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(Chers Sangaré et Dolo, n’hésitez pas à ajouter votre grain de sel en français !)

May I offer you a small Christmas gift: a solution tree, fresh from Mali! The idea occurred to us while facilitating the Mali Knowledge Fair last week: instead of the usual problem tree, where causal relationships are deducted from a problem, we propose to grow a tree of solutions. Experiences feed the stam and the branches (the principles for action) all the way to the top: the practice at level 5 and the AIDS Competent community. You can visit the small, but growing Mali solution tree at:

So, what did we learn during this knowledge fair? What does it mean for the upcoming Chiang Mai Knowledge Fair? What are some of the remaining challenges?
Here are a few process characteristics from the Bamako “Foire des Réponses Locales” which may be worth adapting at the Chiang Mai Knowledge Fair: (see process outline in French, attached)

Before the Knowledge Fair:

 Participants from all provinces prepared the KF by making an inventory of illustrations related to four practices: they came with a clear view of experiences they would offer.
 The three facilitators went through the process in fine detail for about 4 hours.

During the Knowledge Fair:

 We spent the first day getting to know each other at a personal level and appreciating all contributions.
 A first, unstructured exchange during the first afternoon sent the energy levels sky high.
 We spent a full day for sharing over one practice, and had three groups in parallel (participants were about 60)
 We shared in four phases: sharing the vision of level 5; sharing experiences of progress towards level 5; identifying common principles for action; filling the knowledge asset form. We only focused on the form at the end of the process.
 We focused group presentations on process, thereby avoiding long and detailed presentations of experiences in plenary
 A dedicated TV team spent two days recording 2 minutes interviews about experiences. They will be uploaded to Youtube and linked to experiences in the knowledge assets

After the Knowledge Fair:

 On the last day, we focused on next steps; agreeing on a way for deepening the documentation and extending it to other practices
 As platform for exchange, we went for Googledocs as I has experience with that support, and as each Provincial team had used the knowledge asset Excel sheet

What seems to have been important?

 The preparation by Sangare of the Provincial teams before the knowledge fair
 The detailed outlining of process done by the team of facilitators
 The salty opening
 The initial sharing around vision
 Not to show the “form” too early

What could we have done better?

 Shifting the presentation from activity “we are doing this or that” to focus on the change “we had this issue and here is how we solved it”: this will take time and effort, as that way of thinking is very new for participants as well as for us facilitators…
 Making the causal links flow: between experience, principle and vision of success: same observation: we won’t get there overnight!
 Writing a 300 word description of the experience, covering the background and the turning point
 Getting real experience in the room, not the reports from intermediaries

What does this mean for the upcoming Chiang Mai Knowledge Fair (KF)?

 Would it be useful to request that people come to the KF with 300 word draft descriptions of experiences?
 Should we allocate (sufficient) time for storytelling and writing as part of the knowledge fair?
 Should we require that participants come with evidence of progress on AIDS Competence by their own community, as evidenced by two self assessments?

What are some of the remaining challenges?

 Making the updating work
 Languages: somehow I can’t see KA’s accommodating several languages in one matrix: the principles for action may be different in different languages, as they result from different thought processes
 How will we accommodate the thousands of experiences likely to be contributed as we progress? Maybe we keep the KAs separate per country or network and make them searchable through Google?
 Is it possible to create new principles for action without meeting F2F?
 How shall we link knowledge assets and our aidscompetence community on Ning?
 What standard platform shall we adopt for the building of KAs?

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This looks great and I am impressed by the organization of the fair and documentation. A few remarks:

1. The preparation by participants is indeed critical for an efficient Knowledge Fair;
2. The stories. The most important improvement I think is to include in the KAs are 'the human stories' (your point 3). The video's will certainly add this element, but if we don't have this 'luxury' I would recommend Geoff's format including the description of the turning point. In the current format, as a reader I am not so much touched by the experiences or urged to contact the person. Perhaps one story per principle is enough to get readers to take action and not end up with a huge form?
3. Time for storytelling and writing: Yes! My experience tells me that to document the real story is a challenging skill. People in our sector are tended to generalize and extract 'best practices' so quickly that they loose the strong value of the real story.
4. Categorization. We could categorize the KAs per topic and country, but just to make searching easier (like they did very well with epidemiological info on The challenge is to make the overlapping area in the peer assist the largest for the reader. Perhaps this is by country, perhaps not. I do think that everybody should be able to find relevant local responses from around the world;
5. Link KAs to Ning. I propose a new 'button' with the link to the Knowledge Assets from around the world in either WIKI or other format. This would add a strong 'content' element to Ning.
6. Transfer. Last, but not least. Many of the remaining challenges are linked to the eventual objective of KAs. We have to reflect more on how we go from 'collection of great local knowledge' to 'flow of local knowledge'. What drives people (both NGOs and communities) to actually use these examples in their own context? How can we facilitate this through templates, documentation, but also follow-up? And can we measure the effectiveness of the 'transfer' that happens through Knowledge Assets sharing? We need to get more insights in these aspects before choosing a platform or finalizing a template.

A few questions to which I don't have a direct answer.

Thanks for this Jean Louis, Mali was clearly a success!

Here are my thoughts

I agree that we should make time for informal exchange as it is beneficial in raising energy levels and getting people to know one another.

And we should get participants to reflect on the self assessment practices to consider which experiences they plan to share and also what they most want to learn about before they arrive. We need to ask them to do this.

We have learned that creating a dream or vision helps people focus on the desired outcome so we should try to include it. I think we have a choice over whether this is a dream of an AIDS Competence community or a vision of level 5 for a particular practice.

The challenge of shifting from talking about activity to what worked well is the key challenge of appreciative inquiry and I recognise it from my own experiences.

Somehow we have to find time for people to share and learn. If everyone comes prepared to share only something they are proud of then we will be queuing up to tell our stories. We also want people queuing up to learn. From that point of view we need a minimum of two sessions, and that places time constraints on how to fit everything in.

Writing up does get in the way of really listening to stories so we should aim to separate the two activities. It would be a mistake to use the form for stories as a prompt for the storyteller. It is better used a prompt for questions to fill the gaps from the listener. I also think it would be a mistake to get people to write their stories up in advance. My experience is that people tell stories better than they write them down. And often the listener can capture the story better than the teller. [Laurence & Gaston chip in here on your experience of me eliciting a story from you. And you eliciting a story from someone else.]

I don't have the answer to dealing with multiple languages. However I have learned that to ignore a language ignores a big chunk of knowledge. To make a distinction I think the general principles are similar across different countries and languages, the actions that result may differ due to different thought processes. For instance we believe a general principle is to encourage local response as it reduces the spread of HIV. We believe that applies in any country, in any language, or we would not be committed to AIDS Competence. How that translates into action differs in different locations. A well constructed knowledge asset is beneficial, and when we have similar experiences from different continents, it sends a more powerful message and the generalization is global. [I'm wondering if we need to spend more time agreeing what the Constellation means by a general principle to make sure we are aligned?]

I think the resources part of the knowledge asset should focus on the general principle rather than the specific experience. While it is useful to be able to contact the person with a specific experience, it is more useful to know which report to refer to as a key reference document, or who is considered knowledgeable for a particular principle, or which network you can join, etc. That can be added to the wiki as a hyperlink rather than having a separate column.

General principles, or Principles for action, need to be agreed by the group of practitioners applying them. It therefore depends on the decision making mechanism of that group. It should be possible to agree this virtually if the decision making process is clear. We are breaking new ground here but I think the Constellation has examples of clear virtual decision making processes.

One other thought; My dream is that as the number of experiences grow we can find a mechanism to vote on the most useful ones to illuminate the general principle. If you think about the way we select from a range of stories to emphasise the message we want to leave people with, but each of us might choose a different story that we tell with passion.

This was the way it worked in BP with operations excellence - all stories were included but a few were compelling.

Great idea!
Thanks all for this discussion so far. Great to be learning 'before'. Geoff, Jean-Louis: how can we improve our draft agenda on this basis? (see attachment).
Thanks Geoff for this contribution. Some more of my thoughts also after a new experience yesterday with BelCompetence where we had a workshop on Knowledge Assets and practiced this part of the process as facilitators:
- Documentation is challenging. We could have one person (or maybe 2) capturing the stories directly on a computer and being conscious about the similar aspects in different stories. After all stories and consensus within this group on the ‘common principles’, the template can be completed. I agree that reference to documents or one specific coach/ facilitator is important (with the individuals as a second line of reference).
- Dream. When defining the dream or level 5, it’s easy for a group to get carried away with a discussion. Important for the facilitator to keep this short and simple.
- 2 sessions: 1 on sharing, 1 on learning. Agree with your point. Also is in line with the focus on the application of what we have learned. It’s not just ‘collection of knowledge’. The application is at least as important
- Preparing stories. I think preparation is useful, but perhaps not in written. I agree that you eliciting my story was more effective with the key words of the template to ‘fill the gap’. I am also not sure people will write their stories at scale given their workload. It is important to let them reflect profoundly on what they want to share and learn. I think we should announce this clearly to all participants before they come to Chiang Mai.
Last week with Belcompetence, Laurence facilitated a way where participants had to share a story 3 times in 3 minutes, 2 minutes and in 1 minute. After that, people felt confident they could write their story and focus on the core elements (which matches your template including the turning point).
- Nominate best experiences. Yes, this would be a great idea. If we can publish the Knowledge Asset on a platform (Ning?), adding an application to vote for visitors will be easy to do. The stories with the most votes then climb up the ladder.
Taking the experience from Mali into account,

I would suggest:

1. Make sure that all participants register in NIng at the outset of the KF

2. Replace the presentation of country situation by sharing a story that illustrates change

3. Spend a whole day to develop one knowledge asset on day 2. This may mean not covering all practices but focusing on those 1. which are priorities for the participants' action plans and 2. with most potential for sharing.

Maybe participants could come with:
1. a text describing an experience they want to share (max 300 words)?
2. the latest self assessment of their organisation/community

Dear friends,

I faced several challenges in Papua New Guinea to define the vision for level 5, during the peer assist session.

- participants got confused and started sharing their experience with this practice, as well as all the things that should be done. I tried to re-explain what we meant but it didn't really work (also we only had 1:30 for the peer assist and building of KA) so I dropped it. But I do see that it is important to formulate a vision for succes.

Any idea how we can better explain this step? Did you give an example, JL?
At the BelCompetence workshop, we showed the knowledge asset of Mali, to show people where we wanted to go. Maybe this is a way to make them understand more easily why we ask them to formulate the vision.

- Participants in PNG had sometimes a very limited vision of the practices. Ex: acknowledgement and recognition meant for them "we know about HIV". I found it difficult to find a balance between explaining the broader vision of this practice and accepting that they can have a different interpretation of this practice. Usually I would say, "In other countries, people understand this practice like this and this," giving example but letting them decide...
Any experience with this?

- Also, do you as a facilitator share your personal experience during a peer assist? I did so in Papua New Guinea, because in a way, I consider myself part of that group, in that particular moment. Also, it can give them new ideas, from other countries.

Regarding the KA, we had a very interesting idea with Jean-Louis this afternoon: We could use Ning to build Knowledge Assets. The blog postings on Ning are people sharing their personal experience, often related to a practice. If we see that people share experiences around same topics, we could organize a skype meeting to discuss if common principles emmerge. These blog postings, or stories, could then be linked to KA, where all principles are summarized. You can go to the persons profile on Ning to know more about his/her experience.
Moreover, we can invite people who participated in Knowledge Fairs to share their experience on Ning, so that experiences are shared with a larger community. This could improve the flow of information.
To be further explore!




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