Tag Archive | knowledge management

Kindling knowledge exchange without bandwidth: An interview with Peace Corps volunteer Ryan King

I enjoyed the opportunity to practice my on-camera interview skills for the latest entry in the Agrilinks “KM Insights” video series. (Two lessons learned: curb the instinct to blink, and don’t wear orange pants!) Watch the video below to get the scoop on Peace Corps Ethiopia’s strategies for supplying its volunteers with the information they need to run agricultural projects.

This post is cross-posted from Agrilinks.

Most agricultural development practitioners—certainly, those based in major cities—rely on the Internet for daily knowledge exchange. There is no faster way to obtain new technical reports, join training webinars and conduct research than to use your favorite browser and a trusty broadband connection. But what about project implementers who are stationed in remote locations for more than a week or two? For example, many Peace Corps volunteers serve in small villages without reliable electricity or Internet bandwidth. How can they obtain the information they need to do their jobs well?

Ryan King, a Peace Corps volunteer leader serving in Ethiopia, and I discussed these challenges and honed in on a few good practices in a recent Agrilinks “KM Insights” interview, which you can watch above. He manages projects that support Feed the Future’s objectives, such as volunteer efforts to build productive household gardens, alleviate environmental degradation and educate communities about nutrition. To succeed in these projects, Peace Corps volunteers need to be able to access the best available information on low-cost technologies that can be employed at a household scale. However, as Ryan noted, getting information to volunteers is a constant struggle due to lack of connectivity.

As a step toward simpler information distribution, Peace Corps Ethiopia has equipped many of its volunteers with basic Amazon Kindle e-readers, which are refreshed with updated reports and briefs when volunteers return to post. Ryan explained that volunteers used to be sent to their sites with “a suitcase full of books” for reference, but now, nearly all of those volumes can be stored on a single hand-held device with a long battery life.

Ryan and I also discussed the value of video as a training medium for smallholder farmers, and the need for alternatives to online streaming in low-bandwidth areas. Open-access videos are preferable because volunteers can transfer them to DVD and give copies to their communities. In addition, audio transcripts are useful complements to video products, especially when translated into local languages.

Watch the full video for more of Ryan’s insights, and please share your experiences with low-bandwidth knowledge sharing in the comments section below.

The “third presenter” method of streamlining your presentation


Here’s an all-too common scenario: Three presenters are scheduled to speak at a seminar, for 15 minutes each. The first two presenters go way over their allotted time, despite the timekeeper’s hand signals, in order hit upon every point they intended to make. The third presenter then comes up to bat, acutely aware that his or her time has been cut short. (S)he blows through his/her slides or notes, lamenting the lack of time, skipping the less-important or already-covered sections in favor of a few key messages.

Recently, I was the third presenter. I didn’t have PowerPoint slides, but had a long list of hand-written notes I intended to cover. The meeting started a bit late, and the two presenters before me went 5-10 minutes over their allotted time, so that by my turn, I was starting five minutes after I was originally supposed to end my talk. Even though I was allowed to take my full ten minutes, I knew that every minute I spoke would take a minute away from the discussion part of the meeting (undoubtedly the most valuable part). So I had to speak quickly.

As I glanced down at my notes, my brain automatically crossed off about half of the talking points on the page. That one’s not as important. That one’s self-evident. That one can be covered during the discussion. Instead I focused on the most salient and most interesting points, and expressed my desire to continue the conversation.

So the question is – if many of my points could be casually cut from the presentation, why did I include them in the first place? I think most presenters will agree that they try to squeeze too much content into any given talk, even knowing that the audience will only retain a few major points.

This experience gave me an idea for a way to streamline future presentations. The strategy is simple: pretend that you are the third presenter. Prepare a fifteen minute presentation as normal, but then pretend that you’re only allowed, say, seven minutes to talk. Practice out loud, using a countdown timer, to make sure that the time pressure is on. What messages and slides do you keep? What do you cut? Hopefully you will emerge with clearer picture of where the strength of your presentation lies. Go back and edit your presentation, focusing on the essential messages that you want the audience to retain. Plan for a clean, concise talk that goes under your allotted time.

…and next time you give a presentation as part of a panel, ask to go first! 😉