Sometime this year we will become 7 billion people living on Planet Earth.
Many of us have several characters in common: watch the video to discover which ones and if you are among them.
What you see in this image is one of my greatest satisfaction ever!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
SCHEDULE: 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)
2. COMDEV THEORY (1/2 day)
3. COMDEV FOR FSCA-PISA PROJECTS (2 and 1/2 days)
4. LABORATORIES (1 day)
5. CONCLUSIONS (1/2 day)
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:
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!).
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.
The training on Communication for Development organized for the FSCA-PISA programme was a great success. We saw enthusiasm and a lot of interaction during the five days spent in Dakar with the seven National Teams. Now it is time to put order among all the innovations we introduced. My first notes are about the Organization and the Language issue.
We are just few hours from the official starting of the FSCA-PISA workshop on ComDev. It is night and I’m almost closing my laptop after having prepared the latest documents for tomorrow.
This afternoon, during “day 0“, the first important goal was achieved: the Social Reporting Team met to discuss our activities and share the tasks. We decided to go for pictures, podcasting and blog posts. Video is a possibility but we have to find time and support for that.
As you can see in the picture, the Team is officially (and initially) composed by Oumar Ndiaye (Senegal), Thierno Souleymane Bah (Guinee), Mamadu Aliu Djalo (Guinee-Bissau) and myself.
Follow us and you’ll have a great experience!