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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.