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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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Processes not objectives

Great Aikido class last Monday. We had to do several techniques in a row. Each one was well known like Ikkio, Shiho nage, Irimi nage and Kote gaeshi.

But the big difference was in the fact that we had to do three of them in a row. This helped a lot in trying not to focus too much on the final result, the projection of uke, but more on the flowing of the techniques, on the process itself. We had to “feel” it in depth, in tasting each and every second and step of the process, to better the sensation of the contact itself.

Tamura Sensei explaining irimi nage

I found it extremely positive because too many times we are so focused on the final result that we forget to enjoy the steps to get to it. So doing we loose too much. We loose most of what we are doing every day.

Staying with your uke during the long time necessary to do three techniques in a row gives you the possibility of having a long contact, perceive changes in uke’s attitudes and reactions, feel different kind of strangth at different times. As a final result you can have a better, deeper and longer sensation and gain more experience from what you are doing.

Our Sensei always repeats: “Stay there! Stay in touch with your uke and create a better contact: feel it as much as possible”. Does this work for aikido only or does it apply also to other aspects of our life? I think the second is the right answer.


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Social Reporting during the FAO Conference

After the very positive event in Dakar for the FSCA-PISA Workshop on ComDev, it is now time for a new experiment of Social Reporting.

This time it’s happening during the 37th FAO Conference which is taking place this week at FAO in Rome.

It is the first official experiment of this kind for FAO and I think it is going to be a very interesting experience for the organization. It is important to offer the house a perception of what social reporting could be during such an event.

We chose a very light approach with few people in the Team (mainly @faonews, @permreps_unrome and myself @neoluk) and a list of selected events during the week to follow and tweet about.


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My greatest satisfaction!

What you see in this image is one of my greatest satisfaction ever!

AFE at work

My mother, on the right side, is using Google Images, to identify actors on historical movie pictures. This is necessary in her job to archive thousands of photos of the ASC – Archivio Storico del Cinema, my father’s historical archive of movie pictures.

She discovered the Web recently but now she is a great fan!


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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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FSCA-PISA Workshop on ComDev: Lessons learned 3

GROUPING BY COUNTRY: The meeting room was organized around seven tables, one per Country. The vast majority of the activities were carried out on a “National Group” basis. We had to face logistic problems as the table in the room were very hard to move and the configuration with seven “islands” could hardly be transformed during the day. Anyhow, our approach resulted to be positive and stimulated the Teamwork.

Suggestion: dedicate much attention to the facility and the logistic issues. It is a crucial point as most of the meeting rooms are equipped with very traditional furniture that does not stimulate interaction. Big round tables work as obstacles rather than platforms for communication while small mobile tables work much better.

The Mali Team

As a compensation for the logistic difficulties, we used every activity to offer the National Teams the opportunity to interact with the others, promoting discussions and sharing at different levels.
In particular, the long session dedicated to the exposition of the Case Study offered an effective occasion to interact personally and as a group with the other Teams, creating very interesting dynamics.
The use of mobile microphones helped in maintaining the sessions vivid and generate dynamism during the discussions.

SOCIAL REPORTING TEAM: The creation a Social Reporting Team wanted to be an additional prodding for the group. It responded to two main objectives:

  •   To show the potential of social media to advocate for the event during and after the event, and
  •   To integrate off-site participants into the discussions and sessions of the Workshop.

The idea of creating the SR Team was proposed to the participants few days before the beginning of the Workshop to avoid overlapping with other ongoing activities (in particular, with the preparation of the Case Study). The participation was strictly on a voluntary basis to guarantee the full commitment of the members. The SR Team gathered for the very first time Sunday afternoon, for an informal meeting, to discuss: the idea, the background, the TORs, and the tasks distribution. Three people, other than me, took part to the meeting:

  • Djalo Mamadu Aliu, from Guinea Bissau, who became the blogger on the FSCA website,
  • Bah Thierno Souleymane, from Guinea, who committed himself to audio and video interviews,
  • Oumar Ndiaye, from Senegal, who offered to dedicate to photography,
  • Luca Servo, who acted as team coordinator and photo reporter.

Mrs Fofana, from Guinea, joined the Team during Day 1, adding lots of energy and more gender balance to the group. Additional informal meetings to verify the proceeding of the job took place during lunches and coffee breaks all week long. By the end of the Workshop, the SR Team produced:

  • A blog on the FSCA website, which recorded everyday activities and the impressions of the participants,
  • A photo gallery, on the FSCA flickr gallery, registering the main moments, the portraits of the participants and the groups, and all the posters produced during the week containing the results of the Team work,
  • A podcast channel broadcasting several interviews recorded during the week,
  • A twitter flow reporting about major steps taking place during the training.

THEMATIC ACTIVITIES: The facilitation Team had the objective to promote major integration among participants. To do so, we organized also several thematic events during lunch time which were called “Cross Cutting Gatherings – CCG”. The badge provided to each participants collected a series of information (name, country, and role) which helped organizing these events. In fact, using his/her badge, it was possible to address each participant to the right table of discussions during the thematic events which were:

  1. CCG I – Initial meeting by ROLE (Tuesday, lunch) to stimulate contacts within homogeneous groups of people with similar tasks inside the projects (Project staff, NPCs/NPDs/NPMs, ComDev consultants). The Facilitation Team got this occasion to join the group of National Project Coordinators.
  2. CCG IITHEMATIC lunch (Wednesday, lunch) to offer the chance to discuss specific topics identified by the participants.
  3. CCG III – Final meeting by ROLE (Friday, lunch) to ideally close the round of contacts within groups with similar tasks. The Facilitation Team got this chance to join the group of Communication Consultants.

CONCLUSIONS: The Workshop was a great success. We were able to get participants fully involved in the activities and develop high level of interaction. The final evaluation demonstrated the appreciation for the adoption of new techniques, an informal approach and a participatory methodology.

This experience strongly confirmed our beliefs and suggestions: we highly recommend to embed the Communication for Development component in every Development project/programme and to develop such a Workshop, at least twice during the life of a project: once at the very beginning of the implementation and another one at the very end.

Lots of interaction and discussion during the FSCA workshop in Dakar

Read also:

  1. Lesson learned 1
  2. Lesson learned 2


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FSCA-PISA Workshop on ComDev: Lessons learned 2

ComDev Workshop scheduleSCHEDULE: the Facilitation Team agreed on dedicating five full days to ComDev. One can argue that it is not enough time but for us, given the background and the resources, this was a good compromise. In line with the objectives, the agenda was divided into five main Steps and several activities. Every step was described in an ad-hoc agenda which was distributed to the participants before the beginning of the Workshop:

1. BASICS (1/2 day)

  • Intro to workshop about KEY points of the week
  • Description of the OBJECTIVES of the training
  • Proposal of a people-centred approach to describe the projects through people’s perspective
  • Overview of the projects’ innovative aspects and main benefits
  • Collective reflection on the beneficiaries’ perception, expectation and participation with regards to the project
  • ComDev component-activities to date and first impressions

2. COMDEV THEORY (1/2 day)

  • Theoretical background
  • Communication planning
  • Gender and Communication
  • Methodological approaches tools
  • Tools, channels, techniques
  • ComDev strategy design
  • Monitoring & Evaluation

3. COMDEV FOR FSCA-PISA PROJECTS (2 and 1/2 days)

  • Analysis of Communication Issues in FSCA projects
  • Success vs Constrains: Identification of communication issues
  • Presentation of Case Studies
  • Matching Constraints with Solutions
  • Regional approach
  • Networking Initiatives
  • FSCA forward looking: Ideas for the future and Collaborations&synergies

4. LABORATORIES (1 day)

  • Web Lab
  • Photo Lab
  • Radio Lab
  • Video Lab
  • Mobile Telephony Lab

5. CONCLUSIONS (1/2 day)

  • Workshop Evaluation
  • Closing session

In addition, we prepared also a detailed plan for facilitators only, with more information such as: name of the facilitator, learning objectives, description and details of the activity, facilitation technique, materials and specific support required, and a long list of notes taken during the prep meetings.
These notes were very important to give a shape to the flow of the training and collect all the reflections done by the Team members during the preparatory works: I strongly suggest to collect them. It really helps keeping record of the logical evolution of the planning as you can easily lose track when the preparation takes long.

FACILITATION METHODS: we decided to adopt a specific facilitation method for each session of the training. This choice had 2 objectives: offer the participants the occasion to test the widest range of new methods, and organize dynamic sessions introducing different kind of incentives. As a result, we carried out:

  • A Chat show, with the communication consultants, to introduce the actors and their work,
  • A World café, finalized to learn more about expectations, perceptions, and participation of the beneficiaries in the field,
  • A Case Study exercise, to highlight a specific obstacle encountered in the implementation of the ComDev strategy,
  • A SWOT Analysis, to make a collective effort of analysing good and bad aspects of each project,
  • The network mapping, to graphically design communication flows inside and outside the National teams and develop a visual approach to communication,
  • The mind mapping, to discuss the objectives of the national projects and their inter-regional connections,
  • The Wall of participants, to link names with faces and put people in contact,
  • A public Rules collection, to have the participants fully engaged in the workshop,
  • A Dotmocracy, to collect a final feedback on the main aspects the workshop,
  • The Social Reporting Team, to provide direct feedback on the activities and get participants involved in the use of Social Media.

Network mapping

Moreover, in the effort to stimulate higher attention in the audience, the Facilitation Team decided to avoid powerpoint presentation. Initially, this decision provoked astonishment in the participants but it produced positive results in stimulating people’s fantasy and creativity, especially during the presentation of the Case Studies (see the photo below!).

The Team of Guinea presenting the Case Study about mangue

Introducing important tools like the Case Study exercise and the SWOT analysis were significant steps. At the end of the training, we asked for a punctual evaluation both of them, receiving, respectively, a 52% and a 70% of positive votes.

Read also:

  1. Lesson learned 1
  2. Lesson learned 3