Learning in Brunnen – Some Reflections from the Seminar of Coordinators

August 29, 2012 LND SDC Experiences

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Manuel FluryManuel Flury reflects the Seminar of the Coordinators from a learning perspective and comes to the conclusion that the Seminar was not a learning event and had no learning agenda; nevertheless important learning happened as the most important side event. (more…)

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…)

Learning on the job with Rana Warrad Sandouka

July 10, 2012 LND SDC Experiences

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Rana Warrad Sandouka As with many things knowledge management starts with ourselves. Today’s interviewee Rana Warrad Sandouka talks about her personal strategies, about knowledge sources and networks supporting her in daily work.  Rana Warrad Sandouka has been working with the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) Gaza and West Bank based in Jerusalem since August 2005 in the position of a National Program Officer. Rana’s background is in International Relations and Diplomacy. Her previous working experience was characterised by assignments with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Palestinian Ministry of Labour (MoL), the Palestinian Ministry of Planning & International Cooperation and Birzeit University in West Bank. Being member of the Employment and Income Portfolio team at the SCO Gaza and West Bank, she is developing, monitoring and supervising a number of development cooperation programs related to economic issues in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (more…)

Open Doors and Joint Reflection – The Knowledge Management Practice at SCO Chisinau, Moldova

May 30, 2012 LND SDC Experiences

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Team ChisinauInvolved in a rethinking process on its institutional learning mechanisms the Swiss Cooperation Office in Chisinau made use of the Knowledge Management workshop for SDC field staff and local partners. This training on demand offered by the SDC Knowledge and Learning Processes Division aims at sharing and raising awareness for SDC’s Knowledge Management practices. In today’s blog post the staff of the SCO Chisinau offers insights gained in this two-day training. (more…)

6 Questions to Yonas Mekonen

May 15, 2012 LND SDC Networks

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Yonas MekonenIn our interview series “6 questions to…” we ask people from in and around SDC and the KM world the same 6 questions. Our goal is to offer insights into different working methods, different ways of looking at individual and institutional learning, and different ideas and opinions on how to make organizations more efficient… And, along the way, to hear interesting stories and experiences our interviewees have in store! (more…)

Facing the Social Media Challenge

May 01, 2012 LND Methods & Tools

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Jovan KurbalijaA new form of influencing policy-making is emerging thanks to the Internet. The Arab Spring, anti-ACTA protests, the Occupy movement, pirate parties have at least one thing in common: they all share the  Internet as an enabler. On the Internet, protest movements coordinate activities and manage to reach out to the global public. Governments and international organisations cannot ignore this substantive change. Jovan Kurbalija, in his contribution, discusses challenges facing governments and organisations in getting involved in the social media space. (more…)

SDC Networks – In the Shaping

April 17, 2012 LND SDC Networks

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Manuel FluryIn 2008 SDC has introduced networks as “caretakers” of knowledge and competence. Networks imply a particular mode of work, less hierarchical and self-managed. In what ways have the networks led to a changed way of learning? Could SDC secure its competence and operational quality? There are no final answers yet. The networks are developing their particular shapes and modes of sharing and learning. The key challenge remains for SDC and its collaborators: To engage in sharing in a trustful environment, both personally and institutionally. (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 Joy and the Pain of E-Collaboration

March 28, 2012 LND Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

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Riff FullanE-collaboration has been around since computer networks were invented, but of course our increasing interconnectedness presents more opportunities for us to do it, and to do so with a greater variety of tools. What is e-collaboration? A brief way to describe it is working together to produce something (a document, a position, a decision) using electronic media. It is easy to get lost among the tools, but successful e-collaboration is much more about the people who are involved and how their interaction is facilitated, than it is about the technologies used. (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…)

The Reo II Tools and its possible consequences and impacts

January 24, 2012 LND SDC Experiences

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Reorganisation in SDC brought fourth a set of new or adapted tools aiming to optimize the impact of SDC’s work. From his personal perspective, a  former SDC colleague casts a critical eye on these tools and the capacity of  field offices to put them into practice and suggests a series of measures to tackle the related challenges. (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…)

6 questions to Urs Jan Ammann

January 10, 2012 LND SDC Experiences

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Urs AmmannIn our interview series “6 questions to…” we ask people from in and around SDC and the KM world the same 6 questions. Our goal is to offer insights into different working methods, different ways of looking at individual and institutional learning, and different ideas and opinions on how to make organizations more efficient… And, along the way, to hear interesting stories and experiences our interviewees have in store! (more…)

Learning in Networks — The Value of Intangibles

December 13, 2011 LND Methods & Tools

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By Dorothee Lötscher, Agridea

Dorothee Lötscher“We learn from suffering together” – this statement of a regional focal point of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) expresses some of the key elements of learning in networks: multi-directional exchange between peers, collaboration based on trust and encouragement, and learning from cases. Networking is challenging and time-consuming, but leads to members’ moments of success, motivation, and finally sustainability. Intangible outputs play thereby an important role. Find below how GFRAS regional focal points and the GFRAS executive secretary experience their networking activities, how they deal with tangibles and intangibles, and what this might mean for networks in general. (more…)

NEWS December 2011

December 06, 2011 LND Methods & Tools

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Collegial Coaching is a process that draws on experiences and practices of professional colleagues in order to share new ideas, teach one another or solve a problem. Watch this entertaining clip to get a clear idea of the mechanisms of this useful tool. Or go to the Learning & Networking Website to get more information on Collegial Coaching.


Changing perspectives as opportunities for learning – 3 months in Vientiane

November 01, 2011 BLOGadmin SDC Experiences

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By Adrian Gnägi

Adrian picture for sdclanManuel Flury recently published a post on changing perspectives as opportunities for learning. When Manuel and I went for overseas postings in the middle of 2011, we decided to continue writing posts for sdclan. We wanted to document how the change of work context affects our way of understanding things. I have written several posts since moving to Laos. They all related to my former work situation: the post on the political economy of result terminologies was inspired by a course on impact monitoring I attended back in July, the post I wrote with dlgn colleagues on the “learning project” methodology reflected on our joint capitalization work on donor support for sustainable municipal finances during the past 2 years, and the post written with Bertha Camacho in August reflected on experiences with e-discussion campaigns we made in February. (more…)

Changing perspectives as opportunities for learning – First learning experiences working in a new context

October 11, 2011 Manuel Flury Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

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By Manuel Flury

Manuel picture for sdclanHaven’t we experienced it many times? Discovering new aspects while looking at things from a different angle? Colleagues ask us to review a text, we explain our children what we do in the office, we hold workshops outside of our offices, we meet colleagues in the cafeteria and hold meetings standing around filing cabinets, we discover new issues while jogging or taking a shower, we prepare a negotiation by arguing from the others’ position, we design a learning event in analogy with industrial car production, we think “out of the box”.

As a test: Do you manage to think “out of the box”? 9 points test
And here: the solutions to it! 9 points test – solutions

I am about to experience the change of my work context in three ways: (1) from working on methods and processes of learning and knowledge sharing to working on solutions to problems of food insecurity; (2) from working in a development agency to working in an Embassy; (3) from working (and living) in a European capital city to working (and living) in an African metropolis. Let me share with you two of my first learning experiences. (more…)

Learning from failure

September 13, 2011 Manuel Flury SDC Experiences

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Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury 

Almost ten years back I met with the „SDC AdFin Circle”, the group of financial administrators. These, mostly women experts in financial management of development projects met regularly in order to exchange on many practical aspects of their work. While the majority of them worked at the SDC Head Office, some were deployed to Cooperation Offices in our partner countries. Facilitating the exchange among all was on the agenda of this meeting and I was invited by the financial advisor to talk about practical possibilities of working with an electronic platform. This person wanted to know about possibilities of using an electronic discussion platform. While explaining the pros and cons of web and email based electronic platforms – that time SDC was turning to Bellanet’s Dgroups for hosting such platforms – one of the participants raised the issue as to who might subscribe to the platform. And she continued by saying to my astonishment: “If my boss discovers what question I ask, he might not be happy since I am supposed to know and not to have questions”!
Later I shared this experience with my Canadian friends from Bellanet and we wondered whether we encountered a cultural difference between Switzerland and Canada where he would exclude such a statement.


Distillation of „experience based good practices“

September 06, 2011 Adrian Gnägi SDC Experiences

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by Kuno Schläfli, Romana Tedeschi, Katharina Walker, Michael Reimann, Matthias Boss, and Adrian Gnägi

SDC used to be structured as a matrix organization. Operational geographic units managed funds and local context, technical units managed thematic knowledge, and together they were thought to implement effective projects. This setup became perceived to have improvement potential. In 2008, technical units were replaced by learning and exchange networks. One of the justifications for this move was that guidance and policies elaborated by the technical units were sometimes perceived to be too abstract, too general, not enough evidence based. One of the expectations towards the newly created networks therefore was that their guidance should look, feel, and act differently – “experience based good practice” was the orientation received. This post documents one of the first attempts by one of the new networks to distill “experience based good practice”.

SDC’s “decentralization and local governance network” (dlgn) met for its first-ever face-to-face encounter in November 2009 in Delhi. (more…)

Experience documentation on e-discussion campaigns with consolidated replies: A dlgn learning project on donor support for local government finances

August 02, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Methods & Tools

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Bertha Camacho for sdclanAdrian picture for sdclan

by Bertha Camacho and Adrian Gnägi

Solution Exchange pioneered a structured way to conduct e-discussions, called “e-discussion campaigns with consolidated replies”. The structure of those e-discussions looks like this:

  • A query is posted on the e-forum of a network and experience carriers are invited to post replies within a pre-determined time frame. Frequently, the moderator supports members with the wording of the query, making sure the query is short, easy to understand and appealing to be answered.
  • Moderators lobby experienced network members to post replies in the e-forum. This lobbying is worked mostly over the phone. According to Solution Exchange, it is the major time investment of the e-moderator.
  • When the discussion campaign is over, the e-moderator sums up the discussion in a “consolidated reply”. The e-moderator condenses the main messages into an easy-to-understand analytical summary and includes all individual contributions in full into the document.

This post reflects on the first “e-discussion campaign with consolidated replies” conducted by SDC’s “decentralization and local governance” network (dlgn) (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…)

Learning to remain (technically) competent!

May 11, 2011 Manuel Flury SDC Experiences

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Manuel picture for sdclan

By Manuel Flury

SDC operates in fields such as skills development, water and sanitation, rural livelihoods, micro finances, municipal development or community based health care. It is active in poorest, conflict prone and fragile states via direct bilateral aid and through programmes of multilateral organisations. The portfolio includes sector budget support, capacity development, infrastructure work and related policy work. SDC collaborates with a wide range of public, private enterprise and civil society partners.
High quality of its thematic and technical work has always been a trade mark of Swiss Cooperation. This level of competence is at great risk! SDC is about to lose its thematic excellence. Administering larger junks of development funds is becoming characteristic for SDC’s development work. Despite this overall trend, the importance of excellence and competence in what SDC is doing is repeatedly stressed. The question, however, what the fields of (thematic and technical) competence of Swiss Cooperation would be remains unanswered, still, and already for many years. (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…)