The fourth get-together of the group took place on 21 September at the ILRI info centre and brought together 21 participants from nine different organisations. Three new members attended this meeting. 

The gathering started with an introduction of the participants and a presentation about the network including the agenda of the get-together to start with who we are and what we do.

This was a special gathering as - for two of the three sessions organised - it offered participants the choice between two different topics for discussion. 

In the first of these sessions, participants could choose between a peer assist on setting up an information system about climate change adaptation and a tool awareness-raising session about blogs.

Minutes hereby:

A1) Peer assist on setting up an information system on climate change adaptation

A peer assist is a structured social learning/support system where one person introduces a problem case and picks the brain of a group to find more solutions to go forward with their problem. More information about what peer assists are, how and one specific experience of virtual peer assists here. In this peer assist, Mintesnot Kasa presented his case.

Background

The Africa Adaptation Program (AAP), UNICEF, WFP ,UNDP are working  to enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable countries, promote early adaptation action and laying the foundations for long-term investment to increase resilience to climate change across the African continent.

One of the actions proposed (in Ethiopia to achieve this) is to establish an effective national/ sectoral knowledge management system at EPA (Environmental) protection authority   which facilitate the documentation and sharing of up-to-date climate change and adaptation information and knowledge

 So far:

  • New KM platform  is being developed for EPA with many functionalities
  • Best practices from EPA’s projects on climate adaptation  are being documented 
  • Knowledge Management and communication strategy is being developed

The issue:

Given that many such efforts have failed in the past: HOW CAN SUSTAINABILITY BE ENSURED AFTER THE HANDOVER OF THE SYSTEM TO EPA ?

  • What should be done or not done  to make the system a success ?
  • What problem can we anticpate?
  • What are the issues in the management of the platform?
  • What should our strategy include?

Clarification questions:

Q: Rationale of the project –what is the need and what are you trying to answer with this system?

A: The idea is to use the KM system to capture adaptation knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, to be able to share it. This is a new way to address adaptation.

Q: Activities? 3 activities and 3 groups working on it (1 of them is the group setting up KM platform). What was the reason why the system didn’t work?

A: It was not interactive because people couldn’t comment. We included many features that enable people to comment, chat.

Q: The group collecting best practices: are there tools/methods to collect these?

A: We hired people to document knowledge by video and text etc. best practices. This continues but sustainability is the problem.

Q: Developing KM strategy – how do these 3 groups interact?

A: There are people responsible for e.g. documentation (populating the platform)…

Q: What are the beneficiaries for this platform: general public or specialised group?

A: So far we developed the strategy but only started working on who we could develop this for e.g. people interested in adaptation issues, so it’s rather general public. We understand

Q: Have you made regular assessments with the system to assess the strategy etc. and adapt it to your needs?

A: We have done assessments on the previous strategy and existing systems etc. We have made a preliminary assessment, including for the EPA platform.

Q: The audience is not identified. How are you going to identify these audiences? Organizations interested in adaptation need to be identified etc.

A: We know the stakeholders in adaptation and that will be one of our targets in the future. This is early stage development.

Q: What is planned to link this with real farmers? They’re the ones that should take these best practices and apply them?

A: One of the features in the platform is to use different languages, not only English or Amharic. Our strategy should captures local knowledge by interviewing farmers to document their practices etc.

Q: Besides documentation, what are your plans to document other research findings? E.g. one adaptation research finding exists in RiPPLE?

A: We have already made a selection of best practices. We can’t document all of it but we identified 11 sets. This is one of the concerns we have about who will keep documenting this.

Q: Type of platforms you’re using? Are you using a permanent repository.

A: We prefer Joomla, a different system to what they were using. The developers indicated this.

Q: Can you find some information which you uploaded after 3 years – is everything in one place and can be found any time?

A: I’m not sure.

Q: Who are your stakeholders?

A: EPA stakeholders – those working with them so far.

Q: The strategy: what have you done so far and what specific activities have you undertaken?

A: We’re putting things together. We’re thinking about 3 components: the platform, the communication part and the capacity building part.

Q: Does the comms part include sharing experiences on a local platform e.g. a multi-stakeholder platform?

A: We will have have one platform for national.

 

Suggestions:

  • Hermella: CB should be highlighted to ensure sustainability afterwards. Focus on buy-in. From what you presented I get the feeling you didn’t involve users in your assessment, didn’t collect feedback – you might want to do this. Your strategy should answer the needs of the stakeholders. Your strategy should be specific and relate to the needs assessment, not as per what the owners think. Training, advertising etc. will be all important. Don’t: assume what people need (involve stakeholdres), limit accessibility, limit ownership (give the capacity for people to own the process and [parts of] the process). You need to clarify thoughts about your objectives, goals, stakeholders and where did the problems come from (answer it). DO: focus on mainly being clear (about your objectives, vision, handover).
  • Fanos: When you create the strategy, look at org structures, capacity of staff, activities going on etc. You might have the perfect system but if the capacities are not in place it will be challenging. Someone needs to be aware of this – make sure you already have someone working on the platform (a KM or comms specialist). You’re mainly focusing on an online platform but a lot of people don’t use this. Think about other means of KS, comms. Involve people beyond training etc. so they internalize activities.
  • Abeba: Don’t focus online only.
  • Seyoum: Adopt a participatory approach. The content should be clear for that audience. The owner of this project should clearly know the importance of this platform. Better have a support group e.g. social media group to share some news which can be posted on the network to reach a wider community.
  • Dawit: Sustainability issue depends very much on criteria for sustainability – develop an exit strategy so you can hand over.
  • Zelalem: Capcaity building should be done, it must be strengthened. Software components (staffing, right person on place) should be taken care of. Stakeholders are very important for buy-in etc. A launch workshop could be good to get their feedback and to know about their platform. + focus on offline platform – consider a local platform to document best practices. Have indicators to explain what to expect from that platform.
  • Abenet: Have a permanent space to keep all your documents etc. – once the project phases out the docs won’t be available. Give proper training to people that this will be handed over to.

Mintesnot's feedback on feedback given by participants:

Thank you very much

  • Some of the recommended work is already being done.
  • Capacity Building is very important – we have to have smart objectives about this.
  • We will not limit ourselves to online: we have that as part of the comms strategy. The exit strategy is a good idea.

FYI, I (Ewen) posted a blog item here about this case after originally discussing it with Mintesnot.

A2) Awareness-raising session on tools: Blogs

Tsehay Gashaw introduced this topic on the basis of a presentation.

What is blogging? People put their ideas or information on their blog, read your post, subscribe, and can exchange information. 

Blogging has many advantages:

  • It is not a one-way communication approach, it involves end users (collaboration)
  • You can influence people, attracts donors (partners)
  • The challenge is story writing, proper titling and tagging/categorization. Indeed tagging/categorization is very valuable, it helps search engines find your content
  • It is easily broadcasted all over the world
  • It is an excellent way of sharing information externally and internally
  • It enhances knowledge sharing between projects or organizations
  • It's a positive way of getting feedback and collaboration
  • They inform strategic thinking, to influence our audiences and have conversation with them (we have to see the targeted audience before start writing our Blog, whether it is to our colleagues, donors, or friends)

Blogs make good use of RSS feeds (a way of getting news from a website by subscribing to the the site's RSS feed, either by email or on an RSS feed reader e.g. Google Reader).

Blogs can be integrated with websites and other social media. Blogs brings traffic to your organization. You can integrate your blog(s) to your website.

 

Questions and answers

  • Q: Do we have to be online to access your blog?
  • A: Yes, you have to be online all the time if you use (http://wordpress.com
  • Q: What is the difference between website and blog?
  • A: Blog is an open content management systems (both admin and user can publish). Blogs usually tend to be more user-friendly. Websites are usually managed by a webmaster. For publicity, blogs are more popular than websites (because they have more regularly updated content they tend to be ranked higher on search engine pages)

In the next part of the gathering, everyone came back together to share insights from the past session and to hear updates about the ICT-KM project mapping initiative.

B1) Insights from the previous session

On the peer assist:

  • We need to include capacity building of the recipient organisation (here: EPA).
  • Important to clarify objectives of the KM strategy.
  • The exit strategy is important.
  • Focusing on online as well as offline interactions is crucial.
  • The peer assist itself was very useful to get new ideas and restate some priority activities.

 

On the blog session:

It was too short (to do some hands-on work). But the awareness-raising session covered:

  • Blogging is easy, lots of organisations are using blogs.
  • It helps keep content updated (because it's easy to use).
  • It stimulates two-way communication.
  • It's good for promotion and partnerships.
  • It's important to categorise blog posts when blogging.
  • There are various blog platforms that can be used (Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr etc.)
  • RSS feeds are great to get updates from blogs.
  • Blogs help influence, do public relation work and strategise.

B2) ICT-KM project mapping initiative

This initiative started in the second gathering and consists in mapping interesting projects (taking place in Ethiopia). In this gathering Ewen Le Borgne just introduced some basic ideas:

This project mapping has to be compelling and useful for us all so we cannot just keep a list on the Google doc, we need to analyse these projects. We think this project could actually be a great way to discuss a wide range of KM (or comms or ICT) issues and to structure various sessions during our get-togethers: We have this list of projects. It should keep on expanding (get wider) but we should also go deeper. So we propose to invite reps from the projects to briefly introduce them and highlight the main KM/ICT/Comms challenges and insights or lessons learned, so we can discuss around it. The discussion would likely bring some useful ideas for direct application in the project (a bit like a peer-assist but in a less structured manner) or general lessons that we could tease out and consolidate as short stories on a wiki, so that we progressively develop a narrative database of KM lessons and insights based on concrete and effective examples. 

The participants agreed with this - with the caution that bringing people from external projects should be planned properly. In terms of developing an infographic about this, Zerihun Sewunet agreed to explore this but he could do with support from anyone else.

The third session was again a parallel session with a choice between a discussion on 'how to engage farmers' and a presentation of KM at GIZ.

C1) Focused conversation: How to engage with farmers?

Elias Damtew introduced this conversation.

How to engage farmers? How do they perceive information we share/send?

As Comms practitioners we have to change our attitude or perspective towards farmers: 

  • We need to take into consideration farmer’s acceptance (do they know what we are talking about)
  • We need to realize that farmers are less likely to communicate (and we may have to find alternative ways to engage them)
  • There should be a legitimate communicator: The intervening agent should have credibility in the eyes of the farmers
  • Consequences of the intervention in the eyes of the farmers matter: they can be political, cultural, etc…

Challenges & solutions:

  • Credibility is important: You have to keep your promise, or have knowledge about what you present
  • The projects have to support each other but they have different comms strategies
  • There is an incentive issue
  • NGOs have no impact on national level
  • Language is a barrier
  • Quote from Zelalem: “Communication itself is a science”
  • We (comms people) have to come back with solutions not only give
  • The farmers have to know that they are contributing (to something meaningful)
  • After the solution has been applied, we have to know which tools or languages we are using to discriminate the solutions.

E.g. Digital Green uses a farmer to farmer practice AND NBDC N2, innovation platform (participatory video) are a good example of communicating with farmers. 

E.g. example from IPMS (Fanos):

  • Farmers have difficulty when it comes to texting, they need incentives/money
  • Amharic publications are used for DA’s but there are educated farmers around who can also use the publications.
  • Incentives are not a good idea for the farmers because they might only respond to the incentive and not participate.

C2) KM at... GIZ

Dawit Dagnew presented KM at GIZ via this presentation.

After the presentation, Dawit attended to a questions and answers session.

Q: What is the difference between DMS and knowledge base?

A: DMS is for enterprises. Our knowledge base is for our staff only.

Q: How do you make this available? Do you use social media tools to share what you produce?

A: There is a structure e.g. GIZ-ET is responsible for every doc about Ethiopia produced in DMS etc. There is an annual assessment of KM. Our Ethiopia staff is responsible for all these docs.

Q: Do you use blogs etc.?

A: We mainly use wikis but not blogs. Social media are managed by the head office in Germany.

Q: What’s the link between all the departments? What brings people working together?

A: PR, events etc. We regularly work together. E.g. PR and us work together to develop press releases.

Q: What are the links between comms and KM?

A: Audiences are different. In KM we have specific targets.

Q: What is the main challenge and what is the main success area?

A: I’m new at GIZ. I don’t see challenges. Development aspects are working well. Knowledge transfer and capacity building works well in interventions (e.g. University capacity building programme). The main challenge is the continuation of projects e.g. projects change. If the gov’t changes its policy, we need to adapt. So to deal with this, we negotiate with the government and with third parties. We always bring third parties to discussions with the goverment e.g. EPA, SNV etc. to move forward together.

Q: How many people work on KM or related fields?

A: I’m the only one in this but we have monthly KM contact person meetings (with 20 other KM focal points from GIZ projects and departments)

Q: How did you get trained in KM?

A: I got experience in ICT dev projects.

Q: How do you use social media?

A: There are comms, PR guidelines etc. We provide info to HQ and they feed social media with it. There are political issues that we need to deal with.

Q: How do you transfer knowledge to other beneficiaries etc. Any other mechanism? Are you using other languages? Amharic Oromiffa etc.?

A: We use Tigrigna, Oromigna and Amharic. We focus on working with beneficiaries or partners. Energypedia is also available for everyone. 


Reflections and closure

After the third session, participants again reflected on what they did in the previous session.

About farmers' engagement:

  • Farmers need different approaches to communication.
  • Most importantly they need to trust that we are credible and have the right to intervene --> our legitimacy is essential.
  • Building trust is also essential.
  • Acknowledging the farmers'  knowledge is also essential.

About the GIZ KM presentation:

  • GIZ 'do KM' extensively, in a lot of structured ways:
    • Internally with a view to improve performance and improve quality
    • Externally to involve partners and build GIZ and partners' capacity on e.g. research and more
  • The presentation begs the question: what is the difference between KM and comms?

Overall assessment of the gathering:

After that, we assessed the overall gathering and concluded that...

On the positive side:

  • We had lively group chats
  • The peer assist worked very well
  • The presentations were lively and of good quality

On the 'need to be improved' side:

  • We need more time (e.g. for peer assists we need to know how much time we have for the different parts of the session)
  • We didn't have hands-on and it would be great to organise a dedicated 'hands-on' tool session between two quarterly gatherings. Tsehay Gashaw will lead this initiative.
  • We could spend some time to introduce new tips and tools to one another. This could be addressed in a marketplace format (see ideas for next gathering below).\

The next gathering will happen on Friday 14 December 2012 - either at the ILRI campus or at the UNECA premises. Possible topics of discussion include:

  • A marketplace of 20 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.
  • A peer assist case from IFPRI (Addis Tigabu) about getting fellow researchers/colleagues to share knowledge.
  • A focused conversation on the relations between KM and communication.
  • Another focused conversation on 'communities of practice'
  • KM at... IPMS/LIVES (an ILRI project that has its specific staff and procedures so is almost like an organisation.)

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