The sixth get-together of the group took place on 5 April 2013 at the ILRI info centre and brought together 17 participants from nine different organisations.
Five new participants attended this meeting. The agenda included: a) A presentation about KM in the IPMS/LIVES projects, an update about the African KM4Dev Community Week, and c) a focused conversation about communities of practice in development work.
The peer-assist on keeping the Ethiopian Agriculture Portal up-to-date did not happen this time but will be rescheduled for the next gathering.
Notes of the meeting hereby:
A) Presentation of KM at IPMS/LIVES
IPMS is the project on ‘Improving productivity and market success’ for Ethiopian smallholders while LIVES is the project on ‘Livestock and Irrigated Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders’.
Fanos Mekonnen gave the presentation and hosted the Q&A session.
Presentation here: IPMS experiences with KM
- Q: I have visited the knowledge centre staff. This is really good work in the past 7 years and it should be strengthened, to increase the sustainability of KM for development. Expected end users of research in those centres are woreda experts etc. who are planning/implementing activities. What is your strategy to make things sustainable?
- A: In terms of making it sustainable, from the beginning we have tried to connect with bureaus of Agriculture (BoAs, who provide physical space for the centres). In the LIVES project, we are also working on strengthening knowledge centres. There were some videos produced, and all relevant documentation from that area goes back to the knowledge centre concerned.
- Q: Knowledge is critical for Ethiopia. The institutionalisation of such an approach is essential. If BoAs etc. are included in the plans for institutionalisation, there is an opportunity to take this approach down to kebeles. Farmer training centres (FTCs) should be treated as knowledge centres too. Farmers are coming there to see posters etc. so it’d be great to push this down to communities.
- A: IPMS supported also FTCs with TV, DVD players, posters and manuals and those places were used but IPMS has limited money to spare in small areas. It remains difficult to scale it up.
- Q: Were you able to measure the amount of people coming to centres and the top 3 uses of the centres? These centres often end up being used differently to what we expect originally.
- A: People came a lot to use PCs and then saw other uses. It differed from centre to centre due to leadership and staff we use e.g. Alaba centre was a very famous centre with many seminars, publications and videos etc. which had a lot of content.
- Q: We have read a lot about libraries etc. but not heard much about IPMS examples etc. Maybe IPMS has done some impact assessment about what change it has brought to knowledge workers at grassroots level or to farmers. The sense of ownership matters a lot. Do they think that this was useful for them? What is the perception of people?
- A: In some cases, the knowledge centre is hosted in the library and people are then happy. In Meso (East), people are not used to spending so much time in libraries and that centre was more idle. People still said it was useful. There was positive impact, with new ideas to share knowledge. These knowledge centers are very crucial in bridging the gap between the research and the actual implementation areas as they will be used as a platform where knowledge from the research is transferred through different mediums. Projects are actually interested and in favor of sharing their knowledge through knowledge centers. The AGP had it in its to set up knowledge centers in the Peasant associations (sub-districts), programs like the Ethiopian Strategic Support Program (ESSP), Ethiopian Sheep and Goat Productivity Improvement (ESGPIP), ILRI,… and other have shown interest in the IPMS knowledge centers, they have sent their publications, posters, videos to these centers. So I think that it’s an excellent initiative and it could develop further.
- Q: Have you brought this initiative to pastoral areas?
- A: Meso is a semi-pastoral area.
- Q: Knowledge management in development in Ethiopia: What is your thought about where this will go? There isn’t much coordination among projects.
- A: (We didn't address this question)
B) Update on the African KM4Dev community week
Elias Damtew gave a brief summary of what happened the week before as part of the African KM4Dev Community week:
27 volunteers from 10 countries were involved in the African KM4Dev Community Week. People paired up (they ‘buddied up’) to share their perspectives and experiences and discuss around some specific topics. The last 20 days have been about initiating discussions etc. People started those buddying discussions by themselves.
Last week Thursday we organised a main event: a 3-hour synchronous event (hosted on the Elluminate / BlackBoard Collaborate platform). 15 people across 10 countries came together. It was a nice experience and experiment. We exchanged ideas around topics such as ‘how to make KM4Dev a more useful community to all its members across Africa?’ and specific issues such as day-to-day KM challenges, the possibility of organising other events like this, how to deal with access to tools etc. Different options, insights, suggestions etc. were made and we want to go beyond this event.
The Community Week has initiated a process to build upon and to get more/better integration across Africa. This has been shared (or is in the process of being documented) on the same KM4Dev wiki page.
Q: The daily challenges for KM in Africa – are they the same as ours?
A: Connectivity, illiteracy, voluntary participation, commitment from people (called up in their regular duty), the issue of translating knowledge etc. All ideas are being shared and will end up in online repositories.
C) Focused conversation: Communities of practice (CoPs)
See presentation: Communities of practice for development
Hermella Ayalew gave the presentation and hosted the Q&A session.
Communities of practice are group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly; they are about social mobilization for program development and can exist online or offline anywhere.
The presentation finished with a couple of questions from the presenter to all: What CoPs for Dev do you know of? What examples have you seen as helpful behaviours to share knowledge more rapidly?
- Q: Is an Innovation Platform a CoP? In the WASH sector, we worked with these platforms and with different members, some who can implement etc. they have complementary knowledge and skillset. Members try and learn with one another. We do research, try to source evidence around the issues we have identified as important. Then at national level we have policy-makers etc. Is this a CoP?
- A: Yes, it seems like it (in fact, it may not be, because a CoP brings together peers who are united by their practice, whereas an innovation platform or similar multi-stakeholder platforms bring together very diverse people who are united by the common agenda that they have to work together on, as opposed to a common (set of) practice(s)).
- Q: The WASH national platform mentioned above tried to bring the learning from the ground at national level but there were challenges because we were the ones initiating this and other stakeholders complained about our platform competing with other platforms. It might be useful to work with fewer platforms. Some people are inactive in a platform but active in others.
- A: The focus of your CoP is very important – you need to identify it clearly. It doesn’t make sense to identify only a similar objective. You need to collaborate on something that really mobilises people. There might be personal issues e.g. someone wanting to hijack the process.
- There are no clear lines that differentiate CoPs but generally CoPs are bringing a similar practice, as opposed to a shared goal. The importance of finding a distinction between networks is valid. In South East Asia, 20 different practitioner groups are working on similar issues around climate change and some of them don’t have a critical mass of participants. It’s difficult to get a critical mass around your topic and only the strong will survive. People have only so much possible attention to check the CoPs or ‘affinity networks’ they are involved in. So they prioritise activities in some of these.
- Q: How do you get incentives for people to share?
- A: Through F2F activities and building trust.
- Q: When you do research in the field, you come up with sensitive issues but the way you share that info is very sensitive, even after agreeing with officials in workshops etc.?
- A: This might be a very good peer assist case
- Q: What is the best platform you’d suggest for policy makers, researchers, communities and how to bridge these?
- A: At community level, e.g. using credit systems etc. helps. There are some initiatives going on to around maternal issues etc. One of the issues at that level could be the problem of facilitation skills for extension workers etc. We often see some facilitation skill gaps in this respect. At any rate, best is to engage community people in face to face activities with, use civil society organisations that they know of and feel familiar with. Donors and governments are pushing for cooperation and knowledge-sharing mechanisms across countries e.g. about agri-business, informing policy-makers so it might become easier to connect all actors across platforms.
- Comment: We launched a CoP focusing on how to inform policy makers to get the right policies implemented. We wanted to focus on serving policy-makers and decision-makers to offer them the best knowledge products. That was more important from our UN perspective. We organised national launch events for the CoP. This got people engaged because they know that whatever they say will be taken seriously.
- Q: Do you favour formal CoPs with direct influence or informal ones…? How do we link with communities?
- A: About formal/informal, the distinction is not so relevant but the focus and commitment is really important. Who are really the main players in the challenge or solution? If you are dealing with a grassroots community issue, what are related issues (language etc.)?
- Comment: The CARE approach to CoPs in Ethiopia has been happening face-to-face around coffee, whereby we are talking about different issues (malnutrition, WASH etc.) and someone documents this and informs activities. These ‘Kebele development committees’ we have set up are useful but the Government is using an approach called ‘Development Army’ and they are deterring people from going to the kebele development committee in favour of the Development army. We’re looking at how we can cooperate with the Government’s efforts as they are taking this issue seriously.
- Comment: The in-person activities and events are the most useful ones for communities ofo practice to thrive. Information technology (IT) and online channels do help but the reality is face to face (f2f) contact. That’s of most value. Communities that don’t have possibilities to come together (across countries etc.) can use IT but even then if they benefit from f2f.
- Comment: Purpose matters! Everyone should benefit from the activities in the CoP. Most active contributers can be also praised for their behaviour to incentivise their inputs but most importantly people should come because they’re interested. It’s the responsibility of the facilitator/core group to make sure there’s a take-away for everyone.
- Q: We usually concentrate on thematic CoPs etc. but more and more people are realising that there are multi-dimensional agendas. How do you develop multi-sectoral CoPs?
- A: There is a danger of becoming everything to everyone (hence nothing to no one). However, within a broad interest forum you can use sub-groups to focus on specific issues.
This conversation can continue online on the KM4Dev Ethiopia Facebook group.
Reflections and closure
The marketplace of ideas deserves more time and attention, more structure perhaps in order to work.
The next gathering will happen on Friday 28 June at the ILRI info centre, from 2 to 5pm, with a longer marketplace. It will likely feature:
- A marketplace of 40 min where anyone can share any kind of update, event, document, idea etc. with one another - as a great way to get to know each other too. Please bring materials, PCs, CD-Roms etc. anything you need for a demonstration.
- A peer assist case from LIVES (Fanos) about getting updated content on the Ethiopian Agriculture Portal. And an update from Addis Tigabu about his peer assist case and what worked out or not.
- KM at… ILRI (Ewen/Tsehay/Peter)
- A focused conversation on 'impact assessment of KM' (Hermella).
- A peer assist case about joining up community of practice members from community, NGO, research and policy makers together (Amal).