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Beer-wine assist: An innovative way of sharing knowledge

Posted by Roxanna Samii Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last night at the East and Southern Africa knowledge management workshop, Peter Ballantyne introduced an innovative way to share knowledge - a beer-wine assist!!!

The beer-wine assist was a peer assist in the form of an open space. Now, that is real innovation. Combining two knowledge sharing methods into one!!! And we covered the following topics:

  • learning more about linking local learners
  • how to document and package success stories
  • learning routes
  • communication and knowledge management strategies
This morning when the group shared their discussions in the openspace, it was heart warming to see how much they had learnt and internalized in just 60 minutes. And this evening when we did the after action review, participants indicated that they found the openspace very useful. 

So, the peer-assist innovation turned out to be a smashing success. Must have been a combination of great participants and the beer and wine!!


This morning we had a great conversation on how a good meeting culture is essential for creating a conducive environment for learning and sharing. To instill a better meeting etiquette and to ensure that everyone gets the most of any meeting, the group talked about the importance of:

  • preparing for the meeting
  • sticking to schedule
  • staying focused
  • holding meetings only when there is a real need to do so
  • inviting the right people
  • distributing background documents before the meeting
  • having a facilitator
  • involving all the participants in the conversation
  • having concrete action points and follow-up mechanism
  • debriefing after the meeting, asking ourselves what worked and what could have gone better

There was a lengthy debate on the role of facilitator versus a chairperson. I am not sure we reached any agreement on this issue. Suffice to say that tomorrow, we'll be dedicating some more time on talking about how to conduct meetings in an appreciative manner and unpacking further the roles of facilitator and chairperson.

During the course of the workshop, the country teams discussed the challenges and opportunities of mainstreaming knowledge management within their projects, at government level and at grassroot and farmer level. As the day came to a close, they shared their draft action plans for the next 12 months.


Here are some of the challenges they committed to address and overcome:
  • identify a  KM champion at leadership/government level
  • develop an integrated knowledge management and learning strategy
  • capture information in a meaningful manner
  • institutionalize knowledge management and learning in a sustainable manner
  • create a culture of learning and sharing
  • develop capacity for knowledge management and learning in a sustainable manner
  • convince projects and government of the importance of knowledge management and learning
  • identify the structure and institutional arrangement required in the project to make KM work
  • promote exchange visits as their are valuable learning and sharing mechanism

I felt privileged to have participated in this workshop, and I learnt a lot from the wide range of experience of our colleagues in the field. 

I sat in awe when I heard the insightful comments of participants such as: "KM and learning is not a project", "We cannot do is not an option", "we need to consider feedback as a gift", and "KM is not about creating a website, but it is about transforming and changing the way we do business".

This group has come a long way. I guess their next frontier would be to expand their partnerships and networks so that they can benefit from a much wider knowledgebase, and to share their knowledge, experience and achievements with others.

I am sure sooner rather later we'll be ableto instill a culture of learning sharing not only in IFAD-funded projects, but also at grassroot, government level and beyond. And when that happens we can pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our work. For sure, that day is in the very near future!





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