Discussion Report 12.5 Andrew Dale - Teaching Ravens to Fly Under Water

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Session Title

Teaching Ravens to Fly Under Water

Name of Convenor

  • Andrew Dale


  • Andrea Pape-Christiansen (ICARDA)
  • Artur Silva (IST)
  • Barbara Collins (ILO)
  • Carla Alobia (CIARIS)
  • Catherine Vaillanciourt-Laflamme (ILO)
  • Claudia Michel (NCCR-NS)
  • Jane Lennon [CAFOD]
  • Kumkum Kashiparekh (CARE)
  • Meg Mottaz (ILO)
  • Nabeel Goheer (ILO)
  • Nadia Loumbeva (FAO)
  • Sophie Treinen (FAO)
  • Sybil Chidiac (FAO)
  • Vic Klabbers (NetUni NL)
  • Verele de Vreede (WASTE)
  • Victoria (Vicky) (ILO)

Key Discussion Points

The following is a very simplified account of what was a very rich discussion in a large group. I am grateful to all those who attended. Please accept my apologies if I have overlooked or understated some arguments, for which I can blame perhaps the background noise level in the early stages. Will all who participated please feel free to correct the page (especially your names above)!

A. UNITAR policy recommendations were the subject of some discussion:

1. Strongly urges the appointment of a senior Knowledge Facilitator

  • Opinions varied: some saw culture change happening from the bottom up, but accepted that support from management was useful. Leadership in KS was however seen by these speakers as distributed and horizontal.
  • Most speakers however felt KS was a decision management had to take, citing private sector behaviour aimed at sheer survival. As a behaviour of the group, KS was simply a different way of working, not one option among many.

2. Start low: Concentrate initial efforts on junior staff more au fait with new technology and closer to practical knowledge

  • Opinion tended to dispute this: the group theory rules out partial approaches - staff must be educated as to the value of KS and required to dedicate working time to it.

3. Rewards: Incorporate some index of an individual's sharing of their knowledge in their performance appraisal

  • There were many stories of rewards and other efforts to encourage the imparting of acquired knowledge: knowledge fairs, peer review systems - ie colleagues vote on the usefulness of items contributed. An obligation to keep personal cvs / yellow pages information updated was also suggested. Also relevant here was a culture of permissible error - mistakes admitted freely without fear of recrimination.

B. Convincing others of the value of KS

  • Various strategies for marketing KS were discussed. In the private sector sheer survival dictated KS as the most profitable management style; others were skeptical of the importance attached to such considerations by NGOs or public sector entities, for whom survival was not an issue. This was however disputed and examples given of NGOs that had died as a result of poor communications. IGOs were also increasingly subject to monitoring and evaluation of the relevance of their activities and outputs, and faced increasing competition.
  • Showcasing successes was thought to be useful in demonstrating the achievements of KS.