Wednesday, 6 June 2007

ATOL supports organisational learning

Brussels, 6 June. 15 minutes to explain ATOL's experience with learning networks? No problem! ... Boy, was I proven wrong ;-)

A small summary (in five words, Peter, give or take a few): ATOL does two different things with networks in Africa:

1) it works with groups of organisations around organisational learning
2) it accompanies libraries and documentation centres

While the activities in the field of organisational learning have taken root and show a lot of encouraging results, the work with the libraries and documentation centres is far more practical for the moment. Due to the lack of library management education, the documentalists feel the need for concrete and practical training to improve their day to day work. In a second stage, ATOL will collaborate with a smaller group of organisations that will focus on, what we call, offering information relevant for development (actors).

Therefore, the information needs and wishes of the NGOs in the South will have to be answered by the products and services offered by the documentation centres and libraries. This, obviously, involves a lot more than just opening the door in the morning and waiting for the visitors to come. Libraries will have to elaborate a strategy, create an acquisition policy, take existing information and transform it into information products, adapted to the target groups. This way they go from being libraries to “information brokers”, from documentation centres to information centres and knowledge centres...

Some of the key challenges we encounter are:

  • getting feedback is not (always) easy
  • it's a long process
  • cultural differences (e.g. sharing, overt criticism, oral vs. written culture...)
  • technological barriers
In the discussions afterwards, we didn't really answer the question "How to get from information dissemination to spaces for change", but some elements and challenges around the question were discussed:
  • the need for adapted methods:
  • "oral reports" can be used to capture knowledge (cd's, podcasts, streaming audio)
  • let someone else write the report based on whiteboards and drawings participants made
  • have journalists record experiences (asking WHY can be a trigger)
  • a long term approach is helpful
  • be patient
  • change doesn't happen overnigh
  • need for planning and follow-up actions (informal contract, engagements)
  • monitor and evaluate what was really learned?
  • individual versus organisational learning?
  • results show up slowly
  • look at change
Some interesting issues and ideas were raised, let's hope we can find the time to exchange on them some more. Here in Brussels, or somewhere on Web 2.0...

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