The CGIAR world is currently in a whirlwind of workshops coinciding with the launch of various large research programs or of specific sub-sets of activities under these programs. From 12-14 June, 2012, the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi hosted one such workshop dedicated to the specific activities of the ‘Rainfed systems‘ strategic research program (SRP) and ecosystems cross-cutting teams of the CGIAR research program on ‘Water Land and Ecosystems‘. The purpose of this workshop was to plan the major research areas and activities of the SRP.
For such workshops, which define activities for a few months or years, harnessing communication support is a useful investment:
- To announce the workshop properly and support logistical coordination for all participants and organizers;
- To ensure strong design and flexible facilitation;
- To secure faithful recording of the conversations taking place at the event;
- To inform people not at the meeting what is happening so they can join the conversation;
- To more easily inform future activities on the basis of all the above.
The original idea of the organizing team (from the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture – CIAT) behind this workshop was to involve the Knowledge Management and Information Services of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as communication and facilitation support. Eventually the workshop also involved Martina Mascarenhas from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Michael Victor of the CGIAR Challenge Program Water and Food (CPWF) and Jane Gitau from ILRI’s People Livestock and Environment (PLE) team – which leads ILRI’s participation in the Water, Land and Ecosystems research program.
The participation of this multi-faceted communication team offered much stronger support. Throughout the three workshop days, the team facilitated the workshop to ensure the outcomes were achieved, documented all sessions on the event wiki page (restricted access), posted updates on the Water Land and Ecosystem Yammer (the internal knowledge sharing platform – restricted access), interviewed participants about their perspectives on rainfed systems etc. and prepared blog posts from some of the key discussions. Last but not least, the involvement of communication specialists was particularly helpful to organize a communication session exploring the rainfed systems SRP’s ideas around planned research publications and other outputs, use of communication and knowledge sharing platforms and engagement strategies with strategic audiences.
The evaluation of the workshop clearly showed that participants enjoyed the latter very much. Some also praised the work of this communication coalition, going beyond each individual CGIAR center, in the spirit that instigated the larger CGIAR research programs.
One thing on our ‘to do’ list is to ensure that participants fully use the documentation and generally to keep the momentum of the event alive. Good communication in such new research programs should keep the fire alive. While this research program deals with water, all participants certainly hope to maintain that flame.
All outputs from the workshop can be found here: