Integration: Fish bowl discussion

5 Apr 2017 02:00h

Event report

Session 8 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development Conference was a ‘Fish Bowl Discussion’, format in which participants provided concluding reflections about the conference. In the middle of the room sat four ‘big fish’, each was given a turn to speak for a few minutes – uninterrupted. After a few minutes of discussion amongst the ‘big fish’, the ‘fish bowl’ opened up to allow input from the ‘small fish’ that had previously been observing and listening. The theme of the discussion involved concrete building blocks to create a plan of action for the Agenda Knowledge for Development. Participants gave insight into how they can get the agenda off the ground and make it run efficiently and effectively.

Mr Andreas Brandner, Knowledge Management Austria (KMA), began the dialogue by describing his optimism about the progress made during the two days of the conference, congratulating everyone on the friendships and networks they had built. To make a real impact, however, he argued that the agenda needed to encourage decentralised, local, on-the-ground initiatives, that are independent and self-determined, rather than dictated from above. By nurturing the spirit and passion of collaborating stakeholders, the partnerships can share competencies and develop a functioning Knowledge Ecosystem. The most important driver of development, however, must be from local mobilisation.

The next speaker, a professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), agreed that these sorts of conferences are nice, but in order to make a real difference, the participants must push themselves outside the comfortable walls of the UN and do hands-on work in field implementation. A representative from the World Trade Organization expanded upon this idea and reflected that in order to make a real difference, you must change the way you think about KM for development. Individual actors must listen, learn, and lead to make the newly inaugurated Knowledge for Development Partnership effective.

In contrast to the more philosophical reflections of the first three participants, the final speaker took a more practical approach to discussing the concrete building blocks needed to make the partnership successful. He stated that organisations should invest in capacity development to determine the needs of local communities, think more about South-South partnerships, and integrate KM into the mainstream mentality of project design.

After this initial discussion, the floor was opened to the rest of the audience. Various individuals underlined the need to expand visions dramatically and continue to innovate, as well as develop, more long-term ways of thinking in terms of deliverable objectives and budget reporting. One of the main criticisms of the event was the lack of meaningful funding provided by participating organisations to other organisations; individuals deplored the fact that no organisation was able or willing to spend anything on programmes informally pitched during networking sessions. This lack of financial co-operation was seen as a potential roadblock for  creating real change through the partnership. Overall, however, the discussion was very optimistic about the future of a coordinated effort to implement KM strategies in development efforts.