Learning & Networking News (March 2011)

March 01, 2011 | bit-wartung | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |


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Learning from our and others’ mistakes is – we know it since our primary school teachers first told us – one of the most effective ways of learning. Admitting failure however is never easy, and it certainly is not in the development cooperation world. Donor agencies are restrained to publicly talk about unsuccessful programmes by fiscal responsibility, political pressure and fear for their international reputation, NGOs do not want to put financial support at risk by admitting something did not work out quite as planned, and even down to the very individuals working in our sector who for career reasons do only reluctantly (and certainly not on record) talk about the less successful parts of their projects, this pattern repeats. Due to this lack of exchange about mistakes, the same mistakes are made over and over again, and innovation does not happen where the foundation for it would have been present for years.

The recently launched website Admitting Failure, conceived and created by the Engineers Without Borders Canada, is an attempt to break with this veil of secrecy. Development workers can submit their “failures” and browse the failures of others in order to benefit from the bad experiences that need not be repeated.

In their own words:

The development community is failing… to learn from failure. Instead of recognizing these experiences as learning opportunities, we hide them away out of fear and embarrassment.

No more. This site is an open space for development professionals who recognize that the only “bad” failure is one that’s repeated. Those who are willing to share their missteps to ensure they don’t happen again. It is a community and a resource, all designed to establish new levels of transparency, collaboration, and innovation within the development sector.

Get involved – share failures, build knowledge and encourage others to do the same – so we all benefit, today.


In today’s fast-paced and hyper-diversified web world, following your favourite blogs and news sites to stay up to date becomes more and more difficult. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds make this significantly easier. The idea is that, instead of you going to a site to check whether something new has been published, a software gathers all the news for you and displays them in one place, giving you an overview of what is going on online and enabling you to easily select what information you want to read in detail. Here’s a short tutorial on how to use them.


In order to follow a site’s news feed, you first need a so-called feed reader – an application with which you organize your feed subscriptions. Figuratively speaking, this is going to be your letter box where all websites will deliver their new content to. There are different kinds of feed readers:

  • Client software feed readers are programs that you download and install onto your computer. They allow you to organize feeds very individually and download articles for offline reading. They often look quite similar to email programs. For Windows, RSSOwl is a good and free open-source solution; Mac users should take a look at Vienna.
  • Web-based feed readers display your subscriptions in a browser window without adding any software to your computer. One of the most popular among them is Google Reader. Note that you can also display RSS feeds on your iGoogle start page.
  • Mobile feed readers are a new generation of feed readers for portable devices, such as your iPhone. There are plenty of free or commercial apps available for iOS X and android devices. MobileRSS for instance is a good feed reader for your iPhone that synchronizes with your Google Reader subscriptions.

There is a multitude of different feed readers out there. If you don’t like the ones indicated here you can be sure to find your needs fulfilled with another software, be it commercial or free.

Once you have installed a feed reader or set up an account for a web-based reader, you need to subscribe to the websites your interested in. In order to do this, visit the website and look for a symbol like this 07 and click on the link. (On blogs you can often choose between subscribing to posts or comments.) This opens the feed view of this website. Copy the URL of this site (often it is the standard URL with /feed added to it) and go to your feed reader. In most readers you will find an option to add subscriptions by pasting the feed URL. The website will now be displayed under “subscriptions” and you will see a chronological overview of the latest articles/postings from this site. That’s it!


One of our partner organisations, agridea International, offers workshops on different KM-related subjects. On April 4 – 8, they organize a week-long training on moderation near Zurich, aimed at people who want to improve their skills at leading and moderating meetings, workshops and learning events. The course will be held in german. Interested? Read further details on the flyer.
(Note: Be quick to decide – the inscription deadline is by the end of this week!)


Another of our partner organisations, the Swiss Knowledge Management Forum (SKMF) has teamed up with several other KM organisations to develop a knowledge management glossary app (in german) that is now available for free on the Appstore. Don’t own an iPhone/iPod? You can also download the glossary as a word or PDF file here.

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