Pilot training workshop on Knowledge management

Laureene Reeves Ndagire

“Introduction to Knowledge Management for Agriculture and Rural Development” – KM4ARD

3- 7th November 2014, Reehorst Hotel, Ede-Wageningen

In September 2013, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) organised an Expert Consultation in Ede, The Netherlands, to consider the development of a structured course on knowledge management (KM) in agricultural and rural development (ARD). The overall goal and approach of this initiative was to facilitate collaboration among partners to generate the KM4ARD curricula and to make such contents open for common use.

The target audience of the proposed curriculum comprises KM practitioners in development organisations who have a role in either organisational KM or knowledge sharing (KS) with a network of stakeholders. CTA’s specific target audience comprise staff of ARD in the ACP countries, as well as regional and international ARD organisations. This is also a follow-up to the 2012 KM consultation, which was attended by representatives of ACP regional organisations.

Following the 2013 consultation, an extensive list of KM topics was compiled, representing the broad knowledge needs of KM practitioners, all levels combined. CTA decided to develop a basic curriculum to introduce KM for ARD, designed as a repeatable training programme at national and institutional level that could also be handled by regional trainers following initial Training of Trainers sessions. The course, labelled KM4ARD-Intro, was developed in 3 phase: Phase 1 consisted of the outputs of the consultation with the KM advisory group and drafting of curriculum outlines. In the second phase a consultant prepared training materials with advise from the KM advisory group and the third phase has to test the contents by running a pilot for the course on November 3-7th in Ede – Wageningen, before finalising the contents.

The 2013 Expert meeting, generated an exhaustive list of 140 topics that make up aspects of KM that could be considered, whch were then clustered by topics with help from colleagues at FAO.  A Draft curriculum outline, consisting of an initial list of topics that could potentially be covered in the Introduction course were proposed to CTA. After some changes, a revised outline was sent to a small group of KM experts, the CTA-KM Reference group. Consultation with the CTA-KM Reference group: the members of the group provided comments electronically on the document, suggesting what could be trimmed out and included in more advanced modules. Drafting of the detailed curriculum outline commenced, covering the learning objectives and scope of each unit.

The IMARK curriculum development framework was used in order to do this. The topics were separated into Units, Lessons and Sub-lessons. The latter corresponding to the actual sessions trainers of the workshop. (In parallel, a list topics was taken from the basic KM4ARD, and compiled as potential material for more advanced courses in the future, which led to the proposal of a course in Knowledge management for senior management (KM4SMARD). The draft curriculum outline and detailed curriculum outline were shared with the CTA- KM Advisory group for comments. This feedback was considered in the elaboration of a final curriculum and in the development of training material used in the pilot training workshop of November 3-7 in Ede-Wageningen.

The training brought together participants from CTA partner organisations in the ACP; FARA, IICA, CORAF-REGICA, CGIAR, SPC-PAFPNET, ITOCA, CCARDESA, SADC-ARO Network AFAAS, ASARECA, CAP-FIDA (Madagascar) and CaFAN. The sessions opened with a speed dating activity for participants to get to know each other and share backgrounds in Knowledge management. We then delved into covering content on an introduction to KM, benefits and challenges, developing a suitable environment for KM and the importance of leadership. The highlight of day one was the world cafe’ session which centred discussions on; how best to build understanding about KM, ways to deal with people’s aversion to change in KM, and ideas to bring KM in challenging ecosystems.

The world cafe session highlighted the need for comparative analysis to present KM as a best practice for the industry, and suggestions to develop independent community platforms advocating for KM which can in turn influence senior management to recognise the value of KM to their organizations. While KM might seem attractive, and the organisation sets off developing a KM strategy, it is important to mainstream KM within core operations of the organisation. This can be achieved through the application of appropriate tools, approaches and processes/methods. When dealing with aversion to change when it comes to KM, participants highlighted the importance of recognising KM in action by showcasing case studies, documenting and sharing success stories, describing clearly the definition of roles and responsibilities of KM officers, and above all, allowing time for change.

How can we best build an understanding about KM? Through story-telling/testimonials sharing the good and bad and understanding causes of failure. Consider and adapt KM tools and instruments (KM TOOLKIT) to measure and provide an understanding of KM. We need to recognise that all organisations practice KM either knowingly or not, and they stand to benefit if it is systematised/organised. Awareness and the value of KM in organisations/networks needs to improve as well as across institutions and common areas of intervention. Pathways for KM implementation need to be developed to facilitate the process, and as such, smaller institutions can serve as models through recognition of their KM activities by regional organisations.

In the open space session, participants were able to discuss specific issues, such as how to plan and incorporate a KM strategy into individual technical work plans, how to establish regional knowledge management systems where web based systems exist in order to facilitate knowledge sharing at regional levels, what is the point of entry of KM (super imposed on existing social economic cultural contents or is point of entry at the fringes), how can we address issues of open access in KM, how do we ensure rural communities are accessing and sharing knowledge created by ARD institutions, and how do we link ancestral knowledge to the present (reconciling indigenous knowledge with conventional knowledge). And while the conversations could have gone on for a good part of the day, we were inspired by the application of open space technique.  As a technique in KM, it can be applied to complex issues where people and ideas are diverse to bring a structure that perfectly fits for the people and work at hand as an intentional leadership practice in creating inspired organizations, where individuals work together to create extraordinary results with regularity.

Knowledge fairs are face to face events in which participants set up displays to share their undertakings, they can be internal to an organization or open to partners and the public. Fairs are “free-flowing, open, flexible, and non-hierarchical, everyone can see what is happening, can interact with each other, and can see what others are doing. Participants of the pilot course organised a knowledge fair at CTA showcasing the various activities within their organisations, communicating what knowledge management means and what initiatives are in place to share and create knowledge. One participant created a video on the month of #Knovember as a knowledge month, and introduced the  KM SCAN, which is used in analysis of KM at the organisational level, but for which CTA has developed an individual KM Scan for self assessment.

Overall, the workshop helped to bring the concept of knowledge sharing to life, allowing for participants to engage and share what is being done to facilitate development of knowledge and what can be done to foster informal networking and problem solving through KM tools. Participants provided feedback on the course content from the perspective of potential learners and how the course can be modified for extension workers and technical staff in organisations.