From Face to Face to Face to Face and in between – Experiences from the Agriculture & Rural Development Network
From Cochabamba to Zollikofen… What has happened in the short life of the Agriculture and Rural Development (A+RD) Network so far, in particular between the two intense periods of activities linked to the Face-to-face events.
By Marylaure Crettaz
The A+RD network was born in 2008, simultaneously with many other brother and sister networks. From the very beginning, the network chose to include SDC partners (NGOs and academic institutions), acknowledging the fact that most of the (practical) knowledge on A+RD topics was to be found in SDC implementing partners. The network has developed in parallel with its host, the Global Programme Food Security. It thus did not come as a complete surprise when the network and the global programme defined common priority topics, such as “rural advisory services” or “land governance”.
After a longer warm-up phase, the network activities increased in view of the first Face-to-Face event organized in 2010 in Cochabamba. We had the opportunity to meet personally in Bolivia during one week, to share and learn from experiences and practices. At that occasion, we decided to be as “product oriented” as possible in the future. The then 2 years-old was able to walk alone after all, and to chose the way to go…The network members reconfirmed the topical priorities Rural advisory Services and Land governance but also decided to add other issues of interest, namely the climate resilient small scale agriculture and the impact studies related to A+RD.
After that…We went through a little post-event depression….Energies were down, options proposed to maintain the enthusiasm did not really materialize (knowledge buddies, regional meetings, South-south exchanges). Although in Switzerland things moved positively in linking with NGOs and the private sector in particular in the RAS community with the consolidation of an informal group named the Swiss Forum on RAS. And to make the 3-year crisis complete, we faced a major change of people, due to SDC’s rotation system of staff. A new core-group…with fresh faces but also new motivation!
This new set-up had also many advantages: new ideas, experiences from various geographical contexts and a good opportunity to increase links between SDC’s various corporate domains. We experienced an interesting knowledge sharing exercise at that time. In order to get a better idea of what SDC was doing in land governance, we decided to carry out a mapping, mainly through second-hand information of core-group members. Since most of them were new in their positions, it was difficult to assess the importance of that topic in their respective geographical units. However, most of the members could report on past experiences of previous assignments, which allowed the network to draw an almost complete picture of SDC expertise at the end of the exercise. (see result of the mapping here).
In the meantime, the membership of the network increased steadily, to finally reach 160 members in January 2012. E-discussions have succeeded in raising interest of members worldwide, and first products/publications are available on the shareweb http://www.sdc-ruraldevelopment.ch/ (briefs, studies).
We are now in an intensive phase of preparation for the up-coming F2F that will take place in Zollikofen near Bern at INFORAMA Rütti (agricultural school and extension center). The network members were consulted through electronic surveys in order to define the F2F topics. Specific task forces with core-group members and external support were set up to prepare a stimulating and eventful week.
The impact study topic has evolved towards the broader issue of result reporting in A+RD and will focus on SDC cooperation strategies, since more than 10 countries and regions will elaborate a new strategy in 2012. The network really seeks to take advantage of this opportunity to offer members and in particular COOFs personnel with concrete inputs on the result framework of the strategies.
In view of the F2F, synergies have been fostered with other SDC networks, mainly with e+i with a joint session co-organized by both networks, but also with the Gender network which is organizing its F2F right after ours. Natural resources-based networks, such as water, climate change, DRR, A+RD and the NGOs platform on DRR are also coordinating their efforts to achieve a greater impact.
Our network is now almost a grown up and will celebrate its 4th birthday! What could be our wishes? A long life and …for the short-term, to find innovative ways to maintain exchanges, knowledge sharing and contacts between its members from one F2F to the next one!
What are your experiences? How do you keep the network spirit alive, especially in the post-f2f period?
How is your network dealing with the phase in between the f2f meetings?