MRLG Regional Information Platform
Feedback and Mobilisation Workshop
21-22 January 2016

Day One: Notes

Welcome and Introduction: SDC committed to MRLG funding to 2018 – idea of a knowledge and information platform idea was taken up over the past year. Currently 31 activities for MRLG, so there is a need for such a platform - especially for partners. Some changes since the 2015 Exploratory Workshop: ODI just launched, Mekong Citizen and One Map also launched.

  • Get feedback on platform concept
  • Provide inputs and ideas on activities
  • Identify priority activities for implementation
  • Gain commitments for contributions to the platform

Workshop Principles:
  • Constructive feedback and how to move forward
  • Active involvement
  • Joint design
  • No phones! Or email.

MAQE are in attendance - they are building the web portal. Multi-partner initiative: the name M-LIKE is to brand it separately from MRLG. Please put ideas up for re-naming.

Small Group Discussions:
  • What were the takeaways from last year’s workshop?
A platform is not a website, it’s an ecosystem of different platforms and how they interface. Idea of a platform not being online is new. But can be many different things – not everybody connects online. Important for community groups to control their own information and own it – cannot be all online.
Platform is a basis for a series of conversations. Creating a variety of mechanisms, but a key question is: who maintains it?

Ambiguity about what MRLG should be doing – need to be careful who you target and involve in the platform otherwise can be diluted. Last year we shared a lot of ideas – good discussion on what a platform is and isn’t… there are a lot of groups doing a lot of things already so we shouldn’t duplicate.
  • What makes you excited about the new concept note?
Packaging of solutions – synthesizing data will be very useful to partners. Adding more value to existing information – this is a good opportunity for M-LIKE. The platform could give academia a chance to contribute outside their own sphere;
making research results more usable. A new platform could facilitate Interfacing with different sectors (private companies, communities, partners). Bringing in and linking different platforms.
  • What makes you concerned about the new concept note?
How to bring in communities and create a more equitable interface? Still too big and broad? Who will be M-LIKE’s moderator or admin? Need to avoid duplication!
  • What do you want to get out of this workshop? Expectations?
Question from Asia Farmer’s Association: concept note is exciting and everything is there, but is there too much? Need to have a balanced focus to share what each small group is doing; bring together into a meta platform.

Setting the Context:
Aim is to embed within MRLG, not create separate platform - documenting and sharing knowledge.

4 areas for platform to focus on: linking to regional debate, working with private sector, self-determination and changing the discourse. Meta platform comprised of many interconnected activities: support existing systems, act as a knowledge dissemination tool. During diagnostic: looked at (1) actors (4 groups), (2) information systems (analysis of platforms) and (3) different engagement processes and institutional arrangements. Inception (June/ August), Diagnostic (Sept, Oct), Design (Nov to January) → Now ‘feedback and Mobilization” workshop.

“Bright spots” = good interest in the concept, excellent interactions with farmer groups and MRLG partners and potential media influencers.
Limitations = difficult to meet with high level decision-makers. Limited private sector study (mainly Lao). Crowded space so must avoid duplication.

The design mission involved evaluating the existing “land information ecosystem”- there are over 50 websites, portals etc already. Focus on information (contrast to data). The priority information needs are knowledge products coming from spatial relationship info, i.e.- location and landscapes of smallholder farmers, land, poverty assessments, census data.
This portal will be a ‘re-user’ of information produced by trusted sources. The portal should be able to identify areas for which formal tenure exists.
List of priority info systems: MRC, Land Observatory, Lao Decide, One Map, Servir, RECOFTC, ADB. Info only coming from national sources; not regional. Land info for Vietnam poorly represented,

Question from FAO: Why do these land info gaps and deficiencies exist? Because very little harmonization of information across the region: it’s been in nobody’s interest to produce this.
Many platforms serve information and data – how will these then be combined in this portal? This will take a lot more analysis – yes, there is a fine line between data and information, but it will be work to make raw data into information.
From Open Development Mekong (ODM): over the last year we’ve been trying to build a centralized database and platform so people can join and discuss. Trying to build crowd-sourcing to support collaboration to aggregate data together to move towards common standards, allow for comparison amongst data sets and harmonization. ODM has a centralized database, managed by each country. Working with LandPortal to create a more open-source. Can draw from a variety of sources – government, community groups into the bigger picture.

Question from OD Mekong: what is the role of M-LIKE in processing data? Would it be linking to each platform or would it be more processing raw data and re-packing?
Not clear yet – but the intent is that it will be re-packaged by a technical person in the back office putting it all together. Need to create products that people will actually use – and create dialogues based on the information. Not just aggregating and harvesting but adding value to existing knowledge. Aim is making use of available information; not to do more research.

Question from Land Portal: how to integrate the platform – is it too large? Need to take into consideration the country-specific needs. But also need to consider how to support global/ regional efforts? Provide systematic evidence globally.

Review of existing ‘Information Ecosystem”
  • How to further enhance the existing system?
Comments: need to focus on open source data to work towards developing standards: for example with Open Development Mekong.
Add FAO - GAEZ to the web of exisiting systems.
OD Mekong also has national partners, so not just regional.
ADB GMS – developing systems for sharing regionally on ESIA.
ILC also builds networks at a regional level to try and define a strategy for engaging government.
Need to ask the question: what sort of dialogues are we aiming to encourage through M-LIKE? We need to discuss and analyse the big issues.
Lao-FAB / Lao Link not just data, it’s more about stories and narratives; also not really regional.
Where are there cross-sectoral dialogues? Are there any opportunities to bring in private sector to regional dialogue? Need a forum at regional level.
  • What are the redundancies?
Those with the most entrenched interests in land are often the ones who are least interested in engaging in a platform. For example: UN office in Cambodia for Human Rights (mostly land issues) tried to convene a forum for Human Rights. But difficult to get participation from private sector and high-level decision makers.
Websites should be seen as a contributor to the greater platform: for example Mekong Citizen, LaoFAB. These sites are meant to stimulate discussions and debates, conversations. Important to note that substantial conversations often occur offline.
  • How can we enhance the existing system?
Need more open data! Note that AFA also holds dialogues with farmers and there are also national farmers associations. Need to facilitate these associations to speak directly and influence. Need to involve farmers.

Open data: link to global movements towards open source, open education movements. Find the spaces and good-use cases to simulate and join up. Work with national authorities to make use of open data.
It’s about creating a culture of wanting to share and connect better with others: there’s a need for better use of data, and allowing others to re-use your existing data. * Changing behaviors. Also partners trust that platforms such as OD Mekong are linking to national partners and sharing information and activities.
Need to add Open Data Myanmar – community tenure and documenting conflicts. In our time, everyone is networked but there is no central node; so how to make a meta-platform?
Comment from WLE: we have arranged the key info-sharers spatially but need to examine and group by themes relevant to land. Can strengthen the existing ‘ecosystem’ by focusing on Drive – need a team that’s dedicated to push particular conversations – this will require dedicated resources.
Issue of attribution: for example, if we can’t demonstrate that our organisation generated this results/ information then we won’t get more funding. Can’t let orgs be distracted by proprietary issues (i.e.- focusing on making our organisation look good).

M-LIKE is not focused on trying to be a coordinator of all the information systems, but supporting current systems.

Session 1 - Setting the Context
Talk Show
Michael: aim is really to engage outside stakeholders. This talk show will introduce a panel of key stakeholders.
1. Farmer leader
2. Chinese business woman (and translator)
3. Governor (of Xieng Khouang province)
4. iNGO leader
Talk Show Host: “Who’s heard of Gone with The Wind”? A quote from Scarlett O’Hara: “Land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts”. Is this true? Is land worth dying for?

Key Constraints for dialogue and engaging stakeholders:
  • Language barriers (private investor may only speak Mandarin)
  • Difficulty contacting private companies and high-level decision makers
  • Avoidance strategies (diverting blame to higher levels)
  • Lack of information (i.e.- compensation, land rights) for the farmers
  • Imbalances in power: farmer not involved in decisions
  • Private companies only following Lao laws: interpretations of the law may differ
  • Different ideas of how to dialogue
  • Lack of social responsibility in company
  • Real power holders were not at the discussion (central level govt)

Target Group Bus Stops
Key questions: What is new? What is missing? How to better engage? Who are the specific groups?

Key Points from Four Main Target Groups:
  1. Farmer Groups: how to share success stories amongst groups? Person to person contact is important. Portal could be a reference for those working with these groups. Trainings needed to document cases. Cross-learning not just for communities but also NGOs. Relationships and networks are important. Each countries’ needs are different. If there are no local champions, difficult to get government on board. Most farmers are not organised in groups.
  2. High-Level Policy Makers: need to understand the bigger picture (geo-political). Involve influential allies in dialogue with government (i.e.- some donors). Direct personal contact (i.e.- golf). ‘Constructive engagement’. Back-up conversations with public research. Can go through provincial or district levels.
  3. Private Sector: unsure of how to deal with NGOs, difficult to get contact with company representatives. Companies focus on reputational risk and business efficiencies - could document case studies. Using VGGT.
  4. MRLG Partners: training materials for partners would be useful, so would support for producing case studies (write-shops etc.). M-LIKE could facilitate face-to-face sharing amongst partners. Process documentation from start to finish and outcomes would be useful to share. Inventory of private sector actors and tools to engage. Knowledge brokering to help link partners with resources.

The M-LIKE Platform – overall approach and components

Visions and long term result of the platform: this platform is not to support large-scale land acquisition. We want to support smallholder farmers to secure land tenure security.
Regional investments are major drivers of change impacting smallholder farmers’ land tenure.

Entry Points and Opportunities:
  • Strengthen and complement current platforms: not trying to build up a whole new platform that just works on its own; need synergies
  • Focus on good practice and solutions (not just for MRLG partners but for private sector and high-level decision makers; they are also interested in best practice and solutions)
  • Knowledge brokering: what services can we provide to partners? Help people link to one another, help package specific information for different actors based on their needs
  • Linking regional and national issues: opportunities to influence the debate (advocacy and engagement, AEC, ASEAN entry points to support dialogue amongst countries). Opportunities for collective action, make visible what is happening at the national level
  • Working with media influencers - beyond traditional journalists

Overview of Objectives.
  • What is the value added by M-LIKE?
Embed in MRLG and support engagement with broader range of actors. Better documentation and sharing of solutions. New regional insights. Visibility to local and national initiatives. Link national concerns to reach actors in other countries.

Platform, Learning Cycle Approach
Build upon the partners’ information – synthesise, re-package, etc. Difficulties in reaching these target groups. This platform would feed back into MRLG activities centered around the 4 core activities. Create new IF, QDF, L&A projects.

Core Components:
1. Intelligence and Synthesis
  • Flagship Product: State of Mekong Land report: provide visibility of partner information; MRLG wouldn’t collect data itself but support others to do this
  • These flagship products (i.e.- hydropower map by WLE) are widely used by stakeholders
  • Focus on core aspects of MRLG
  • Produce other subsidiary products: stories, good practices, infographics, on-line dialogue and media/ press awareness

2. Learning and Sharing
  • support efforts by MRLG to improve learning and sharing amongst reform actors
  • create space for interactions
  • Solutions: create a positive angle – solve specific problems. While the problems are context-specific, the principles, steps, lessons can be drawn out to help others to adapt and use in their own context, ie- tools, guidelines, good practice briefs.
  • Knowledge brokering services; answer requests, provide links.
  • Work through national platforms to collect, repackage, disseminate.

3. Engaging and Dialogue (with 4 target groups):
  • A lot of consultation processes have gone on: can we share these experiences to strengthen engagement?
  • Same with private sector – share experiences and practices to improve engagement
  • A lot of work going on to standardize and exchange experiences in local case collection
  • Advocacy: communication tactics. Not just iNGOs but also government is interested in learning from other’s experiences. Creating processes to ‘prime’ stakeholders and create relationships, build trust, sharing perspectives and opinions; creating empathy between target groups.
Farmer Groups/ Associations
  • alliance building, dialogue with government, support for conflict resolution (tools) , link to media, awards scheme?
Media Influencers
  • Not just journalists and traditional media: social media is a big opportunity to influence the debate (urban middle class on Facebook) example: Tholakong Lao, Hoang Dinh Duc
  • Convening, alliances, awards, competitions, field visits
Private Sector
  • Source country private sector (Thailand, China), align to emerging MRLG plans
  • Tools and examples of working together
  • Business forum linkages: for example Chinese language online
High Level Decision Makers
  • Support dialogues (not just MRLG but intermediaries such as think tanks, advisors)
  • Working with national assemblies and provincial level; there is a growing influence at province level.
  • Repackaged briefs to use as policy briefs, crafted updates to a core group of influencers, using media to target messages

M-LIKE Web Portal
Online platform to bring together reform actors to dialogue around new knowledge and solutions.

MAQE: we are web designers, we make web based applications (portals - worked with WLE on Mekong Citizen portal. ‘Lean Discovery’ process is a 5-day workshop to design and develop based on stakeholders’ ideas. Same questions to portal “what does dialogue look like?” “what is a platform?” Process involves first deciding what makes M-LIKE unique, next is ‘character creation’ to personify who are the users; this information will be used over the next 2 days – user journey mapping, and then interactive exercise. The result will be a prototype, which will be circulated amongst the group for feedback. Then the MAQE team will have a better idea of timeline and how it will be built. Today we will listen and also figure out user experience.
Remember: the web portal is not the platform, it is just one element of the platform to facilitate dialogue.
  • Operationalization
This has been a big area of question: there definitely needs to be more resources put into MRLG.
Platform Manager: knowledge brokering, communication, moderation, sharing and repacking and web portal.
3 part-time positions: platform support, engaging farmer networks and engaging private sector. Plus National Mobilisers (based in national land groups to be linkage between regional and national level). Would assist with translation, etc.

Governance of the platform at three levels:
(1) Strategic partners – to ensure sustainability, these partners are embedded in core organisations.
(2) Contributors
(3) Supporters

Questions to seek feedback:
  • do we have the right priorities (low-hanging fruit) to be able to rapidly roll out the platform?
  • How can we understand the right approaches to often sensitive topics? What is appropriate dialogue and convening approaches?
  • Addressing issues of translation in a practical way?
  • Where do you see added value?
  • What are concerns or questions you might still have?

Clarification question from Land Portal: one of the target groups is MRLG partners: who are they?
MRLG: we have partners in all 4 countries ranging from LIWG, Land Core Group, CSOs, iNGOs, research institutes, universities, land departments and line ministries. “Reform actors” working for change.

How do MRLG partners differentiate from the other target groups?
This is a question – how do we reach beyond the current actors (MRLG partners, socially responsible private sector)… Intend to bring people from beyond capital cities and others into the conversations.
Comment: this could be a challenge since MRLG is quite a new project so having awareness of their role and partners is still emergent.

Session 2: Feedback on Key Components

Working Groups

  1. Intelligence and Synthesis
State of Land (SOL) series; should do a thematic report? Or describe the changes (synopsis of current state) using statistics? Need a mix of both.
One part will be some indicators at national and regional levels; a baseline assessment. Released every 2 years - we would invite comments from government and other key actors.
Second part will be thematic chapter that will capture state of knowledge and understanding. For example: national policy, land tenure, investment policies, guidelines for foreign investment etc.
However this requires analysis – who is ready to make this report? MRLG, CDE, IDI, RCSD, IIED, FAO (?), Global Witness (?)

Key questions of feasibility: how to produce quality material but in a form that is acceptable and supported by government? Resource and capacity – MRLG should be the ones facilitating and coordinating, but still need to commission researchers to conduct these studies to make State of Land. Perhaps needs co-funding.
Need to clarify quickly – what are the commitments of the different parties? To provide the data, to produce the reports? Needs to be formalized so people know what they are agreeing to.
SDC Question: this State of the Land? Couldn’t the national coordinators do this as part of the annual report?
MRLG: No – too comprehensive.

Are there some intermittent products that could be produced every 6 months? Then by the end of 2 years could put it all together.
RECOFTC: we did a community forestry one and it took 2 years.
Maybe we can have smaller, more regularly produced, quick and brief, focused products with the aim of publishing it more regularly? Other products that MRLG is funding (for example – through IF fund projects and associated products) could contribute to SOL.

There is a balance: maybe we could have a State of Land (flagship product) but have a few products that come out under an umbrella with ‘key issues’ to sustain interest. It is about packaging and branding: these products could come out over time and in parallel, part of leading up to the State of Land series.

MRLG does produce some policy briefs – but some concerns from CLICK that SOL will not be used very much because it will have outdated statistics on land concession areas – not timely if updated every 2 years. It is a big undertaking to collect land data all the time.
Could include a ‘State of Land Information’ assessment in the region – what information is produced by who, is it reliable, is it not?

2. Learning and Sharing (Web Portal)

Issues of privacy for sensitive information (i.e.- KhouangXi Falls case). Question of who are the users - private sector users? Central government?
Idea of a Q&A forum to anonymise a case – getting advice on land concessions, logging etc. Maybe there could be a function for submitting issues in a closed group: having ‘controlled chaos’ not just posting on FB or wider forum where message is uncontrolled – good feedback on Q&A.
Most first-time users will probably hear about M-LIKE from word of mouth from other users. Organisations should become a ‘member’ of M-LIKE and introduce M-LIKE to others.

Question of how users will actually find M-LIKE? Searching for related stories.
Questions users may have: who is funding it? Who are the core partners? What is the goal of the platform?How will users become returning or regular users of M-LIKE?
Perhaps sign up based on “interests” or “needs”: data, stories, digests.
Maybe M-LIKE doesn’t need to be a website: could it just be a newsletter/ digest/ feed? Important that content doesn’t have to stay in M-LIKE

Need to look at a more holistic perspective; not just the website. The process that users take might involve offline “journeys”. Creation of different stories to address the needs of these imaginary users.

Idea of a ‘Wikileaks style’ submission – controversial topics can be safely submitted, then filtered and produce a nondescript, general Q&A to mask the source but still disseminate the information and solutions.
News digest and analysis – Different languages: tailored for the user? Could be very resource intensive. The target is very important: impossible to translate everything.

Comment from Land Portal: If you start publishing content using standard vocabularies – Land Vocabulary (Spanish, English, French, Chinese… ODI will translate to Khmer, Thai etc). When the vocabulary is translated then you make sure that the content is discoverable – before the user reads it he has to find it. Before thinking of translation, you should think of having guidelines for helping users to discover it.

Question from AFA working with Land Matrix Asia: can this kind of visualization and analysis relevant for putting on the M-LIKE platform? Maybe an overlap to One Map – spatially mapping land representations? Once the Land Observatory is in place, could link to Global Observatory…
Maybe some of the things that you’re producing/ information generated could be useful for the State of Land series. Maybe they could make a commitment for adding to M-LIKE?

Question from MRLG: how? How do I get to the portal – it’s an open data compatibility question.. operationally how does M-LIKE work?
Looking at the flow, it looks like publishing information on M-LIKE is a very manual endeavor, not automated. Some content could be user-generated, some could be by moderator/ M-LIKE team? Maybe what is needed is somebody to curate the content? Put together and send to people… depends what kind of online presence you need. We need some concrete discussions on what it will look like. Avoid duplication.

3. Engaging and Dialogue:
Dealing with the issue of engagement: both with media influencers and farmer organisations.
a. Farmers Groups: the proposed activities made sense, but the question is, do they need to be part of the platform? Or just part of MRLG? Probably could be equally supported through the IF or QDF – supported through other ways, not bundled with some of the core platform activities
Platform ideas: need greater assurance that mechanisms are in place, ie- farmer voices are prioritised by MRLG. Where are farmer voices in the steering committee? PSC? Is money being earmarked for work being done with farmer organisations? We know there are apex farmer orgs that can represent these orgs – we have AFA, and their connection with other groups, there are representative farmer bodies that could represent within MRLG / projects steering committee.
These farmer orgs have been in existence for many years – so farmer engagement should be considered very important as strategic partners and part of the sustainability of the project: capacities that you build will be embedded.
Questions: were there activities that you felt could fit in the platform framework?
There are research forums, activities funded by MRLG that are producing info, studies, reports and the platform has a role to package and disseminate this information. Maybe we don’t need to say that farmer orgs are different from other orgs who are generating knowledge. By including farmer orgs in the platform, we can ensure that the knowledge they generate will be packaged – but does this mean that other target groups won’t be included?

Are there opportunities to link with farmer orgs that are producing information?
Have them in the governance structure – let’s not have them as a target but as a real partner. A “strategic partner”. Playing more of a role in the governance of the MRLG project.

Comment from AFA: it is difficult to know which associations should represent – in Myanmar at least 5 or 6 groups. It should be the job of AFA to aggregate the voices of the farmer associations at regional level – that is their job. If they are supported then they can bring reality from the ground, aggregate it, and bring to the platform. A concern is that there are thousands of farmers who are not in an association: maybe the platform can include them? Not everything needs to go through farmer’s organisations.

How to facilitate information exchange between farmers and the rest of the world – for example laws, mechanisms? Interesing topic: how to disseminate information to the farmer. Social networks to access or are used by farmers?
All the proposed activities are good – just over the next 6 months, MRLG should focus on identifying strategic partners. At least get them to be engaged in existing funding mechanisms.

Media Engagement: strategies have to be country-specific.
Even question about having a single portal (regionally) addressing countries across the region: questions of translating into local language. Each target group in each country needs its own strategy.

Priority for next six months is to identify “media influencers” and to refine a strategy for dealing with media (different between Vietnam and Myanmar, for example). There are opportunities for doing this at a regional level, for example working with MPE who are training environmental journalists. Working at the regional level: part of media strategy should be development of narratives, not just distributing data but delivering stories that are aimed at influencing. Delivering a crafted message/ story that you are trying to ‘sell’. Working on those “stories” should be part of media engagement.

Question: any reason why you went back to traditional journalists, not social media?
No, social media is important, but country-specificity is particularly important as each country uses different platforms for social media.
Maybe the platform should be the media influencers: need to identify what stories are popular so we can make a “hook” to latch on and catch people’s attention.

b. High Level Decision Makers
Key entry points:
  1. Myanmar: National Land Use Policy, NLD Party and Political Party (after March 2016) and drafting of forestry policy.
  2. Vietnam: looked more at who: Fatherland Front (mass organisation), engaging with key ministers, People’s Committees at provincial level
  3. Laos: National Assembly, National Land Policy and relevant laws – land law, forestry, water. Provincial Assemblies. Potential Ministries- but question of real influence?
  4. Cambodia: MOE is weak but accessible and open to discuss. What other stakeholders?
Use MRLG stakeholder analysis.

Question: Should we access ASEAN? Would be useful to map who is going to ASEAN forums in each country – who are the representatives in each forum?
Approaches: opening consultation process – for example discussing with Ministries to have open consultation rather than recommendations on drafting policies.
Consolidating best practices: ie- sharing Myanmar’s open consultation process here in Laos.
Anecdotal evidence.
Wider set of products – short policy brief, different levels of products to attract attention.
Media attention (more used in Cambodia, Vietnam).
Informal conversations and discussions – need to have a mix of both.

Activities: important to map the policy process in each country. For example, only review law every 10 years in Vietnam.
MRLG could provide knowledge brokering services – bringing outside experiences to local levels. Supporting production of experiences on-demand. Making that information applicable in the context that its been collected.
Consolidating good practices. Re-packaging for decision makers.
Multi-stakeholder, multi-sector dialogues. Listen back to their understanding. Bringing them together slowly over time, then together as a group.

Comment: You also need to be identifying policy implementation gaps – not just policy processes. An analysis of the P.I.Gs would be useful.
Understanding what policy makers are having challenges with/ gaps in their understanding, and then repackaging information and bringing it to them.
Could also bring research by government back to them – using policy makers as part of the design of the research.
In Laos, provincial governors are making decisions regardless of what happens at the national level – it can be difficult but we have to do it if we want to see changes in implementation.
What is evidence to you might not be evidence to policy makers – they don’t trust evidence from NGOs or government. But what they consider evidence is field visits and what they see with their own eyes.