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!!!

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