Monday, 8 July 2013

Learning Routes – developing pilgrimages of learning

Republished from

Knowledge sharing mechanisms and processes have evolved hugely in recent years. From the earlier documentation of knowledge in the form of manuals and booklets to audio-visual materials, online portals for discussion, and recent phenomenon called crowdsourcing, all have their own relevance and audiences to target at.     

Leaving behind the traditional forms of knowledge management, my colleagues from High Value Agriculture Project in Hill and Mountain Areas (HVAP), Sirish Pun, Ghanashyam Chaudhary, Krishna Thapa and I embarked on a journey to develop a Learning Route. The Learning Route comprises identifying a good case from which others can learn, developing it together with the community – staying with them and learning in the process, and following the visit trying to replicate it in other areas.

The training venue was in the outskirts of the town and the working area was almost 17 kilometres away from the venue. Both the places were peaceful, tranquil and far from the madding crowd. However, coping with the hot and humid Taulihawa was a challenge in itself. Then was the problem with translation for the instructors – the local language was Avadhi which was translated into Nepali and then into English. In the process, much information details were lost many a times. However, belonging to and having worked in the Terai region eased our language woes.

The case identified for establishing the learning route was the success story of Pragatishil Agriculture Cooperative Limited. With the establishment of the cooperative, the village has witnessed many avenues of development. Now there are roads around the village, groups are engaged in fish farming in the ponds, a shop that provides goods at reasonable price has been set up by the cooperative, the villagers can receive money sent by their relatives employed in foreign countries through the remittance service operated by the cooperative, more groups are engaged in vegetable farming and commercial onion cultivation, children are getting quality education in the boarding school established by the cooperative, local market is a well-managed weekly affair and a dam has been built to control the upheavals caused by floods.   
Community members preparing map of past.

The first assignment began with preparing the maps of past, present and future. The community members were divided into three groups and we asked each group to draw how the village looked like in the past, present and how they wanted it to look like in the near future. After the map preparation, the maps were presented among the groups to verify and validate the data incorporated in each maps by the groups.

Secondly, we held focus group discussion and personal interviews with the community members and local champions. We visited the places that tell the story of the cooperative and we met with the beneficiaries. This formed a basis for drawing timeline of important events and map of actors involved in the success story of the cooperative. A chart of learning insights was also drawn including the strengths, challenges and recommendations.

The timeline, map of actors and chart of learning insights was presented to the community members and the information was validated. With the finalisation of the data and information, a rough list of events, places and persons to meet while narrating the story to the visitors was charted out. This will form a basis for the community members to showcase their story to the visitors wanting to learn from their experience.

A Learning Route gives the first hand information of a success story to the visitor. Not only that, the visitor gets to meet the people behind the success and interact with them. This inspires the learners to replicate similar successes in their respective working areas.

Watch a video explaining the Learning Route process.

The Learning Route is a capacity-building tool with a proven track record of successfully integrating local knowledge and experiences, in development with innovation and the best practices from the field, that have scaling-up potential.

The Learning Route is based on the idea that successful solutions to existing problems are already present within rural areas, and that those solutions might be adapted and spread to other contexts.

Over the years and in rural contexts across several continents the Learning Route has shown to be a powerful method to foster capacity-building through peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge and face-to-face interactions.

The Learning Route cycle:

Step 1. Best practices are identified and systematically organised to promote the adoption and scaling-up of innovative processes.

Step 2. People who are successful in their own work are trained to become capacity builders, with their personal experiences as the source of training.

Step 3. Participants in the Route  have opportunities to directly gather knowledge from successful experiences in the field. Interest and curiosity arises from the exchanges with “the Champions”, leaders and practitioners of those successful experiences.

Step 4. Finally, when participants return to their organisations they will have the knowledge  and tools to innovate  and generate results.

Learning Routes for Asia and the Pacific: Strengthening Knowledge Sharing Innovative Solutions

Financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the PROCASUR Corporation, the Programme is targeted at rural poor men and women and the technical staff of public and private development projects.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Life-changing corporate lessons from animals

Do you love animals? What about fables? I am a great fan of Panchatantra – the famous book of fables where animals speak and act like humans and show us how to lead a good life. Last week while looking for some interesting fables, I came across three short stories teaching important corporate lessons in With due credits to the creators, I would like to recite the stories.  

Corporate lesson 1
A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day.

A small rabbit saw the crow, and asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?”

The crow answered, "Sure, why not.”

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested.

All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit, and ate it.

Moral of the story is - To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Corporate lesson 2
A turkey was chatting with a bull.

"I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey, "But I haven't got the energy.”

"Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. “They're packed with nutrients."

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the first branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fortnight, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree.

Soon he was spotted by a farmer who promptly shot the turkey out of the tree.

Moral of the story is - Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.

Corporate lesson 3
A little bird was flying south for the winter.

It was so cold, the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field.

While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on it.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, it began to realise how warm it was. The dung was actually thawing him out!

He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.

A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him!

The morals of this story are:
1) Not everyone who drops shit on you is your enemy.
2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.
3) And when you're in deep shit, keep your mouth shut.