Linking knowledge management with monitoring and evaluation


A short while ago, I gave a small brown bag seminar on the connections between knowledge management (KM) on the one hand and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) on the other hand, for a group of people from the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), both located in Wageningen in the green heart of the Netherlands (the country where I now live).

It was somewhat intimidating to give this seminar in front of a really savvy audience, particularly for the M&E part, since I haven’t directly worked much on M&E since I joined ILRI in late 2011.

The seminar I prepared was on Prezi – see hereby:

KM-M&E seminar
https://prezi.com/view/Jww1idvEC608G7wyA8bn/ or https://prezi.com/p/wgggdcmwxz-v/

(Just as an aside: It was done using ‘Prezi Next’ which is related to the classic Prezi everyone knows but has new features. A new learning curve to adapt to the latest design options and it’s clear that since their heyday a few years ago Prezi have gone some way to reduce the motion sickness effect that was the biggest drawback of their otherwise great application. Unfortunately, at this stage, it’s not possible to embed a PreziNext into WordPress, though this might be fixed some time in the near future).

In any case, what was interesting, as with every piece of information that is being presented, is how people reacted to it, and what they reacted on.

The key points we discussed in the interaction revolved around:

How KM is perceived as dead or not

The notion that ‘KM is dead’ was perhaps difficult to digest for some of the KM heads around the table, though in the conversation it became clear that as much as the field is disappearing, the lessons and principles and approaches of KM live on. And in certain areas, sectors and organisations KM is still very much vivid as a field in and of its own.

We agreed that the importance was to shape collective norms about what is KM (or whatever a group calls it) and that a label (such as KM) should only be adopted if it helps clarify matters for a given group. But the conversation about what it is called is useful too.

Archetypes of KM and M&E heads

Another interesting aspect we touched upon was the stereotypes of people working in KM and in M&E. I made a very rough caricature to introduce some of the KM archetypes and the M&E archetype (of the cold-blooded scientist) which luckily has changed over the years. Particularly the M&E community is really transforming, with booming activity as I can judge on the aliveness of the Pelican Initiative. And so it’s only encouraging to expect that there will be more and more alignment between KM and M&E in the future as many individuals that I know are trespassing the borders of either field and are working across the disciplines.

How KM adds value, what makes it special or different? Why bother?

This was one of the challenges posed by the director of one of the host institutes I was presenting to. “Why should we do KM if it’s so similar to M&E, and what are the trends and the approaches we need to embrace from that field”. That’s where we came back to the bottom line of KM=CDL and the fact that KM is a useful lens looking at knowledge and learning, ensuring we leverage knowledge at all stages. It was interesting also to hear that some people assumed KM to be systematically about learning (but what about the ‘KM portals‘?). But the conversation showed that the connection between KM and M&E is not automatically grasped – and perhaps that my presentation didn’t hit home base 😉

 

KM and M&E is not all about the M&E of KM (Credits: MSH/Pathfinder)

KM and M&E is not all about the M&E of KM (Credits: MSH/Pathfinder)

What is the real connection between KM and M&E?

Indeed the big question is: what really is the difference or the overlap between KM and M&E. And it has to be learning, though we recognized, as a group, that not all KM and not all M&E are learning-focused, but both hold that promise and can make it happen. How to bring them together and how to make them benefit from each other is the question. Perhaps this is really worth blogging more about, just as it might be useful to blog about iterative and upscaling cycles of CDL that take KM from a very individual to a societal level with social learning – one of the thoughts that played around my head during this rich learning day…

 

…which leads me to the bottomline of all of this though is that I can sense how much intellectual effusion there is around Wageningen and the development society of the Netherlands at large and I sense that this might fuel another burst of blogging for me. Which can only be good for the short and longer run for me (and hopefully for you then ;)…

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How to navigate complexity in M&E and where KM can help


What’s happening in the world of monitoring and evaluation?

How is complexity – the thinking and the reality – affecting it, highlighting gaps and creating opportunities?

What can KM help to do about this?

Here are some of the questions that this Prezi addresses.

I’ll be presenting this in the course of next week at a retreat on M&E.

This is a draft, so please let me know what you think so I can improve this last minute, still before it is uploaded on official channels 😉

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Tinkering with tools: (Pretty) Easy Prezi


Prezi the (really not so) new cool presentation tool

Prezi the (really not so) new cool presentation tool

Prezi is a presentation tool. An alternative to Powerpoint. It has been around for a while now (four years), and I hadn’t used it since 2010 when, among others, I was wondering ‘What is learning?‘ but current circumstances at work have brought me back to using it again – as testified in one recent blog post on partnerships.

This time it’s not so much for my own use (I tend to facilitate events a lot more than present anything at those events) as for my colleagues’ use, so this ‘Tinkering with tools‘ post is about Prezi, some resources about them and a couple of tips to enrich one’s experience with it.

So what is Prezi?

Prezi is a dynamic presentation tool that is built in a totally different logic to Powerpoint. Let’s examine closely the differences between the two:

Powerpoint

Prezi

Series of interconnected slides following one path – ‘Slide’ logic, whereby the slide is the playing field Canvas offering a navigation pathway amidst an infinity of other ones – Canvas logic where the whole canvas is the playing field – it is possible to step out of the indicated ‘pathway’ to look at any element on the canvas
Lecture-like experience ‘a la overhead sheet’ though can be used very strongly (the tool is never the problem, the tool user can be) Dynamic exploration-like experience where the user is invited to discover a brave new world
Possibility to emphasise certain elements with animations or formatting (bold, colour etc.) Few formatting options (3 types of fonts though colours possible) but endless possibility to emphasise elements by scaling them up or down, adding dynamics to the presentation
Many animations possible in the slide (if used well, one of the powerful features of PPT) Some animations possible but mostly animation happening between sequences of text e.g. nesting images into images into images
Possibility to embed images, videos, audio etc. Possibility to embed images, videos, audio etc. AND Powerpoint presentations
Risk of putting too much text in and to bore the audience OR risk of putting too many animations in and to annoy the audience ‘Death by Powerpoint Risk of putting too many transitions and movements in and to get the audience sea-sick ‘vertigo by Prezi
Embedding in websites happens through prior uploading on e.g. Slideshare Embedding in websites directly (though via a rather not so straightforward logic for WordPress sites)
Software used from the client’s PC Online, or pay-for – free 30-day trial – desktop application

If this doesn’t help you visualise what I mean, perhaps you might want to take a look at this example:

Now let’s have a look at some useful ways to build Prezis, from my experience…

Practical tips and tricks?

First off, focus on three things:

  1. your story (the content and logic of it),
  2. the storyboard of that story (e.g. what element will you disclose one by one, flanked by what possible visuals and other media etc.)
  3. and finally how will you plot these onto your canvas. It is really crucial to think about this because the prezi will be used all the more as you incorporate a strong story in a smart way of using the canvas.

This means that once you’ve got these elements figured, you should plot (i.e. add, write, upload, include) all these elements of text, visuals, audio and video bits more or less where you want to put them on your canvas. Your use of the canvas and of Prezi’s navigation logic is what makes the difference between a good prezi and an excellent prezi. Then you can scale them differently to hide them a bit for an element of surprise.

Prezi is not Powerpoint, so don’t build a Prezi the way you would a Powerpoint. Forget about overview slides, forget about animations on slide, and certainly forget about the biggest mistakes in building and delivering (death by) Powerpoint e.g. having too much text to read, adding useless visuals which don’t strengthen your point etc.

On the other hand, use the strength of Prezi: move around, scale in and out, turn the text, play with the canvas and with details in it (e.g. nest an image in the dot of an ‘i’ or in the brain of a person in the picture), use a visual as your canvas and move around, get a hang of options with the templates offered, think for yourself and try a story canvas that suits your style and your needs. It can be a blank canvas, a pre-existing template, a picture…

However, here are also some other tips to avoid shooting yourself in the foot with your innovative prezi (at the risk of putting your audience off Prezi for a while):

  • Even on a prezi, too long a presentation can bore your audience. Time yourself and avoid speaking over 10 minutes
  • Scaling in and out is great but doing too much of it really gives vertigo. Spend some time talking over each ‘bit of text’ rather than moving straight into the next bit, to allow your audience to find its balance and sense again and to avoid vertigo
  • Use pictures not in a Powerpoint slide kind of way but rather embedding the text in the picture or vice versa, or show the picture after or before the text
  • Add different kinds of media (e.g. video) to also time your presentation and give space for your audience to stabilise its senses
  • Keep a consistent use of fonts and colours to give a sense of balance to your presentation
  • At all times, keep your story in mind. As much as early Powerpoint presentations used all kinds of animations and lost the plot (and the audience), Prezis are cool only if they strengthen the point, not dilute it.

As you can see, I also need to explore Prezi to improve my own style since my 2010 attempts.

Some more resources about Prezi:

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What is learning?


Time for new stuff!!! Ah, love the learning!

(Social) learning: how we evolve (together) by questioning our environment

(Social) learning: how we evolve (together) by questioning our environment

After over three weeks hectic weeks that kept me away from blogging, I’m happy to finally be back on the (WordPress) dashboard to share some recent work. And the biggest item on a long list of ‘to blog’ is this presentation that I just prepared about learning. I will be giving this presentation today for an all-staff meeting at IRC as an introduction to one of our ‘travel free weeks’.

Travel free weeks are given a negative name (about what we don’t do: travel – we’re all supposed to be around) for what is essentially a week of organisational learning. And learning we do and talk about at IRC. A quick search for ‘learning’ gave back 992 hits on our website – on a total of I suspect over 12000 items. This is seriously core to our business. But do we always refer back to the theory and practice of learning, at personal, organisational, collective and even societal level? That I question, and anyway for whoever wishes to work on learning, going back to the white board with the ‘where are we at’ question every so often is just a standard (good) practice. That is the key to becoming a learning organisation. Remember Einstein: “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.

So here’s the presentation. I made it on Prezi, because it’s a new tool I wanted to (indeed) learn about, also because I think its fresh feel may put the audience in a different seat and engage them in a different way. I got triggered to use Prezi when I first heard @Joitske (Hulsebosch) tweet about it, then when I read this great blog post by Robert @Swanwick about his own experience with Prezi and finally when I saw my first Prezi about designing an academic poster, by Adam Read. But no more talk now, check the presentation:

… or online: What (the heck) is learning?

My learning curve with Prezi?

  • It’s funny how it actually feels like Prezi has been around and we do Prezi-type presentations all the time, whereas the logic of the presentation is very different to Powerpoints and it really has the advantage of focusing on one point at a time, which gives the audience a better chance to relate what you’re saying with what they’re seeing. Oh sure you can (and should) do it with Powerpoint but we all know our tendency to use as much of a white space we can with text, text and more text, especially when we’ve been trained to keep Powerpoints to an average of 10-15 slides – something we are un-learning at the moment, but it takes time to un-learn!
  • The development logic takes a while to master, not least because it involves a lot of zooming in and out to write text in small enough a display to keep it invisible when scrolling from one bit of text to another in the presentation.
  • I really like the canvas logic, the liberty and reduced linearity that you enjoy when developing and showing the presentation.
  • Framing the elements of your presentation in consistent blocks is helpful but perhaps the last thing to do in the presentation because any edit on the presentation requires you to zoom in on the element you need to edit and the overlay frame tends to be the element you pick up when you try to edit a smaller element.
  • I haven’t yet explored the possibility to embed video and audio bits and I hope it is possible or there is a (Power)point to keep using PPTs (which can do that). There is anyway as Prezi should just complement the current offer of presentation tools and find what works for you, and most importantly what because matters in the presentation, with Prezi or else, is what YOU are saying, not what’s on display.
  • I found the set of backgrounds rather limited too and hope it is easy to use new/other backgrounds.
  • Finally, for future presentations I will think further about the way I wish to use because there is a lot of learning (and effectiveness) potential there, but even with a simple – read: no-surprise – presentation like mine the surprise effect is there yet – I reckon!

Let’s see how my colleagues react to it! This, in itself, would deserve a reply blog post, don’t you think?

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