Share Fair

Brief Description (including a definition if possible)
Share fairs (or knowledge fairs) are face-to-face events in which participants exchange their experiences and knowledge around a specific topic in a variety of ways. They are very different from a typical conference, in that they are participatory, free flowing, flexible and non-hierarchical.
The intention is to create a space which promotes learning, and where participants can share their own experiences and tacit knowledge, and improve their own work. Share fairs aim to create a less formal and structured atmosphere and agenda, and increase the opportunities for two-way dialogue. To this end, the use of a variety of facilitation methods and techniques is encouraged.
A share fair should be tailored to the needs of the participants, so there is no right or wrong way to organize one. However, certain approaches can help to create a buzzing, interactive and collaborative workspace. A share fair is not a goal in itself, but the beginning of a process. By facilitating exchanges between people, it will create new social network connections, both on a professional and personal level.

When to use
  • Sharing
  • Adopting, adapting & scaling up
  • Mainstreaming

How to use
For a share fair to be really successful, it is vital to have an organizing team who carefully plans and prepares for the event and whose members are able to act flexibly and respond to challenges as the process unfolds.
Roles that should be undertaken by members of the organizing team, or which must be sourced externally, include: logistics, communication with participants, content, session facilitation, presenters (subject matter experts), IT support and a (social) reporting team.
Other aspects to remember when planning a share fair include:
  • Decide on the theme, and the objective of the event at an early stage. What technical areas will participants want to discuss and learn more about? Find common areas of interest, and within this framework, invite proposals for contributions.
  • An ideal share fair should last three days.
  • Decide on the venue and location as soon as possible. The venue will be crucial to determining the spaces you have, which in turn conditions the type of sessions that can be organized, and even how many participants can be invited.
  • Budget and resources should be allocated to activities at an early stage.
  • Liaise with partner organizations and explore collaboration opportunities. They may even wish to co-host the share fair, in which case they can contribute manpower to the organizing team and budget.
  • When inviting participants, consider which languages will be spoken. Will interpreters be needed? Can participants be asked to help one another with translating? Multilingual sessions are generally more challenging to facilitate.
  • Agree on different types of session and facilitation methods to be used.
  • Try not to organize more than three parallel sessions at any time, as this can lead to participants feeling overwhelmed and facilitators having very few attendees at some sessions.
  • Ensure that support is available early to assist presenters in setting up their session. If possible, match facilitators with content specialist presenters, so that they can work together to create the session.
  • Consider having a marketplace within the share fair.
  • Allow space in the agenda for ad hoc open sessions to evolve, and long coffee breaks to facilitate informal meetings and conversations.
  • Plan how sessions will be reported. Will social reporting be used? Consider hiring a professional graphic facilitator to capture content in some or all sessions.
  • How will the event be evaluated? Plan monitoring and evaluation. After the share fair, it is useful to conduct an After Action Review (AAR).
  • Plan for post-event communications and how ongoing networking and collaboration could be facilitated. Will an event website be set up? Will participants be invited to join an existing network?

FAO Good practice factsheet on how to organize a knowledge share fair: