Discussion Report 30 Peter J. Bury - Experimenting with the Learning Alliance approach on KM4Dev implementation

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Title of Session

Experimenting with the Learning Alliance approach on KM4Dev implementation, a proposal explored (draft)


Peter J. Bury


Andrea, Andrew, Charles, Dhurjati, Dorine, James, Jane, Maarten, Nadia, Rutti, Sabrina, Shikha, Vijaye


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Key Discussion Points

Peter very briefly introduced the concept of a Learning Alliance (LA) approach, comparable to the Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSP) used in the agriculture sector. He then shared some experiences with this approach, in particular by IRC. Concerns were shared about the introduction of this approach in projects so-far and the tentative conclusion among Peter's colleagues in IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre that the LA approach is per definition expensive to implement. Peter's suggestion is to explore in the KM4Dev community, maybe by linking up with the Knowledge Expeditions project [1] and maybe linking up with the intention of Marc Steinlin to organize the 2009 KM4Dev event in South Africa around linking up and learning together with "grassroots", to experiment with a Learning Alliance approach that is closer to its original concepts, including among others:

  • various levels i.e. global, regional, national, sub-national, local;
  • start smart, small, incremental and inclusive by introducing the idea at a very personal level among people interested in KM4Dev activities, probably including South Africa local level;
  • only cover absolutely unavoidable and unaffordable learning alliance interaction costs;
  • limit the initial phase to "absolutely" convinced, passionate or truely curious learning alliance members on an entirely voluntary basis;
  • open ended in all respects;
  • agree with initial members on affordable day-to-day work in-built documentation of process and outcomes;
  • keep it simple but meaningful to members;
  • share in an ongoing and transparent way within the global KM4Dev community;
  • no copy-rights;

More notes from the discussion

  • A learning alliance exists of stakeholders that work on various levels and have various roles (e.g. govt, researcher, NGO, CBO, extensionists, farmer organisation). Who convenes a learning alliances and how can stakeholders interest other stakeholders (from different levels/roles) to participate in their alliance?
    • Comment: Expect the critical question: “Why share knowledge?”
  • What are constraints of LA?
  • What indicators would we use for assessing our success?
    • Comment: Difficult to attribute success to learning alliance!
  • How to find a need for knowledge? Do people know what they don’t know (at all levels)?
    • Comment: If the question/problem is not already clear, then there is little ground for a successful learning alliance. Risk of introducing a learning alliance top down.
  • Power dynamics play a big role in learning alliances. This should be taken into account.
  • Peter is interested in experimenting with the LA approach by setting up an alliance around the topic of KM4DEV or a more specific issue within the KM4DEV theme.
    • Comment: In order for alliance to work, there must be stakeholders with a wish and mandate to solve a specific problem. Experimenting might not be possible when there is no clear problem. In terms of ‘to do’ for KM4DEV members, it might be better to make sure good practices with LA are documented and we (ourselves) or our organisations are prepared to participate in alliances with other stakeholders.
    • Comment: Perhaps via a project approach. Various stakeholders (research, NGO, ...) working together towards a specific end goal.
  • Potentially interesting for ICARDA, involving others in ICARDA research.

Possible follow up

  • Link with Knowledge Expeditions [2] and KM4DEV 2009 (see above).
  • Describe the approach in brief for KM4DEV wiki and KM toolkits, e.g. using existing documentation (see below) from IRC, ETC Foundation and others.

More info

  • References on the Learning Alliance / Multi-Stakeholder approach and concepts on del.icio.us social bookmarks [3] [4]
  • IRC
  • Facilitating Multi-stakeholder Partnerships: Lessons from Prolinnova. A publication in the series on Promoting Local Innovation. Critchley, Will; Verburg, Miranda & Veldhuizen, Laurens van (eds). Silang, Cavite, Philippines: IIRR / Leusden: PROLINNOVA International Secretariat, ETC EcoCulture. December 2006. ISBN 1-930261-15-2.
  • RUAF working paper - WP 1 Multi-stakeholder Policy Formulation and Action Planning for Sustainable Urban Agriculture Development (2007) / Marielle Dubbeling and Henk de Zeeuw (with contributions from T. Otchere Larbi (IWMI Ghana) and G. Merzthal and A. Santandreu (IPES))
  • Gruppo Chorlavi

Help editing these notes

... this draft maybe completed and improved by note takers and others who attended this session ...