Friday, December 18, 2009

Using peer assists to support face-to-face knowledge sharing

This is a guest post by Jo Cadilhon, Marketing Officer (Quality Improvement) at FAO's regional office for Asia and the Pacific.

FAO, IFAD, the Shaanxi Provincial People’s Government (China) and UNIDO organized the Regional Agro-industries Forum for Asia and the Pacific (RAIF-AP) in November 2009.

After a first day of plenary and roundtable sessions to start the debate on actions and programmes that would contribute to sustainable and smallholder-inclusive agro-industries development in the region, participants were asked to join parallel peer assist sessions where a real agro-industries challenge submitted by one of the participants would be discussed.

The attendance to the peer assist workshop varied: three peers in the smallest group and up to 20 in the biggest. In the latter case, we restricted the number of contributing peers to 10 (a more manageable group for the facilitator) by placing ten chairs in the first circle while other participants could observe from the second row of chairs.

All the peer assistees were thrilled by the feedback and suggestions they got from their peers. The contributors realized that their experience of problems they had encountered in the past and managed to solve could be very useful for their peers in other countries who were facing similar problems.

Some verbatim feedback from the participants at the concluding session of the forum:

  • Michael Commons, Earth Net Foundation, Thailand. “I really liked the peer assist format. I’d never done that before but I thought it was really kind of a cool thing. It shows there is a lot of knowledge in the area and that I don’t know; by being able to learn from other people and pull out that experience I think it is a very valuable process.”
  • Umm e Zia, Cynosure Consultancy, Pakistan. “I just came out of a peer assist workshop which was fascinating for me because the problem that was presented to me already has a solution in areas that I have worked with and has been working for centuries or decades now.”
For more information, contact the facilitators of the RAIF-AP peer assist workshops:
  • Jo Cadilhon (FAORAP)
  • Stepanka Gallatova (FAO-AGS)
  • David Kahan (FAORAP)
  • Ayurzana Puntsagdavaa (IFAD)
  • Rosa Rolle (FAORAP)
  • Karl Schebesta (UNIDO)

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