Second Global AgriKnowledge Share Fair: After Action review #sfrome

by Willem Bettink

Weeks after the closing of the Sharefair a large group of organizers, facilitators, volunteers, and presenters came together to do an After Action review(AAR). The AAR is a excellent knowledge sharing method to assess how things went: an event , a mission or a meeting. It allows you to benefit from the collective perspectives , experiences and learning of organizing and participating in a particular event .

The AAR for the Global Share fair was centred around a number  of questions to collect people’s feedback. For example we asked:  “What worked  well and why?”; “What could have been done differently or better?”; “What surprised you ?”; and finally “What  advice do you have for future share fair organizers”.

All expressed with enthusiasm that the Share fair was  a great event given  its spread, depth and diversity offered in the 9  themes resulting in more than 130 sessions. As one participant said: “The buzz in and around the IFAD building was very inspiring –I wish it could be like this always !!”

There was some very exciting and interesting stuff presented ranging from the numerous training sessions on knowledge methods, to more substantive topics such as “ how to  extract fertilizer from marble dust”, how to improve  working of a Community of Practice to  three very inspiring and out of the box key note  addresses  by Etienne Wenger, Rob Burnett and Mark Davies

People liked the market fair lay out with the tent and the bigger and smaller meeting rooms –best if they were emptied of meeting tables. The graphics and communication gave a very colourful and exciting ‘feel ‘ and transformed the IFAD building into a big open and creative and stimulating place.

Alas only 4 daily issues were possible of the Daily Corriere- after which it had to close ….. and the Chief Editor is looking for a new challenge…  

The social media coverage of the Global Share fair was very good: from the thousands of tweets to introducing the live twitter wall , live webcasting of key note addresses and thematic sessions, over 50 blogs of sessions and multiple video interviews and tons of pictures. All of this social reporting material helped and added value to the event for those who could not attend it in person and enabled writing of parts this publication.

In short it seems that the Second Global Agriknowledge Share fair was a big success. But was there anything that did not go well or could have been done differently or better? Yes  …there  was  quite a lot that AAR participants came up with as could have been better or could be improved:

The format and lay out of call for proposal, to be filled out and submitted by those who wished to present /share their story, was not done very well. It obliged the organizers to send out a second form to obtain a better focus by asking participants what would be the three take away messages ; and how they wished to organize their  session and if they had any special requirements. In all this need to be changed for a future global share fair.

The registration process resulted in more than 700 participants over the 4 days. Doing the registration felt like a steep learning curve- from no previous experience, finding and losing our ways through the hundreds of emails, to becoming registration experts by the end of the fair. A lot to be improved here – from earlier responses needed to whom requested financing, to the visa registration process. A software application may help in making it less burdensome on the eyes and sleep of the human actor….

While people enjoyed the luxury choice from 130 sessions, it was felt there were far too many  parallel sessions- consider quality versus quantity. Often one could not attend 1st choice due to the parallel nature. As one consequence several sessions  had very few participants due to competing sessions. In future organizers should aim at a reduced number of sessions, thus allowing participants to go to more session and their preferred choices. Second one could try to  join into one session similar topics e.g.  a chat show as was done with social media , private sector and agricultural research.

The  social reporting team should have been led by dedicated person(s) and set –up earlier e.g.  a month before the event in conjunction with draft programme. This would enable better planning of full coverage of session, seeking out needed skills in the social reporting team and build-up momentum and sharing of ideas amongst the team members. Do not ask facilitators to be at the same time social reporters-it proofed to be hard to focus on facilitation and collecting information for a blog afterwards- quality of one or both may suffer!

Quality of content, presentation and chosen interaction during of sessions could be improved. First of all the facilitators of each session were identified and informed far too late, not allowing them enough time to interact and prepare with session presenters. Lack of clarity on  knowledge sharing methods by presenters hampered inter-active nature of  sessions. Finally consider better approach to determine the quality and richness of content at an early stage of submission for programme.

The training day was hugely successful and did not build further through the program. Next time have training opportunities woven across the four days.

An experiment tested at the KM4Dev face-to face meeting is that during the last day of a future Share fair, you ask people to spend 15 minutes to write a commitment to action. These commitment are then shared at the marketplace of commitments , so that people may find out what they can do together, harvest commitment to actions , and follow up 3-6 months to asseds what happened.

The above reflections, feedback and suggestions are just a selection of the wealth of insights harvested during the AAR sessions. We are going to solicit feedback from all 700 participants through a short electronic survey in early 2012. The aim is to assess what has been the impact of the Global Share fair on people’s  behaviour, old and new work practices, and  personal and professional networks.  And in looking ahead we will ask you for new  ideas, suggestions, or wishes you may have for any future share fair.