‘Let it flow!’: the importance of updating knowledge sharing systems
by Cristina Lamb Guevara
One of my first days at CIAT conveniently coincided with the delivery of a Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA) “training” for DAPA facilitators. PIPA is a project planning and M&E approach in which participants make explicit their theories of change and discuss impact hypotheses. It engages stakeholders in a structured participatory process, promotes communication and learning, and encourages them to think beyond the scope of a single project. Being new to the Capacity Strengthening and Knowledge Management team, this workshop was extremely beneficial for me since it not only increased my knowledge and understanding of the methodology itself, but it also helped contextualize and guide the work I would be doing over the following two months. It is important to note that I have arrived at a time when an ‘outcomes-thinking’ culture is being mainstreamed into CIAT. The desired outcome of this is a change and improvement in practice to increase better communication between scientists, donors and other stakeholders, on intended and achieved impact of their work. It has therefore been vital for me to consider the ways in which my work can help facilitate and contribute towards the effective adoption of this change of culture.
Since its development, just under a decade ago, PIPA has been implemented by a wide variety of projects, in a range of different countries. Like all other M&E methodologies, it has evolved over time. Consequently, my work over the past four weeks, has primarily involved organising and building PIPA materials in order to reflect and document these changes. My first priority was updating PIPA’s wiki page, which had not been done since 2008. I have started locating and gathering online materials from the past five years (workshop reports, articles, etc…), and collated them into a timeline so that users could visualise PIPA’s progression over time. Considering the volume of existing documents, I also decided to centralise and chronologically rearrange PIPA references, in order to increase accessibility of online materials and enable faster browsing. In preparation for the upcoming influx of new users I have devised a FAQ section, as well as a PIPA discussion forum. PIPA is a people-orientated and dynamic process, meaning it needs to be adapted, not replicated. With that in mind, the discussion forum will hopefully help generate discussion between participants, so that they can learn and innovate communally through the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences. Additionally, in order to facilitate the active participation of users worldwide in the development of the site itself, I have created a survey to help gather their feedback and input on the wiki and the quality of its content. These changes and developments can be seen here on a temporary PIPA Google site. Eventually these changes will be merged with existing materials.
Over the next month I will be finalising the updating of PIPA repositories, gathering more case studies, and exploring the possibility of centralising PIPA photos and videos. I will also develop Outcomes Logic Model (OLM) materials, and translate key documents into Spanish for LAC users. This list however, is non-exhaustive. I have learnt that when it comes to developing an effective knowledge sharing system, updating products and tools is merely the first step. No matter how well developed the platform used may be, it runs the risk of becoming outdated if people fail to engage with it in the long term.
The PIPA wiki has most certainly been used over the years, that being said, feedback from visitors and usage statistics were not gathered, and the transference of knowledge on behalf of the users themselves was non-existent, since they then failed to relay their own experiences with PIPA back to the site. Knowledge sharing is an ongoing process; the tools available should reflect this and facilitate that constant flow of knowledge. Content will need to be continuously gathered and mobilised to ensure that the PIPA wiki does not “gather dust” again.