Good Practice: the SDC Experience with Nurturing Networks and Membership Management

January 03, 2012 LND Methods & Tools, SDC Networks

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By Nara Weigel

NaraIn her first blog post A Treasure of SDC Experiences in Managing and Supporting Networks: 7 Guides to Make it your Own, Nara Weigel presented the interlinked good practice guides available on the website of the Learning and Networking Division. This blog post, explores two of the guides in more detail: nurturing networks and managing the membership of SDC networks. Two users of the guides share their first reactions, personal reflections and further lessons from their daily work as network focal point and backstopper. (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…)

A Treasure of SDC Experiences in Managing and Supporting Networks: 7 Guides to Make it your Own

November 08, 2011 LND Methods & Tools, SDC Networks

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By Nara Weigel, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation

NaraWhy Good Practice Guides on Managing and Supporting Networks?

Three years after thematic networks were created within SDC, the Learning and Networking team felt it was a good moment to capitalise the organisation’s experience in supporting networks and make collective learning available to a broader audience. This was done in form of seven interlinked mini guides (illustrated below) on e-facilitation, nurturing networks, roles and responsibilities within networks, managing membership, linking face to face (f2f) events and online dialogues, social reporting on f2f events and planning f2f events. The choice of issues shows that the guides are not only relevant for network Focal Points and Steering Group members, but also for other people working at or with SDC. The guides can be viewed online or downloaded as pdf files from the website of the Learning and Networking Division. (more…)

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…)

Communities of Practice: The Institutionalisation of Informality

January 05, 2011 bit-wartung SDC Experiences

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Tobias SommerBy Tobias Sommer
Communities of practice in their traditional definition are every manager’s dream: on individual initiative, experts form informal communities out of pure interest in a subject to exchange their experiences, talk about new challenges and learn from each other, pushing their field forward and developing new solutions. Ideally, all of this would happen alongside normal work, stay out of organisational structures and employment agreements, costing the company not time nor money nor energy – sort of a holy grail of knowledge management.

Sadly, as with anything that seems too good to be true, this hasn’t worked for a long time. In many organisations and companies, informal networks have lost their drive for several reasons, (more…)

f2f-meetings of SDC networks – lessons to be learned (III)

November 23, 2010 bit-wartung SDC Networks

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Michèle picture for sdclanBy Michèle Marin
By now, a series of the SDC networks have come up with their first international f2f meetings. Their experiences reveal a few recurrent lessons to be learned, and trigger questions on how to best manage an f2f event. The SDC Learning & Networking team reflects upon them in a loose series of blog posts. This third post looks into a number of questions with logistical implications, such as country and venue, translation modalities, presence of participants and side events. (more…)

Face-to-face Meeting of SDC’s ARD Network in Cochabamba/Bolivia: Lessons to be learnt

November 03, 2010 Manuel Flury SDC Networks

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 Simon Zbinden   Marylaure Crettaz

An Interview with Simon Zbinden and Marylaure Crettaz

Interview: Manuel Flury

The SDC Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) Network held its first face-to-face event in mid July 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 19 network participants from five continents participated in this workshop that has been organised with the support from the regional knowledge-sharing platform ASOCAM.
In addition to conventional presentations, Storytelling, Open Spaces, Knowledge Fairs and World Café made the exchange particularly fruitful. The event is entirely
documented on the web.

Simon Zbinden, the Focal Point of the ARD Network and Marylaure Crettaz, a member of the core group talk about lessons to be learnt for others that are planning face-to-face events. (more…)

Event: 3rd Symposium Network Savoir – 28 October 2010

October 04, 2010 bit-wartung Methods & Tools

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Private and public enterprises lose precious knowledge when experienced workers leave. What practical and well-tested methods exist that allow to capture these treasures of knowledge and experience, and thus to stay competent in times of organisational change?

This is the question addressed at the 3rd Symposium of the network savoir, organised in cooperation with the Swiss Knowledge Management Forum (SKMF) and – ICT Cluster Bern under the heading


Knowledge Management in Action (more…)

f2f-meetings of SDC networks – lessons to be learned (I)

September 07, 2010 bit-wartung SDC Networks

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Michèle picture for sdclanBy Michèle Marin
By now, a series of the SDC networks have come up with their first international f2f meetings.  The experiences reveal a few recurrent lessons to be learned, and trigger questions on how to best manage a f2f event. The SDC Learning & Networking team reflects upon them in a loose series of blog posts.  This first post considers the f2f event as a key moment of network development, and explores the adequate level of participation of network members before and during the meeting.

How do I organise a f2f event of a thematic learning network? Shall it rather be a thematic training or a network-development event? How much member-involvement in programming and preparation makes sense? Coming up with their first f2f-event, a series of SDC thematic learning networks have been facing this kind of questions. (more…)

Learning in times of organisational change

August 26, 2010 Manuel Flury SDC Experiences

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The need for a trustful (learning) culture that is open for emerging patterns of collaboration

Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury
SDC experiences a period of far reaching organisational change. The management informs the collaborators via the SDC-Intraweb and exchanges with the middle cadre. Collaborators share their questions in the cafeteria, chatting around filing cabinets and walking through the corridors:
“What thematic policies are still valid?” – “Is poverty alleviation now just one of several aims of SDC or still the main “raison d’être”?” – “Nobody knows exactly how thematic experts may bring in their concerns!” – “There is lacking information, and the interfaces are not clear.” – “The service level agreement  with the newly created support at Ministry level was elaborated without even consulting us.” – “The new regulations and guidelines for elaborating credit proposals are nowhere to be found on the Intraweb.” – “The guidelines for the office management report are just approved, there is no scope for any adjustments now.”

Face-to-face meetings of SDC networks: What have we learned so far?

June 23, 2010 Adrian Gnägi SDC Networks

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Adrian picture for sdclanBy Adrian Gnägi

This is the first post in a series focusing on network face-to-face events.

In October 2008 SDC changed its organizational structure: the former geographical/thematic matrix structure was changed into a single line operational structure. Thematic networks were created to exchange and capitalize experience. Until May 2010, 4 of the new networks had held their first face-to-face (f2f) meeting. This post sketches 6 issues which merit reflection when preparing and planning for future f2f events: