Enrica Porcari

Chief Information Officer (CIO)
ICT-KM Program Leader

Enrica Porcari
Enrica Porcari

When the CGIAR’s first Chief Information Officer moved into her new office at The WorldFish Center in Penang, Malaysia, she felt an acute sense of isolation. Twelve time zones away from the USA and South America, the CGIAR newcomer felt cut off from the System that employed her. Far removed from her native Italy, temporarily computerless and with no colleagues at her host Center, she knew getting through the first week would probably be a challenge.

Now, anyone who knows Enrica Porcari will know she is not the sort of person to sit behind an empty desk and wait for things to happen. With five years’ experience handling emergencies at the World Food Programme (WFP) and fresh from a Reuters-sponsored fellowship at Stanford University, she knew that if she wanted to get things done, she would need to get the help and support of as many people in the System as possible.

To her credit, just two months later, at the CGIAR’s 2002 Annual General Meeting in the Philippines, Enrica gave a presentation on how to position IT and Knowledge Management (KM) in the CGIAR. Her outline, which was strongly supported by her supervisor at that time, Frank Rijsberman, and enthusiastically accepted by the Directors General, would eventually evolve into the present ICT-KM Program

Back in Penang, Enrica looked at the newly-accepted skeleton Program and wondered how she was going to flesh out the bones.

“At that time, I had two options,” she says. “I could sit in my office and try to make things up or I could go out and ask people what they thought. So I created an advisory group and asked people from the various communities to nominate someone willing to participate in the creation of the Program.”

Subsequently, an online consultation with the various nominees was held at the beginning of 2003 culminating in a face-to-face meeting in May of the same year.

In between waiting for people to answer their mail, this dynamic woman kept herself busy building the credibility of the Program. For example, she began identifying System-wide savings opportunities. “Working together has its advantages” she repeats often.

Indeed, new negotiations for Microsoft products resulted in more than a million dollars in savings. And the number of contracts negotiated under the Program continues to grow.

Of course, there was much more to the Program than negotiating contracts here and there.

As she explains, “While all of this was going on, I took the time to create a strategy that everyone would be comfortable with. Finally, the Investment Plan was presented to the CGIAR senior management in May 2003.”

Fast forward six years, and Enrica Porcari can be found back in her native Italy, where she carries out the Program’s mission at Bioversity International, just 30km away from her hometown of Tivoli. All of the projects under her first investment plan have long since come to fruition, with some exceptional outputs: from the CGIAR Virtual Library, to the success of communities such as the Consortium on Spatial Information, to improved access to our research through CGMap, to the success of our knowledge sharing efforts, to name a few.

Despite the achievements of subsequent initiatives, Enrica is quick to point out that the process, not just the output, deserves to be highlighted, too.

“People are actually talking to each other and working more collaboratively. For example, knowledge sharing in the System has taken off in a huge way. We planted little seed with our initial Knowledge Sharing Project, and we’re now beginning to reap the rewards. People are starting to become aware and supportive of the values we’re trying to promote. And they’re embracing them and running with them, which is the whole point of everything we’ve been trying to do. That’s the part I’m most proud of. Attitudes are certainly changing and that’s what’s going to be long-lasting.”

Before joining the CGIAR, Enrica, who holds an advanced degree in Social Sciences from the University of Milan, Italy, was Chief of ICT Field Services at the WFP. It was while she was there that she was awarded her fellowship at Stanford University to develop a project to effectively transition IT installations from emergency to development. Prior to this position, this versatile woman worked with CGNET, the same company that provides the CGIAR with networking services.

Although Enrica’s various responsibilities with the Program have her constantly on the go, she strives hard to balance her career and family life. Her fast-paced days always include quality time with her two children: Julia (12) and William (10). Of course, no one ever does anything completely on their own, and she gives credit to her husband, Stuart, for sharing family responsibilities while maintaining his own career at FAO Headquarters in Rome.

Even after six years leading the Program, Enrica still finds it difficult to sit behind a desk for too long. She burns off her boundless energy with plenty of sports. And even when she’s on holiday, she likes to incorporate a sporting activity like snow skiing or scuba diving into the day’s schedule. Not content with that, she recently took up sailing lessons culminating in a professional exam , and is now a fully fledged Captain.

Seems as if she can’t get away from being at a helm, not even in her spare time.