Talk:Does sector learning lead to enhanced capacity and performance?

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See the original thread of this E-Discussion on D-Groups

Ewen Le Borgne, 2009/01/05

Dear all,

First of all, I wish you all a happy new year and look forward to KM4DEV discussions as stimulating as ever and to seeing some of you this year hopefully at different occasions.

But I'm here also to pick your brains on any evidence you may have of sector learning - preferably in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector but examples from other sector would be great too. We recently held a workshop on this topic of (WASH) sector learning and one of the (familiar) recommendations we made there was to collect evidence that a certain form of structured learning in the WASH sector contributes to improved delivery of sustainable services.

Now the term "sector learning" is totally arguable and may well be replaced later, but what we are thinking about here is: learning that goes beyond the framework of projects and beyond the agenda of individual sector organizations. We are thinking about long term learning initiatives, that are usually facilitated and integrated (integrating various perspectives and/or sub-sectors), that rely on a shared vision, including various stakeholders aware of their different role and knowledge. And these learning initiatives could/should comprise a double or triple loop learning cycle that leads to restructuring the sector.

Examples? Think: multi-stakeholder platforms, donor coordination platforms, annual sector reviews by all types of organisations, independent resource centre networks trying to structure learning and manage information for sector organizations etc.. These are all examples going in that direction. But you probably have practical experiences with these other examples to share...

Back to the query:

Can you bring any evidence (with links, resources etc.) that:

  • the existing experiences (positive or negative) feed back and result in better sector capacities ( improved approaches, enhanced capacities in organisations, and changed attitudes of staff)?
  • innovative and successful solutions to local problems are being brought up to scale?

This is related to the discussion we had on impact of KM initiatives but then from a sector perspective. I cannot get back to the archive of messages so can't see if anything else is relevant and worth sharing from past discussions...

So if you do have some evidence to share, it would be hugely helpful to share them on this list or directly to me (Leborgne@irc.nl) if you think it's not relevant for the whole list at large.

Any evidence, however small, would be helpful...

Dorine Rüter, 2009/01/06

Dear Ewen,

Thanks for your best wishes and likewise! (To all on this list!!)

I think the learning mechanisms and results of the international network PROLINNOVA may be a good example. Prolinnova stands for promoting local innovation in sustainable agriculture and NRM. It is a global partnership, built up of national and some regional multi-stakeholder platforms. In these platforms, NGOs, CBOs, farmer organisations, government and research institutes work together to explore and experiment with new (and old and forgotten) ways of bringing scientific and practical farmer's knowledge together and stimulate local innovation processes. There's much attention for not only how things are done, but also the related underlying principles and beliefs and deeper questions, See http://www.prolinnova.net for more information.

I'm not sure if this is a 'sector' (or a subsector? "local agricultural innovation"?) or even relevant to what you are looking for. Also, the Prolinnova network (of course) does not include all players in the sector, so it's sector learning in the sense that players throughout the sector are jointly learning and improving approaches, policies, etcetera, and trying to influence a greater mass.

Evidence of impact / changes in the last years (on various levels) has recently been collected for an external evaluation. I'll check if and when the =inal results of this evaluation are ready and can be sent to you, if you're interested. Let me know.

ETC Foundation

Ewen Le Borgne, 2009/01/06

Hello Dorine,

Many thanks for this resource, yes I would definitely think that prolinnova, as you present it, would be an example that qualifies completely for what we are looking for. So yes, I would be interested in evidence of impact / changes through learning from the external evaluation if they can be shared.

By the way, neither in the WASH sector is there (as far as I know) an initiative that brings together all players (I wish!) - but like in the example you give, there are some movements, groups, initiatives that really try to address development needs beyond the traditional borders =f individual organisations and projects and that's a promising start, if indeed we can show that these initiatives pay off.

Stacey Young, 2009/01/06

Thanks, Dorine, this is really interesting. In the USAID Knowledge-Driven Microenterprise Development program, we're trying to push the envelope on capturing results and impacts of knowledge sharing, so we'll be really interesting to learn more about what the external evaluation turns up with regard to evidence of impact (not least how it measures such). So please do share that when it's ready!

Ewen Le Borgne, 2009/01/07

Dear Ernst,

Thank you very much for your suggestion on Aguasan. It was on our radar screen and indeed it is a very good source of information. I will definitely contact the key actors you named.

I realise however that I didn't mention one important aspect in my question: we are trying to focus on sector learning within a given country, not from the perspective of a global CoP. How do all stakeholders in a (national) sector learn from the past and coordinate their activities and what are evidences that this increased focus on learning and cooperation helps?

This is not to say that global CoPs such as Aguasan and other networks are not useful, they are hugely helpful indeed, but they may not have the ambition of improving sector performance in any given country in particular (well they do eventually, but they do not focus on any particular country all the time).

Again, many thanks for your tip!

M Jahangir, 2009/01/07

Dear Ewwn

Thanks for your new year greetings , knldy accept the same from us from Pakistan. I sincerely feel that whatever you are saying is very close to my heart.

I am doing some work wit a small team, Updates on drinking water in Pakistan.

Drinking Water in Pakistan

Franky though excited could not understand how can we move forward togather

Drinking water-Pakistan,

Islamabad.

Lucie Lamoureux, 2009/01/07

FYI, message from Jim below...

An interesting post and a new concept to ponder. However, I think we need to consider carefully exactly what �sector learning� is. Certainly,

the examples Ewen proffers at the bottom of his post could be divided basically into the �what� and the �how�, in my opinion. A lot of what KM4Dev discusses is about the �how� part: web-based and human-based tools, approaches to learning, methodologies, organizational approaches to managing and sharing knowledge, etc. Many, if not most of these topics are broadly cross-sectoral, e.g. any of the web-based tools or approaches to adult learning and knowledge sharing could be (and, in fact, are) used across many different �sectors�.

But, if we decide, then to discuss sectoral learning as the �what� rather than the �how�, we face another dilemma, i.e. what is a sector?

In the development field, sectors are often defined by policy and regulatory subject areas that, in turn, are often the prerogative of government ministries, which themselves are the products of basic laws or constitutional provisions. Hence we have forestry, agriculture, power, industry, water and sanitation, etc. These sectors may have specific kinds of embedded knowledge particular to them, e.g. silvicultural practices are not much use in the operation of a wastewater treatment plant and vice-versa and road engineering knowledge is not likely to have much immediate application to growing rice. However, /approaches and methodologies for learning and knowledge sharing/ in agronomy and road engineering may be very similar, e.g. the use of peer assists, sharing and codification of best practices, the use of geospatial tools such as GIS, not to mention the raft of communications tools ranging from net meeting types of tools to interactive web sites, etc.

But going back to sectors, the term has gotten rather gauzy over time and one sometimes even hears about the rural and urban sectors. This broad an application of the term ďż˝sectorďż˝ is not very useful (not that Ewen was proposing anything as broad as that). Still, it should be recognized that even the WASH ďż˝sectorďż˝ encompasses the interaction of a large number of sectors (as defined above), e.g. water supply backs into watershed management, which itself a multi-sectoral field that includes forestry, agriculture, land tenure/management, public works and local government), health, and sanitation (public works and infrastructure not to mention environmental management). Soon, before you know it, WASH becomes a giant cross-sectoral head of Medusa. :)

At IRG, we have worked quite extensively on building the capabilities of local organizations or local governments to manage their resources more sustainably, including the use of multistakeholder management bodies. I personally have worked a lot with these in Indonesia where, in the post-Suharto era (and experimentally even before then), radical decentralization created new governance possibilities (and problems).

However, even two of the more successful multistakeholder management approaches, one a watershed management body in East Kalimantan province and the other a new approach to managing the Bunaken Marine National park in North Sulawesi Province required addressing a whole range of intersecting sectors. In the case of the East Kalimantan Sungai Wain Protection Forest, this involved the creation of a multistakeholder body representing the city of Balikpapan, the Pertamina state oil company, forestry sector actors, farmers, environmental NGOs and the scientific community (the watershed has a number of rare and endangered species and endemics). In the case of Bunaken, the stakeholders and sectors included local, provincial and national (by way of the nature conservation/park service people) agencies, dive boat and resort operators, poor fishing communities, scientists (again), environmental NGOs, and public works officials. Such bodies can and do work well provided there is a) a common binding set of interests and b) a third party able to act initially as facilitator and arbiter of conflicts until the stakeholders work out the rules of the game (/aturan main/ in Indonesia). From the standpoint of KM/KS, the use of geospatial tools, e.g. GIS and community mapping, adult learning techniques, structured dialogues, and many others all proved useful. Web-based tools were not relevant but may become so in the future.

Even nominally purely sectoral KM/KS bodies, e.g. Indonesia�s Donor Forum on Forestry, successor to the Consultative Group on Indonesian

Forestry (CGIF) continually had to take on board other issues outside the narrow realm of �forestry�, e.g. conversion of forest land to oil

palm plantations, mining in protected forests, the structure of the plywood industry, etc. We have pulled together a lot of the lessons learned from these and many other experiences at USAID�s request in the monograph /Policy Reform lessons Learned/, which includes both methodological discussions, lessons learned and case studies supporting the lessons.

In summary, I would stress that, while specific lessons learned and best practices development and sharing by �sector� is important and, in fact, has been a long-standing practice of professional associations, academia and many of the international research organizations, e .g. the CGIAR

system, WHO and others, it is the tools and KM/KS approaches that are the most important to development and these are almost invariably

cross-sectoral by nature.

Sebastiao Ferreira, 2009/01/07

Hi Ewen,

I can not give you precise orientations but only a few ideas.

  1. A couple of years ago I had to help 4 country teams of water and sanitation to develop a method for calculating the costs of their main products (water per capita, sanitation per house, etc.). For doing that we had to share the different processes from each country team, and for doing that we had to develop a matrix capable of containing all the possible processes and their variations, compare the processes and come up with standards and variations, we had to understand why each team used to do their process the way they were doing it, and after 3 days we had exchanged an amazing amount of knowledge about approaches and processes of projects of water a=d sanitation. It was done for projects, but it could be very similar for programs. The point is that knowledge flowed as by product of a shared effort for doing something new, not as an objective in itself. The existence of someone and some tools for capturing the knowledge that is flowing may be highly cost effective.
  2. Another option is like it works in KM4Dev. In that case the engine of the process should be the people who are trying to go beyond their frontiers: people who are struggling with some problems or questions. They should but the questions and they should organize the answers in some sort of summary that other people could go through. The main value of this option may not be the knowledge base it generates, but the advancement of the points people are struggling with. The other value of this option is the evolution of the agenda, something that is difficult to do in KM4Dev, but that m=y happen in a more focused agenda as a sector. If someone is able of gathering diverse knowledgeable people around some very concrete point a team is facing in the field, we could get solutions in short term.
  3. Someone with knowledge about the sector and a mind capable of abstracting should develop frameworks or cognitive tools for helping people to understand and compare their approaches and ideas, for translating what one person says to the conceptual language of other people, for making the dialogue possible among people who think very differently.

I hope this is useful.

Ernst Bolliger, 2009/01/07

Dear Ewen

Your are pushing an open door: SDC has been supporting for the last 25 =ears (and still does so) the Aguasan Network (Aguasan = healthy =ater). It is exactly what you are describing in your third paragraph:

  • a long term learning initiative: 25 years and more
  • that are usually facilitated: core group meetings and annual workshop
  • and integrated (integrating various perspectives and/or sub-sectors): =ractitioners, subject matter specialists, researchers of the three interlinked topical domains of (drinking) water, sanitation and waste disposal
  • that rely on a shared vision: of common learning and improving own =erformance and services
  • including various stakeholders aware of their different role and =nowledge: main motivational factor for the annual workshops
  • And these learning initiatives could/should comprise a double or =riple loop learning cycle that leads to restructuring the sector: Do'nt =sk me whether all Aguasan members are able for a triple salto, but I am =ure, some of them do!

I have been the facilitator of this network at an earlier period. Today, Aguasan still is one of my favourite examples of a Community of =ractice.

If you are eager to get to know more about Aguasan, please consult: http://www.communityofpractice.ch/en/Home/Examples/Aguasan?officeID=74

The broshure about the Agusan experience "Learning from a remarkable =oP"

Today's key actors are:

SDC core person: François Münger, SDC: francois.muenger-at-deza.admin.ch

Technical Coordinator: Roger Schmid, SKAT: roger.schmid-at-skat.ch Facilitator: Sylvia Brunold, Agridea: sylvia.brunold-at-agridea.ch

If you have more questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of the =bove mentioned persons. Just replace the "-at-" by "@".

Team for International Cooperation,

Lindau (Switzerland).

James J. Tarrant, 2009/01/07

An interesting post and a new concept to ponder. However, I think we need to consider carefully exactly what "sector learning" is.

Certainly, the examples Ewen proffers at the bottom of his post could be divided basically into the "what" and the "how", in my opinion. A lot of what KM4Dev discusses is about the "how" part: web-based and human-based tools, approaches to learning, methodologies, organizational approaches to managing and sharing knowledge, etc. Many, if not most of these topics are broadly cross-sectoral, e.g. any of the web-based tools or approaches to adult learning and knowledge sharing could be (and, in fact, are) used across many different "sectors".

But, if we decide, then to discuss sectoral learning as the "what" rather than the "how", we face another dilemma, i.e. what is a sector?

In the development field, sectors are often defined by policy and regulatory subject areas that, in turn, are often the prerogative of government ministries, which themselves are the products of basic laws or constitutional provisions. Hence we have forestry, agriculture, power, industry, water and sanitation, etc. These sectors may have specific kinds of embedded knowledge particular to them, e.g. silvicultural practices are not much use in the operation of a wastewater treatment plant and vice-versa and road engineering knowledge is not likely to have much immediate application to growing rice. However, approaches and methodologies for learning and knowledge sharing in agronomy and road engineering may be very similar, e.g. the use of peer assists, sharing and codification of best practices, the use of geospatial tools such as GIS, not to mention the raft of communications tools ranging from net meeting types of tools to interactive web sites, etc.

But going back to sectors, the term has gotten rather gauzy over timeand one sometimes even hears about the rural and urban sectors. This broad an application of the term "sector" is not very useful (not that Ewen was proposing anything as broad as that). Still, it should be recognized that even the WASH "sector" encompasses the interaction of a large number of sectors (as defined above), e.g. water supply backs into watershed management, which itself a multi-sectoral field that includes forestry, agriculture, land tenure/management, public works and local government), health, and sanitation (public works and infrastructure not to mention environmental management). Soon, before you know it, WASH becomes a giant cross-sectoral head of Medusa.:)

At IRG, we have worked quite extensively on building the capabilities of local organizations or local governments to manage their resources more sustainably, including the use of multistakeholder management bodies. I personally have worked a lot with these in Indonesia where, in the post-Suharto era (and experimentally even before then), radical decentralization created new governance possibilities (and problems).

However, even two of the more successful multistakeholder management approaches, one a watershed management body in East Kalimantan province and the other a new approach to managing the Bunaken Marine National park in North Sulawesi Province required addressing a whole range of intersecting sectors. In the case of the East Kalimantan Sungai Wain Protection Forest, this involved the creation of a multistakeholder body representing the city of Balikpapan, the Pertamina state oil company, forestry sector actors, farmers, environmental NGOs and the scientific community (the watershed has a number of rare and endangered species and endemics). In the case of Bunaken, the stakeholders and sectors included local, provincial and national (by way of the nature conservation/park service people) agencies, dive boat and resort operators, poor fishing communities, scientists (again), environmental NGOs, and public works officials. Such bodies can and do work well provided there is a) a common binding set of interests and b) a third party able to act initially as facilitator and arbiter of conflicts until the stakeholders work out the rules of the game (aturan main in Indonesia). From the standpoint of KM/KS, the use of geospatial tools, e.g. GIS and community mapping, adult learning techniques, structured dialogues, and many others all proved useful. Web-based tools were not relevant but may become so in the future.

Even nominally purely sectoral KM/KS bodies, e.g. Indonesia's Donor Forum on Forestry, successor to the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forestry (CGIF) continually had to take on board other issues outside the narrow realm of "forestry", e.g. conversion of forest land to oil palm plantations, mining in protected forests, the structure of the plywood industry, etc. We have pulled together a lot of the lessons learned from these and many other experiences at USAID's request in the monograph Policy Reform lessons Learned, which includes both methodological discussions, lessons learned and case studies supporting the lessons.

In summary, I would stress that, while specific lessons learned and best practices development and sharing by "sector" is important and, in fact, has been a long-standing practice of professional associations, academia and many of the international research organizations, e .g. the CGIAR system, WHO and others, it is the tools and KM/KS approaches that are the most important to development and these are almost invariably cross-sectoral by nature.

Senior Manager, International Resources Group (IRG), Washington, DC.