Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Learning routes: the quintessence of knowledge sharing

The IFAD social reporting blog ran a series of blogposts called “Africa meets the new world - Procasur learning route…. Well, guess what, the “Learning Routes” colleagues came to Rome!

Over the last two days I had the privilege of sitting in on two brainstorming and learning and sharing events organized by our Procasur and Latin America and the Caribbean colleagues.

In the true spirit of learning route, these meetings were a great source of inspiration and a unique learning opportunity.

It is very hard to explain a learning route as these are experiential experiences. You have to live one to understand and appreciate it. I believe they are the quintessence and great embodiment of knowledge management and knowledge sharing.

You’re probably wondering what I am talking about….. If you’ve been on learning route you’ll now know the difference between learning from seeing something in action and reading about something in a report.

Learning route methodology covers the three stages of learning – that is learning before, during and after. In a way it is also a form of peer assist.

When you face a challenge and feel that someone must have already faced it and overcome it, you do not need reinvent the wheel and solve it by yourself, you can present your challenge and learn from those who have already been there and done that.

One of the extraordinary characteristics of a learning route is the fact that you learn from people… That’s right, you learn from the real experience of REAL PEOPLE. It’s that a treat….

How many times have you read a report and wondered how much of what you are reading is really grounded in reality and how much of it is written just to show that the targets and indicators have been met!

In a learning route you engage in a conversation with the actors – be it the farmer, the policy maker, the representative of the local government, the rural development worker, the artisan, the mother, the nurse. And all these people are willing and are keen to share their experience, knowledge, know-how, challenges and fears. So in a learning route you have the opportunity to bounce off ideas, hear and learn from a myriad of perspectives. You have an immense portfolio of experience and knowledge at your finger tips!

Learning routes are a great example of double learning loop and a personification of knowledge sharing in ACTION!

As you may know in a single learning loop, the emphasis is on techniques and making the technique more efficient. This means while exploring the technical side you focus on following routines and some sort of present plan. A double learning loop on the other hand, involves questioning the role of the framing and learning systems, it is more creative, reflective and reflexive. A double learning loop is about incremental learning that improves the answers, helps the learner to modify his/her mental model and allows the learner to make informed decisions in a rapidly changing and uncertain context.

In a nutshell, experiencing a learning route allows the learner to explore different solutions for a given challenge and definitely helps you clear up the cobwebs!

My take home messages

As I was listening to colleagues exchanging ideas and sharing their experience, I realized one of success elements of Procasur and the Learning routes are people managing this programme. They are PASSIONATE and COMMITED. They are proud of what they are doing and believe 300% in what they do. I wonder if the programme would be what it is today with a different set of people…. Probably it would be something different…. So this reinforced my thinking that it is the PEOPLE driving KM initiatives that make the difference!!! Kudos to Ariel, Juan Moreno, Roberto and all the others!

Perhaps my biggest wake up call was the fact that we desperately need to put in place learning routes mechanism in IFAD itself. We need to get much better in sharing and exchanging amongst ourselves and within our own four walls. We are surrounded by inspiring and knowledgeable people, yet we often resort to outside resources rather than looking inside.

We need to scout for and identify our own local talents and use them as our learning route guides.

I often hear people saying, we need to put in place incentive mechanism to encourage knowledge sharing – and I must admit so far, I’ve failed to understand what this means…. Listening to the exchange made me think, what is the incentive for the learning route local talents to share their knowledge? And if their incentive is to learn from others, isn’t that a good enough, if not a noble incentive for the rest of us?

I really felt privileged to have participated in these conversations and I sincerely hope we can institutionalize internal learning routes so that FINALLY we start breaking down the silos!!!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Untimely loss of a friend and the impact of social media on human relationships

On Thursday 29 April 2010 at 11:27am I got an email - the subject was :( and carried the text below:
“In Memoriam: In utter disbelief, with the heaviest of heart and unimaginable sadness, i heard today of the passing away of my dear friend and treasured colleague, Ramin Rafirasme. Life brings tears, smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smile fades, but the memories live on forever..........”
I read the message three times….. and indeed in utter disbelief, I thought this cannot be true. Ramin and I had chatted on-line less than a month ago.
[02/04/2010 19:43:26] Roxanna Samii: ramin jan how are you doing? hope both you and your son are feeling better. We definitely missed you the other night at Sara's

[02/04/2010 20:09:15] Ramin: I am ok Roxy jan. Just moved to a new place, Pz. Risorgimento. Still need a bit of time putting things together in this apartment. But between opening boxes and familiarizing with the new neighbourhood, I am having fun learning how to use Skype and Social Networking tools. Might be useful also for my students.
He was really excited about lecturing and teaching journalism at university in Rome. He was also excited because he was getting his head around social media tools. He had started a new life, a new beginning and was looking forward to a brighter future.

I starred at my computer screen for about 20 minutes feeling totally numb, I finally reached out for my cellphone and called Ramin’s number, hoping that he would answer the phone. I kept thinking, this is not true, this cannot be true… But then, Hafez, Ramin’s son answered….

Alas, on Wednesday night, Ramin left us for a better place……. After I hung up with Hafez, I remembered something I had read some time ago: “to die is not the worst thing a man can do. To live defeated, that is the worst. Life without life, is no life”

Ramin was someone who loved to live. He lived everything fully. He did things wholeheartedly and at the same time, he never took himself too seriously. He was what the Italians call “solare”. He was witty, charming, had a great sense of humour and a great Iranian political analyst.

I remember in June, during the post election riots, when we met, I asked him, Ramin Jan what will happen now? He looked at me, smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said: “Roxy jan nothing will happen, nothing will change”.

Ramin, a seasoned journalist, an astute political analyst and one of the very few people who fully understood the socio-political dynamics, knew better….. While initially I thought he was out of his mind, with time, we all realized that indeed he was right…. Nothing really changed.

Ramin’s demise made me also realize how the very social media he was embracing, adopting and using has changed the way we deal with grief, sorrow and in general, how technology has modified the way we related to each other.

My latest interaction with Ramin was on Skype. I found out that he had passed away through an email. After talking with Ramin’s son, what did I do? I sent a direct message on Twitter to my friend Gauri Salokhe and subsequently shared my grief and sorrow on Twitter
Just found out about the loss of a colleague and friend. Made me think of the missed phone call and the missed visit :((
I then received the nicest and most considerate tweet from a very special lady by the name of Bonnie Koening.

We all seem to be living on the fast lane, no time to stop, take stock, bereave, mourn, be with ourselves…. No absolutely not…. Couple of hours later, I was facilitating a workshop, but my mind was really on Ramin and I tweeted:
Facilitating world cafe for our technical advisory + policy division is helping me not to think too much about the loss of my colleague
Back at my desk, in the evening before calling back Hafez to find out about the funeral arrangements and calling it a day, I sent a series of emails to friends and colleagues giving them the sad news…..

Thinking back, I find it extraordinary that I did not pick up the phone to TELL anyone but found comfort by hiding behind my computer screen. In retrospect, I find that very sad.

Later in the evening, I received an email from Ramin…. This was really spooky….Of course, it was Hafez sending an email from Ramin’s hotmail account. That email made me realize that today our most valuable assets is not our money in the bank or our home, but our on-line identity. Our virtual presence is now our public face and our preferred mode of communication is to communicate with each other on-line.

A decade ago, we had to only take care of our material assets – our money, home, land etc. Today we also have to take care of our “unmaterial” assets – our on-line identity - and make sure that our loved ones know our userids and passwords to our Facebook, LinkedIn, Blog, Twitter, MySpace, Ning site!!!

I then visited Ramin’s facebook’s page, where I found Jahanshah’s blog post which is a beautiful obituary. Jahanshah truly seems to have been Ramin’s twin and definitely someone who knew him very very well.

Ramin’s Facebook page is now becoming the place for his friends and family to come together and mourn the untimely loss of a dear friend.

Ramin jan, may you rest in peace. You’ll be missed tremendously and will continue to live in our hearts and mind.

Roohet shad! We'll always remember you, happy, smiling and full of life!