Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Slowly but surely knowledge sharing methods are making a signficant dent

Over the last weeks I was on cruscade to convince colleagues to use a series of knowledge sharing methods for a regional event. This morning I saw the results of my efforts.

In a plenary session bright and early I laid out the plan for the day. We started off with three parallel chat shows, moved to three parallel world cafes and finished off with a speed geeking session.



The three parallel chat shows focused on the following three themes:
  • Agricultural value chain development
  • Rural and agricultural finance and rural enterprises
  • Support to capacity building

During the chat show participants shared their insights, experience and knowledge about the various challenges and opportunities of the above themes. For many, this was the first time they had participated in a chat show and most of them thorougly enjoyed it.

At the end of chat show the hosts quickly formulated three questions based on the insight that emerged from the chat show. These questions were then addressed during the World Cafe.

Your reporter had the daunting task of acting as cafe host for all three parallel world cafes. I must admit this was quite challenging also because I had to set up the cafe tables for one of the group. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of the participants, I started with the first group outlining the process. 5 minutes later I went to the second group and did the same. I then rushed upstairs to third group.

The hosts of group three were absolutely marvelous and had explained the process to the participants. Drenched, I headed back to the secretariat for a sip of water.

The cafe host is also the time keeper. So 20 minutes into the first round of questions, I did my rounds to ask colleagues to move table and get on with their second question. I must admit that everyone collaborated and they moved orderly to the next table, trying their utmost to keep 5 to table.

The hosts of group 3 had done their maths right and had managed to have 5 francophone and 5 anglophone tables!!! The participants in all three cafes were completely engaged. I heard comments such as: "This cafe thing is really good". Another person said: "You know, I was a skeptic, but this structured chaos is really great!". Someone else reflecting on the process said "I wish we had started by asking the participants to talk about their successes, because when we did that at the last round, the energy level changed." And this person right, the question is one the important ingredients of a world cafe, it can make it or break it.

I am currently immersed in a series appreciative leadership courses, so his comment resonated completely with my changed mindset. He was right on: we always need to start looking at strengths and build on these, rather than falling in the trap of looking at weakness.

After lunch, participants regrouped in their original table to do the summary of their discussions. These were then used for the speed geeking. An hour later, a total of 30 table hosts descended to the open area, carrying flipcharts or their flipchart papers. They created their stands waiting eagerly to present their table's work to other participants.


I think the speed geeking could have gone a bit better, if before the participants made their way downstairs, we would have reminded them what was expected from the table hosts and from the other participants. This said, the outputs were remarkable. I walked to three stands and must say I was quite impressed.
Kudos to tmy colleagues who fully embracing the concept of using knowledge sharing methods at their events. This is now the second time. Early this year, they used the same knowledge sharing methods at another workshop.

For your reporter, it was an absolutely rewarding day. I hope colleagues back home got a flavour of the richness of this day. Hope I've done justice to the great work that went on today.

Now, we are all getting ready for a well deserverd dinner somewhere near the beach. If you feel inspired, please comment on this blogpost.

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