Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Our knowledge sharing philosophy in action at ICRISAT

“The spread of the web invites us to look at the future from a different vantage point, to see that what we share is at least as important as what we own; what we hold in common is as important as what we keep for ourselves; what we choose to give away may matter more than what we charge for. In the economy of things you are identified by what you own: your land, house, car. In the economy of ideas that the web is creating, you are what you share: who you are linked to, who you network with and which ideas, pictures, videos, links, comments you share. The biggest change the web will have on us is to allow us to share with one another in new ways and particularly to share ideas. That matters because the more ideas are shared the more they breed, mutate and multiply, and that process is the ultimate source of our creativity, innovation and well being.”

So reads the beginning of the first chapter of “We think” by Charlie Leadbeater.

“Hey, just a minute!” some of you might be saying right about now. “Didn’t you use that same opening for a blog post way back in 2008?”

And yes, I did.

Not only have I used it before, but I keep coming back to it again and again. You see, the principles that Leadbeater talks about in his book still hold true today, and still reflect the philosophy that the ICT-KM Program embraces and extols. I firmly believe that the way ahead for all of us involved in agricultural research for development lies in the effective sharing of knowledge, data and information.

During the recent ‘Annual Research Meeting’ of the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) held in Hyderabad, India, it was heartening to see that many of the principles of knowledge sharing have made an indelible mark on the way staff communicate and work.

Here are some of the ways in which those principles are being applied at the Center:

Researchers can and do undertake knowledge sharing

Much of the interest in and passion for knowledge sharing activities, tools and methods comes from the researchers themselves. Knowledge sharing is being undertaken by individual projects and not just on the institutional level.

Knowledge sharing can and should happen throughout the whole research cycle

Both research projects and the institute itself are looking for ways to better engage with and continue interacting with their stakeholders as research ideas are developed, planned and undertaken. There was a lot of discussion on the merit and functions of tools and methods that would better facilitate collaboration with stakeholders, either face-to-face or by using virtual tools.

Communicating our research requires a new mindset and toolset

ICRISAT scientists and other personnel are starting to show a new attitude towards communicating research by using social media and have a strategy in place to support this. They also realize the merit of communicating with and learning from photos (using Flickr) and videos (YouTube).

ICRISAT's website with social media tools highlighted. Click to enlarge.

We need to make use of and link up traditional and non-traditional tools to really make our agricultural knowledge travel

We need to creative about our choice of tools and how we combine them to extend our reach and increase the visibility of our products and information. ICRISAT is branching out from its usual mechanisms and making use of Twitter and Facebook to reach a different, and potentially wider, target group.

Three vital steps for sharing knowledge entail making it available, accessible and applicable

It was widely agreed that we need to showcase the data, information and knowledge that is available — or will become available. Then, as much as possible, we need to help people to get their hands on it. Finally, it is important that we consider how people can access and make use of data, information and knowledge bearing in mind the different formats in which these resources are shared.

ICRISAT is just one of the many organizations that are now embracing the power of the Internet and social media to help them share their knowledge and ideas with others. If you need more information about the tools used by the Center, please drop us a line in the box below.

Photo credits: Nadia Manning-Thomas