Heather Esper

Best Ideas of 2011: All Signs Point to the Vitality of Sharing

One idea with staying power from 2011 is the ongoing pursuit of ways to share learnings with one another. Last year I reported on admittingfailure.com, a platform created by Engineers Without Borders Canada and Peace Dividend Trust for individuals to share mistakes or failures they’ve encountered in their work with the development community. Although the website hasn’t recorded a large magnitude of failures since it went live in January 14 2011, it has great potential to become a useful learning environment for the development field. There are also many similar platforms, such as Huduma, that are successfully working to gather information from the BoP to influence change and increase accountability. Perhaps this is an instance where BoP innovation will trickle up to the ToP. However, we still need to do more to better share information with one another so we can reduce duplicate efforts and use resources in better ways.

In Kenya I received a powerful reminder of importance of sharing information. After finishing interviewing a few men in a pastoral community outside of Garissa about their current sources of income and their current agricultural needs, one of the men inquired about how we use the information we collect. I responded by telling him that the organization I was working with would use the data to adapt strategies to better meet the farmers’ needs. He said he only asked because we were the seventh organization that had visited them within the last month, and had asked pretty much the same questions. As we drove away, we were in disbelief that seven different organizations had visited the same community in the last month. One team member mentioned that Kenya had created an entity to encourage information sharing of data collected from Kenyans, but it wasn’t yet fully operational.

Although we haven’t figured out how to best learn from one another outside of conferences, I hope 2012 can bring more ideas of how to do so. For me it is clear that we need more collaboration across fields and sectors to make this work. The more we work, the more we will gain new perspectives to the issues we are working on and develop innovative solutions.

How do you think we can work to better learn from one another and share resources? Does this require creating a regulatory body to manage and collect the information? What would that look like? Please leave your thoughts below in a comment.

(A pastorial community in Kenya. Image credit: Heather Esper)

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