In order to prepare the debate, and ensure it continued after the event, CTA helped PAFO to build a knowledge platform, by strengthening the PAFO website and developing a discussion forum to stimulate exchanges. The Centre also offered training in knowledge management and sharing, providing practice in reporting on the meeting using blogs, video interviews and social media.
The platform used relatively simple tools, such as email discussions, as a communication channel between the 250 PAFO members involved in the debate. The e-consultations helped PAFO to formulate policy ideas on several broad themes – land acquisition, links between climate change and agriculture, rural youth in agriculture and uneven progress towards Millennium Development Goals in African countries – before presenting them to the African Union at the conference.
PAFO officials say that the knowledge platform made it possible to disseminate information more rapidly, and to share knowledge, network and communicate. It has also helped to bolster PAFO's image, giving PAFO credibility at both African and international level and helping to increase its influence. So successful has PAFO's experience been with the platform, that knowledge management has now become a key pillar of its strategy.
"With PAFO there has been real impact. In the lead up to the continental briefing they came up with a common agenda on four main points, complete with references and case studies," said Chris Addison, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator for Knowledge Management. "In terms of the status as a farmers' organisation, it had a huge effect because of the professionalism of the presentation."
What is a knowledge platform?
A knowledge platform is a tool for integrating activity online, capturing information and making it more available. It can also help to move dialogue forward. This may involve providing a communication channel before and after an event, such as a meeting or a workshop. In the case of policy dialogue, an important area for CTA, a knowledge platform can collect and present valuable information, making it accessible to people who did not actually attend a meeting. As a result, the reach of the event is greatly increased. As well as hosting important background information, such as reference documents, a knowledge platform can be a place for sharing opinions and perceptions, through messaging, blogs and social media.
CTA has found email discussion platforms to be one of the most effective and practical tools for enabling discussions to move ahead. Developing a knowledge platform is not simply a question of technology. It also involves creating a network of people, as well as building the skills to capture information and foster communication.
The Centre is closely involved in helping to build knowledge platforms for ACP groups that range from farmers' associations to regional organisations.