Encourage peer collaboration to build new information.
Peers have the greatest potential to contextualise and build additional, context-relevant information on top of what is available through other sources. Research has also shown that peer interactions are often the most open and honest as they tend to be relatively free of perceived power imbalances which can lead to a non-collaborative behaviours.
Thus, there is great potential for any type of information to be deeply enriched and expanded upon through collaborative peer-based interactions among users. This can be confronting for information providers, as their hard work quickly becomes an intermediate achievement, and the peer collaboration can be perceived as producing greater value than the original information that served as a springboard. Yet if the desire is for the information to truly be used in the real world, having the users build on it through peer-based collaborations is one of the most direct ways to create the sense of ownership and the contextual application that underpin successful adoption.
How this principle was used in AdaptNRM
Within AdaptNRM, the main mechanism we used to stimulate peer-based collaboration to build on our modules was our discussion-based delivery sessions. The intent was to facilitate discussions among regional NRM groups after they had explored the modules. As facilitators, one of our key roles was to ask questions and prompt deeper discussions that would help NRM groups collaboratively generate new, additional insights.
For example, during discussion-based delivery of the biodiversity modules, the issue was raised that NRM planners face real challenges getting their stakeholders to think about the future. Individuals began sharing their ideas for facing this challenge, including hiring a science writer and using a few simple key messages to provide an entry point. The discussion then became more collaborative and new potential solutions were generated on the spot. These included focusing on actions and their consequences (which provide a concrete link between now and the future), and weaving them into stories about the future as a key communication tool. Thus this simple peer collaboration, facilitated by our discussion-based delivery, revealed a context-relevant problem and potential solutions that the biodiversity information sparked but could not have fully addressed.
Ideas for how you can apply this principle
When you are acting as a receiver of information, discuss it with peer groups both inside and outside your organisation. If these groups don’t exist, consider directly approaching others to form them, ask a third party to help organise them, or go to conferences and other gatherings with the explicit aim of identifying people to keep in touch with as your peer collaborators. Once peer relationship have formed, keep them alive, even if there isn’t new information to discuss. A regular catch-up just to keep the relationship going can be short but pay significant dividends in the long run. As new information becomes available, these peer relationships can become the basis of collaborations to build new context-based content quickly. This should allow new information to become more useful and permeate the practitioner realm much more rapidly than it might otherwise.
Similarly, when you are acting as an information provider to a group of stakeholders who regard each other as peers, consider how to facilitate collaborative peer discussions among your stakeholders to allow them to expand upon the information and build more context relevance. Either remove yourself from these discussions or be explicit about your goals and consider using a facilitator, to help ensure stakeholders feel empowered to question and build on the information rather than take it at face value. Consider how you might record and share the results to give this new, contextualised information developed through peer collaboration just as much weight and significance as the foundational information it was built on.