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By now those following this social reporting blog know that this afternoon, during the thirty-third session of IFAD’s Governing Council, CNN anchor Jim Clancy will moderate a high-level panel discussion "From summit resolutions to farmers' fields: Climate change, food security and smallholder agriculture".

I had the honour and pleasure to meet Jim on Monday to work out how we could solicit questions for the panel using social media. Yesterday, I asked if I could interview him about social media. Jim, being very modest, said he does not know much about social media.... But I can tell you he knows A LOT and he's an advocate for social media.

This morning he kindly agreed to grant an interview. You can't imagine my excitment. A little nobody interviewing the famous Jim Clancy.

I must say, it was a pleasure to work with Jim. He is such a pleasant and humble person. People walking up our corridor come to us and say: "hey is that Jim Clancy working in the open space ? "

Over the last days Clancy interviewed IFAD President, Kevin Cleaver and today he interviewed some of the panelists, amongst which Dr Nahed Mohammed Taher and Prime Minister Mizengo Peter Pinda.

This afternoon he'll be moderating the panel discussion.... and the IFAD social reporting team will be bringing it live to you. Follow us on Twitter (@ifadnews) and also check this social reporting blog.

On Tuesday afternoon, 70 farmers' leaders from around the world, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers from all over the world concluded their work at the third global meeting of the Farmers' Forum.

In their synthesis of deliberations they reiteriated the fact that since the last Farmers’ Forum, the world has experienced multiple crises, exacerbated by the global recession and climate change and as a result more people are poor and hungry.

They acknowledged the significance of family agriculture in the world and pledged to campaign for a UN Declaration for International Year of Family Farming.

The farmers indicated that they want agriculture to be controlled by them, the VERY people who cultivate the land and are feeding the world.

In sharing the summary of their deliberations with IFAD's 33rd Governing Council, they indicated there is no effective response to the challenges of food security for all, eradication of extreme poverty and mitigation of climate change without more and better investment in farms and rural communities and more supportive policies for rural development.

They commended IFAD for forging a strong partnership with Farmers’ Organizations and embedding them in Country Programmes. They told IFAD's membership that they highly appreciated the real progress in the consultation and partnership between IFAD, governments and farmer organizations.

They made the following recommendations to IFAD:

  • Extend the partnership to all countries where IFAD is operating, taking into account the diversity of the organizations of poor rural people.
  • Systematically include at least one national apex organization in the IFAD Country Programme Management Team in order to contribute to the steering of the IFAD country programme (COSOP formulation, project and programme design and implementation, policy dialogue and other initiatives).
  • Create a flexible, demand-led facility within IFAD’s budget for facilitating the participation of farmers’ organizations in the COSOP and the project cycle.
  • Develop operational guidelines to support the systematic engagement of farmers’ organizations at country level; in particular in the monitoring and implementation of IFAD programmes.
  • Ensure that the already strong practice of consultation with farmers’ organizations is systematized; in this regard, IFAD and regional/international farmers’ organizations could maintain a roster of organizations that should be systematically invited when IFAD is about to embark on project design.
  • Take stock of important lessons from programmes with farmers’ organizations, with a view to replication and upscaling, and to promote south-south exchanges and knowledge among the farmers. (In this regard, we recommend exploring the possibility replicating the programme ‘Learning Routes’, which was successfully implemented in Latin America.)

Last but not least, both farmer leaders and IFAD President stressed the importance of investing in young farmers. Farmer leaders recommended that IFAD:

  • Map young farmer and rural youth organizations and their networks (national and regional).
  • Hold a Farmers’ Forum event similar to the one held for women this year, and ensure more representation of young people in subsequent Farmers’ Forums.
  • Designate within IFAD a focal point for youth.
  • Hold a global workshop on youth involvement in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development during this year (UN Year of Youth ).
  • Mainstream youth in all IFAD policies and programmes, with a gender balance and an emphasis on developing capacity-building and enhancement programmes for rural youth to engage in sustainable food production and agriculture and rural employment.
  • Launch pilot projects supporting rural youth.
  • Organize youth exchanges for experience-sharing on best practices and learning.

Summary of women farmer leaders workshop

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, February 15, 2010 0 comments

We delegates to the Global Farmers’ Forum 2010 – 61 participants from 27 countries and four continents – IFAD staff and observers, gathered during the Preparatory Workshop to the Farmers’ Forum on Promoting Women’s Leadership in Farmer’ Organizations held on February 12-13, declare the following:

We, women farmers, fishers and pastoralists, call attention once again to the glaring disproportion between women’s roles in all aspects of agriculture across the developing world and the limited recognition, rights, resources and services provided to us. We also raise an alarm over the effect that climate change and the financial crisis are having on us women as they result in increased poverty and food scarcity. Because of poverty and lack of services in rural areas, our sons and daughters do not wish to be farmers and continue to migrate to urban areas. This raises a critical question: How can the profitability and sustainability of farming be secured so as to ensure a future for the next generation of women and men farmers?

Effective and representative producer organizations can provide a powerful instrument to make rural women’s voices heard, so that we can have a greater influence over decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods. But as of yet, our voices have been heard too rarely in our organizations.

The economic empowerment of women and their increased knowledge and skills are essential preconditions to improve our status and livelihoods, and for us to be able to assume effective roles in producer organizations. We therefore urge IFAD and other donors to bring new and significant resources to support the economic empowerment of women farmers. We need these resources to strengthen our knowledge, skills and leadership in order to produce and process food more effectively and sustainably, for our families and also for the markets. We urge IFAD and other donors to direct resources to women’s structures in farmers’ organizations and to require quotas that are respected.

We also specifically call upon IFAD to:

  • continue and increase efforts to enable women to increase their access to and control over productive assets including land and water
  • support the development and provision of financial services suitable to agriculture, and to enable women’s incomes to grow;
  • in addition to mainstreaming gender equality concerns throughout projects and programmes, wherever feasible earmark funds for women in IFAD-funded programmes as an affirmative action measure – for example under community development funds, and in training;
  • use grant funding for women’s capacity building – including child care facilities where needed – when it is not possible to finance such activities through a loan;
  • where IFAD-funded programmes support access to land and other kinds of property, seek to negotiate for joint titling, supported with legal advisory services to enable women to defend their rights;
  • in the context of a much-needed focus on rural youth give attention to the specific situation and needs of young women.

In the context of IFAD’s engagement with farmers’ organizations we recommend that IFAD:
  • open spaces for women farmer leaders to participate in country and global policy processes, and also in IFAD country strategy consultations;
  • in the design of the projects and programmes that work with farmers’ organizations, establish quotas for women (where possible, not less than 30 per cent, with a view to reaching 50 per cent over time), provide incentives for producer organizations to achieve the targets, and monitor their implementation;
  • invest more grant resources in increasing capacity of farmers’ organizations to address gender issues and empower women, and to strengthen women’s leadership – where possible channelling funds directly to women’s structures within organizations;
  • involve women leaders of farmers’ organizations in the supervision and monitoring of development programmes.

Finally, we note with satisfaction that the 30 per cent quota of women participants recommended at the last meeting of the Farmers’ Forum has been exceeded this year. We urge that the current proportion of 40 per cent be maintained in subsequent meetings, with a view to further increasing over time.

The third global meeting of the Farmers' Forum is now underway. This morning IFAD President welcomed 70 farmers' leaders from around the world, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers from all over the world.

In his statement the President made a strong case for investing more in agriculture and smallholder farmers. The President said: "if we know that 85% of all farmland worldwide is less than 2 ha in size (in the developing world it is as low as ¼ ha); if we know that 500,000 million smallholders produce 80% of the food we consume in the developing world; that they live in rural areas and make up the majority of the rural poor; and if we know that over 60% of the rural population is made of youths with over 50% being young women and girls. If we know all this, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, who will feed the world in 2020, in 2030 or in 2050 by which time we would have added another 3 billion people, 50%, to our population?" He continued to say: "We must invest in the rural youth of today, the farmers of tomorrow".

The President talking about Africa said: "I am also absolutely convinced that Africa can feed itself, just as Viet Nam and China have done. Africa has the human and natural resources it needs to achieve agricultural growth and food self-sufficiency. What is needed is committed local leadership.... And this is what I have been calling to African leaders. "

"And I will repeat my call: No nation, no people achieved economic development unless it comes from within and agriculture is the foundation for it; after all, development is an intrinsic and endogenous process."

The President concluded by mentioning that "there are still a number of countries were IFAD’s cooperation with farmers organizations is limited. He indicated that we need to reach out further and deeper and develop these connections."

"We must work together to strengthen the linkages of your organizations with the grassroots levels and invest in the village-level advocacy to have an impact at the ground level and to improve the inclusive basis of our partnerships", said Nwanze.

"We need to develop the advocacy role of the farmers’ organizations in the national policy debate". The President concluded his statement by stating that "we need to engage rural youth in agricultuture; help them organise themselves into young farmers associations, provide opportunities for capacity building and training; institutional linkages and market informations. They are the food producers of tomorrow. "

Following the President's statement, the members of the steering committe (IFAP, LVC, WFFP, WFF, AFA, COPROFAM, ROPPA) made short statements echoing:

  • the need to focus on women and youth in developing agricultural policies
  • the need to focus on issues such as land entitlement and ownership
  • the fact that commercialization of smallscale agriculture is the way forward

During the course of the day, the participants interacted with IFAD staff and selected partners and attended regional working group sessions to share the progress achieved to date and discuss future goals for partnerships with farmer organizations at national and regional levels.

Stay tuned on this channel! The social reporting team will be bringing live soundbites and stories from this workshop and from the Third Global Farmers' Forum. Follow us on Twitter (@ifadnews) and on this social reporting blog (http://ifad-un.blogspot.com/).

The workshop on promoting womens' leadership in farmers' organizations kicked off the Third Global Farmers' Forum. This workshop is very unique, so unique that even the weather decided to do something unique. On Friday, it snowed in Rome!!!

The workshop brings together some 40 women and men farmer leaders. In most developing countries, women perform a large part of the agricultural work and produce the bulk of the world’s food crops. The productivity of women farmers is constrained by the same factors that affect small agricultural producers in general, which are in turn compounded by gender-specific factors. These include:

  • lack of time and limited mobility due to multiple domestic and productive responsibilities;
  • women’s more limited access to assets and services (including extension);
  • illiteracy;
  • low participation and limited decision-making in producers’ organizations; and
  • socio-cultural factors affecting their mobility and participation in public decision-making.

On the other hand, women have a unique base of experience and knowledge that can be used to increase the productivity of smallholder agriculture in the broadest sense. Without a significant investment in improving the livelihoods, assets and decision-making power of rural women, the Millennium Development Goals of reduced poverty and food insecurity are unlikely to be achieved.

The workshop will discuss the importance of maintaining the focus on mixed farmers’ organizations, while recognizingthat women must have their own space within these confines. During the workshop, the participants will discuss challenges and opportunities for women farmer leaders such as:

  • constraints of lack of self-esteem and low levels of education
  • capacity-building as an important means to promote gender equality for rural women;
  • the need to concentrate on increasing women’s negotiation skills, self-esteem and leadership capacities, and put in place supportive measures such as child care facilities during training sessions
  • involving men in gender-related activities and enlisting men as champions of women’s
    increased leadership roles are important approaches to gain their support
  • gender-sensitization training, aimed at challenging gender stereotypes and norms and the
    perpetuation of traditional gender roles should be provided to women and men
  • sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences and networking among women are critical for
    women’s empowerment

Estrella Penunia, gave a passionate keynote address, in which she said: "Women farmers will not remain victims, we're key solution providers, nothing about us without us". She made a plea to move away from gender stereotypes and reminded the participants and audience that women should be at the forefront of the agriculture. She said: "If we earn more, we can spend more on food, education, health." Estrella then continued to say "Women perform magic to put food on the table".

In her keynote address, Estrella shared with the gathering that "in many developing countries women cannot owe land, yet we are the one who cultivate the land and take care of land."

She continuted to say that "50-90% of work in farms is done by women and women ensure food security when crops fail."

Estrella Penunia and other women leaders such as Elisabeth Atangana, Kati Partanen and all the women farmer leaders showed passion in their interventions. Elisabeth remarked: "If women don't have economic power, they can't do very much. Women need access to financial resources, and access to land".

As Estrella said: "Women work with personal touch, we need to help more women farmer leaders to further unleash their potential".

Makanjuola Olaseinde Arigbede took the floor and made a passionate case for empowering women. He said: "there is gender discrimination: If women choose farming, their possibility of marriage diminishes". "Men should recognize women as an effective farmer and a partner", he said.

Stay tuned on this channel! The social reporting team will be bringing live soundbites and stories from this workshop and from the Third Global Farmers' Forum. Follow us on Twitter (@ifadnews) and on this social reporting blog (http://ifad-un.blogspot.com).

An External View of the IFAD KM Assessment

Posted by Nancy White Friday, February 12, 2010 4 comments

Structures for Reflection and Meaning Making

Nancy White, Full Circle Associates
Last week I was in Rome at IFAD's headquarters working with their knowledge management (KM) core team on an assessment of their KM strategy for the last year. It is gratifying to work with an intelligent and engaged team and to participate in a thoughtful reflective process. Over the five days, I learned and deepened my process knowledge and was able to witness an inflection point in IFAD's KM strategy. I'd like to share some of that experience. Please, take this simply as an external reflection!

What Does KM Mean at IFAD?

Our mandate was to assess what has happened in the last year of implementation of IFAD's knowledge management (KM) strategy. First off, this is interesting to me because while I recognize the organizational and corporate acceptance of the term "Knowledge Management," I personally don't believe in it. I believe information can be managed, but we can only create the conditions for knowledge. The term "Knowledge Sharing" (KS) approximates the meaning of knowledge flow, but it is still insufficient to embrace all the bits and life cycles of knowledge and its application. What about knowledge creation, re-appropriation, blocking, sharing, reifying, etc.? These are important bits!

As we began to "unpack" people's perceptions of the state of KM at IFAD, this question of a fuller view of KM came up. People's understanding of "what is KM" at the start of the initiative was probably fairly simple and theory based. Something they could agree was "good" but probably not very connected to each person's day to day working reality. That's one way to introduce something new.

Over time, that understanding grows. Over the course of five days of paired, small group and large group conversations, we surfaced a more complex vision of what KM means at IFAD.

One concept that may be useful is that of "stocks and flows" to help people understand that not all knowledge can or will be codified, thus support for knowledge flow through communities, networks, reflections and conversation can be a key asset for IFAD.

Another issue around the definition of KM is the role of technology. Some people place a lot of faith in technological solutions and urge a move away from "spoon feeding" people the materials they are looking for, particularly people who are in a position of power to demand this sort of service. Others recognize the importance of the "social filter" of a knowledgeable person in finding the correct document. Both are important, but developing appropriate technologies and use practices to reduce the human cost of ordinary retrieval would provide more time where the expertise of the individual really made a difference. So both are needed.

My external view across the conversations was that some have developed a deeper understanding of KM, while some still are thinking information management or information technology were KM. They are elements of KM. We created a visual to capture some aspects of KM and it seems useful to continue the dialog until there is a wide spread understanding of the depth and breadth of KM. From that, it is easier to see value, practice strategically and see results.

Collison's and Parcel's KM Self Assessment

Last year IFAD used Chris Collison and Geoff Parcel's KM Self Assessment framework to get a baseline understanding of IFAD's KM and KS work. Basically it identifies 8 key KM practices and asks people to evaluate them across a maturity continuum:

Consistent action
The way we work

In the first year, the self evaluation sat between the "reaction" and "action" areas. Again, this year, most of the self-ratings were at the same place. But the question is, did people have a deeper understanding of what the competencies really meant, thus an ability to more critically evaluate them in action? There is always a risk of "check the box" with these sorts of instruments. It recalls the challenge of evaluating the innovative nature of and knowledge sharing components of IFAD's investments. What do they really mean?

To situate the self assessment in people's real experiences, we set aside organization-wide conversations about the competencies, and invited stories of knowledge at work. We asked participants to situate their STORY along the developmental continuum.

In the concluding large group meeting, we asked people to again rank the organization as a whole. The placement of the stories generally rated a particular event well above the overall organizational placement, suggesting that there are "leading indicators" of strategic use of KM and KS in the organization. The one area of consistency was in "measuring the value," which was a weakness both in the stories and the organizational ratings as a whole. (I might add, it is not so easy to measure much of this stuff!)

What this differential might mean is that once people start consciously considering KM and using KM methods, they are more able to consistently apply and value them. From this, my recommendation would be to continue to surface stories in use and leverage them as both learning what do to, how to do it, but more importantly, WHY to do it -- strategic application. The time for "preaching" about KM for some of the staff is past. But for those who have not yet internalized what it really means, there may need to be more preaching. This leads us to another element I like about the Collison/Parcell framework: the concept of a developmental path.

Developmental Pathways

You'd think that we, as practitioners of international development, would fully understand that things are always changing. We move from beginning, middle and end of projects. New theories and practices emerge and evolve. Politics and cultures shift, albeit slowly. And there is strategic value to going through phases of change. So it should be obvious that practices like KM should reflect the developmental stage of the individuals and the organization as a whole. Because of the diversity of the individuals, not everyone will be at the same point at the same time.

Yet, our organizational structures focus on log frames, "results frameworks" and initiatives that run three years. We want some sort of fixed measure, out of context. We value the "highest ranking" or level, but ignore the value and learning to be gained along the way. I asked one manager to tell me a story where knowledge sharing made an impact. He told an amazing story that we could easily say "yes, that is the way we work!" But when asked about stories of getting to the level of "awareness" or "action" brought a shrug. Are we missing the value and learning along the developmental pathway? Are we only rewarding the output we want, not the outputs that get us to where we want to go?

Building on this gap, managers who are tasked with delivering for their division focus so tightly on those deliverables that the ability to scan and understand the implications of work across the house may be compromised.

This brings us to the challenge. To be able to "turn on the tap of KM practices" amounts to a change in the way we work. And change is not binary; no simple "on" switch. That's what KM implies: changing the way we work to appropriately value knowledge and learning in the service of our mission. I don't think most of us could give you a plan to do that. The Collison/Parcell framework also allows us to step back and reflect not only on where we are, but why we are there. To focus on priorities rather than do everything and get nothing in return. Done both within divisions and across the house, and taken to the next level, it may provide some key insights to the next strategic framework.

On the eve of our first set of meetings, I re-read the original KM Strategy document written in 2008. It is a lovely piece, filled with the theory of KM, examples from other organizations and a very lofty, high level set of goals for a three year initiative. It "set the scene" for KM in IFAD. I reviewed the overview of the year's activities (well documented in a blog in lively storytelling fashion) and noted that the activities focused on very ground-level practice capacity development in Web 2.0 tools and face to face meeting practices - both very pragmatic, but very different, and perhaps even removed from the lofty language of the plan.

It struck me at that moment that the plan was about building the "awareness" level. The lofty goals gave "permission" to say "hey, pay attention to this." In looking at the interview notes, story session notes and conversation with both line staff and managers, there was a "yes, that is important but I'm too busy" nod to the strategic plan, but a refreshing sense of "yeah, this was useful" to the tools and practices.

So what is needed to bridge this gap? My educated guess is that it is time to retire the formal, lofty plan, renegotiate or leave the existing results framework behind and shift to a strategy of application. It may mean digging deeper into the Collison/Parcell assessment and using their "River" strategy to focus on priorities - and these may be diverse across "the house." (I was somehow tickled by the use of this term at IFAD. I liked it!)

There are challenges with this approach.

First, if people are still at different levels of understanding about what KM is and how to use it strategically in their work, there still needs work in this area. So to some extent, there is still a need for "preaching" and advocacy. The "house" is not all at the same point, so a more complex set of activities may be needed to address the diversity.

Second, it anecdotally appears that the most tangible application of KM so far is by mostly younger staff who have either the internal motivation or a supportive manager to experiment with KM. There are few examples of a strategic approach to KM. This may indicate that leadership has not found common ground on the value of KM, nor of its inclusion in their own planning and prioritization. Leadership, role modeling and supporting is key.

Third, one of the most common things we heard was "yes, but I don't have time." It is important to dive underneath this and find out if it is a cause, or a symptom. Is there something that people should STOP doing? Is there not yet a clear value proposition for the appropriate application of KM (and I stress, appropriate - as in for a specific reason!) Without understanding the time dynamic and having a clear value, wider adoption and valuing the role of knowledge in the organization won't have much chance getting beyond "lip service."

Dancing with Dualities and Snowden's Cynefin Framework

Like the example of "no time," there is also the inherent complexity of IFAD itself. From one perspective, you could say it is a bundle of contradictions. Throughout the conversations, contradictions came up, barriers that seemed to suggest "either/or" instead of "and," as well as divisions that might prevent the flow and use of knowledge in the organizations. Headquarters and field. Program division and supporting groups. Top down and bottom up. For example, some felt the way to have a strong KM effort was a very top driven approach, while others said "let 1000 flowers bloom."

These might be seen as opposing forces, or simply as extremes of continuums that exist. I'm applying the term "dualities" but it may not be the best label. In my experience, they are signals that something is worth exploring and discussing. The tension they raise can be creative or destructive. But to simply ignore them and say "it's complex" is not useful. The question is, can we dance with these dualities?

Let's take a specific example that showed up in a number of conversations about the culture of IFAD, a place where many very smart people work, where success is highly valued, so risking failure to learn something may need to be avoided or at least hidden. Not knowing and being wrong or failing are liabilities. At the same time, all the answers that are needed to wisely invest in agriculture for the poor are not known. What works in situation A doesn't always work in B, and yet could work in C if C only knew about it.

Like viewing the KM competencies along a developmental path, with logical reasons for being at any one place at any one time, it seems IFAD could use a framework that creates space for embracing dualities, unknowingness and even contradictions. This framework could help increase discernment of when dualities are acting as sources of diversity, or as blockers.

One framework that I'm familiar with is David Snowden's Cynefin framework which helps situate conditions across four domains. The first is the "simple" domain where actions are predictable and repeatable. The practice in this domain is "sense-categorize-respond." Financial accounting should be predictable. Filling out time sheets. These become rules-based in organizations and are often top down for uniformity's sake. So in IFAD's work as a lender, there may be many things that fit in this area. But they aren't what make IFAD valuable or unique in the development sector. (Note: the image is not an accurate representation of the framework, just a post it we had to capture some of the ideas!)

The second domain is the area of "complicated" work - work that you can predict if you are a specialist or expert, but the rest of us probably could not do. It is through the experience and learning of the specialist that she or he can work in this domain. Past learning is highly valued in this domain, both from academic and field experience. I would guess, for example, that much of the work of Country Program Managers (CPMs) fits in this domain and that much of IFAD's day to day work is here. It is not clear, however, how much of this knowledge is shared and maximized, perhaps due to the crush of work and lack of time, or a low value put on such pursuits. The practice in this domain is "sense-analyze-respond."

The third is the domain of complexity, where you can't explain what happened until after it happened. Snowden calls this "retrospective coherence." It seems that much international development work happens - or at least FEELS like it happens in this domain because we work in complex systems. Inventing a new irrigation device that works from a scientific perspective doesn't guarantee it will work within the socio-political context of a very poor, rural area. Highly productive plant varieties may be rejected for reasons unseen or poorly understood until after the fact we say, "oh, yes, now I see!" The practice here is "probe-sense-respond."

It is in this domain of complexity that it is USEFUL to embrace one's "unknowingness," to design a series of small experiments to find the path forward, something Snowden calls "safe fail experiments." The probing. This is the practice of learning as you work, not past learning that informs current work. I'd suggest that this is a ripe area for IFAD to embrace appropriate risk, open conversations about what is not known or understood, rapid experiment/learn/refine practices and a very explicit set of mechanisms to both engage diverse thinking and share results. It is the place of innovation that is also valued in the house.

The final quadrant is a place few in IFAD as a lending organization will face in their day to day jobs: chaos. It is the domain of crisis, unpredictability and the chance that you not only won't know what to do going in, you may not be able to understand what happened afterward. A rare example may be IFAD's staff now on the ground in Haiti, post earthquake. Here the motto is "act -sense- respond."

Where to next?

So where does this ramble-y reflection on theory, practice and reflection lead us? Here are my distillations and recommendations.

  1. The first "wave of KM awareness" has peaked and the first KM Strategy has served its purpose and should be retired. While there is still a need for raising awareness of/deepening understanding of KM, there needs to be a shift to strategic inclusion of KM into plans at every level in ways that support goals at every level. It should focus on ways that are pragmatic, practical and show value. This includes actually creating space to notice and reflect on that value "along the way." The upcoming strategic framework development exercise is a key opportunity, but I'd suggest that this should be seen as a "house wide" opportunity, beyond the core group of writers and it flow out to plans at every level.
  2. Who can and will "weave" across the gaps, finding the strength of the diversity without letting it reduce the flow of knowledge and the process of learning? It suggests that there are paths which include top down, bottom up and from the side KM work. The trick is the wisdom to know which is best in any particular context."At every level" suggests that IFAD leadership recognizes the many dualities and lets them be triggers for learning rather than reinforcements of isolation and silo-thinking and action.
  3. The trick" is not really a trick, but an ability to discern when something is complex, simple, complicated or chaotic and choosing the appropriate approach. Discernment doesn't happen without diverse conversations, time for reflection and an openness to "not knowing." These can be risky propositions in the current IFAD environment. While they may feel "squishy" or "fluffy," they are valuable to the mission of the organization.


As the core team and I review our reflections, notes and do our analysis, we seek to understand what are the overarching or "meta" issues for knowledge at IFAD. Underneath, we can then identify potential action. While this analysis is not yet complete, here are the things that rise to the top for me at this point in time. These must be evaluated in terms of cost and benefit, placed in context and prioritised. So take them fairly "generally" at this point.

What divides us? Gaps between the rooms in the house.

  • Bridge the silos and the hierarchy. Work with managers and leaders to identify how to better balance vertical and horizontal needs and focus. Include these issues in your plans and policies. The divide between divisions and even within the layers of a division is to some extent natural. From where I sit, it may be getting to the point of damaging both the flow of knowledge and the cohesion needed to function at everyone's best.

  • >Weave the IFAD Networks. Beyond silo bridging from a structural perspective, there is the flow of knowledge that courses informally across the house. Network weavers are people who notice something in one place, considers how it matters to someone in another place and makes the connection. Most often this is informal and facilitated through conversations. Who is weaving conversations between managers? Up and down divisions? Across program and support? The champion could be the leader and role model for this movement, and then help it spread across the house.

  • Visualize the network. IFAD is complex, as is its work. Consider a social network analysis to help IFAD see itself. Some of the gaps will be painful to see, but the existing connections will be gratifying and assets upon which you can build.
  • "No Time." Is this is symptom? A cause? Both? It would be very productive to get "underneath" this issue, starting with managers. What would happen if you asked people not to utter those words for a period of time and instead probe to identify core issues? What if you could identify what people can "stop doing" in order to do the things that really matter? How does leadership help discern which is which?

What can we build upon?

  • Knowledge Enabled Processes. There are many existing processes in the house that can become more "knowledge enabled" (a new term coined by Roxy!) Any quality, monitoring, evaluation or planning process is a moment in time for reflection, learning and knowledge sharing.
  • Trust. Specifically, space and trust is needed to learn from both successes, mistakes, and so much of the work that is "in between" along that developmental pathway we have been making visible through the KM Self assessment. IFAD is full of very smart people, so there is a risk of appearing "dumb" or for "failing." Yet in development, sometimes the only way to learn is to embrace failure.
  • Useful Meetings. Meetings are a core practice at IFAD, both productively and as things that leave no time for anything else. A gradual review of meeting practices may reveal where there are strengths and what might be changed. Simple, short, regular After Action Reviews (AARs) could be a mechanism to steward meetings into consistently useful engagements, and eliminated where they do not provide sufficient value for the time invested. It is crucial that this self reflection include not just managers, as they have the ability to design meetings to suit their needs but which may not suit the needs of others. Where is the appropriate level of compromise?

What is emerging?

  • Look for early adopters. Younger team members appear to be quicker to embrace and understand the value of new ways of working, including knowledge sharing meeting processes and web 2.0 tools to enable more direct, peer to peer sharing. Consider how to support and stimulate this activity and consider how these new capacities will inform your next generation of leaders. Work to support their movement into leadership. Sometimes old habits are hard to change, but still we must prepare for the future.

  • Watch for leading indicators. The stories told in our week together give a sense of possibility that can be examined and amplified where appropriate. Keep this going.
  • >Support thematic networks and communities of practice - with more than general conceptual support. These can be mechanisms for knowledge flow and network weaving, but they can't be at the bottom of people's priorities. Neither can they be strictly top down as the voluntary nature of knowledge flow (compared to the potentially more structured support of knowledge stocks) is both very valuable and often fragile.
  • Map the knowledge stocks and flows. This may be something for a bit further down the road, but maybe a pilot that looks at knowledge stocks and flows in a particular initiative to reveal the often invisible richness embedded in your work.

What is needed as base support?

  • Understanding knowledge at IFAD. Continued work to bring more people to a fuller understanding of what knowledge at IFAD means. (Notice, I'm moving away from the words "knowledge management!") Be on the watch for "surface" understanding - enough awareness that someone can say what they think you want to hear, but really haven't dug into the implications for their own work.
  • <Tie the knowledge value to the loan portfolio. I'm not sure this fits in this category, but as IFAD always has its next loan on the horizon, there needs to be some mechanism to really value and use the knowledge from past and current loans to inform, as appropriate, going forward.

[1] Parcell, G., Collison, C. (2009) No more consultants: we know more than we think. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.
[2] http://www.cognitive-edge.com/blogs/dave/2010/02/evolution_of_cynefin_over_a_de.php#more

IFAD's Governing Council, an occasion for many debuts

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, February 11, 2010 2 comments

For the first time in IFAD's history we are holding our annual Governing Council at our headquarters. Like any debut, the making of the GC is an exciting and unique experience. For the first time, all of us, and not only those closely involved in the preparations are experiencing the making of the Governing Council. Many colleagues have commented that "now that we are seeing it all happening under our nose, we feel part of it".

On Monday morning, when we came to the office we saw a tent erected in our outside parking space. This was the first visible sign of the GC preparations. Everyone was amazed how in just less than 48 hours the workers had managed to put up the tent. The tent will be the heart of the event serving as the plenary hall.

For safety reasons, administrative services declared the whole area off-limits. But your social reporting team was granted special access to visit the construction site on regular intervals to share with you the making of the GC.

Over the last couple of days, we've seen the tent come life and I must admit both the outside and inside the tent looks absolutely fabulous. My colleague who provided the creative inspiration and my administrative services colleagues were telling me that they been receiving so many compliments.

This whole undertaking is another testimony of the commitment, inventiveness and passion of IFAD staff. Everyone is doing their bit to make this debut a smashing success.

In another debut, this year the IFAD social reporting team will use social media to report live from the Third Global Meeting of Farmers' Forum and the Thirty-third session of the Governing Council. We'll be using Twitter and this social reporting blog to share the highlights of the Farmers' Forum and the Governing Council. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @ifadnews and you can use the blog and Twitter to pose your questions and comments.

Looking forward to "hearing from you".

Watch the making of the GC tent

For five days, the austere and quiet Qatar Information Centre radically changed its appearance! The empty and lonely rooms were energized by a continuous flow of people. The centre became a meeting point where colleagues congregated to have a conversation and share their stories.

Every day the bare window panes came to life with beautiful drawings, colourful paper and post-its telling the story of IFAD’s knowledge management and knowledge sharing journey. In a way they reminded me of the Peruvian “talking maps”. After all, all these artefacts were telling the story of where we started, where we are and where we would like to be…. So indeed they were talking maps!

The process
Let’s start from the beginning. Just before the Christmas holidays, the KM core team in consultation with the KM community of practice agreed that it was time to assess and reflect on the implementation of IFAD’s knowledge management strategy. Using last year’s self-assessment as a benchmark, we decided to reuse Parcell and Collinson’s KM self-assessment framework (LINK). We agreed that we needed a KM practitioner to help us with the self-assessment and got in touch with our mentor Nancy White.

Nancy and the core team had a number of teleconferences to organize the week. To set the stage and get some insight, the core team conducted numerous one-on-one interviews which were used as an input to the self-assessment exercise.

Over the course of the week we held six different sessions with a total of 50 colleagues from all over the organization and used a variety of knowledge sharing methods such as story telling, world café, after action review. It was amazing how everyone enjoyed working with these knowledge sharing methods and appreciated their utility and value. I believe the informality of the conversations allowed a lot of things which otherwise would have remained hidden to surface.

We started off on Monday afternoon with a group of 10 network and thematic group leaders. These guys acted as guinea pigs and we learnt a lot from their sessions. We used their feedback and comments to shape up the subsequent sessions.

Tuesday was an intense day. We had three sessions, starting off with a mixed group of colleagues from programme management department and communications division. The lunch session was with country programme managers and technical advisers. And we finished the day with a group of colleagues from finance, administration, communications and human resources.

On Wednesday we had a revealing conversation with our outposted Viet Nam country programme manager and the Viet Nam knowledge management officer. In the afternoon we had a session with line managers and our new knowledge management champion, Henock Kifle.

Thursday was a reflection day and a day for Nancy to have bilateral meetings with Henock and Kevin. And finally on Friday we brought together everyone to do some “weaving” and to share the outcome and findings of the week.

Mashing up story telling and Parcell’s KM self-assessment framework

During each session, participants were asked to tell a story of how in 2009 they had applied knowledge sharing to their work. We put our new toy – the cool Flipcam – to work and immortalized these stories. We now have to iron-out a small technical issue so that we can make the videos available.

In telling their story, they were asked talk about who they shared the knowledge with, what knowledge management and/or knowledge sharing methods and approaches they used, what was their biggest challenges and what did they learn. Everyone found story telling a compelling way of sharing their knowledge.

Once they told their story, they were asked to use the KM self-assessment matrix and identify the level of maturity of their story and which of the 8 competencies best resonated with their story.

Creating a space to mingle, share and learn from each other
Over the course of the week, I heard 40 different stories and amazingly enough only one story was repetitive. I observed people as they told their stories and I must admit it was a rewarding experience. It was great to see people’s faces lit as they were telling their stories. I got the impression that they were so happy to have finally found someone who was giving them their undivided attention. It was amazing how everyone listened carefully to each other’s story.

What was equally amazing was that in each group, hardly anyone knew about their colleagues’ stories and when the storyteller presented his/her challenge, everyone started chiming in and providing advice and guidance based on their experience and knowledge. In one of the groups a colleague said: “I heard so many interesting stories, it is reassuring because it made me realize that we are all in the same boat”. By sharing their stories, they suddenly realized that they had lots of things in common!

This made me realize how we still lack a space for colleagues to come together face-to-face so that they can share their stories, challenges and opportunities and learn from each other.

I know we all have our informal networks and people who we use to bounce off ideas. What we’re lacking is a corporate culture of sharing and learning and a culture of sharing across functions, across divisions and departments.

I believe there is something deeper that what meets in the eye…. We use our informal networks because we trust the network members, because we know they care about us and will take the necessary time to listen to us and help us. We also do not expect them to necessarily agree with us, and we do not get on the defensive when they challenge us.

Reflecting on all the conversations during this week made me think, how seldom we walk to someone else’s office – especially someone outside of our immediate workgroup, division or department – to pick their brain or share a challenge or an achievement.

So I kept asking myself what is preventing us from expanding these informal networks so that we can leverage the knowledge of other colleagues and peers. Is it because we live in the false assumption that our challenge is unique to us or is it because we do not want to ‘disturb’ our colleagues knowing how busy they are or because we are afraid to ask for help.

I know we have brainstorming sessions and we have a culture of meeting, but I often ask myself whether our current work practices and processes are knowledge enabled. For example, how often do we go to meetings and come out saying “Gee that was a useful meeting, I learnt a lot and had an opportunity to share what I know”. How often do we experience mutual learning? How often do we say ‘I do not know, I need to learn’ and how often do we say ‘I do not know and I do not need to know’? Finally what is preventing us from taking time to stop, reflect and share what we’ve learnt before embarking on the next project and/or activity?

Level of KM maturity
In our wrap-up session on Friday morning, we asked the participants to use the KM self-assessment framework to indicate the KM maturity level. It was good to see that for most of the competencies the collective wisdom ranked our KM maturity at “action” level. I believe that this year contrary to last year there was more awareness about what knowledge management and knowledge sharing is all about. This makes me believe that this year’s assessment reflects much more the reality.

Reflecting back on the week, I now firmly believe that the strategy has fulfilled its mission. As Nancy put it, developing the KM strategy helped us to become aware of knowledge management and knowledge sharing. The strategy itself was a reaction to a need and by implementing it we entered the action mode. Now, we need to consistently apply it so that it becomes our way of working. We know that some are applying but we’re not all applying at the same time and that the application waxes and wanes. We also know that there are isolated and small pockets where KM/KS is the way of work.

Tension between operations and service divisions and organizational silos
During the course of the week time and again colleagues talked about the vertical and horizontal silos. Everyone acknowledged that while some sharing happens within work units, this is not necessarily the case between and among work units, divisions and departments. So we agreed more horizontal sharing need to happen so that we can all learn from each other – and this “all” is not just operations colleague, but everyone.

Colleagues identified that there is a divide between operations and the rest of the house. As someone put it eloquently, service divisions are not considered as strategic partners. Actually, even worse, they are often seen as a nuisance.

At the same time, it was interesting to see the different perceptions and how people perceived their role as knowledge worker and the application of knowledge differently. There is a quite a bit of different interpretations of “packaging knowledge” to make it digestible and accessible (not only in terms of finding it but most importantly of understanding it!).

We all agreed that KM is messy, we need to do a lot of connecting and weaving.

By the end of the week, the knowledge management and knowledge sharing map at IFAD looked like this:

Soundbits, comments, observationsDuring the course of the week colleagues made very insightful remarks and at the same time they raised a number of issues. I am listing these in bullet format. This list is by no means comprehensive and I urge KM core team, Nancy and all those who participated to add and amend it as deemed appropriate.

  • A mistake made is knowledge gained
  • Knowledge dies if it is not shared
  • There are many untold stories, how can we make sure they are shared and heard
  • We need to move away from the blame culture
  • Organization needs to accept failure… the important thing is that we learn from it
  • By sharing knowledge we realize we’re not alone
  • We have too many formal things to do and do not have time to do KM stuff
  • KM is not part of our core function
  • Knowledge is driven by hierarchy and this hinders natural knowledge flow
  • There is little or no incentive to share
  • Distilling information is a challenge
  • Humility to learn form others
  • Storage and retrieval is deemed as a general service function
  • Tools are important to make sure knowledge flows
  • Trust and interpersonal relationships can help or hinder knowledge flow
  • Need to communicate more horizontally to foster knowledge sharing
  • Need to capture scattered knowledge
  • Need to acknowledge that everyone’s knowledge counts
  • Need to understand that systems, tools and knowledge assets serve different purpose and needs, which means that if I am not using a system, this does not mean it is useless as it probably is useful for someone else
  • How can we better digest, mine and make sense of knowledge and lessons emerging from our activities
  • Reward KM initiatives, be it that they are corporate or at grassroot level
  • Make our corporate processes knowledge enabled

What next
To move ahead, I believe we need to better understand how relationships between people and groups can facilitate or hinder knowledge flows. In the manager group, it was interesting to see how each one perceived KM differently and made assumptions on what was important for someone else or what others needed or wanted. In the conversation with Atsuko – who is one of our few outposted country programme managers – I was shocked to find out that she was not consulted in formulating the guidelines for outposted CPMS and equally shocked that she was not regularly in touch with and consulting with her other outposted colleagues.

I think the time we’ve reached a juncture where we can benefit from a social network analysis (SNA). SNA is about understanding who people seek information and knowledge from, whom they share their information and knowledge with. In contrast to an organization chart which shows formal relationships, an SNA chart shows informal relationships - who knows whom and who shares information and knowledge with whom. It therefore allows visualizing and understanding the relationships that can either facilitate or impede knowledge creation and sharing.

The other big next steps are:

  • Creating an enabling environment where everyone’s knowledge is valued and create a space for colleagues to come together, share and learn from each other
  • Embed knowledge management in strategic framework 2011-2014 to ensure that we can both bring in and generate the knowledge we need
  • Review corporate processes and make them more KM enabled
  • Examine information management flows and take stock of information assets

A personal reflection
Last week was a rewarding experience. I not only learnt a lot, I also appreciated the importance of weaving and connecting strands. I must admit I am left with more questions and doubts than answers. But as Bertrand Russell said: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” So anyone out there willing and ready to help…. Give a shout!

The mid-term review mission of the IFAD-financed Programme de Developpement Durable des Oasis (PDDO) in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has just returned from the field. The PDDO covers 5 regions: Adrar, Tagant, Assaba, and the two Hodh. The mission was given security clearance for the Adrar and the Assaba where it was accompanied by very professional and friendly military escorts.

The mission visited 9 oases in the Adrar...and it was amazed over the potentials of farming vegetables, fruits and wheat in the desert! This is all thanks to the support which the PDDO is elaborating for small-scale irrigation and "farming under palm tree" techniques in partnership with the villagers of the different Oases. The green colour of the wheat was such a contrast to the aridity of the sandy soil below! In addition to wheat, farmers are producing various kinds of vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, gombo, etc.) and even fruit trees are planted in the oases, including lemon trees. Clearly, this has had an impact on the nutrition of the population as the villagers themselves confirmed to the mission.

The villagers welcomed the mission in their oases with their wonderful hospitality-some even took care of during the night where they set up their beautiful tents (haima). The mission thus had an incredible opportunity

to truly discuss with the villagers their feelings about the PDDO and the Oasis projects which preceded it. It was a pleasure to hear from the villagers themselves the important impact the Programme is having on their lives. But more than anything, it was amazing for the mission to see how women were involved in the discussions and truly speaking their minds.

In various instances the women said publicly how the most important impact of the PDDO and the previous Oasis II project is that 15 years ago, they did not have the courage to speak out or to take any decisions over the way the projects/programmes should be implemented. Through the project's literacy and information/education/communication campaigns and the quotas that the programme/projects have established for women in the various management committees, women have been able to better participate in the different project/programme economic activities, including farming. Today, they feel more comfortable to speak out in public and when they bring money home, their husbands are happy. Could this be the beginning of a new future for this young lady?

The third global meeting of the Farmers' Forum will place on 15 and 16 February 2010 in conjunction with the Thirty-third session of IFAD's Governing Council. The Forum will bring together more 70 farmers' leaders from around the world, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers from all over the world who will interact with IFAD staff and selected partners. The Forum will be opened by the President of IFAD, Kanayo Nwanze.

The forum will use social reporting, which is an emerging philosophy which mixes journalism, facilitation and social media. It goes beyond posting agendas, papers, presentations and speeches on corporate websites. It is based on collaboration and live reporting from events by involving those "not in the room" to follow and contribute to the event. Social reporting uses a variety of techniques and tools such as story-telling, interviews, videos, photography, blogs, twitter, podcasts, posting documents to slideshare to tell the story.

The social reporter team will report live from the various sessions, allowing colleagues who cannot attend to participate virtually. You can start posing your questions using Twitter (send your questions to @ifadnews) or post a comment on this introductory blogpost.

What is the Farmers' Forum?
The Farmers’ Forum process was born in 2005. It is an on-going, bottom-up process of consultation and dialogue between small farmers’ and rural producers’ organizations (FOs), IFAD and governments, focused on rural development and poverty reduction. The Forum is rooted in concrete partnership and collaboration at the countryand regional levels. The Forum meets every two years for a global consultation, in conjunction with the Governing Council of IFAD.

The 2010 edition will be focusing more on operational matters. To that end, two sessions will be organised by IFAD operational divisions:

  • the first one Monday afternoon on operational collaboration between IFAD and farmers’ organisations at country and regional levels;
  • the second one Tuesday morning on the themes of (a) food security in a context of growing competition on access to land, (b) roles of farmers’ organisations in empowering small farmers in value chains, and (c) differentiated policies and investment programmes in support of smallholder agriculture.

Entretien avec Anthony Dessources, Directeur du PPI-II, Haiti

Posted by Zoumana Bamba Monday, February 1, 2010 0 comments

Q- Comment avez-vous vécu le tremblement de terre?

Comme tous les haïtiens, c’était pour la première fois. J’étais devant une église dans ma voiture. La voiture a commence a bouger. Les gens ont commence a courir et crier. J’étais avec ma femme. Ca dépassait toute notre imagination.

Quand j’ai réalisé ce qui se passait, j’ai réalisé l’ampleur des dégâts quand je me suis déplacé. J’ai vu de gros bâtiments écroulés. Il y a eu trois secousses en tout. Ma maison a été fissurée. C’était la panique totale. Il y avait encore beaucoup de jeunes dans les écoles. La majorité des victimes sont des jeunes. Je n’ai pas eu de pertes dans ma famille mais nous avons perdu de grands amis.
L’état a perdu des symboles comme le palais de justice et le ministère de la justice, les impôts, etc.

En Haïti, on gère bien le passage des cyclones, mais pas des séismes qui ne sont pas communs.

Q- Quelle est la situation des populations rurales dans les zones couvertes par votre projet ?

Dans les zones d’intervention du projet, il n’y a pas d’effet direct. Cependant, les mouvements de population vers les trois zones couvertes par le projet.

Q- Quelle est la situation de votre projet?

Le projet est opérationnel, mais le problème est que le bâtiment de l’unité de coordination a subi des dommages assez importants et ne peut plus être utilisé. Mais les équipements sont fonctionnels. Il n’y aura pas de gros investissements pour les équipements.

J’ai réuni mon équipe pour réfléchir aux solutions. Les bureaux sont branchés sur internet. J’ai commencé à travailler avec les bureaux de province. Nous sommes en mesure de mettre en œuvre le PTBA.

Q- Selon vous, quels types de programmes le FIDA devrait mettre en œuvre , particulièrement en faveur des femmes et des jeunes ?

Il faut aider davantage des groupements de femmes, faciliter l’accès au microcrédit avec des dons ou à travers les projets en cours. Aider les jeunes à devenir des prestataires de service.

Q- Quelles leçons tirées de cette catastrophe?

Ce drame nous interpelle sur la façon dont nous avons gérer notre espace. Nous n’avons pas respecté pas les normes en matière de construction. Il faut respecter la nature. Nous devons faire les choses autrement.

Testimonies from Haiti

Posted by Zoumana Bamba 1 comments

The Minister of Agriculture

The earthquake had impact on: - Indirectly touched sectors – Availability and needs for food - Areas of consumption/supply. This implies coordination between the actions in progress and a good assessment of needs. IFAD is an essential partner in the agricultural sector to consolidate the assets, to meet the short-term needs. Approximately 1.5 million people left the urban areas: return to the areas to join families - or not - and they will be then in competition with the already established people.

Actions will be taken to reinforce the capacity of integration to develop employment (a joint and concerted action of the government is necessary) – A programme has been worked out by the Government with FAO & IICA for 600 million US$ over 18 months. The farming season of March produces approximately 60% of consumption: we are thus at a key stage of food security in the country. Another medium-term programme (5 years) will be elaborated.

Anthony Dessources - Director PPI-II

150.000 died, 50.000 wounded, almost 1.000.000 of moved. There is no direct impact on the rural sector. Only the migration will have effects on the number of people per household, between 3 and 5 people moreover, which will thus pass from 5 to 10 people). The emergency will last 3 to 6 months. But of medium and long term actions are necessary to preserve the structure of the rural areas and the capacity to produce of agriculture. Some evaluations are still missing but between 20 and 25.000 persons moved in the western northern zone.

Jean-Marie Bisserette CEHPAPE
The Communes of Gressier (District of Port-au-Prince), of Léogane, Small-Goâve and Large Goâve (District of Léogane) located in the Department of the West were seriously touched. The indicators of the OCHA show that these above communes were seriously affected by the seism.
Before the earthquake, 10 irrigated perimeters adding up a surface of 3352 ha, used by 7344 (users) families whose majority of them are organized in producers’ association. Irrigated perimeters contribute to ensure food security for these local populations and the populations of the metropolitan zone of Port-au-Prince.

Following the passage of the seism, farming systems of these rural areas were completely destroyed. Besides the assessments of thousands of dead and the collapse of good number of buildings, it is necessary to also note: the destruction of the natural habitats, the damage of the irrigation systems, the destruction of the rural roads and of the drinking water adduction. This catastrophic situation has very serious humane consequences. Moreover, the strong migrations of populations of the metropolitan zone of Port-au-Prince towards the neighbouring rural communes (an increase of approximately 20% of the local populations) worsen the situation of food safety already very precarious on the level of these zones.