[Also check the annotated list of all posts on this blog]
My name is Ewen Le Borgne. I was born in Brittany, France and live now in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). I work for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as knowledge sharing and communication specialist. This blog is my space to reflect about the fascinating world of social change and learning, knowledge management (KM), borrowing from my work at ILRI and whatever other occasion life presents me. I hope this page sheds some light onto who I am, what I care for and what I blog about. There is no learning as deep and valuable as social: I value dialogue on this blog, so feel free to reply, comment, rate and engage to keep the dialogue open. Cheers!
Who I am: my (professional) development path
My interest for social learning goes back to observing how my fellow human beings communicate with one another, when I was a very quiet and not so sociable child (that time is long gone ha ha ha). That interest became a professional hobby developing in stages: After my master’s degree in communication, I worked for the London-based web design agency Wax New Media (now defunct Wax Digital), working on web marketing. The online planet split wide-open in front of me. A good first step.
From there I moved on to IRC the Holland-based International Water and Sanitation Centre and worked on the corporate website and the news services of IRC in French and Spanish: Sources Nouvelles and Boletin de Noticias. Moving from the superficial glitz of marketing to the seriousness of information management was quite interesting in some way but also rather dry. I realised that for someone working in a development cooperation agency, I didn’t travel and more importantly I didn’t get to work with our partners in Africa and Latin America much at all. How could I make sense of who they are, the conditions under which they work, their perspective on life? This was not enough.
In 2005 I moved to another department within IRC which brought me to work much more closely with our partner organisations in Africa (Burkina faso, Ghana) and Latin America (Colombia, Honduras). The idea of the RCD 18-country programme in which I was then involved was to help partners develop into resource centre networks – independent networks providing knowledge and information services. The focus definitively shifted from simple information management to knowledge management and crucially knowledge sharing. Those were precious years to develop a very personal experience in working with Southern partners, in facilitating processes and workshops, in working on applied knowledge management, communication and M&E.
But the real ‘aha moment’ was when I discovered KM4DEV. My IRC colleague Jaap Pels had brought me on to the mailing list of KM4Dev and in 2006 he convinced me to attend my first face-to-face KM4Dev meeting in Brighton. It deeply changed my own approach to work and forever put my attention to ever more participatory approaches and interactive facilitation methods such as the world cafe or Open Space Technology. I became a core group member in April 2007 and helped organise the annual KM4DEV events in Zeist (2007), Almada (2008) and in 2009 in Brussels. And since late 2009 I am also a senior editor of the KM4Dev journal. KM, knowledge sharing and learning have been the backbone of my professional work and the greatest source of energy and inspiration ever since.
What I care for and blog about
There are three strands in my work:
- Communication (my original niche),
- Monitoring and evaluation (though less so since I’ve joined ILRI),
- Knowledge sharing/management and learning.
What follows hopefully gives an idea about what I (can) do in each strand, and with what perspective I do it. For each of these strands I think and write, I work alone and in teams, with colleagues from various countries, I train and coach, I chat and brainstorm, and I laugh a lot.
Communication: To communicate effectively, strategically and interpersonally, at all levels.
- What I do: developing and implementing communication strategies, developing websites / intranets / newsletters / blogs / wikis / publication services; organising and promoting events.
- Why I do it: to ensure that communication is supporting overall (project / organisation / network) objectives; to promote clear interpersonal and two-way communication, within and between institutions and networks; and crucially to bring a lot of learning and critical reflection to communication, away from the tantalising whistles and bells of PR and marketing.
- Posts you can read about this: Communication, strategy and revolution – KISS my comms – Capacity for change – Seeking success, finding failures: work in development – From ego-tripping to ego-rippling: the knowledge ego-logy paradigm.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E): Transforming M&E into simple and effective learning processes that help everyone.
- What I do: Designing, developing and implementing monitoring and evaluation frameworks and activities; devising simple reporting processes and formats; testing and explaining M&E approaches, techniques and tools; analysing data collected and reflecting about how to use it most effectively; improving i.e. simplifying and clarifying M&E systems and processes; broadening M&E activities to a larger group of actors to cover the big picture; reflecting about the theory of M&E and the assumptions that need to be questioned in order to make M&E a meaningful exercise.
- Why I do it: to ensure that M&E really helps assess where an intervention makes sense and how it can support a sound development practice. M&E should help all concerned parties reflect how they perceive both processes and results, help practitioners implement with sense and help donors invest in useful, locally-driven (hence more sustainable) initiatives. M&E is a formal requirement, it should therefore be a natural place to instil a culture of ongoing learning and reflection. And it’s usually boring because it’s not planned properly and too often oriented towards ‘bean counting’ report, so my task is to make M&E sexier and more meaningful.
- Posts you can read about this: What the *tweet* do we know (about monitoring/assessing KM)? – (Im)proving the value of knowledge work – G(r)o(w)ing organically and the future of monitoring – M&E of KM: the phoenix of KM is showing its head again – how to tackle it? – Network monitoring & evaluation: taking stock – Process documentation – Sandbox to influence donors?
Knowledge sharing/management (KM) and learning: Building upon what is out there, connecting with others, failing safely, reflecting and learning together, making more sense, improving collectively and throughout (continually adaptive) and realising ourselves individually.
- What I do: Developing KM and learning strategies and activities, including information management with a focus on information systems (see here what KM4DEV says about the difference between IM and KM) and knowledge sharing with a focus on human transactions; supporting communities of practice, resource centre networks, learning alliances and other multi-actor initiatives that focus on a common good. I work on various levels: personal, team, organisation, network, multi-actor/multi-sector.
- Why I do it: At personal level, because we (should) keep on learning during our entire life, because it helps us get more effective and inclusive by realising that we are in a complex and interdependent framework of relations; at team level because team dynamics is the basis of cooperation (after family and friends) and where interpersonal communication and social learning finds all its usefulness but also because it supports organisational learning and KM; at organisational level, because organisations can keep increasing the value of their initiatives for their intended recipients and audiences (and for themselves) and they are one of the most basic and focused-on types of actors; at inter-institutional and sector level because development issues are complex and require a collective approach that builds upon the energies and competencies of many actors, and requires these ‘multiple knowledges’ to get a sense of the bigger picture. Cooperation through joint action learning is, in my eyes, the best way to make sense of the world.
- Posts you can read about this: Harvesting insights (1): back to (KM) basics – Harvesting insights (2): Beautiful KM – Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information? – What is learning – Learning cycle basics and more: taking stock – Peter & Justin: when and how does information make sense? – X reasons not to learn, not to share, not to progress – The ever learning organisation – Gardening in organisations: how to cultivate expertise and make it blossom – The power of three learning approaches and their combination? Capitalising, systematising, documenting processes and experiences. About multi-stakeholder processes and action-research: A frame to work with learning alliances? – The change alliance.
I am a member of two interesting initiatives in the KM for development world:
- The KM4DEV community of practice and more recently the related Francophone network, SA-GE. Related blog posts: Live and direct from Almada: from KM4DEV to learning4change? – KM4DEV 2009, a few weeks later; On SA-GE: Une communauté de pratique francophone – duplicating my identity or celebrating our diversity? – Managing “le savoir”.
- The IKM-Emergent programme working group 3 since 2008 – see the Giraffe blog for more about this. This programme ended in 2012 however. Related blog posts: M&E of KM: the phoenix of KM is showing its head again – how to tackle it? – The Giraffe – IKM emergency – IKM-convergent? Annual programme meeting, Wageningen, day 1.
My outlook and hope: keeping on promoting and implementing social change for more self-empowerment and more cooperation, through more learning and more communication. I am focusing more and more on system dynamics, innovation systems, the dynamic and role of networks, on complexity theories and on cognitive science (to understand how the brain works and how it influences the way we listen, remember, talk, think, learn and innovate).
Where to follow me?
- Email: e.leborgne[at]cgiar.org
- Twitter: ewenlb
- Skype: ewenirc
- LinkedIn: Ewen Le Borgne
- del.icio.us: ewenirc –
[Disclaimer: the ideas, opinions, views expressed in this blog in no way represent the official view of the International Livestock Institute/ILRI. They represent my personal opinion (Ewen Le Borgne) and I invite you to either comment on this blog publicly or to get back to me personally on e.leborgne[at]cgiar.org to clarify or discuss any issue about the ideas exposed in this blog].