How to find out everything about small reservoirs

If you want to understand the use and usefulness of small reservoirs in developing countries, you need to know about water, landscape, people, agriculture, fisheries, politics etc. etc.

Working with my colleagues of the Small Reservoirs Project (funded by the Challenge Program for Water and Food of the CGIAR), I was often amazed about the audacity with which they really wanted to find out everything, EVERYTHING that there was to find out about these reservoirs.

And even more, they also wanted to help everyone else to use the tools they developed to understand everything from storage capacity to water politics. I have rarely seen a research project that was able to attract so many dedicated and enthusiastic researchers beyond the original core team and now they have put everything that they have found out about how to find out EVERYTHING (about small reservoirs) together in the Small Reservoirs Toolkit.

“Imperfect” is the new “perfect”?

“Why use messy pen-paper-and-checkers-pieces – can’t you do it on the computer?”

At a Brown Bag Seminar at the World Bank, Regina Birner (IFPRI) and I presented how we used Net-Map to understand innovation systems in Ethiopia. As for the quasi inevitable question afterwards… see above.  “Inevitable” not because it was the World Bank but because it is such a common question that people ask when I do a  presentation about Net-Map. Funny though, the question rarely comes up with groups or individuals who participate in Net-Map activities. Nancy White (check out her cool blog), who attended the World Bank event, made a good point about why messy can sometimes be more than perfect: Drawing something on paper and playing around with checkers pieces invites everyone to participate, to draw and change and debate. If you come with a fancy computer tool that’s a completely different story, that looks like you are the expert and the glossy pictures you draw don’t look as if they are up for discussion.

That makes me think: Isn’t it funny how – as a society – it seems like we have agreed that everything is better and more professional if it is done on the computer?

Web-find: How to say these names…

Hildegard, Aghajan, Bozorgmehr, Olekorinko

Did you get them all right? It’s a sign of respect to pronounce someone’s name correctly, but, sadly, when working internationally, it’s a pretty difficult task… Or do speak German, Armenian, Farsi and Maasai?

Howtosaythatname is a website that does just that, tell you how to say names in the different languages of the world. Very straightforward to use. Elisabeth Bojang, who is running the site, is currently specifically looking for Arabic, Thai, Hmong and Italian speakers to add names in their languages… Email her at, if you want to contribute.

Researcher, Facilitator, Advocate?

I just talked with a colleague who wants to do some Net-Map research about water governance in a big irrigation project in Africa, where commercial interests and small farmer needs clash. She has a number of different goals with her research, ranging from “getting a PhD” through “doing high quality exciting research” to “facilitating a debate about power” and “empowering the poorer stakeholders”.

And while it is possible to do all these things with a tool like Net-Map, it made me think about the messy situations we often get ourselves into, trying to be a good researcher and a good person at the same time. How do you deal with the tensions between “wanting to find out” and “wanting to change things / wanting to help”?

Do you know how to use EgoNet?

Or do you know where to find a manual? EgoNet is an open source software for collecting network data online and I’d love to use it. But unfortunately it’s not really intuitive and I just can’t figure it out. If you know how to use it, I’d be grateful for some hints!