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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Knowledge Sharing and Learning at CIAT: The Beginning of the Journey

By Simone Staiger-Rivas, Sophie Alvarez and Katherine Tehelen

At the beginning of 2010 CIAT asked the DAPA Facilitating Impact Team to explore the opportunities for CIAT and partners in the area of knowledge sharing and learning (KSL). We were asked to develop a strategy paper which we presented to the management team in May. The paper focused on three entry points to knowledge sharing and learning: Capacity strengthening, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Participatory Communication with an emphasis on supporting CIAT researchers and their projects in applying related KSL methods, principles and tools.

micro-auto-focus-test-2The discussion with our management team was short and the message clear: “This is all great stuff,  but let’s start small and concrete with a focus on a capacity strengthening platform for Latin America and Caribbean.” Hmmm… we started our assignment with mixed feelings. On the one hand it’s good to get focused, but on the other hand we found it hard to sacrifice many other areas of work of our interest in the benefit of one topic.

During June and August we rolled up our sleeves and began work on the proposed strategy, by focusing on ideas and actions for the development of a capacity strengthening platform for LAC guided by Elcio Guimaraes, CIAT’s Latin America and the Caribbean Research Area Director. The platform aims at achieving improved coordination and promoting initiatives related to capacity strengthening in the LAC region. It includes the identification of current demand and supply, the establishment of strategic partnerships and the mobilization of resources for the collaborative effort. In concordance with our self- imposed tenet of action- research, during this time we were not only thinking and writing the platform strategy, but also starting to work on some of its concrete action points, such as initiating activities in strategic thematic areas such as Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Seeds; establishing and strengthening key partnerships and setting up LAC Platform communications.

Since August we have made some promising progress:

  • Intellectual Property Rights has been selected as a key guinea pig: with our IPR Officer Partha Mudgil on board, we screened existing initiatives in the region and invited key partners to become members of a core task team. Together we shaped an agenda for the Intellectual Property Rights Workshop to be held early November 2010. The event should help us a great deal in defining capacity strengthening needs and opportunities.
  • The “Plataforma Regional de Capacitación- PRC”  concept has been further refined and was presented to regional actors in the context of the Wallace Conference 2010 in CATIE in September this year. Very useful contacts were made during the event and ideas for further platform initiatives are emerging.
  • Seeds systems: we are currently finalizing a baseline document that introduces the current panorama in the region. The document should allow us to identify a small group of some 20 key contacts that we hope to gather in a workshop in February next year. The workshop would serve the double purpose of further defining a Seed systems capacity strengthening offer and to begin work together towards a funding concept note aimed at donors.
  • We are exploring the possibilities to develop a capacity strengthening initiative on a topic close to CIAT’s mission: eco-efficient agriculture. Other topics on the burner are participatory research and gender.
  • Please visit our burgeoning Web site on capacity strengthening where we share, among others, bookmarked links on events, resources and scholarships.

In 2011,  among other projects, we hope to strengthen CIAT’s active participation in the CATIE/CIAT Diploma in Rural Business Development through CODER, an independent NGO that continues with the rural business development projects that were being executed by the former CIAT’s Rural Agroenterprise Development Project.

A piece of good news is that we had a chance to enlarge again our vision on learning and knowledge sharing in the recent Business Plan. It remains to see how much of all our suggestions will be supported and included in the 2011 schedule

What have the FITs and partners learned from this nascent process?

  • It was good to be pushed towards some concrete actions in order “to get started”. Sometimes enthusiasts (in our case, with so many exciting things to do!) may need external help with focusing efforts.
  • The promising contacts with regional actors, like CATIE, IICA, as well as with some of our CGIAR sister centers, specifically Bioversity, has helped a great deal to clarify and adjust initial ideas and design a realistic pathway. We have seen the formation of the platform benefit by going beyond the token ‘consulting of partners’ into a true synergy of ideas. This is the way we hope things will continue to grow.
  • We know that in order to succeed we should assure that our efforts are connected with ongoing CIAT research projects in order to embed inside our organization the methods, tools, and principles that we want to apply with partners in new endeavors.
  • And finally, our bit of stubbornness has paid off- we have (and will continue to) present our ideas, projects and proposals to carry out what we consider to be fundamental knowledge sharing and learning for the region. In other words, we still endeavor to do justice to our name, and eventually Facilitate Impact of our (and your) research.

Photo Credit: http://www.komar.org/faq/camera/auto-focus-test/

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