Friday, November 19, 2010

Knowledge Mela – how can we make most out of it?

At the UNKFair in Turin, one of the methods used was called Knowledge Mela (which in Hindi means a fair!). So it was a Knowledge Fair in a Knowledge Fair!

This method builds on the method of Day 1 where we had a marketplace with some UN money to invest. About 20,000 UN francs were invested and the projects with top 7 funding were selected for presentation at the Knowledge Mela.

The method is divided into three steps:

1) Collecting of questions to be asked for each of the 7 selected presentations (60 mins)
  • The winning 7 presenters had to go back to their boards in the marketplace and explain their projects once again to who ever came.
  • Those who were not presenting were encouraged to visit as many booths as they could and ask as many questions as they wanted about the project. However, there was a hitch - each presenter was assigned a facilitator who made sure that the presenters did not answer any of the questions. Instead, the questions were written down on a half-A4 sized card for discussion (part 2).
2) Group discussion of the questions (45 mins)
  • Once the time was up, the presenters and their respective facilitators were asked to sit at one of the 7 tables.
  • The rest of the people could choose to go to any table where they wanted to know more about the project.
  • The idea here was that for the first 5 mins the presenters would go through the questions that were written down by the facilitators and pick the ones they wanted to answer.
  • Once the session started, the presenter answered some of the questions in the given time (20 mins).
  • At the end of the 20 mins, we were asked to move to another table with topic of our choice for similar discussion.
3) Presentation of insights (35 mins)
  • After the two discussions, each presenter was given 5 minutes to speak on the insights (and “aha” moments) they learned from discussions at their table.

My thoughts on this method:
  • Having been one of the presenters on the previous day, I had not been able to visit any of the booths. So, when I went to visit the booths (part 1), I (and others who were also in my shoes) were completely lost and could not really understand the project because some facilitators did not allow the presenters to answer even the clarification questions.
  • Then, when we went to tables for more in-depth discussion, on both the tables I visited, the presenters/facilitators did not really make use of the questions that were collected in part 1. Instead, the discussion just started around the topics that those at table wanted to have covered. In my opinion, this made the writing down step redundant and useless.
  • All in all, the whole method seemed rushed and there was not enough space for participants to give feedback to presenters and/or to learn about a project in a more organized way. All the learning was ad-hoc because the discussions were all based on ad-hoc questioning.
Have you participated in a similar event? What made it work? Maybe a solution could be to have the discussions of part 2 in plenary with each presenter getting about 15 mins to answer questions in a quick round?

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