Wider, deeper, higher
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CTA. 2002. Wider, deeper, higher. Spore 98. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47531
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore98.pdf
This is the age of the network, where any person on earth can reach any other person by passing through no more than three intermediaries, and without even using mass media. This simple sum and its simplicity does not always work, not least in...
This is the age of the network, where any person on earth can reach any other person by passing through no more than three intermediaries, and without even using mass media. This simple sum and its simplicity does not always work, not least in the sharing of agricultural information and knowledge was a networker s mantra in the days when networking became mainstream, on the cusp of the 1970s and 1980s. CTA, established in 1984, was created at the dawn of the age of the network. That, though, was in the framework and with the values of a previous age, as expressed by the Lomé Convention, itself drawn up in the first half of the 1970s. Now, as the Centre approaches its third decade, it has moved with the times and taken steps to become a genuine networking organisation. The world in which it operates, and whose agricultural sector it serves, in the ACP countries, has changed significantly of late. The Cotonou Agreement has succeeded Lomé; state interventions have shrunk and civil society expanded; hierarchies have melted into flat organisations , partnerships resound everywhere, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) have revolutionised many people s lives and relationships. The information needs of the CTA constituency have changed, in nature and number. So too have the responses to those needs. Both are wider, deeper and higher. No wonder then, that the Centre s operations have been retuned and refocused, under a new Strategic Plan and Framework for Action for the period 2001 2005. Multiplication According to the Director of CTA, Carl B Greenidge, in an interview with Spore, the Plan marks a shift in emphasis within the core objectives of CTA. The direct delivery of information will continue, sometimes more compactly, and ever sharper, with steps to maximise its effectiveness. More emphasis will go to helping partners and beneficiaries to plug into networks and to have active interactions with other stakeholders, as well as generally raise skills in information and communication management. The real strategic change in the Plan is the deliberate use of a multiplier strategy. The Centre will seek to multiply the impact of its work, to work with beneficiaries who can multiply the worth of the information they use by sharing it with others, and to strengthen the multiplying capacities of its partners. In practice, this means working, directly or indirectly, with organisations at every level, from regional to national to local, and from ministries to farmers organisations or women s groups. Since an organisation is composed of individuals working together, it cannot be said that CTA will not work with individuals, but it will do so only in a collective context, where information is shared in an organised way. Which way that is will depend on each given situation, in what Greenidge calls a horses for courses approach. Digital The second change in the Plan is the greater use of modern ICTs to prepare, distribute and process information, alongside more traditional forms. In concrete, this means much greater use of electronic publishing, computer-based networks, plus media such as radio and, where possible, satellite. In a pilot project currently under preparation, Spore will be distributed by satellite in the near future, alongside its traditional print and Internet versions. The Plan outlined three service-based departments which are now several months into their operations: Information Products and Services; Communication Channels and Services, and Information Communication Management (ICM) Skills and Systems. These will be supported by common services from a department of Planning and Corporate Services which includes cross-cutting issues of ICTs, social capital and gender, common to all the Centre s work. This is one way in which staff will be empowered through an enhanced awareness of broader issues. Another is through a series of internal seminars, in which the topics of genetically-modified organisms and gender have already been covered. The most significant facet of the whole Plan is the recognition of the human element in networking. Most institutions have a blinkered approach here, seeing networks as only mechanistic relationships between institutions, or computers linked to each other. The CTA Strategic Plan, thankfully, goes further. Greenidge: 'It s about the use of social networks. If partnership is to mean anything, we need to make more use of the informal networks around which people co-operate in the rural sector.' This is a good example of the 'being more imaginative' approach which he expects of the Centre. Another is his expectation of Spore: 'It needs to challenge the readers more in terms of content and raise more questions, rather than (only) providing a non-controversial package.' We re hearing you, Mr Greenidge, it s music to our ears.