Chat show brings about euthanasia of powerpoint presentations

Considering that the FIDAfrique-IFADAfrica start-up workshop is primarily a knowledge sharing event, when preparing for the event, some colleagues expressed the desire of moving away from traditional workshop methods and use innovative knowledge sharing methods.

Not everyone was in agreement and there was quite a bit of negotiations and we had to compromise. But finally we managed to get some new methods in the agenda - albeit not as much as some of us would have liked!

One of these methods was a chat show. Chat show encourages sharing in an informal and fun environment. It requires minimum preparation and what is fantastic about it is that it completely moves away with boring and long powerpoint presentations! So there is no risk of people recycling old and out of context presentations. Chat shows foster a dialogue where the participants answer to specific questions and interact with the audience.

In retrospect perhaps the fact that we were moving away from the comfort zone of powerpoint presentations caused some disarray in the minds of the sceptics. It was rewarding to hear the comments of the sceptics at the end of the day when they said: "thank you for introducing this method, it was great!"

I had the challenge of hosting the first chat show just after lunch. So there was a high risk of people falling asleep. Well, surprise, surprise, absolutely no one fell asleep! We had an engaging conversation with a rich involvement from the floor and thought provoking questions posed to the panelists.

We deviated slightly from the orthodox chat show method, as it was not possible to put the chairs in a semi-circle. I had the privilege of hosting the chat show "on challenges and opportunities of networking" with the following wonderful and knowledgeable colleagues:
  • German Escobar, coordinator of FIDAmerica - IFAD's KM regional network serving Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Shalini Kala, coordinator of ENRAP - IFAD's KM regional network serving Asia and the Pacific
  • Miriam Cherognoy, coordinator of IFADAfrica - IFAD's KM regional network serving Eastern and Southern Africa
  • Mine Pabari, coordinator of SMIP - IFAD's M&E network serving Eastern and Southern Africa
Each participant answered two different sets of question and all of them answered the question "If you were to do it again, what would you do differently". My take away message from this chat show was Shalini's remark: "We need to create demand by demonstrating the value of knowledge sharing" .

Below is the summary of the chat show:
  • learning, sharing and KM works best when it is supported by participatory approach
  • never assume that people know what is KM and have the same level of awareness. We need to assess the level of knowledge, awareness and take appropriate actions so that we all start singing from the same song sheet
  • do not assume that smallholder farmers cannot engage in KM activities or cannot do KM
  • more and more countries - especially middle income countries - are demanding to tap into knowledge at different levels. This puts KM on the front burner and something to focus on
  • networks have to be established to serve a purpose. Different networks have different purposes
  • to ensure that network members engage, they have to see the value that the network adds to their work
  • size of network does not matter, what matters is the quality of the interaction and exchange
  • you need to blend a number of tools and methods, such as face-to-face - which no matter what remains the best exchange method - with virtual tools
  • it is crucial to put a face to networks. It is important for people to know each other, build a relationship with each other and thus building trust
  • need to have a blend of both web-based and non-web-based tools, such as newsletters, offline CD and web tools such as blogs, wikis and traditional website
  • networks need to forge strategic partnership with like-minded organization both at national, regional, sub-regional and international institutes
  • networks need to engage in strategic thinking with other networks, other stakeholders and amongst themselves
  • networks needs to continuously and systematically share and communicate their learning and experience
  • need to identify audience groups and provide targetted and packaged information so that audiences can relate to and easily digest the knowledge provided
  • need to ensure that knowledge management is included during project design, project supervision, that it is part of the TOR of the project staff and is adequately resourced
  • need to ensure that projects have a KM and communication strategy
  • we will make mistakes... what is important is that we learn from the mistakes and document the mistakes so that we can share it with others, thus avoiding reinventing the wheel
  • when network participants appreciate the value of knowledge sharing, which is not exclusively confined to capacity building but also building relationships and forging partnerships, that is when they will start contributing to the network and really become a "member". At this point you need to use these members so that they can coach and mentor others
  • what is important is not to give up. Building networks is challenging - "Rome was not built overnight"!
  • try to find synergies between KM and M&E and ensure that they feed into each other and are informed by each other
  • project managers need to be evaluated also for knowledge management and knowledge sharing and not only by their outputs
  • make sure you have buy-in at country level
  • make sure you invest time with IFAD to make sure people at HQ know and understand what the network is doing
  • knowledge sharing is priceless, you cannot associate a price tag to it
  • we should INVEST in knowledge sharing, as knowledge is the only form of wealth that grows by sharing
At the end of the chat show, I had people coming up to me and saying: "this was great, I am going to use this method". The panelists themselves had this to say: "this was fun!" or "I learnt so much from the other panelists".

Having won over the sceptics made my day. I felt energized and ready for tomorrow's challenge of facilitating world cafe!!! Wish me luck.

Good bye and good night. A domani

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