Learning Elsewhere

Facebook as a learning tool?

October 16, 2013 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Can Facebook and similar tools help communities to learn? “Yes!” say Christoph Pimmer and Urs Gröhbiel, two researchers who have investigated the use of mobile phones and social software by medical students, doctors and midwives in Nepal and South-Africa. They challenge coordinators and project leaders to consider the potential of social mobile media in their projects, for reporting, networking and knowledge-exchange.

By Urs Gröhbiel and Christoph Pimmer, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland

FHNW in discussion

Photo: Apprentice bricklayers with Chirsthoph Pimmer (middle) and Urs Gröhbiel (right) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe


The Wild Side of Networks – How Best to Organize the Networks’ Work?

July 17, 2012 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere

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Nadia von HolzenWhat’s the true nature of networks? In this post Nadia von Holzen reflects on the characteristics of networks and how best sharing and learning in networks can be organized and supported. (more…)

E-collaboration at the FDFA

April 10, 2012 LND Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

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Andreas SchoeneAfter Riff Fullan’s comprehensive contribution on e-collaboration and on its prerequisites, in this blog post Andreas Schöne concentrates on more general terms of information management and on the e-collaboration infrastructure to be expected in the near future for FDFA employees and external partners. (more…)

The beauty of networks: smart, dynamic, innovative

March 20, 2012 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere

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Nadia von Holzen

In her blog post Nadia von Holzen reflects on the nature of networks, on their constitution, texture and driving force. Networks shouldn’t be taken as rigid entities, they are driven by people and their engagement and are thus propelled by an inner dynamic. Networks grow, evolve and move and it is the network’s members who breathe life into this loose conglomerate transforming it into something similar to a living organism. Therefore networks are pivotal to a learning organization as they comprise essential qualities to manage, transform and generate knowledge. (more…)

Tomorrow’s Power of Knowledge

March 14, 2012 LND Learning Elsewhere

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Manuel EtterKnowledge is Power In today’s blog post Manuel Etter follows the historical traces of this saying emphasizing an action-oriented quality of knowledge rather than its power maintaining virtue. In a second step he links this historical meaning of knowledge with the future of development cooperation. He questions the conditions and determinants that permit to find adequate answers to the issues of the future. He asks how development cooperation and above all knowledge management and exchange should be organized in order to meet increasingly global challenges. (more…)

Integrating KM in the Ukrainian Public Administration – Some Lessons Learnt

February 14, 2012 LND Learning Elsewhere

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Bertha CamachoMaryana KulyaIn this post, we would like to share how the Swiss – Ukrainian Decentralization Support Project (DESPRO), a SDC funded project imple-mented by Skat Consulting is starting to introduce Knowledge Management (KM) in the Ukrainian Public Administration and to reflect on some important lessons learnt so far. (more…)

Robust Management for Social Change

February 07, 2012 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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Adrian picture for sdclan

Recently, there was a meeting in USAID on complexity theory and development. DEVCO is developing guidance on political economy analysis. The World Bank just published a research paper on participation that singles out standard management approaches as main reasons why participatory approaches normally do not work. In our business, when the big ones start talking about something, there is change in the air. And in fact similar developments are taking place in most donor agencies. (more…)

Knowledge Champions in Development Organisations: a Key Way to Promote Knowledge Sharing and Learning?

January 17, 2012 LND Learning Elsewhere

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By Riff Fullan

2010_riff_fullan copyAt an organisational level, efforts to support greater knowledge management and learning can get ‘stuck’ within a mechanistic approach, designing structures or tools when one of the most important things to think about is people and how we can create the right conditions for them to interact in productive ways. The idea of having a variety of staff playing pivotal roles in enabling greater knowledge transfer – in other words, having Knowledge Champions – is one that is well worth exploring as a complement to other institutional knowledge management efforts. (more…)

On the political economy of results terminology

October 04, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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By Adrian Gnägi

Adrian picture for sdclanA few weeks ago I participated in a training course on impact oriented monitoring and evaluation. The course really helped me organizing my thinking on managing development programs for impact. Time and money very well invested, I found. One critical moment for me was when one of the trainers presented an overview on results terminology. Even though her presentation was introduced with a Confucius citation (my translation: “if the concepts are not right, the order of things is lost”), she presented the 4 terminology clusters as “some do it like this, others do it like that”. I felt compelled to explain why I think this free choice of results terminology to be wrong. Since I was struggling to explain it in simple words, I decided to write it up. That’s what this post is all about: why results terminology matters. (more…)


Innovation – the essence of learning in a changing world

June 29, 2011 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere

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Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury

 “The world is changing! Never has the challenge to a sustainable pathway been more urgent than today. Societies need to develop their innovative power. So has development cooperation to adapt. Innovation is key to future Swiss international cooperation.”  These were the words of a colleague when he came to my office some weeks back. “Give me some elements for what innovation for SDC should mean and link up with our practice and experiences with innovations” was what he asked us to provide him. Is he looking for the ultimate solution to a better world? Or for the golden eggs SDC should promote? “The statement should be programmatic, if possible told as a story and be at least as far-looking as what the cutting edge technology research in Lausanne or Zurich does!” Magics were expected from us! We immediately wrote to some of our mates asking them what being innovative as an agency would mean to them. What follows has emerged from this exchange. (more…)

MfDR – what’s the problem with impact oriented program steering?

May 25, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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 Adrian picture for sdclan



by Adrian Gnägi


A few years ago, when I was posted in Amman, we frequently visited my wife’s family in Beirut. That made for long rides on monotonous Middle Eastern desert highways. The deal with the kids was that they could wish for stories to be told. One of their favorites was the illustrated book “Beaver, give us a ride”. The story goes like this: Beaver uses a hollow log as boat on the river. His friends are not impressed: nice, but small. So beaver builds a large raft and invites one after the other of his friends to come on board. When bear joins after all the others, there definitely is no space left. The friends try to prevent an uninvited butterfly from landing on the overloaded raft in the rapids, but …

The story is a beautiful explanation of complexity theory for children. Our kids used to discuss for hours whether and how the wreckage could have been prevented. They asked to review the pages where the different friends joined the party, discussing who could have done what differently at which moment to prevent the accident. The better they knew the story and the pictures, the more weak signals they discovered. In the end they realized there would have been steering potential in every single scene, right from the beginning.

But why was this steering potential not realized, why was the catastrophe not prevented from happening? Standard MfDR (managing for development results) thinking explains impact as the end of the result chain: impact happens in a distant future, when all outputs have been produced, when outputs have interacted with other factors into outcomes, and when other forces have diluted outcome influence in the attribution gap. 

Beaver’s story shows why the MfDR impact model is not useful for development program steering:

  • When impact is conceptualized as happening in the distant future, all impact induced steering opportunities are forgone, because they lie in the past. At the moment when the friends are swimming to the shore, they cannot prevent the wreckage any more.
  • The attribution gap prevents from knowing what kind of steering should have happened – the cause-effect chain is broken. When the friends discuss who was to be blamed, they agree none of them had caused the result – it was the butterfly’s fault! (more…)

MfDR – what is “Capacity WORKS”?

May 03, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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Adrian picture for sdclanby Adrian Gnägi 


20 years ago I worked as a consultant for GTZ. Those were the golden years of ZOPP (Zielorientierte Projektplanung). I got trained on ZOPP, I was forced to use ZOPP. I learned to hate ZOPP as naïve, pseudo-participatory planning tyranny. In November 2010 I attended a training workshop on “Capacity WORKS”, the approach that replaced ZOPP in GTZ. I could hardly believe what I saw and heard: a real tectonic shift, a different paradigm. In this post I will share some of the great things I learned. And yes: not everything is brilliant with “Capacity WORKS”; I will write about the weaknesses, too. (more…)

Everybody is a know-body or: How to make Knowledge Management a normal daily business

April 27, 2011 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

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Ernst BolligerBy Ernst Bolliger, AGRIDEA




 “What is your job about? Knowledge management!?
Oh God, what’s this?”


 … After some explanation it is getting easier to understand…

“Ok, I see, you talk to people about the way they share what they know and what they have experienced. Knowledge management is about clever and bright people who know everything and about the less bright ones that know almost nothing … and how to connect them. About information and knowledge the bright people like to share and their motivation to do so.”

Checking recent contributions on this blog I tend to believe that knowledge management is highly complex and an affair for specialists. That’s right; there are lot of situations that need complex approaches to address issues of knowledge management in a correct way. But daily life offers lots of situations where simple forms of knowledge management – or let’s say mutual learning and networking – produces encouraging results.

So, what makes mutual learning and networking successful? How can we make the highly complex affair “knowledge management” accessible to everybody? How to make it a normal daily business?

There is one short answer: KEEP IT SIMPLE!


Why do managers need alternatives to LogFrame, too?

February 23, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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Adrian picture for sdclan



by Adrian Gnägi




How is it possible that

  • social change is emergent and therefore cannot be precisely planned for, but
  • LogFrame is the standard tool in aid for planning and reporting on social transformation?

Is theory wrong or are development practitioners systematically lying about what they are doing? In this post I argue that the issue is not lying, but rather precariously muddling through. Imprecision and cascade reporting are the two main techniques used in our business to reconcile LogFrame and emergence. This is unhealthy.


In a recent blog post on what has gone wrong with MfDR (Managing for Development Results) I argued that support for social transformation should not be conceived using LogFrames. In a comment, Rick Davies expressed puzzlement with this demand. I can easily understand why people do not want to let go of LogFrame. The LogFrame approach is backed by the most powerful lobby in our organizations: it is the middle managers who make it our standard. LogFrames are still here after 50 years because middle managers get from them what they need: a nutshell project summary; the link between resources, activities and results; and indicators for measurement and reporting. LogFrames are a great tool for organizing funding relationships. Unfortunately, they are utterly inappropriate as guidance for implementation (see my earlier post on the usefullness of different program formats). This is why we need to go for the institutional struggle, that’s why the standard must fall. (more…)

How do I generate ideas? How do others do it?

January 26, 2011 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere

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Carsten Schulz
Carsten Schulz, AGRIDEA

When I first started to think about the topic of this article for the Learning and Networking Blog as a guest author I just could not find a creative idea what to write about. Some weeks before, I had made some notes on a piece of paper, but either not very exciting topics or extremely abstract ones (for the readers). The deadline was approaching and I restarted thinking on possible topics and asked my colleagues in the shared office for a small brainstorming exercise. While we were standing around a small bistro table, drinking a cup of coffee, the idea for this blog post was born. (more…)

What is wrong with MfDR?

January 19, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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Adrian picture for sdclan

By Adrian Gnägi 
There is growing international frustration with the way the MfDR (managing for development results) agenda developed. In this post, I reflect on a widely read article by Andrew Natsios, former head of USAID.

A few weeks ago IDS organized an event entitled “the big push back meeting”. The aim of the meeting was to galvanize a movement against the “current trend for funding organisations to support only those programmes designed to deliver easily measurable results”. During the event, a recent essay by Andrew Natsios on what has gone bad with the results agenda in aid was frequently referred to. Natsios message is that “Obsessive Measurement Disorder” (OMD, “… an intellectual dysfunction rooted in the notion that counting everything in government programs will produce better policy choices and improved management”, p.4 ) has spread in development agencies to a degree that it nowadays prevents transformational development. He claims that the drive for transparency and accountability has become the major enemy of good development practice, the main obstacle for developmental impact. Natsios is careful in pointing out that the results agenda was well intended and produced some desirable change in aid. His focus is on the loss of balance, though, on the sickening consequences of taking into account what is measured only. (more…)

Curiosity – a basic ingredient to learning

December 30, 2010 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere

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“Let children choose! They will choose the most difficult tasks. The moment they are promised a reward, they will opt for the simple ones.”




Matthias Binswanger, a well-known economist and professor at a Swiss Technical University has been interviewed by the Swiss weekly newspaper  “WoZ” (in german) when he talked about meaningless competition and the effects such incentives may produce.

Let the collaborators develop and use their own curiosity (for learning) and limit bureaucratic obligation to the max.

We wish you a happy new year!
Manuel Flury, Michèle Marin, Adrian Gnägi, Tobias Sommer 

Real-life story from a workshop about knowledge transfer

September 22, 2010 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere

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Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury
Three words are written in big black letters on a flip chart in front of the workshop room: “CONTEXT”, “OPPORTUNITY”, “SOLUTION”. Eleven specialists from human resources, IT, project management from different Swiss Federal Offices sit behind the u-shaped tables – painted in the usual grey colour – in one of the training rooms at the lower floors of the Federal Office for Personnel Affairs. Outside of the room a remote lawn mower makes its eternal turns over the nice green in between two tall buildings. The summer weather would invite strolling along the nearby river Aare. In the mid-afternoon, the guest speaker takes the floor. (more…)

Translating System’s Thinking into Systemic Support Programs: strategy map

September 14, 2010 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

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Adrian picture for sdclanBy Adrian Gnägi
I had a beer with a friend a few days ago. He was upset with one of the projects in his portfolio and had to spit his frustration out:

  • The project manager is an agronomist by training. He does his best. But since the project is to support the development of municipalities, he is on a very steep learning curve.
  • The project management team was planned with 4 professionals. Since some of the funding proposals were turned down by donors, the partner organization only recruited 2 staff. They did not adapt the activity plan, though, so staff are constantly overstretched.
  • And so on: the IT system is not working properly and project staff therefore cannot access guidelines and templates in head office, the desk officer is on maternity leave and the project team therefore is cut off from advice and governance, the project was conceived without Government consultation and therefore is not integrated into the national dynamic, the partner organization is new in the country and therefore has no allies yet etc etc..

 Bad, really bad. Not entirely unfamiliar, though. But what really left me speechless was my friend’s conclusion: “I will make sure this agronomist is put through an at least 5 day project management training next year”. (more…)

Theories of Change to guide Development Interventions

July 20, 2010 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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Adrian picture for sdclan

By Adrian Gnägi
A few days ago, a colleague working in a partner country passed by in SDC Head Office and gave a presentation about his work. He presented frighteningly impressive graphs that show how fast desertification is advancing. Many rural herding families will be forced to migrate to the cities in the coming ten years if nothing happens. Luckily, the Government drew up a state-of-the-art national action plan, based on the international convention against desertification. Donors have aligned with this action plan and support the Government through harmonized aid modalities. The country is moving towards a mining economy with few new jobs outside agriculture, though, the colleague concluded, and the major challenge for the future will be to channel some of the mining revenues to poor rural families. (more…)

Influencing Social Change – a Complex Task

July 14, 2010 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

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Adrian picture for sdclanBy Adrian Gnägi
On May 20th/21st 2010 I participated in a conference entitled „Evaluation revisited – improving the quality of evaluative practice by embracing complexity“. In the lines below I sum up my take on this most inspiring event.


Knowledge Networks: Dynamic Development or Tight Structuring?

June 30, 2010 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere

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Photo Katharina Conradin

An Interview
with Katharina Conradin, regiosuisse

Manuel Flury: Katharina, you are one of the moderators of the regiosuisse knowledge communities. What is regiosuisse?

Katharina Conradin: regiosuisse is the network unit for regional development in Switzerland. It supports people involved in regional development with practice-oriented knowledge management. regiosuisse offers various concerted services so that the knowledge about regional development can be developed, acquired and exchanged – the knowledge communities are one of those. (more…)