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‘Insuring’ appropriate delivery mechanisms: Facilitating sharing at IBLI project workshop

On July 12th 2010, an innovative new project hosted at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held a one day workshop on ‘developing index-based livestock insurance to reduce vulnerability due to drought-related livestock deaths’. The project –Index-Based Livestock Insurance-,  better known as IBLI, has been operating in Kenya already and is now looking to expand its activities into Ethiopia.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. introduce potential partners and key stakeholders to the concept of index-based livestock insurance
  2. update partners and stakeholders on opportunities and preparatory work for developing a similar product for Southern Ethiopia–to set up research and development plans
  3. learn more about the relevant activities and particular interests of various key players
  4. engage potential partners and stakeholders in discussions on the relevance/feasibility of implementing IBLI for Southern Ethiopia.

…so in essence, it is all about knowledge sharing!

But how can a project like this, with objectives like these, ‘insure’ that it achieves a meaningful process of interaction and sharing (both ways)?

Firstly, a workshop-even just one day, or sometimes especially if it is only one day-needs to be very carefully thought out and planned.

Just like choosing any type of insurance, you need to ask yourself a number of questions: What do you need to be insured? What are the risks? What kind of ‘product’ do you want and will work for your needs?- and apply this to your workshop planning as well.

Andrew Mude, IBLI Project Coordinator, was new to many of the knowledge sharing and facilitation techniques which are now being used, but was very open to trying some out. Given the importance of this workshop for establishing priorities, partnerships and processes for the project as it tries to work now in Ethiopia, he agreed that it was vital to design the workshop in a way that would create excitement and energy around this topic.

One of the topics to be carefully discussed during the workshop was appropriate delivery mechanisms for promoting and providing the insurance product being designed. In the same way, the workshop was a vital delivery mechanism for the information about the project concept and implementation-and this too needed to be appropriate. So we worked closely to design this workshop as an appropriate delivery mechanism.

Secondly, you need to design a product that will be innovative and help you feel secure that your objectives will be achieved. Different products work for different groups and you need to think carefully about who will be at your workshop.

Unlike many other research projects, IBLI has a set of stakeholders and partners from the  private sector and insurance sector. Their time is precious and sitting through a day of presentations may not be the best way to engage with them.

So here is what we did to ‘insure’ better knowledge sharing:

1. At the start of the workshop, and with most workshops, you want to know who is in the room and for them to get to know each other. Usual methods involve each person standing up and saying their name, organisation and what they do. This can take up alot of time and usually people cannot remember most of that information because it is monotonous and there is too much to remember.

So in the IBLI workshop we wanted to do something a bit different that would ‘insure’ that people got to know each other better. So for the introductions we used an exciting icebreaker game called speed dating.

According to the KS Toolkit:

Icebreakers are short group activities that allow the various people inside a new group:

  1. to get to know each other;
  2. to become more comfortable with discussing the topic of groupwork; or
  3. to become more comfortable with expressing dissenting views

For the speed dating exercise, people were asked to get out of their seats and move around the room and try to meet as many people as possible within a ten minute period. They were asked to say their name, their organisation–the usual, but still important pieces of information- as well as their favourite food. This might sound a bit funny for a workshop filled with professionals but this is no joke. In fact, what I (and others too) often find is that some more personal and unexpected piece of information about a person-like your favourite food- is a good way for people to engage with each other and remember them.

For all the ‘project coordinators’ you get introduced to-you may more vividly remember and want to talk again to the person who says:

My name is John, I work for ABC Company and my favourite food is raw meat!

2. We provided guidelines for the presenters. To make the presentations short and snappy and to ‘insure’ that the right information was presented, the presenters were sent a set of guidelines that included:

  • number of slides
  • what information was required on each slide
  • time limit

3. To facilitate more effective discussions on particular topic areas of project implementation we used a rotating peer assist method

Peer Assist brings together a group of peers to elicit feedback on a problem, project, or activity, and draw lessons from the participants’ knowledge and experience (KS Toolkit)

We set up four tables each with a particular area/question/issue that the project wanted assistance from the participants on formulating:

  • Contract design and structure
  • Delivery mechanisms
  • Regulation and government role
  • Climate change and IBLI

Each table had someone from the project, who used the first five minutes to explain the topic/issue and then started asking a series of questions to those who were at the table. Each table also had a dedicated note taker who captured the information on flip charts for all to see. Table discussions were for 20 minutes and participants could visit 3 out of the 4 tables during the session.

Thirdly, document and share the results of the workshop in ways that are interesting

To help the group visualise and understand all of the information presented in the workshop and how it all relates to the project, I used a graphic facilitation technique to capture the information in a meaningful way. The participants of the workshop were also asked to contribute to the ‘picture’ developed of the project.

Graphic recording at its core is visually capturing what is happening in a group or presentation. It is part of a large set of visual practices which use images as part of group processes, which includes graphic facilitation, collaborative graphics work, etc.  It can be used as a literal recording or it can be used as a visual element of a specific group and/or facilitation process. (KS Toolkit)

More on the graphic facilitation approach used can be found at A picture is worth a thousand words: My experimentation with graphic facilitation

More on what is happening with IBLI can be found on their blog.

So did our ‘insurance policy’ pay out?

I believe so. It was a productive workshop with lots of knowledge shared and collaboration explored. Many of the  participants expressed to me that it was a very different workshop experience for them and one that they enjoyed and learnt alot from. The organisers of the workshop (project team) also had alot of praise for the techniques introduced which they felt had a big impact on the engagement with partners and stakeholders that was vital for the project to move forward.

So it pays to invest–or rather ‘insure’!

Thumbnail photo credit: ‘Approved’ (Image ID: 630325) www.professionelleswebdes- ign.net

Main blog photo credits: Munenobu Ikegami (ILRI)