Yesterday Sibrenne Wagenaar and I finished an evaluation process of a knowledge sharing/linking and learning programme. One of the questions was what methods worked best for knowledge sharing.
We had only one hour and didn't want to do a presentation (we had presented our rough findings earlier on). We thought carefully what we wanted to achieve in this one hour: that people started playing with the recommendations and think what the most important improvements to work on are. So we decided to print and cut the recommendations and asked them to make three piles:
1. You agree and you understand how to do it
2. You may agree but you have questions how to do it
3. You have serious doubts
In groups of two people made their piles, discussing the recommendations. And fortunately pile number one was the largest in all groups. This is not spectacular in terms of method, but we got a lot of compliments. The regular way of doing such a session is presenting the conclusions and recommendations in the form of a powerpoint. People enjoyed engaging in this way with the ideas behind the recommendation and felt it helps to learn collectively.
It made me think even more about what a good method is. It has always puzzled me that there are so many toolkits and toolguides in the development sector. As we wrote in our report: "There is no universal answer to the question what the best methods are for a training or working session. The key question is what method works best in a certain setting and matches the needs and purpose." As a participant I always get annoyed when the method is very 'visible' and you are clearly part of a trainers or facilitator's plan rather then participating in a natural exchange. And I've definitely been guilty of it myself in some organisational assessments where I had thought of so many tools and we had to go through all of them.. It became an exercise that you have to finish rather than a meaningfull exchange. So I guess it is also a matter of a method seamlessly supporting the conversations and the purpose of being and working together. Such a method is almost invisible, suits the situation and the facilitator.