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The Spirit of the Share Fair 2011

Today the Second AgriKnowledge Share Fair starts.

Before anything else, we, the Steering Committee, think the Spirit of the participation to this event to be crucial.

Interview with Willem Bettink - one of the organizers of the #sfrome

I like very much Willem’s description of the spirit of the Share Fair 2011.

The first and main aspiration is to “have a lot of fun”: we need to chill out, talk to other people, get out of our daily routine and breath fresh air to bring innovation and new idea in what we are doing

This is the spirit we want and need to transmit to all the participants and to our institutions, in general. If people will come out of the the week with this spirit permeating their job, then our work can be considered successful.

Let us know this spirit is able to conquer your soul and your job.


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The importance of an OPEN MIND

Interesting discussion with Mario Gastaldi on change in organizations, yesterday afternoon here at FAO.

Kept in my mind two main inputs:

the doubts on the value of
CHANGE

and

the importance of
an OPEN MIND

In particular, I keep on reflecting and elaborating the second point. To me, an OPEN MIND is :

– the ability to listen to people in every occasion,
– the unconscious feeling of being able to go to a meeting ready to let ideas from the others coming to you,
– the desire to focus not only on what you want to express,
– the capacity to have an “empty” mind, ready to be filled by external inputs,
– the willingness to let the positive feelings from outside affect on your mood,
– the positiveness towards the others’ notes,
– the sensitivity to the others’ remarks and needs,

How many other ways come to you to describe the state of a mind when it’s open?

As Mario was saying yesterday, it doesn’t mean to let the others do whatever they like. The point is to be convinced of what you believe but let ALWAYS place for doubts.

So, we need to find a deep balance inside ourselves to be able to manage certainties and uncertainties at the same time: to become open minded, we need a sort of Japanese Dō (). I think being OPEN is a really difficult state of the MIND,  but we can focus on it and try everyday to make it a more common habit.


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Session on microblogging

Luca explaining twitter at the boardLast week we had an introductory session about what micro-blogging is. Most of the attention was dedicated to twitter but there was also time to explain yammer and laconica.

Many different twitterers were in the room like @gaurisalokhe, @mongkolroek, @TheRoadTo and @mariagraziab, with also other friend connected.

Many questions came from the audience. The most representative of the doubts in the room was:  “twitter, like other tools, resembles in many aspects email, so why do we have to move away from email?”

Here are the points and the problems to bypass:

  • people are overloaded by communication flows, and
  • they do not immediately perceive implicit differences among tools.

Unless they have the chance to test these tools for some time, they won’t be able to familiarize with the differences and realize how their job could benefit. Testing needs willingness, time and desire and these issues are not always “available” in professionals. As a consequence, my feeling is that if we want people to modify their behavior, they must be in the position of  immediately identifying the benefits deriving from changing their habits. If we don’t look at the questions people have in mind everyday and we are just fascinated by technology, we loose the focus and our ideas risk to become sterile.

I think we have to go back to these “simple” questions and try to solve these very basic but fundamental problems if we really want to promote KM, innovation and communication in our job.


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Prodding from the Share Fair 09

Thanks to Nadia Manning-Thomas, my friend in the KM4DEV list, for this interview to Geoff Parcell, who opened the Share Fair 09 with his keynote.

When asked about the highlights of the Fair, Geoff, who is in charge of the knowledge management for the WHO, UNDP, the World Bank and the Swiss Development Agency, noted:

An additionally exciting part of the event for me was being able to witness the overall chaos and energy in the Atrium.”

I felt exactly the same. It is definitely true that there was a wind of emotion and energy across the “Atrium” of FAO. This place, a very large hall with a glass cover and lots of plants, is usually silent and not living. There are occasions across the year, with the Committee on  Forestry, Fishery or Agriculture, when life comes to the Atrium but still, it does not become vital. It’s just movement, passing by, crossing the space with no or few occasions for real INTERACTION: to meet, sit together, talk and share.

For sure people have energy also in those occasions BUT is not easy to show off. Maybe, because people are very much willing to say or show something, rather then to meet someone or hear something. Geoff’s interview was titled “Time to make connections – not collections” and this can make us reflect!

Geoff’s interpretation of the future for international organizations, like FAO and the other Rome-based UN Agencies, is another good point to reflect:

All of the organizations involved in this Share Fair can no longer think of themselves as the authority on food and agriculture. People will get information wherever they can. And especially with new and advancing technologies, information is now available in many more ways than it has been before.

Regarding this, last November, when the Cultural Change Team initiative was launched at FAO, I wrote some notes on the problem of “Changing”. Now, I see Geoff’s position and mine are very similar, at least when we both agree that International Organizations have to get into a new perspective, where facilitation of international projects is a key point and becomes a powerful condition.

Essentially knowledge management is an attitude change from ‘we are the experts, telling others what to do’ to ‘let’s look at what’s going on and see how to support those efforts.’ The problem is that people feel threatened by change.

What they don’t realize is that it can be a very powerful thing to facilitate processes rather than dictating or leading them.

The point for us now is to find the way to spread this message and help people not to feel threatened by this occasion and future perspective.


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CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE

CHANGE seems to be the KEY word all over the world these days.

FAO dialogue of the Reform processAt FAO, two main events just took place last week. The Organization is undertaking a deep and serious process of internal restructuring. After the IEE (Independent External Evaluation) report, which suggested many and different changes in the strategy, the approach and the structure, now it is time for implementation. It will officially start after the approval of the action plan by the member states, late this November. As you can see in the picture, all of us were invited to attend a presentation meeting organized by the Senior management to illustrate the guidelines of the FAO Reform.

Cultural Change TeamAt the same time, in parallel and due to this process, a new ad-hoc tool to promote change has been created in the house: the “Culture Change Team” is in charge of taking care of this change-of-mentality process. The first public appearance was the convocation of a voluntary gathering called Open House session, which I attended last Tuesday.

The meeting was very informal and easy, with a short introduction of the Team, which is composed by 15 people, both from headquarters and Regional offices. Second step consisted in an invitation to comment and complement in a proactive way the draft list of vision statements prepared by the Team. Lastly, a longer World Cafe session allowed people to gather in small groups of 5/6 persons to discuss for some 25 minutes how we would like the culture of FAO to be. Each group’s final report was publicly illustrated to the assembly.Cultual Change Team

In the meanwhile, the issues of change, reform and new culture are being addressed more and more also in the web Forum on the Intranet which is, I think, a good sign of commitment and willingness by people involved in the process.

Still, scepticism persists. It is clear and widespread. The question “Is this the real time for change?” came clearly out during the presentation meeting. Again TRUST came out to be the fundamental factor upon which collaboration is built. If people do not trust the leaders, than their actions, whatever they are, will be unlikely to be successful. In this regard, I can say that many colleagues, not “trusting” this trend, choose not to join the presentation meeting which had been organized by the Senior management to illustrate the guidelines of the FAO Reform.

The FAO culture people wantTo me, this need of reorganization is deeply connected to a wider change the entire world faced in the last decades, where two key factors mainly changed: transportation and communication. In my vision, in a world where space and time ceased to be strong barriers, an international organization committed to eradicate hunger and poverty in the framework of the United Nations, as FAO is, and which is fundamentally based on knowledge to achieve its goals, has to find in the worldwide scenario a completely different role from the past. In my opinion, it has to move from “supporting” Governments in the management of development activities, to “facilitating” the interaction between Governments and local/regional/international actors to work jointly on development projects.

ChangeIn a nutshell, in the future I see FAO as a facilitator of processes, at local level, and as a supervisor for strategies, at regional and international level.

As a consequence, the range of activities, skills, tools, methodologies and even type of knowledge the organization has to use have necessarily to change considerably in the near future.


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Learning Log – Week #2: Organizational change

“We may be trying to facilitate collaboration and networking, but we may not be operating in an organizational culture with this competency. When we fail, we often blame it on the technology. If we look closer, it can often be related to our organizational culture. So looking at initiatives that reinforce the value of and skills to network in ANY environment is important for online success.

The introduction of a “network way of thinking” (many to many, peer to peer and often around and between our traditional top down systems) which is enabled by internet technology actually is about organizational change. It asks us to change the way we work, the way we think, the way we lead and manage. But it is often surfaced as an issue of technology and cost savings.

In reality, it is about deeper changes and if we don’t pay attention to those deeper changes, the online stuff may not work.”