Issue 26: May-June 2009
Knowledge Management: perspectives from headquarters
In this issue
In this issue
The first issue of ‘Making a difference in Asia and the Pacific’ launched in 2004 was the first tool for sharing the knowledge from IFAD-supported projects and programmes in the Asia and the Pacific region with our partners.
In the five years since then, we have come a long way. Knowledge management (KM) has taken rank alongside country programme management, financial management, and human resources management in terms of the importance assigned to it at IFAD.
In this issue of the newsletter, you will get a glimpse into the many ways we are working now to manage our knowledge in headquarters. The newsletter describes just some of what has been initiated lately by IFAD headquarters in KM under the four broad headings of the IFAD KM strategy framework: processes, partnerships, culture and infrastructure. The next newsletter to be realeased later in June will cover KM initiatives taken in the field.
Willem Bettink, Chairperson of the IFAD KM Community of Practice describes IFAD’s recent self-assessment of how we are doing in implementing the KM strategy. Chase Palmeri, KM Facilitator for the Asia and the Pacific Division outlines how we do ‘peer assists’ to learn from each other to improve supervision of projects and programmes.
Shalini Kala, Programme Coordinator of ‘Knowledge Networking for Rural Development in Asia/Pacific Region’ (ENRAP) tells us about the growing collaboration among IFAD regional networks that she experienced when partners from IFADAfrica and FIDAfrique invited her to share experiences at their meeting in Nairobi.
Enrica Porcari, Chief Information Officer at the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) contributes as a special guest, reminding us how much we gain from partners – even without financing agreements or Memoranda of Understanding.
In life, many aspire to be more cultured. In IFAD, some of our aspirations for a better, knowledge-oriented culture have played out in the efforts to inculcate knowledge-sharing behaviour in events and in writing. Chase Palmeri describes how this happened at the Annual Performance Review Workshop.
Roxanna Samii, Manager of web, knowledge and distribution services in IFAD fills us in about what is happening in terms of KM infrastructure (virtual, that is) with the Rural Poverty Portal. Lucie Lamoureux of KM4D Associates wraps up this issue with her tale of how and why the IFAD Social Reporting Blog was created for a regional event, and adopted thereafter by headquarters.
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IFAD conducts a self-assessment of its knowledge management
In April 2007, IFAD Executive Board approved IFAD’s Knowledge Management (KM) Strategy, whose ultimate goal is to enable IFAD to better deliver its mandate. The objective of the strategy is to improve knowledge sharing and learning both within IFAD and with its partners. After two years of implementation, the strategy has recently been evaluated through a KM self-assessment.
Representatives of India, Nepal and Philippines country teams brainstorming during the ‘mixed country groups’ session
To proactively support the implementation of the strategy, staff from across the organization and from IFAD's regional knowledge networks formed a KM Community of Practice (CoP) in March 2008. The CoP role is to act as KM mentors and champions, inspiring others to embrace knowledge-sharing principles and help IFAD become a more knowledge- and learning-based organization.
To assess the progress made in implementing the KM strategy, IFAD adapted the renowned KM self-assessment framework developed by Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell – authors of a book well-known among KM practitioners entitled ‘Learning to fly’. The KM self-assessment is a strategic planning and benchmarking tool that allows organizations to assess their KM maturity level based on a set of eight to ten competencies, including leadership behaviour, networks and communities, and capturing and re-applying knowledge.
The self-assessment resulted in a number of important findings. Among them:
- IFAD has made important strides and taken concrete action, albeit with some disparities across departments/divisions.
- The progress in implementing the KM strategy is not systematic across the organization. In some departments and divisions, the KM agenda has ‘leap-frogged’ while in others it lags behind. KM has yet to be embedded within the major business processes.
- KM is adding value; however, the organization needs to improve its ways of systematically capturing and reapplying knowledge.
- As role models, leaders and managers need to proactively remove obstacles and create an environment that is conducive to knowledge sharing, innovating and taking risks.
IFAD’s Knowledge Management Strategy
The Knowledge Management Strategy is one of the key deliverables of IFAD’s Action Plan for Improving Its Development Effectiveness, approved by the Executive Board in December 2005. Its aim is to provide IFAD with the framework and tools required for development effectiveness in a context of dramatic transformations that are changing the face of world agriculture and of rural poverty.
Changing realities on the ground mean that IFAD will need to become more agile, devise appropriate innovations and improve its systems and its institutional readiness for more continuous learning and sharing. It is by improving its learning from development practice that IFAD will increasingly become a knowledge-based organization.
The strategy has four strategic components:
- strengthening knowledge-sharing and learning processes
- being equipped with a more supportive knowledge-sharing and learning infrastructure
- fostering partnerships for broader knowledge sharing and learning
- promoting a supportive knowledge-sharing and learning culture.
These components provide an organizational basis for the presentation of a complex set of factors and planned measures.
Read more about IFAD’s Knowledge Management Strategy
There was consensus among the participants that "if knowledge management is not part of our business, then we will be out of business". The exercise highlighted that KM is not an ‘add-on’ and there is no tension between delivering the programme of work and the project pipeline and pursuing knowledge management. These processes complement and dovetail into each other and are, de facto, inextricably linked.
Finally, there was broad agreement that IFAD needs continuous leadership and direction to spearhead improvements in the various KM competencies. The assessment showed that there has been a clear change in attitude and behaviour towards KM, which has led to the embracing of KM values. For example, whereas there used to be a widespread attitude of “I have no time or resources for KM”, various divisions and in particular country programme managers are now delivering knowledge gained through their country programmes This change in culture lays the foundation for IFAD to become a true learning organization.
The overall progress made in 2008 has sparked commitment throughout the organization to take KM in IFAD to the next level of maturity. This will require consistent leadership from all managers and a systematic approach to embed KM practices in IFAD’s core processes, and in our daily work routines and behaviour.
Willem Bettink, Programme and Change Officer, IFAD
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Using peer assists for supervision, one KM process within another at IFAD
One KM process that the Asia and the Pacific Division has adopted is the ‘peer assist’. In January 2008 when the division took over direct supervision of some 41 projects formerly supervised by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), our knowledge of the brass tacks of supervision – especially procurement and financial management – was limited. It was clear that undertaking supervision would be a learning process and that we would have to get up to speed fast. Peer assists were one means for doing that.
The process of the peer assist is quite simple. A time was set aside every Friday for supervision peer assists. All Country Programme Managers (CPMs) who had returned from a supervision mission would submit their draft supervision report for a peer assist the first Friday following their return from mission. All staff would receive a copy of the draft supervision report, and those present in the office that week would attend the peer assist.
In the meeting, CPMs would describe what they had learned during the supervision and the challenges they were facing. Participants provided feedback and shared experiences on how they coped with similar challenges. Participants also gave feedback on the quality of the report and agreed on any changes needed. The CPM would then finalize the report and the ’management letter’ that would be sent with the report to the Borrower, highlighting the main findings and follow-up actions agreed upon during supervision in the field.
At the staff retreat in early 2009, the division reflected on its experiences with the peer assists. All agreed that the process was a good one and should be continued, but that there was room for improvement. Meetings were cancelled because the Division Director, who served as facilitator and record keeper, was away. As a result, reports accumulated and subsequent meetings would cover several cases. The meetings then became too long to be productive.
Some problems required peer assistance from people outside the division but they were not invited to the assist. And since the CPMs were required to go through peer assistance before finalizing and dispatching the management letter and report to the government, delayed meetings meant delays in sending reports.
Our first year experience with the peer assist as a KM process led us to make some changes. For 2009 we plan to improve it as follows:
- De-link the peer assist and the dispatch of the supervision report to the Borrower in order to make learning, not quality control, the main purpose of the peer assist, as well as to avoid delays in supervision feedback to the government.
- Share the facilitator function so as to keep the Friday meeting every week and prevent reports from accumulating.
- Invite the headquarters members of the country programme management team for the project from other divisions and the field, not just Asia and the Pacific.
This year and in 2008, we used the peer assist process to learn about the supervision process. Reflections on both processes have helped us improve the way we do supervision and the way we do peer assists. These processes have contributed to the division being more open to learning, sharing and applying new knowledge in our work.
Chase Palmeri, Knowledge Management Facilitator, IFAD
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Network of networks: Sharing knowledge to support poor rural people
Through its regional networks, IFAD has been promoting the sharing of its experiences in rural poverty reduction among projects and partners within Asia, Africa and Latin America. These networks have also led to experience sharing across the three continents. Network representatives have had the opportunity to learn from each other and exchange experiences and ideas. A recent example is the Launch Workshop of the Sub-Saharan Knowledge Management Network (IFADAFRICA) in Nairobi from 20-22 April 2009. Participants included the representatives of IFAD regional networks such as FIDAMERICA (Latin America and Caribbean), KariaNet (Middle East and North Africa) and ENRAP (Asia and the Pacific). Shalini Kala from ENRAP, who represented the Asia and the Pacific region at this event, shares her experience from Nairobi.
Shalini Kala, ENRAP Coordinator and German Escobar, Ex-Coordinator of FIDAMERICA
During the event, I shared the experience of the IFAD-supported Rural Poverty Reduction Programme in Mongolia and member of ENRAP, which formulated a communication strategy to disseminate its experiences of rural poverty reduction. Eight of the ten participating staff from IFAD-supported projects asked for the strategy document immediately. Other participants requested it via e-mail following the IFADAFRICA launch workshop.
Clearly, many IFAD-financed projects in Africa working to improve the lives of poor rural people are seeking to find ways to effectively share their experiences with others. From my experience in Asia, the same holds true.
Given the diversity of geographical areas that IFAD works in, it always surprises me how much there is for projects to learn from each other across different regions in their effort to support poor rural people. Since 2003, ENRAP has had the privilege of associating with other IFAD networks – FIDAMERICA, FIDAfrique, KariaNet and now IFADAFRICA – learning and sharing experiences through formal and informal events and via e-mail.
IFADAFRICA, the most recent network initiative of IFAD, represents the expansion into Eastern and Southern Africa of an existing IFAD-supported network in West and Central Africa, FIDAfrique. The launch workshop of IFADAFRICA brought together over 100 representatives of IFAD-supported projects and partners (both government and non-government) in Africa. The objective was to plan for a rich and dynamic knowledge exchange of IFAD’s experiences in the continent towards efficient and effective rural poverty reduction.
The focus was on:
- building the capacity of participants in knowledge sharing and knowledge management
- harvesting the knowledge generated through project experiences
- transmitting lessons for scaling up through policy dialogue.
At the workshop ENRAP shared experiences of IFAD-supported projects in Asia relating to knowledge sharing, knowledge management, capacity building and network management in support of rural poverty projects. Participants were particularly interested in ENRAP’s experience with systematization.
Systematization is a self-evaluative and participatory technique of documenting project field experiences. It is widely used by FIDAMERICA among IFAD-supported projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Through systematization, projects and partners assess project interventions for poverty reduction, dialoguing with communities, reflecting on accumulated experience in improving project implementation, and sharing lessons with others. ENRAP has supported the application of this technique in IFAD-supported projects in Asia (see link below for more information).
Participants were also interested in ENRAP’s experiences in documentation and dissemination of project experiences such as the formation of IFAD country focal points into the Knowledge Facilitators’ Group as the key vehicle for national and regional sharing. They also expressed interest in lessons from network building for knowledge sharing. ENRAP promised to support its African friends in sharing experiences in the future.
The launch was also an opportunity for me to bring back learning to IFAD-supported projects in Asia, particularly experiences from two IFAD-funded programmes:
- Strengthening Managing for Impact (SMIP), which specializes in linking monitoring and evaluation and knowledge management systems in rural poverty reduction projects – a subject of continuing interest to ENRAP members
- PROCASUR’s Learning Routes, which is a methodology for learning and innovating from local talent and their experiences to improve rural lives.
I also met old friends – Coumba Fall, Coordinator of FIDAfrique and German Escobar, Ex-Coordinator of FIDAMERICA. We were able to catch up on our new experiences and explore opportunities to remain connected. German has been a great promoter of South-South cooperation, a network of IFAD networks to systematically and regularly share experiences on learning and managing knowledge. We agreed to follow-up on the idea with colleagues at IFAD.
The workshop was a great learning opportunity to share experiences of supporting poor people through knowledge exchange across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Shalini Kala, ENRAP Coordinator, IDRC India
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Knowledge sharing in the CGIAR
The Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) was established by CGIAR’s Chief Information Officer in 2004. The programme promotes and supports the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and knowledge management (KM) to improve the effectiveness of the CGIAR System's work on behalf of poor people in developing countries.
KS project’s logo
Striving to embed in the CGIAR’s activities a culture of knowledge sharing, the ICT-KM Program of CGIAR launched a ‘Knowledge Sharing Project’ in 2005. The project has two distinct components – the Institutional Knowledge Sharing (IKS) Project and the Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR) Project.
The Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project
The IKS Project, led by Simone Staiger-Rivas from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), focuses on mainstreaming knowledge sharing principles and tools in CGIAR centres and programmes.
The project also helped showcase the work of some CGIAR Centres, such as that of the WorldFish Centre. Storymercials (1.5 to 3 min video clips) are helping attract donors and investors to the Centre’s work. Four other CGIAR Centres were actively involved in testing KS approaches and tools.
Pilot initiatives at CIAT and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) resulted in the centers organizing and conducting their annual staff meetings differently. The pilot of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) led to the formation of an integrated team of scientists who share knowledge and information and work towards common goals. The pilot initiative of the International Wheat Management Institute (IWMI) helped the Centre launch its own pilot project to embed knowledge-sharing principles in the research cycle.
A the end of last year, the IKS Project also helped facilitate the CGIAR 2008 Annual General Meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique, the third such meeting that saw active, strategic participation from the project.
In terms of tools, one of the most popular online knowledge-sharing resources is the KS Toolkit. Developed by the project in collaboration with FAO, the toolkit contains 70 tools and methods for sharing knowledge and receives more than 20,000 visits per month.
IFAD and its partners in Asia have already benefited from this programme in a number of ways. The ICT-KM toolkit was introduced by ENRAP at its training for IFAD Knowledge Facilitators in Bangkok in November 2008. As a result, many are now using this resource.
The project is carrying out a survey to collect the experiences of those who have participated in a number of activities since the project began four years ago: knowledge-sharing workshops and events that incorporated knowledge-sharing methodologies.
The following are just some of those events:
- CIAT’s recent Annual Knowledge Sharing Week (KSW09), held in Cali, Columbia
- CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop, held in Penang, Malaysia
- Web2fordev Conference, held in Rome, Italy
- KS Pilot Project Inception Workshop, held at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
- Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev) Meeting 06, held in Zeist, Netherlands
- Knowledge Fair held during the Annual Meeting of CIFOR
Experience with the numerous knowledge sharing events/activities conducted over the length of the Project shows that when introducing KS concepts and tools into an event, participation increases and with that the buy-in from the various groups, Experience also shows that it is important to start small and scale up when demand grows.
The Knowledge Sharing in Research Project (KSinR)
The KSinR Project, led by Nadia Manning-Thomas from IWMI, focuses on good practices of knowledge sharing that can be used within research projects/programmes in order to improve the effectiveness and impact of CGIAR work. One of the primary avenues for learning in the project is through its six pilot projects (see link below), which have integrated various KS approaches into the different stages of the research process.
For example, the IWMI project on Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation piloted the use of ‘Learning Alliances’ as a way of bringing together relevant stakeholders in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to discuss the issue of wastewater and to find ways to better coordinate activities, including generating the knowledge necessary to help support solutions. The project used radio programmes, training videos and flip charts with printed messages and visuals to convey good practices to farmers, caterers and extension agents.
In Viet Nam, The WorldFish Centre introduced ‘Outcome Mapping’ as a means of having a more KS- and learning-oriented monitoring and evaluation methodology for fish culture activities, while learning together with stakeholders throughout the research process.
Similarly, the Farmers’ Conference Project of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is providing lessons on mechanisms for capturing knowledge and learning from farmers to help better design and carry out of their plant breeding research, with the ultimate goal of finding improved varieties that can boost productivity.
The KSinR Project conducted a synthesis workshop in Ethiopia in November 2008 to bring together all six of the pilot projects to look at the various KS approaches used and to learn from each other.
Lessons emerging from the KSinR Project show that using these knowledge-sharing approaches in research requires adequate funding, time and personnel – resources that are often beyond those currently available within projects and even Centres. That aside, KS is providing a number of benefits for these projects:
- Better insights are being gained into problems on the ground, helping to improve the relevance of research.
- Greater buy-in is being achieved by working more closely with stakeholders.
- More is being learned through knowledge sharing with stakeholders.
- Greater access to knowledge through more appropriate ways to share knowledge with target groups is leading to increased uptake and use of research-generated knowledge and technologies.
Synthesis of the results across the KSinR Project and its pilot projects and other activities will be documented in a variety of media including the KS website the KS blog, and through the development of practical how-to documents to be made widely available and presented at upcoming CGIAR and other fora.
Visit the ICT-KM Programme website for updates on these projects and other activities undertaken by the Programme at www.ictkm.cgiar.org and the blog ictkm.wordpress.com.
Enrica Porcari, Chief Information Officer and Leader, ICT-KM Programme, CGIAR
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Capitalizing on the Region’s Annual Performance Review
The Asia and the Pacific Region’s Annual Performance Review took place from 1-4 March 2009. There was a formidable stock of knowledge on hand, with more than 140 participants including project managers, subject matter specialists, staff and partners from the IFAD regional programme. The challenge was how to best capitalize on the wealth of knowledge to improve our performance – at the event and back on the job afterwards.
Participants brainstorming during the self-assessment workshop
To meet this challenge, we identified several ways to reap the knowledge available and to promote knowledge sharing. This happened before and during the event using electronic tools and face-to-face methods.
Firstly, before setting the agenda, we used the evaluation of the 2007 workshop to consult with colleagues in the Asia and the Pacific Division and country presence officers on possible themes and focus for the event.
To refine the agenda, a questionnaire was sent to all participants to find out their expectations, subjects of interest and information related to specific topics on the draft agenda. This helped us formulate questions for working sessions, identify presenters and design the workshop process and flow.
During the workshop, we tried facilitation methods and session formats that would make the event lively while also achieving several KM objectives. These included giving each participant as many opportunities as possible to share his or her own knowledge, cross-fertilization amongst different groups of participants, team building within country groups, and learning by doing for participants willing to practice new facilitation skills. Small table discussions, role-playing, interviews, showcasing and time for informal off-session interaction were elements of the methods and formats used.
Social reporting, a KM approach that combines face-to-face and electronic means, was introduced for the first time as a way of capturing the event and improving the quality, timeliness and outreach of its documentation. Lucie Lamoureux describes in detail how the social reporting method was introduced in her article below entitled ‘Adventures in Blogging’.
Did explicit KM make the event a better one? Participant ratings were up from those of the previous workshops. Has participant performance back on the job improved as a result? Time will tell. Tune in next year and we’ll let you know what the portfolio performance indicators tell us.
Chase Palmeri, Knowledge Management Facilitator, IFAD
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