Tuesday, June 08, 2010

After Action Review - Share Fair Cali and learning from it

Taller Portales InternetThe Share Fair Cali, which took place at CIAT Campus from 25 - 27 May, 2010, was the second Share Fair I have helped to organize. (First one was in Rome, Italy)

We used our expereince from the previous event to plan this one. I was physically not present but was connected to the event through the 2 video conferencing sessions we organized, constant dialog with the organization team as well as the various social media used to share the learning.

My colleagues, Sophie, Renata and Vanda attended the event and came back with lots of positive energy. They also brought along their lessons learned from the event. Based on this as well as the participants feedback and organizing team's after action review, here are a few dos and dont's for us to take into our Addis Share Fair planning team.

What should we continue doing?
  • Keep the steering committee small with each person in the team having a clear role.
  • Continue to do a Knowledge Tree – many participants enjoyed putting leaves on the tree. A follow-up visit to the Tree should be also organized.
  • Participants enjoyed the open space – they had a chance to organize sessions of their interest.
  • The session on tools worked well because two members of the steering committee showed how the tools were used in real context (i.e. to organize the event itself). Both screens were projected on the wall so participants could see what they were doing on their laptops.
  • The products which were ordered for the event, such as the conference bags, were all produced by local handicraft organizations. This worked out extremely well as it generated work and therefore income for local communities.
  • The bar allowed participants to gather together between sessions to talk and network.
  • Each session had clear objectives and that helped to focus the session.
  • It was useful to make the thematic workshop sessions longer (2 hours and a half) and to have a content moderator (expert) in addition to the facilitator.
  • The different formats used for the workshops (talk show, Samoan circle, fishbowl, world cafés, card sorting) were highly appreciated by the participants.
El Arbol del ConocimientoThe key lessons learned were:
  • Create a Steering Committee and clear responsibilities need to be fulfilled by each member of the Committee.
  • There should be more interaction between the organizers and the participants prior to the Fair (which would need more resources) in order to establish a closer rapport. This would make clearer to everyone the intended substance and format of the Fair and its purpose.
  • As part of training in knowledge sharing methods and tools during any one of the Share Fair, there should be an introductory session on methods and tools, what these are, how they work, and what purposes they are suitable for.
  • Ensure appropriate language coverage.
  • Don’t organize video session unless they are fully integrated into the agenda with facilitated discussions as a follow-up. They could also be part of a discussion session as a different presentation format.
  • In case of booths, set up a limited manageable number. A game such as scavenger hunt can be organized with a prize to encourage visits to the booths and interaction with the booth owners. A guided tour or random interview of booth owners during a special session dedicated to the booths might also be another option to encourage interaction.
  • In the agenda, introduce a “morning news” sessions which includes summaries/reporting back from previous sessions. This allows those who might have not been able to attend a session to know what happened as well as who to follow-up with.
  • Introduce a session on “ABC of Knowledge Management” as many participants want to know more about the theory as well as clarity on terminology.
  • At the end of each session, if there is no detailed reporting organized, interview (audio/video or both) one or two participants on the key lessons learned from or key issues that came out during the session.
  • We don’t have a final list of participants because there was no formal registration / reception desk so it is important to register.
  • Facilitator should be well versed in the methods they use. Success of the session depends on their ability to facilitate, adjust and adapt.
  • Ensure at all steps (in the announcements, website, emails or guidelines sent to participants, at the plenary session of the actual event, etc.) that participants are aware of the innovative methodology and the objectives of the event (networking, sharing of lessons learned, building of partnerships, learning and training). They should be informed at all times that the event is not like a traditional conference – with series of presentations - and requires their active participation, out-of-the-box thinking and emphasizes learning and sharing.
  • The video conferencing from Rome added an aspect diversity in the methods/formats used during event. However, it also slowed down the dynamics. Additionally, it would be been useful for (1) all FAO participants to be introduced and (2) if a facilitator on the FAO side also added an element of interaction instead of the FAO speakers interacting only with the facilitator at the venue.
  • It is important to ensure adequate internet (wireless or internet points) support for the participants.
  • World café sessions in combination with the presentations worked well. The presentations allowed the stage to be set, then the facilitator identified few streams together with the participants and then discussed them in World Café format. Ideas that came out during the world café session were then captured by one person on a flip-chart and these were then presented to the whole group.
Cartelera de la Feria - Espacio AbiertoThere is no perfect recipe for organizing this type of event - there are many factors that add to its success. The lessons learned here are clearly good tips for us to take into account as we work towards planning the Addis as well as other Share Fairs.

The impact of the event is even more difficult to monitor as it depends on how the knowledge shared and the lessons learned are utilized, how the connections made will help the participants in supporting their work and how they incorporate learning before, during and after into their organizations processes!

Have you organized any Share Fair events? What has been your experience?

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