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Fail Faire at IFAD

innovating&failing

The 29 October I went to the Fail Faire at IFAD.

Roxy organized and promoted the event to help all of us to openly discuss and share professional failures. The objective was, and is, to be able to manage failures and get the best out of them: learning by doing, in a certain way.

I met interesting people like Tim Harford, Aleem Walji, Dave Snowden and Ashley Good, who animated to the event, heard very fascinating stories about failures and errors, and brought with me the following key messages:

  • We need to realize that we do a very complex job. Working for the UN is not as easy and simple as you can think. The level of complexity due to the very different people, the languages, the topics and, most of all, the “politics”, is incredibly high. This should be much clearer to everyone and, in my opinion, would require much more attention, time and efforts than the ones currently dedicated;
  • If you don’t fail you did not try to innovate. It is only changing that you innovate. It is in the change that you take your risks. Think about it if you are proud of not failing in your job;
  • Communication is fundamental for what we do. We should talk and talk and talk. And then talk again in order to be clear and aligned and always ready to move ahead together. Think about your recent past, make the “failures emerge” and then talk about them with someone you trust in order analyse them and focus on the the reasons and try to avoid them in the future. If you talk about the reasons of you failure with someone they will be evident and it is more difficult for you to repeat them in the future.

Last but not least: trust is always a key element in this learning process.

 

The event was very useful mostly because it is fundamental to think and zoom out from what we are currently doing, and develop new and better ideas for the future.

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Share Fair 2011 – day 2

Today inspiration came from the great intro by Rob Burnet who talked about the incredible experience of shujaaz in Kenya. This series, which is using comics, radio, internet mobile telephony and video, introduces agriculture to the Kenyan youth. Rob strongly suggested: “Go to the point. What does your audience is looking for?” and “It is not the what. It is how. Push does not work at the end.”

Rob Burnet introducing Dj B

In the afternoon I joined @etiennewnger‘s and @NancyWhite‘s Community clinic to look for suggestions on how to solve problems of the CoPs that I supervise. In particular, I wanted to reflect on the FSCA community that it is still not very active after the workshop in Dakar. We came out with the answer I already knew: when the need is not clearly expressed by the members, then it is more difficult to have the group working as a Community. And this reminds me what I heard this morning during Rob’s address.

The class listening to suggestions during the Community clinic

I closed the day meeting Ms Tukhikyan from Armenia who shared their experience in the attempt to mitigate plastic pollution. Recycling plastic bottles + substituting common plastic bags with other bags to diminish their use.

An alternative to plastic bagsWhat to add? An intense and inspiring day. The days you need when you are missing ideas and want to find new inputs for your daily work to refresh it and reinvigorate.


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Share Fair 2011 – day 1

The first day of the Second Global AgriKnowledge Share Fair was really great. I follow Willem’s suggestion and I had lots of fun.

Etienne Wenger at sfrome

In the morning, Etienne Wenger‘s words were really inspiring. His approach, which compared CoP and dating, was really striking. That sense of deep trust that you develop in a relationship can be felt in a community where you offer something for free, exactly in the same way. And this is so true that is very difficult to convince people that it is real! Most of them remain sceptical about the kind of knowledge/experience you can exchange in a community because they consider it impossible to be done. But in reality it really happens. It is a sort of miracle, a combination of the best merits of a human being: altruism, trust, consciousness, generosity. What a liberation! What a dream! What a real thing! It really happens! It is true even if it does not happen elsewhere. The heart makes the difference, Etienne said. The feeling inside and not the tools or the techniques.

Later in the morning, I had a training session on photosharing. Few participants but very interested and full of questions for me about the topic I was teaching. We essentially talked about flickr, its features, its pros and counts, and the ways to get the best out of it.

The class at the photosharing training at sfrome

In the afternoon I followed Nancy‘s training on graphic facilitation and I loved it. More than anything else I’m grateful to her because she showed me that drawing is possible. That I can do it. That, again, it is a matter of heart and feeling, not a technical issue. I did my tests, I drew my men, my icons, my circles and lines. I did my final examination with “my personal toolkit” test. And my level of satisfaction is really high. I look like a child when I showed my drawings home to my girlfriend because I really realized that I can do it. That potentiality is in there and it is just to me to exploit it. Such a good lesson for my job and, much more, for my life. And there we go again: it is a matter of heart.

Efforts to draw at the Graphic facilitation training

This first day was passionate as few before. It was necessary to remember all of us that, before anything else, we need to put ourselves in what we do, open the doors of our offices, get out of them and then come the rest, like tools or techniques.


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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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Share Fair 2011

September 2011 is a very long and intense month.

After the two events at FAO (the CSDI Stocktaking exercise and the ComDev Expert consultation), it is now time for an important event taking place at IFAD: the Share Fair 2011.

Share Fair 2011

I will have plenty of occasions to meet with people:

  • the Training on Photosharing (11:00 – 12:30, room C400),
  • the session called “Radio Lake Victoria assist Kenyan farmers with nitty-gritty of food security” (12:00-13:00, room B200),
  • the session named “FARM 98.0 FM: Your vocal gateway to agricultural information” (16:00-17:00, room C300),
  • the session on “5 years sharing coffee and knowledge: the Bluebar experience” (14.00 – 15.30 Tent: Chill-out Corner),
  • the Chill-out with Mark Davies (15:30-16:30 Tent – Chill-out Corner), and
  • the Social Reporting Team

The final Agenda of the Fair is available here.

This is not going to be alone, as at the ned of the week the km4dev annual meeting will also take place, in the same venue with even more people and things to learn.


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Informal chat with Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice

Early this week I met Etienne Wenger. The occasion was an informal chat at IFAD with several people also from FAO.

Etienne talked about Communities of Practice. Here are a some notes that I took during the conversation we had.

Genesis of Community of Practice:

There is a tension between being self organized and sustain a CoP to better organize it. There is no substitute for the internal energy of a CoP. There is no substitute for the “relation” itself. A Community starts with a sort of dating. I never thought that someone can START a CoP.

Ways to stimulate CoP:

Create the activities that allow people to understand the kind of relationship they can have among them.  Allow people to talk and engage about their practices. Asking for lessons learned is not a great technique!!! It is too vague. Rather, take advantage of every chance to learn from someone else.

Steps to go through:

Every CoP has its own rhythm. A good community is good for the members, not necessarily for you. Domain discipline: what is this CoP about? Community discipline: given this domain, who are the partners? Practice discipline: on the knowledge of some practice, define the size/shape of the domain. Find your rhythm!!!

CoP and Networks:

Nothing can tell us how long a CoP will last. Often CoPs dissolve into Networks. CoP is just a name. You can call them as you like. Technically speaking there is an identity which is based on the “domain”: this produces a learning implication. In a Network, the accountability is only on the “links”.

Role of Facilitation:

The facilitation can help the Core group of a CoP. Facilitation is not a substitute for leadership. CoP without leadership is usually a failure: look for the core group. A bit of support is very useful because lives are very intense and people can be busy. I changed my mind on this point! Anyhow, you have to create value for them: what do they need?

Participants’ imagination is limited: you have to propose them some ideas. Pulling someone is better than to push him/her. Try to set up activities that create a pull for people’s knowledge. Example: a concrete case for which you need a solution. We are talking about very common sense! Make a clear distinction between energizing and de-energizing tasks for community.

Tips:

Spend your time on strategic conversation about knowledge.

Connect knowledge sharing to one strategic objective of your project.

Most of the times people working for projects are considered focus groups rather than communities.

I have to admit that I agree almost at 100% with what Etienne said!

P.S.: Thanks Roxy and Willem for creating always good occasions to share and discuss.


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The Cynefin framework

Thanks to IFAD and @rsamii we had a very interesting morning yesterday meeting Dave Snowden for a lecture on his Cynefin framework.

Dave talked for more than one hour and I was overwhelmed by an incredible flow of inputs, suggestions, questions and doubts. These kind of moments are fundamental for professionals like me who have to afford the complexity Dave is describing in his approach.

To be able to “probe, sense and respond” we must be always open and willing to look for and receive new inputs from outside.

Complex systems

@snowded said: “We must create new architecture where applications work”. To do that our brain must be always stimulated and fight the risk of being stuck on our desks, behind our monitors, locked in our rooms.

Dave Snowden at IFAD