1st Quarter 2009

ICT-KM supports events and conferences

"ShareFair around the Corner"
The ICT-KM Program of the CGIAR, Bioversity International, FAO, IFAD and WFP are jointly organizing a three-day event entitled Knowledge Share Fair for Agricultural Development and Food Security to be held at FAO Headquarters on 20 - 22 January 2009.

ShareFair is divided into eight KS themes that participants can explore, from "K for influence and advocacy" to "K for me", and includes approximately 20 presentations on KS techniques and methods from CGIAR staff. The keynote speaker for the KS Fair is Geoff Parcell, co-author of "Learning to Fly" and considered by many to be the father of Knowledge Management.

Visit ShareFair to find out more! Or check the ICT-KM Program or ShareFair websites regularly to hear about what is going on from our reporters!

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CGMap: A New Revolution in Knowledge Management and Sharing

How can you find out What Centers are conducting research on chickpea in Central Asia? And what if you’re interested in knowing what research can contribute to genetic enhancement of selected species?

Until recently, to find the answer to those questions, you would probably have had to wade through hundreds of pages of research plans in the CGIAR Centers … quite a time consuming and tedious task. But with the launch of CGMap, such chores have become a thing of the past.

CGMap, a System-wide, web-based application that consolidates data from across the CGIAR Centers and makes it available via an easy-to-use interface, was developed to make your life easier. The system was recently showcased at the CGIAR Annual General Meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, where it was enthusiastically received by Centers and System units.

Developed in collaboration with the ICT-KM Program, IRRI and CIAT, and in consultation with the Alliance of CGIAR Centers, the CGIAR Secretariat and the Science Council, CGMap provides a “map” that allows easy navigation through information on research and research-related activities that the CGIAR Centers and Challenge Programs publish in their Medium Term Plans (MTPs) every year. Spanning over a three-year period, MTPs describe the research agenda of each Center and Program in relation to CGIAR System priorities.

A Brief History

CGMap was launched online last November and was the culmination of a joint effort that spanned the CGIAR and involved staff from across many disciplines. The following are a few testimonials from CGIAR staff who were involved with the system at different stages.

Liz Kariuki, Acting Head of Contracts and Grants, DDG's Office at ICRAF:
"CGMap represents a new revolution in knowledge management and sharing within the CGIAR system. The system started with the roll out of EasyMTP, which was piloted in 2008. The system was used to submit Center MTPs to the CGIAR Secretariat and Science Council. Initially, there were challenges due to the learning curve involving installation of EasyMTP, getting training and then training other users within our Center on its use. However, this stage was overcome through continuous discussions with the CGMap Support Team to address the various issues that arose.

"Once the data from EasyMTP was uploaded into the CGMap system and shared online, all pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place and the whole concept became clear. This system has taken knowledge sharing in the CGIAR to a whole new level. Through the search functionality, individuals, Centers, donors and other stakeholders can generate various types of reports. Special reports which cannot be produced on the user interface can be done by the CGMap Support Team on request. For example, the CGMap Support Team has assisted ICRAF in generating reports in a very short time which would otherwise in the past have taken several days to produce."

Fiona Chandler, Scientific Liaison Officer, Alliance of CGIAR Centers, shares a similar experience:
"At the beginning of 2008, I was involved with the ICT-KM Program in assisting the development and testing of EasyMTP. At first, I wasn’t aware of how powerful CGMap was going to be. My initial thoughts were that it was just going to be a collection of all the information contained in the MTPs. It wasn’t until I joined the Alliance Office of the CGIAR Centers in July last year and wanted to look a little more critically and a little more analytically at some of the work being done as described in the MTPs that I started to realize the potential of the application. After using CGMap as an analysis tool, I discovered that it is the classic example of a 'whole that is greater than the sum of its parts."

Looking Ahead
Looking ahead, CGMap has an infrastructure and a process for the collection of information that are both flexible enough to be molded into any new project planning tool that the renewed CGIAR will adopt. As Antonella Pastore, the CGMap Project Coordinator, says, “The engine is in place and works fine. Since CGMap’s definitions and information structures can be easily adapted, the application has the maximum potential to support the planning process of the Centers as the CGIAR becomes a more centralized organization."

Liz Kariuki: "CGMap will have a great impact on the CGIAR System and evolve into a very powerful knowledge management tool. It is from this information that Centers, donors and stakeholders will be able to identify areas of comparative advantage thus leading to coordinated fundraising efforts and collaborations and ultimately minimizing competition for scarce resources. This will create synergy within the System and lead to greater impact in Centers global mandates. The System is growing as plans are underway to interface the Performance Measurement System and CGMap."

Fiona Chandler: "CGMap helps us capture and interrogate information that all of us can access; information that will help us in our own different tasks developing the Consortium, the Strategy and Results Framework and the Mega-programs. Tools like CGMap will help us be more analytical in making choices and in prioritizing. As the CGIAR moves forward in terms of new research directions, such an application has the potential to highlight gaps in research, the people involved in research, and the defined outcomes of research. The way CGMap is set up, and I think it lends itself to further tweaking and adaptation, the structure is basically there that can enable a lot more analysis and synthesis; something we didn’t have that ability to do at such a scale and with this level of efficiency before.

"I suspect CGMap may be a different CGMap in the future, and that’s the beauty of the system. The CGMap team are extremely tuned into listening to what the users need. It will adapt itself so as to give the users (both Centers and partners, and possibly the donors) what they will need to be able to do their business. In short, it will morph into what it will need to be and what we need it to be for us."

Another CGIAR staffer working closely with the application had this to say: "CGMap can be a powerful management tool that allows monitoring of planned objectives against achievement. Once all the related databases are suitably linked, it could become a repository of information from the planned output targets to achievement of output targets; financial information that provides a good sense of where resources are dedicated to and how much is coming from what source. CGMap is a tool to collate all CGIAR achievements that the whole System can refer to when showcasing our accomplishments and relevance, and a good reference for future partners who are developing a strategic research program."

Of Mash-ups and Maps
While CGMap is an important tool in support of CGIAR research management, the system has the potential to improve the visibility and accessibility of the CGIAR’s work. Relying on the methodology, expertise and core information accumulated so far, the CGMap team is currently working on creating mash-up prototypes to demonstrate that structured information and new web technologies can actually add value to the already valuable CGIAR research information.

A mash-up is a web page or application that combines several elements from different sources into a single application. An excellent example of a mash-up is the Projects by Country maps in CGMap, which rely on Google technology and CGIAR data. Also Search CGIAR (the custom search engine in CGMap) relies on Google search technology and delivers results from a selected pool of CGIAR information sources.

This approach, which allows information systems to be built in a fraction of the time normally taken using more traditional methods, relies on solid technology, and gives visibility to the important information generated by CGIAR scientists.

Another example of how CGMap can create information systems based on the concept of the mash-up can be found in a soon to be released map that has been created for the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Plan. When finalized, this map will show the activities in the field that the different Centers are carrying out in this region and is further proof of the flexibility and application of the CGMap standards and tools to give visibility to the CGIAR work in specific areas.

Visit the CGMap site to discover the useful functionalities that are available. You can identify projects and view fact sheets with scientific and financial information; search for outputs and output targets in project logframes; and map projects by countries where research is planned, and by potential beneficiary countries.

Finding your way around is as easy as … well, following a map.


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