Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Helping us learn: Participants give feedback on Day 0

Day ‘Oh now I know how to… (Day 0)- the learning and training day of the AgKnowledge Africa Share Fair held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 18th October 2010, is now over and done, but we hope the learning that started there isn’t. And while we hope that the participants are learning, experiencing, using and sharing–as coordinators of the Day, we at the CGIAR ICT-KM Program also want to keep learning.

Since the day was designed to reflect the principles of coherence in information for agricultural research for development (CIARD) by focusing on the WHY to share for people first and then supporting them to learn and use the various pathways HOW to make their data, information and knowledge available, accessible and applicable, for us it is extremely important to learn:

  • what people felt about the day- what worked and what didn’t
  • what sessions they attended and how these went-including the plenary opening and closing sessions
  • what they learnt and how
  • how they can or intend to use the skills, experiences and tools in their work
  • what are people doing after the event
  • any suggestions people may have
  • and what for them is the end of the statement:  “oh now I know how to…”

So we decided to approach the participants to ask them to provide feedback and suggestions. We developed a survey on Survey Monkey and also in a Word document option. And many participants filled in the survey- 49 people online and 13 sent word documents (more than 60 in total!)– which gave us lots of good information, feedback, and suggestions to learn from –thank you all.

So we wanted to share with you all what we learnt through this post (and the Day 0 Feedback-Summary Report).

How many people participated in Day 0? Well we had close to 200 people participate in Day 0–with over 300 ‘training seats’ offered between Day 0 and the additional sessions organised (during the Wednesday open spaces) due to extra demand from participants.

Expectations chart - Click to enlarge

We first wanted to explore people’s expectations and if they were met.

We asked participants to choose any expectations that they shared with the list of objectives we had set for the day–see graph to the right–and also gave them space to suggest their own expectations.

Then we asked participants the simple question of “Were your expectations met?”, and of the 49 responses on the Survey Monkey- the majority were a ‘Yes!’ with some people, saying:

Absolutely!”; “They were, but now I am also more hungry.”;  “Yes 100%”

But one interesting comment gives us some advice on how to improve the training:

I was thinking that it would be possible not only to show the tools/methods but also some advices and suggestions from projects that are already using them. It was merely informative but not giving a lot of added value. I missed something more concrete with concrete examples

The opening session of Day 0, which was run by me, was aimed not only at providing an introduction to knowledge sharing as well as the logistics of the day, but also for giving people a framework to think about how to choose the right tools to match their particular work, goals and stakeholders.

Usefulness of opening session - Click to enlarge

We therefore wanted to hear from the participants how useful this session and its parts were to them. The results are shown in the graph, and some of the comments provided included:

The session was useful for success of the organisation or project, achevement can be obtained where stakeholders collaborate, create and communicate.The different approaches need to be selected to suit targeted groups environment

The session was helpful in planning for the week’s sessions and in relation to the work I do. All future share fairs should have the same session at the start.”

It was good session to realize that all tools though can be used , they cannot be effective. so helps to assess using the tool before actually using it in practice as threre are a number of tools that can seem to meet the purpose

It was relevant and quite important that we started with this session. Some of us were not sure of the appropriate tools/methods that we needed to explore. This thus helped us align us right to the appropriate session.”

But again–some good advice about having some concrete cases came from a few participants’ feedback:

I think we need more experiences of approaches that are working. Many participants discussed what they are doing but I was not satisfied with some platforms or approaches because the majority did not have proof of validity.

The session was quite approriate for my work in the programme Coordination Unit. I would have liked the session to be allocated more time and to include case studies where the tools have been selected and used successfully.”

Two training blocks of two hours made up the bulk of the program and included 8 paralell training sessions to choose from. While the graphs below show the results from the survey, we had up to 155 people signed up for sessions both in the morning and the afternoon. What these graphs can show us is which types of tools may have been more popular? more in demand? or?

Attendance of morning sessions - Click to enlarge
Attendance of afternoon sessions - Click to enlarge

And what did people have to say about any of these sessions? Here is a sample:

  • About the Google Geo tools training: “It was very good. Consolidated my understanding of google earth and introduced me to the unknown world of google fusion
  • On the Blogging session: “It helped me improve the structure and linking up of my blog.”
  • From the Face to face methods session: ” Informative and practical.! Some particpatory approaches to collecting feedback, monitoring projects that I can use in my working environment
  • Learning Video techniques: “The session was extremely useful. I learnt how to take a video and also edit it. Previously, this was mind boggling to me but it all fell into place, to the realisation that I too can now do it!”
  • On attending the Mendeley training: “I learnt for the first time how IFPRI has been using Mendeley. I am planning to register and use it too. In addition, I will recommend this to the Programme Coordinator, my colleagues in the Programme Coordination Unit and programme implementers in 9 districts of Kenya.”
  • From the Radio session: “Useful. I got to learn about different radio program formats and how to use them especially to document the lessons/experiences of people at the grassroots. Also learnt from the trainers experiences in local radio and radio editing experiences. However, I felt the session did not have sufficient time to cover in greater detail the practical parts about radio use. Felt we dwelt too much on the theoretical elements that may not have allowed newbies to know how to record and edit radio programs etc
  • About ‘Making the most of the media‘: “Very useful! I got to know in how many ways we can use the media in different contexts, being some of them politically hostile environments.”
  • Learning about Collaborative writing: “It was new for me yet these are things I see on daily basis but ignore. Collaborative writing can be useful for collaborators and can save so much time

Again a number of people commented that the training needed to be given more time, be even more interactive, and focus more on hands-on and practical learning, less lecturing style. Good lessons for us for the future!

One thing I was really interested in was what people might do, will do or are already doing with the new skills, tools and experiences in their work. And the results were interesting …here is a selection:

  • For collaborative proposal development
  • “To monitor activities I am coordinating in the field and collect basic indicators
  • Mapping water and sanitation facilities in Ghana
  • “To document our project activities. I am discarding the email approach to editing
  • Already pitching to my colleagues how to use google fusiontables to handle map/earth visualization of our content… they love the idea!”
  • Search for and share research work and publications, generate citations, etc
  • Hope to sell the idea to Markets Theme scientists to use Google Docs for their draft reports, proposals etc. that involve several authors. This will make my editing/proofreading work easier as it will be much more efficient to coordinate these tasks instead of trying to track multiple versions of different Word documents as is the case now.”
Closing session - Click to enlarge

To pull all of the ideas, opportunities and training together towards the broader goal of making your content travel, a closing session was convened by Peter Casier. This session was large, had a wide set of objectives and ended up running out of time–so we wanted to find out which components were important and successful for people.

An additional comment…

The session was important and learnt various tools and methods to use in making content travel. There are several tools used and I did not know many of these. I will be able to select relevant ones to my own situation.”

But to really hear from people what they felt they learnt from Day 0 I asked people to finish the sentence- “oh now I know how to…”

Oh now I know how to blog perfectly and share my blog on twitter and facebook

“Oh now I know how to collaborate and share effectively to selected audiences using appropriate methods and tools to sections of the wider community”

“Oh now I know how to share knowledge face to face, Academic social networking using Mendeley and others and use them and share them.”

“Oh now I know how to choose and apply the right tool to make my contents travel”

The second to last question of the survey, explored whether participants had used any of the tools they learnt during the Share Fair or just after. Quite a few people said they had started blogs, were using Twitter, and were planning to make use of some of the f2f methods in upcoming meetings and events.

Yes, I did. I posted a blog on my site on the share fair opening session. www.simpleafrica.blogspot.com

The final part of the survey invited people to give any suggestions or further feedback that they wanted. Some interesting suggestions included:

Very useful day! However, these methods and approaches should be documented and when possible transformed into didactic materials that can be widely distributed

You should touch upon the issue of poor connectivity and ask around what solutions people have found.”

Finally I would like to share some final comments from participants that, in my mind, really reflect the importance of an opportunity like the Day 0-learning and training- as part of a Share Fair (or other events) to the participants. To encourage people to share knowledge, collaborate more and improve their conversations-it is all about changing the way we all work, so essentially to change behaviour- we therefore need to not just talk about it, but to learn how to act which means empowering people with real skills and experiences to take forward in their work.

I have learnt alot , where else would I have learnt all this if not at the Ag knowledge share fair event


I did not know I was coming to learn so much”

Photo credits: Dominik Gwarek at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/866529