcomes of our tests are open to anyone who wants to learn how non-profit institutions such as the CGIAR are taking advantage of online tools for improving communication, sharing and collaboration.
  • Openness is our main driving principle: while CGIAR staff benefits from the availability of the Google Apps collaboration tools, then anyone with a Google account can be invited to collaborate and view the information CGIAR staff will create with Google Apps.
  • Freedom of choice is our other driving principle: we aim to inform you and show you the possibilities that the Web offers to share knowledge and collaborate more efficiently online. The available tools can be safely used for closed and/or geographically distributed groups. We can guide you through the tools available, but you will make the final decision as to what is best for you.
  • We walk the talk and share the lessons by doing our best to test the tools in our context and share the circumstances in which they proved to be suitable and useful and referring to more than two years’ experience with the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing projects.

What do I do now?, you might, again, ask.

You have a few options (and NOT necessarily in this sequence):

  1. Visit CGXchange 2.0
  2. Take a quick tour of the collaboration tools
  3. Request access to the Apps for yourself and your colleagues (if you’re CGIAR staff)
  4. Browse around the CGX 2.0 Newsfeeds Aggregator to experience keeping up-to-date with RSS feeds
  5. Sing along

For the first session section of Day 1 at the Share Fair (13:45-15:00 Tuesday 20th January), I have decided to attend the session on ‘Using radios to support Rural Communications’ being convened in the India Room.

This sessions includes submissions on:

*Traditional technologies of distance education, radio, and presents examples of educational and community radio usage in Asia and Africa (Sally Berman-FAO)

*Rural Communications Systems (May Hani et al)

*School on-the-air: promoting good farming practices using rural radio (Robert Domoguen)

The facilitator Luca Servo has told us that the session will take the format of a ‘conversation’ around the use of radio as a medium of communication in development.

Sally-Highlighting strengths of radio (community)

  • widely available
  • low-cost
  • local languages
  • reinforces cultural expression and identities
  • successful for social change
  • respectful of local traditions
  • can include stories and drama
  • radio for education means no re-location
  • can reach a large audience
  • can address people who are illiterate

Inviting all to discuss radio as a communication tool–and not just the Internet.

Then a video was shown. The video features a radio program director- Mr. Serre-in Mali who delivers a radio program every Wednesday designated to dealing with issues of rice farmers and fishermen in a lagoon–called farmers’ corner.

 We are given a demonstration on hand-cranked radios (not needing batteries)-which can last up to about 45 minutes.

 Martina-from IFADintroduces school-on-the-air introduced in the Philippines. They chose radio as an approach because the project is based in a very ruralarea where the people do not have access to other forms of of media. Through the radio they disseminate information about various agriculturalpractices to poor farmers. It was identified through consultation withfarmers to understand their needs. Together with specialists radio sessionswere designed on various topics. They also collaborated with public and private radio stations.

The benefits from the pilot project were:

  • farmers could graduate from the courses and share what they learnt from the courses
  • 70% farmers that were trained through radio were women
  • managed to reach a wide range of poor farmers, many who live very remotely.

Father Chansa also joined the meeting via skypeand gave us his perspective on using radios for helping people. He told us that they have found the radio to be user-friendly and effective as a mechanism for sharing knowledge. They have worked closely withthe Ministry of Agriculture to share information on marketing opportunities, prices and transportation. They are working with the education sector to broadcast education programs which are interactive. The programs have become popular becausethey are useful for ruralbased schools. Also working withMinistry of Health to work on HIV transmission issues. They use radio listening groups. These are groups in various communities which have been given wind-up radios and they listen to the radio at particular times and depending on the them they discuss what they can do about the theme and send feedback and requests for more information to the station. Certain members then come later to the stations to speak on air about how their communities have tackled a particular issue based on information they received from the radio program they listened to.

Then the facilitator started a round of questions:

  1. what are the costs behind this kind of approach?

–hand-cranked radios are about $50 USD-with the costs going down

2. How can/do you measure the impact of this approach?

-formal evaluations

-listening groups

3. What do you do to ensure that the information being supplied is appropriate and is correct?

-information needs assessment

-make use of experts to deliver information

-encouraged farmers to provide feedback on the programs and information

The discussion turned to the issue of how to ensure quality of the information being broadcasted over the radio.

4. How to do you see the convergence of radio with other and newer technologies?

-a lot of integrated projects which are very successful. Problem withradio  is that it is one-way communication and cannot showcase visuals–so it is good to link up with other technologies to make the best line of communication

**what has not worked or what have been some of the challenges?

  • empowering communities
  • having the right political conditions
  • radios must be working within a legal permit
  • community need to be represented in the process and management boards–but this is not always easy
  • need to assess the situation and see what the right tool will be
  • limited coverage of radio networks
  • communicating the message over the radio -it actually requires experience and skills to transmit messages over the radio

‘Depends on it being the right time and right place-for radio to be successful!’

Natasja Sheriff, Project Leader of the WorldFish KSinR Pilot Project, together with Tonya Schuetz (IWMI)-who helped facilitate the WorldFish Pilot’s training workshop, wrote and submitted a paper for the workshop ‘Rethinking impact: Understanding the Complexity of Poverty and Change‘ which was convened in Cali, Colombia 26-29 March 2008.

The paper, entitled “Monitoring for change, assessing for impact: the WorldFish center experience” can be viewed from the following link- paper. This paper was based on the experience gained from the initial introduction to and use by the Project of Outcome Mapping and Most Significnat Change-the workshop which was described in a previous bog post.

According to the paper “like many CG centers, a traditional emphasis on the development and dissemination of new technolgies has shaped impact assessment within the WorldFish center” and ” assessing the impact of projects undertaken…has largely been quantitative in nature, applying economic models to assess productivity, welfare and technological efficiency for example”.

This paper contends that “in comparison to ex post impact assessment activities, less attention has been given to monitoring and evaluation, and to the process of learning and adaptation, during project implementation”.

This paper outlines the new trend of research towards a broader approach to addressing poverty alleviation and the move towards development and application of methods which increase the impact of agricultural research on poverty and which facilitate learning and change.

The paper posits that “there is a lack of appropriate, effective tools for participatory monitoring and evaluation for application in a natural resource management context” and “simultaneously there has been a trend towards increased partner collaboration and impact-oriented research which requires a more responsive and adaptive approach to impact assessment and M&E than has been previously applied”.

This was the driver behind the proposal of the CP35 project at the WorldFish Centre to the Knowledge Sharing in Research call for proposals, to pilot new M&E methods to compliment existing quantitative M&E tools, and to support a more open and responsive approach to change occurring in communities involved in the project. This paper outlines the initial experiences of the project in piloting new approaches to M&E and impact assessment mainly in the form of Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change methods.

The paper provides a rationale for the choice of particular approaches, examining what potential fit and benefit they would have with the research project into which they would be integrated.

Next a clear description of the activities undertaken to introduce and initiate such methods was provided.

The real ‘meat’ of the paper comes in the strong review and analysis of the piloting of these kind of methods which is presented in the form of annotated lists of ‘benefits’ and ‘issues hindering effectiveness’ of each of the methods being employed. While there were some initial positive signs of benefits that would/could be derived from using such methods, the challenges, issues and concerns raised were more of a highlight.

Some benefits include:

  • Creating a longer term vision for sustainability and impact
  • Identifying unanticipated problems and constraints to project success
  • Revealing outcome and impact priorities held by project participants and stakeholders
  • Creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for project success
  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities
  • Articulating where change is needed and monitoring progress towards required change

Some disadvantages identifed were:

  • The potential for unequal power relationships amongst stakeholders (and even team) to influence the process/method
  • Relative complexity of the approach
  • Difficulty in communicating terminologies and processes in various languages
  • Substantial time investment of project team and stakeholders to work through OM
  • Potential for misinterpretation and inappropriate application of the concept of ‘behavioural change’

Although some negative consequences were described, these were proposed to be valuable learning experiences from which specific attention could be paid to relevant modifications and adaptations which could be made for future use in the project-in its other country sites.

The authors concluded, therefore that “there is a need to carefully evaluate alternative methodologies available to research scientists and to put forward appropriate tools for impact assessment and M&E that can be readily taken up and applied in R4D, particularly in the natural resource management context”.

So recently I  decided I wanted to explore a tool for helping me to organise some of my ideas, projects and activities. I had heard about a software tool called ‘mind mapping’ which i wanted to try out.But a simple search online gave a number of commercial and open source options–with little way for a novice like me to be able to make a reasonable choice. So what to do?

As a member (although mostly a lurker) of the KM4dev online community (can join through http://www.km4dev.org/) , I must say I have been continuously impressed by the wonderful sense of community and helpfulness displayed by so many in the KM4dev community–especially when requests for help are made.I had recently been exposed to a fellow member make a request of information on a certain topic with an amazing response given with many tools, tips and discussions being shared; so I decided to try my luck and put forward a request for:

anyone out there who knows of ‘mind map/mapping’ software? The catch is that what I need should be 1)free, 2) easy to use, and 3)easy to download in poor connectivity/low bandwidth environments.”

…and asked- “Does anyone know of anything that fits the bill?

The response was amazing. Within 24 hours I received close to 25 responses.

I was told about:

* Freemind- http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

* Cmaptools — http://cmap.ihmc.us/

* Mindmeisterhttp://www.mindmeister.com/

* Thinkgraph (http://www.thinkgraph.com)

* VYM – View Your Mind (http://www.insilmaril.de/vym/)

* Kdissert (http://freehackers.org/~tnagy/kdissert/).

* MindManager-http://www.mindjet.com/us/ (Not free)

..each with varying perceptions from my responders about their particular strengths and value.

I learnt that I can use mind mapping for:

* planning reports and presentations

* simplifying complex issues

* convincing people to my point of view

* documenting ideas

* capturing discussions

..and even do my CV

 

Interesting points were also raised, in which we were asked to consider:

* “possible serious limitations from a KM perspective if mindmapping uses a single central node – be it for a problem or an idea – from which all related issues cascade hierarchically”

*perhaps the best mind mapping “software” is pencil and paper

All in all, I got some great software and uses tips- a better collection which could probably be found no where else. I have to say that this is really what knowledge sharing is all about and represents what a network should be all about. I appreciate all the time, effort and knowledge that people in the network put into the replies–put into knowledge sharing.

 

Special thanks to KM4dev’ers:

Sebastian, Luca, Boris, Mike, Mark Berthelmy ,Hege, Nick, Patrick, Chris, Jorit, Mark Hammersley, Nynke, Matthew, George, Frank, Simon, Barbara, Michael and Joitske