Participants: Liz Carlile (Skype), Phil Thornton, Patti Kristjanson, Blane Harvey, Marissa van Epp, Ewen Le Borgne.

Discussion with Liz (25/06/2013)

Everyone's pretty happy with the strategy. A few really minor things and we'll put it to bed and revisit this in a year's time or so.

Feedback Liz: The strategy needs to be ambitious. The 5 areas still hold a lot of good leadership for where we want to work on developing a body of evidence. Those areas are still very relevant and provide a baseline starting point. The strategy sits comfortably with that.
What matters now is to move from theoretical guidance and planning to places where we can generate evidence and finding who can help in terms of funding and delivering. How to inject a little bit of fire in this?
In these few days, you should come out confident that we've tidied up that first phase and have a strong sense that we know how to go forward. Yammer has shown there's appetite and interest among CGIAR. We now want to bring outsiders in it again.
There are opportunities to assess interest for this. Where are other pockets of interest among e.g. donors for this?

(Patti) In Montpellier CGIAR meetings, gender featured highly but not social learning so much. CCAFS got great feedback however and it was in there.
(Phil) The science meeting in Bodega Bay didn't deliver much positive change straight away but a few things happened since Bodega Bay that indicate there is a certain appetite for this stuff, particularly driven by outcome orientation in CGIAR and the need to develop indicators for outcomes etc. The enormity of the challenge shows that tools and techniques for social learning could really be useful. Only one person thought the science meeting was a real waste of time and others found it rather interesting or are starting some 'social learning activities'. There's more going on than we might think.

There are different languages etc. in CCAFS but there's a lot of appetite for how this work can combine nicely with big outcomes.
(Phil): Initiating pilot studies utilising a whole range of stuff in different places and documenting those and other existing experiences to pull together an evidence base would be useful. This is what is going to move from an ad hoc collection of smallish activities to a programme that has more power to become mainstream. Contributing to this evidence base is critical.
(Blane) A paper from April 2013 shows that there is significant scope for comparative research across social learning experiences. Georgina Cundill etc. are working on this.

(Liz): I would like to be involved in such a case study around timescales, social differentiation, endogenous knowledge etc. and a lot of organisations have got methodologies from participatory to social learning. It would make a lot of sense to validate or encourage through our own documentation the people who are working on these methodologies to realise that they are contributing to a broader change. Documented pilots are necessary and we require quite significant funding. This has to become a proper body of work.
(Blane): This is where partners can really help strategically - we are all convinced that sometimes this is the approach to take but we all struggle with the evidence base - let's unite our efforts. There wouldn't be a shortage of people willing to come on board. If others can join freely without using the 'CCAFS methodology' necessarily, it would work out.
(Phil): Only few partners are doing very relevant work in this area.
(BH): Working with Prolinnova on endogenous social learning would help. People working at grassroots, working together with other organisations who are working on this in a more top-down manner: can you build social learning from scratch or can you tap into it? In which context does this work or not?
(Liz): We can build a community of people who can gather knowledge - which is where the sandbox can play a role.
(Ewen): The sandbox could become a much bigger group, with different sub-groups following their dynamics but contributing to the main conversation space.
(BH): It's about finding a balance for people that share a common vision and want to see change happen but following different routes towards that goal.

(PT): How much is there, beyond the scoping etc., that could be used in such a pilot project?
(PK): A lot of documentation is happening afterwards. It seems we have built up partnerships on the ground but if we want to get it going from the beginning etc. but if we want to add rigour to it, we need to develop a new proposal. (BH) This would set it apart from reviewing literature.
(ELB): With my previous organisation we did a lot of 'process documentation' and it proved extremely valuable. It started off from the theory of change, identifying key assumptions and research questions and developing a set of process documentation activities to collect evidence.
(BH): The new programme of IDRC can support all of this. We can help by identifying what we want to achieve, gaps, what guidelines we have and then we can introduce this to the 3 consortia identified at the end of the year, then we can identify who's on board, circulate that, agree that it fits the frame and set up a timeline to check back what we've learnt so far. We could also identify additional funding to have someone do process documentation (and do training around it) and to host an event to share findings. Ideally, in 2 years time we should review the box we developed in the 2nd working paper to assess how much we've learned so far: what we understand well, what longer term impact can we kind of expect etc.
(LC): We could tie this up with the work that CGIAR is doing on IDOs / SLOs.
At IIED there's a challenge of money but we do bring the potential to identify key projects and partners that could get involved in such activities and the understanding about the different methodologies to documenting the changes, helping facilitate the process etc. This work would bring together the different teams from IIED, not just the comms team.

In terms of funding options, the work with CSIRO and ACIAR would be great, could link with KARIA etc. and it could be a unique opportunity to stimulate interest among donors and other researchers.

(Liz): I'd be interested in developing the conceptual side to work in a more ambitious way to get big buy-in, to get involved. This has got some potential to open up to various other people. People connected in CGIAR at IIED will get together to see who's doing what to firm up connections. I'm happy to help make more connections and let me know how I can help... If we don't get someone really excited to get this going. If we could get a full time leader on this would be great. In the time we've had we've done very well through a group approach and we should keep that group approach but should increase ambition levels with a serious PhD student etc. or a PostDoc etc. Let's keep thinking about that... It would be good to find someone who could really drive this.
This kind of project requires a lot of thinking on opportunities, translating what people say into connecting opportunities to find out who could be involved and motivate that someone.
(BH): We run a research awardee program for research to action interface that would start at the end of the year. If that person is involved, s/he could become a regular contributor.
(PT): From the donor meeting, on the SIM program there's options to get a secondment of a professional expert to a CG centre for some time. We could propose drafting ToR and send them to GIZ to let them float it around. With a couple of candidates we could get additional pairs of hands... Ultimately what we want is to have a core group of drivers that work on social learning and believe in it, preferably not working in CCAFS but in other centres.

Concretely, how to move forward?
  • Developing 3-4 pages and sharing that on Yammer
  • Working on the guidelines to help this work in the project etc.
  • Early thinking on what kind of tool we would want to make available... What would we need to come up with

On the working paper with Blane: Can Roselyne help with the formatting of publications? Liz will have to check. She possibly could but this might cost a bit. IIED also have a layout person that could work on this. But time was used up and exceeded on the last contract.
IIED happy to do a bit of production work on the series of briefs etc. into a small costed budget to cover costs. PT to follow up on contracting.
BH hoping to send working paper by Friday CoB and hoping to get this formatted by IIED in the course of next week.
What would be useful is to have a table of changes required to complete publications.