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I am a big fan of Share Fairs. Having been part of the team that organised the 2009 Share Fair at FAO in Rome, I have seen the potential Share Fairs create for positive change in how organisations work within and with each other. Now already 1,5 years after the Rome Share Fair took place, it is possible to see positive changes in how people at FAO work and want to work. More and more people are interested in using approaches that are dynamic and participatory. That is just so great and the ShareFair did a lot to tangibly demonstrate the value of integrating knowledge sharing methods and tools in the work of international organisations.

Yesterday a FAO colleague, Sophie Treinen , held a FAO brown bag lunch on good practices in organising, facilitating and following up on Knowledge ShareFairs. In particular, she talked to us about that in the context of a Share Fair that just took place in Cali, Columbia in which she participated.

Here are some of the lessons learnt that emerged from the Cali Share Fair:

– use ”knowledge trees”: people always eagerly add ideas and suggestions to the tree’s leaves thus producing a very nice and complex statement of what the Fair means to those who participate in it;

– ensure Fair gives something to the communities where it takes place, therefore link it to locally based projects and initiatives (i.e., fair trade bags, materials printed on recycled paper, materials produced by local women, etc);

– keep in mind connectivity may not be too good outside of the place where the event takes place and therefore do not organise too many events around the building;

– keep number of stands manageable, not more than 25;

– ensure there is a bar or some other place where all participants are able to convene around the clock: very important for comfortable networking;

– ensure some fun activities take place too, like local music or something else similar, or even sharing of local music to further encourage the spirit to exchange and learn from each other;

– make use of guided tours of the market place;

– organise scavenger hunts;

– keep in mind that world cafe works very well after people have presented their projects, not so much before;

– allow space for a feedback session every morning during which participants get to say what worked well the previous day, what did not and what they’ve learnt;

– make sure all video sessions are facilitated; unless there is some context to put the video in people will not come;

– allow space for a Q&A session on knowledge management which will have to be hosted by people with experience in the subject matter;

– especially when multiple languages and lots of local people and communities, use graphic facilitation;

– make sure Fair is followed up on properly based on its aims and objectives; ideally, do a social network analysis during the Fair and invest resources in continually facilitating flows of information and knowledge after the Fair has taken place (only this will ensure it will have achieved its purpose);

– integrate Share Fairs in the skeleton of how organisations work and provide appropriate planning and budget support, as well as integrate Fairs into the organisation’s aims and objectives.

Hope this helps! 🙂

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