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The Way Forward and Next Steps for Knowledge Management: AgExchange Day 3 Summary

Joan Whelan of The TOPS Program summarizes the discussion from Day 3 of the AgExchange online discussion, "Best Practices, Lessons Learned, and Effective Tools in Knowledge Sharing for Food Security and Agriculture Programs." The event ended yesterday but the discussion boards are still active if you would like to leave additional comments. And don't forget to join the upcoming Ag Sector Council Seminar on March 28, "Knowledge Sharing in Food Security and Agriculture: Improving Practice for Increased Impact."

It was such a rich discussion today that it is a true challenge to try to capture and do justice to all the knowledge that was shared. I’d love to highlight each post and each bit of wisdom individually, and each valuable resource you shared. But I will try to stick to a few overarching issues in summary, and point you to the collection of additional resources on the site. I will certainly be browsing there myself in the coming days to look over the strategies, and interactive databases, and wikis, and guidance and articles and manuals you all contributed. 

As for the conversation, where to start? 

USAID’S new Strategic Learning Plan. Stacey provided a great overview of USAID’s efforts to integrate collaboration, learning, and adaptation throughout the work of the field Missions.  A copy of the Prezi outlining the strategy can be found in the additional resources file. Stacey invited comment as well as examples of collaboration, learning and adaptation in action.  I’m sure there will be follow up on where and how such examples could be shared in the future.

Collecting and connecting:  Many of you reminded us that knowledge management is more than collecting information.  It’s about connections, human connections, and making the right knowledge accessible and available to end-users in forms they will find comfortable using. Knowledge curation is a skill and a necessary one to make sure these connections are valuable.

Time, competing resources and information overload. Many factors work against use in our work of knowledge management, but participants had helpful advice in terms of what will make connections stick. Facilitated knowledge sharing can guide efforts toward productive outcomes, improving the sense of efficiency and time well spent. Participatory approaches were also cited, to create user-generated opportunities that address practical issues of immediate value. 

Connecting beyond information.  We were also reminded of the importance of making connections as innovation brokers – serving as a bridge between ideas, resources, and opportunities – connecting on multiple levels with multiple stakeholders. More sense of the complex environments we all work in. Networks were cited by many as a platform for such ‘many to many’ exchanges to occur. 

Embracing failure. Or at least what didn’t work as planned. We learned about the need for a culture change, that will allow development practitioners at all levels the freedom to honestly discuss and examine what’s working and what isn’t and why.  And we learned how integral this culture change is to USAID’s own efforts to integrate collaboration, learning and adaptation. What exciting trends for the future.

This was a rich and wonderful discussion and you are invited to keep sharing.  Though email notifications will be turned off in the coming days, the site will still accept comments and we welcome any additional thoughts.  Zachary outlined a few upcoming events in his last post, including Ag Sector Council Seminar next week on this event, and more about knowledge sharing in agriculture and food security. And please take a moment to respond to Agrilinks' survey and let them know what you gained from this endeavor.