Dark rain clouds may have hung heavily above IRRI headquarters on the first day of the Knowledge Sharing Inception Workshop, but the climate inside the room was anything but gloomy. Although many participants had crossed several time zones to get to the Center’s campus at Los Banos in the Philippines, enthusiasm was high, with no sign of the sleep deprivation that usually plagues such inter-Center events.
Of course, a successful meeting often owes much to the preparation that goes into it, and the participants were kept on their toes with back-to-back, hands-on activities that introduced them to knowledge sharing techniques and encouraged them to present their own views on knowledge sharing.
Nadia Manning, Leader of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project, kicked off the meeting by giving a brief overview of the workshop objectives, after which the reins were handed over to Simone Staiger, Leader of the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project, who had everyone up on their feet courtesy of a spirited icebreaking session.
World Café Session
Thoroughly warmed up and raring to go, participants found themselves in the right mood for the lively World Café session that followed. For the uninitiated, a World Café session involves participants splitting into small groups and sitting around a table covered with large sheets of paper, upon which they are encouraged to write the salient points of their discussions.
The following questions were asked:
• What is knowledge sharing for you?
• What is in it for me? and
• What are the key issues that a KS project should address?
The non-threatening, intimate atmosphere created by a small group around a table encouraged even the most reticent of speakers to air their views. Indeed, when it was time for the participants to move onto the next table to discuss another point, many were reluctant to do so.
World Cafe Session
Helen Leicht from the WorldFish Center, Penang, compared knowledge sharing with baking a croissant. Look out for her post “Anyone for a Croissant?” later.
“Most people think it [knowledge sharing] sounds like something loopy (silly) when they hear about it for the first time,” said Ben Solomon reiterating one of the comments made at his table.
Despite this misconception, most participants felt that knowledge sharing techniques can help them do their work better and increase the uptake and impact of their research.
Check back later for more thoughts from Ben.
Institutional Knowledge Sharing: An Overview
Simone then gave a delightfully illustrated overview of the work carried out by the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project to date, going back to the early days when the Project’s knowledge sharing activities were only undertaken at a few select CGIAR Centers.
Since then, she was happy to report, interest in KS has gained momentum, and relationships with external communities have been strengthened through activities like KM4DEV and last year’s IAALD meeting in Africa and the GFAR meeting in India.
The second phase of the Project will try to get more Centers involved in KS activities, create more connections between the Centers, develop a training module, nurture an open-source philosophy, and explore more virtual communities.
Another Overview: Knowledge Sharing in Research
Next up, Nadia shared her ideas on how to increase the uptake of knowledge from research by incorporating KS and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) into the different stages of the research cycle. She spoke about the need to build more flexibility into the research process, so it can be tailored to adapt to things happening on the ground.
Both overviews elicited numerous comments and questions from the participants.
The Big Onion
With the aid of her onion-like diagram, CIO Enrica Porcari, who is also the Leader of the ICT-KM Program, explained how the KS Projects are part of a larger portfolio of investments. “Initially, these projects were viewed skeptically,” she said, “but more people are now seeing different ways of doing things.”
Do Impact Pathways Matter?
Of course they do. Just ask Boru Douthwaite! With the project overviews concluded, Boru, the facilitator for the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA), explained the role of impact pathways (IPs) in the pilot projects.
For more on IPs, read about our afternoon session in the next post.