December 2008


This is a post following up on the Knowledge Management, Education and Learning Workshop held in Maputo 4 and 5 December 2008. I did the ‘Social Reporting’ at this workshop, with help of many of you. You can read the resulting Social Report by selecting the tag KELMaputo.)

The following is a reflection on the practice of ‘Social Reporting’; what is different about it?, why is it important? It was originally written for (and published at) my own blog. This explains the more personal notes here and there, for which i apologize. I considered the ‘broader view’ beyond the workshop in Maputo important, that is why I decided to crosspost the entire post.

I recently did three social reporting jobs at face-to-face events (first links are to the official main websites of the events, last to the resulting social reports):

1. Anim@te in Lisbon. 1 day, about 100 participants in plenary. I worked with Beverly Trayner and a team consisting of participants, most of them not very familiair with social media; result (in Portuguese).
2. The KM and learning and education workshop by CGIAR and GFAR in Maputo. 1,5 day, about 40 participants in mixed settings. I worked by myself; result here.
3. “Powering a new future”, the final event after 8 years of Equal (which was the European program for social innovation) in Lisbon. 3 days, >500 participants. I assisted Beverly Trayner and David Wilcox. Result here.

In each of these cases, we used a WordPress blog as a home for publishing all media: video (YouTube, Blip.tv), photo (Flickr), text, Twitter. We worked in close cooperation with the event organisors. We had the first content up within hours after the start of the event, and a finished end product within hours after the end.

The three events each gave a different perspective on the new practice of social reporting.

Animate showed how well Social Reporting can work as a crash course in Web2.0 tools and collaborative, social way of working. When you actually SEE how photos originating from different Flickr accounts via tags and rss are instantly shown on a blog, you GET it. When the issues you were vigorously defending over coffee break at an event are videod and blogged, and you get reactions…. you no longer question the relevance of “all those trivial blogposts about nonsense”. When the colleague who could not attend gives you intelligent feedback the next day because he has been following the twitter stream or blog…. you feel the potential. Learning to master the tools is easy, once you understand what web2.0 can be used for. Another great effect was the community engaging and community building happening in our small team.

The workshop in Maputo, Mozambique was with less people and the focus was more on the content itself. I did a mix of note-taking, videos, impressions. I think the result (see the Outline of the Social Report Simone Staiger compiled, or all posts here) may be quite useful for participants, organisors and others. Compared to a formal report this is rich, easy & entertaining to look at and read, compiled by a mixture of authors/contributors, quickly available after (during) the workshop, and open for comments. It is therefor more of a start, where a formal report always has something defenite and seems like a closing.

The Equal event was huge, with 3 large auditoria and many parallel sessions in smaller spaces. It was great to work in a team of three, each of us all-rounders. I think we helped to give an informal account of the event, highlighting interesting work and people, weaving media, languages and voices. We have extensively reflected on the practice of Social Reporting at the Equal event, which David blogged about here .

Learning, community building, building & extending conversations, documenting and weaving voices… The sum of the three events really convinced me: Yes, this is important. Social Reporting is changing the way we organize events. Also, on a personal note, I much enjoyed the social reporting work! I liked having an excuse to talk to people, asking questions you might otherwise not have asked. I also enjoyed getting their stories out to the world, allowing connections to be made. And yes, -at best- there is more to social reporting than just surprising participants with their photos and video online.

During the last event I assisted Bev Trayner, who brought reporting into social learning, and David Wilcox, who brought social into reporting. Interestingly, something we reported about (Etienne Wenger’s talk on how social learning spaces are important) helped us strengthen our common understanding of social reporting. After digesting for a few days, David blogged on the insights he had, and others (see comments) are taking it from there. The way this conversation is now extended both in time and in people taking part in it, is in itself a demonstration of how social reporting works.

Yes we ARE all networked learners!, and like David, this “theory” helps me understand the attraction of the web and how it all hangs together. It also shows the important roles of the future: Let us continue to create the social learning spaces, keep them open, connect people, and continue to enable access for those of us who -for whatever reason- are new. Weaving online and Real Life in smart ways -such as by Social Reporting- will stretch the possibilities for learning across boundaries.

Of course we are not the only ones “discovering” the genre. Many blogs work in the same way. Dave Briggs seems to work at events in much the same ways. Rober Buzink (freelance journalist) reports in detail (but in Dutch) on the well read journalism blog “De Nieuwe Reporter” about an experiment using real time textmessages (using coveritlive) to cover an event. It is very exciting to think what will happen if on-site and digital get more interwoven, with on-site screens showing the digital conversations, and more people connecting.

Finally, a few alineas from the forthcoming publication on Social Reporting, meant for event organisors, by Beverly Trayner and David Wilcox and sponsored by Equal:

The aim of social reporting is to create an informal narrative to the event, which could complement the formal results or conclusions of that event. The idea of social reporting has been growing in response to two important changes in the organisation of today’s types of events. The first is the explosion of new and free online tools that opens up communication and the publishing of information of different types (such as text, photographs and video recordings) in different ways and to different types of people.

Equally important as the new ways of publishing is the growing recognition that many insights and learning that happens at face-to-face events takes place during informal conversations and not necessarily in the formal presentations or sessions. Social reporting aims to try and stimulate and capture some of these improvisational coversations as a way of bringing more voices to the table and of surfacing some of the stories that help give context to the event.

While mainstream reporting is usually about capturing surprise, conflict, crisis, and entertainment, and in projecting or broadcasting stories to audiences, social reporters aim to work collaboratively with other people, producing words, pictures and movies together. They may challenge and even provoke, but they are sensitive to the resources and parameters of the group, community or organisation they reporting for. They are insiders rather than outsiders. It is about using skills in story-telling to help the conversation along in ways that may help people work better together; treating everyone with respect; and ideally making it all a fun and rewarding experience. It’s more about conversation, collaboration and celebration than conflict, crisis and celebrity (although these should not be overlooked!). It should – like the best journalism – be about promoting some transparency, accountability and openness, but not about thinking that only journalists can do that. It should be sociable, and for social benefit.

I remain thinking of how to broaden Social Reporting beyond events. Reporting on change processes, development, collective action. Reporting about/with social artists… about the changes web2.0 brings to collective action….
Much like David is doing with his entire blog, i guess. Clay Shirky, who wrote a book about web2.0 and collective action, is suggesting to report on what is happening.

So this is one of the things I intend to do in 2009. I will focus on rural areas. What does web2.0 and increasing connectedness mean for rural areas? What are the implications, the new opportunities, new organisational and business models for agriculture and rural areas? What does networked learning mean for agricultural extension, for versatile countrysides?

the fishbowl session (photo by Petr Kosina)

the fishbowl session (photo by Petr Kosina)

This is a post following up on the Knowledge Management, Education and Learning Workshop held in Maputo 4 and 5 December 2008. (You can read more about this workshop by selecting the tag KELMaputo.)

A few weeks after our workshop in Maputo I have found some time and mental diskspace to finish loose threads. The following is a short summary of the notes of the session we used to hear back from the three groups, also known as ‘the Fishbowl session‘.

Notes of the Fishbowl session Maputo workshop, 5 December

In the group on learning with communities the ‘model’ for the new -or not really that new?- reality for agricultural knowledge or information was discussed. The networked model is becoming more eminent in an increasingly connected world, like in Steve Songs presentation. What is the role of research in the new networked reality? How does it link to the changes within CGIAR?

Several implications were touched. Not seeing CG as central, but the whole as a network of equals, is one of the ‘new’ perspectives. How to keep track of interventions and of their success?

The following emerged from the discussions as good things to be doing:

  • Allowing the use of process indicators instead of only focussing on result or product indicators. The idea is: if the process is right, there is probably somewhere, sometime, a result. Much easier to ‘measure’ the quality of the process than insisting on always measuring the result. (Plus you avoid the problem of attribution. (The question: is the result measured thanks to the process).
  • Instead of zooming in to the problems, use asset based thinking. Collecting success stories within and around CGIAR is important; there are many and they set good examples.
  • Partnerships are considered crucial. What are ways to build equal partnerships?

Universities in Africa, as discussed by a group on formal education, are very diverse, in all possible aspects. They need support to enter the 21century, how can we support them? They, too, are part of the networked model: how can they deal with it?

Except for the changes to adapt to shifting times, curricular changes (or renewal of curricula) are needed. What opportunities do the new connections, the social web,  offer here? Can we think of e-curricula? Also: how do we increase the capacity on Knowledge Management itself, is that by doing it or additionally by offering KM curriculum?

And finally for the group focussing on Knowledge Management. Within CGIAR, How to really embed KM?
Parallels between institutes, departments and key programs were explored.
A broad range of topics was touched in these discussions, networking occurred and several personal commitments were made.

Personal reflection
I think the workshop showed how it all hangs together: the networked model for Agricultural Knowledge, in which farmer communities, the value chains, Research, formal education and joint learning all have their place. The workshop clearly showed how this picture is changing; becoming more “networked” with the increasing connections and digital tracks we are all leaving.

Ajit Maru, co-initiator of the workshop, explains what to him is the core of the change in a comment on this blog:

Ajit Maru Says:
December 17, 2008 at 11:31 am

The core issue in Steve’s presentation was about “conversation” in a community.

To me, it is not only conversation that is important but “continuous conversation” within a community that is even more important. We can have a conversation in a community but when it is continued over time instead of it being one-off it enables blossoming of different perspectives on an issue that leads to a far more deeper understanding of the issue. (his comment is much longer, read on here..)

This, together with the changes upcoming in CGIAR, gave us a context in which there was LOTS to jointly explore: how to be effective, how to link, how to deal with partners inside and outside CGIAR, how to keep track, how to share our successes and failures? Who to liaise with, what are possible alliances? And, maybe most of all: Where am I in the new picture, where are you? What do the changes, both wider societal and within CGIAR, mean to me? How is my institute, my department, my group of colleagues reacting to the changes? and how is yours?

The maps are changing. Explorations on a continuously changing map are not easy. Some of us may feel we achieved little, as there is little concrete result. But still it feels like we worked hard: at getting to grips with new challenges ahead, brainstorming on what to do about them, networking for possible alliances. I for me have decided to do as suggested, and to focus on process and not immediately on result…. maybe it is early to set our marks. To me, the workshop seemed like a beginning: where to put our marks next? What are some common principles for the future? How and with whom can we join our forces for the future? I trust this blog will be one of the meeting places where we can follow the ongoings of this process. What will the 2009 episodes bring?

The registration for Share Fair is now open to all!

Read an earlier post on the Share Fair.

If you plan to join us submit your application on-line.

A detailed program will soon be published!

In our AAA discussions we argue the need to get our research results on line…but also we need to ensure their long-term preservation!

The UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has announced the availability of a new handbook created by its Preservation of Web Resources (PoWR) project. The book offers information for web managers, data professionals and those making decisions concerning the long-term preservation of online resources.

With thanks to Paul Neate, of Bioversity International for the tip!

The ICT-KM Program of the Consultative Groups on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and YPARD (Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development),  along with other partners organized a workshop to discuss priorities and develop an agenda for action through global collaboration in improving agricultural knowledge management, education and learning on 4 and 5 December 2008 at Maputo during the CGIAR AGM08.

The day and a half meeting was documented through social reporting with help of consultant Josien Kapma.
Social reporting is where a group of participants at an event interactively and jointly contribute to some form of reporting, in text, photos, images or video. The resulting “social report” is made accessible, usually online, as soon as possible, sometimes as a half-product. This allows others to join in, to extend, to adjust or remix.”

We started Day 1 with two key notes.

Steve Song, of Shuttleworth Foundation (formerly of Canada’s International Development Research Centre, where he led the ICT programs for Africa), was the first workshop presenter.
The increasing density of connections in the world changes the way we work, the way we think in a fundamental and qualitative way. I will talk about why that is true and what impact that may have on people and organizations. “

Professor Ekwamu Adipala was our next guest speaker. He coordinates the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe
The main thrust is that for Africa to participate in a global knowledge economy it must have a critical mass of well trained human capital and that is grossly lacking. The need remains on good professional discipline and depth, but more critically, on cross-cutting professional skills that allow the professionals to adapt to opportunities. “

After the two presentations, the 40 or so participants had conversations in groups about what they had heard and prepared questions to the speakers that were then addressed in plenary.

We ended the morning session with a Chat-Show to listen to more experiences of partners in the areas of KM, education and learning. Chat show host Peter Ballantyne used the  connectedness concept that Steve proposed in the morning to gather participant’s experiences.
The single one most important thing, according to the chat show guests: Collaboration between African University, non-African University and CGIAR, each sticking to its area; Explore ICTs to build self-directed learning; Unlock CG knowledge; ICTs for meaningful conversation with partners; Curriculum reform and mentoring;  Introduce new ICT’s, e.g the “voice web” to radio”.

In the afternoon, we broke out into three groups in order to allow participants to address in depth the issues they care about. One group worked on formal education, another group addressed the issue of rural learning communities and a third group explored possible entry points fro the CGIAR to work on KM strategies.

 Our social reporter gathered some feedback from participants after Day1: https://ictkm.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/impressions-of-the-first-day-km-education-and-learning-workshop-maputo/

On day two we used a Fishbowl dynamic to share interactively the discussions from the different working groups, for many the highlight of the event.

We ended the workshop going around the circle of participants and their take-aways.

Workshop photo gallery: http://www.flickr.com/groups/910900@N24/pool/ Thanks to Petr Kosina for his great shots.

In the context of this workshop GFAR invited us to submit organizational profiles in order to allow GFAR to do some assessment work. Participant organizations were asked to share their needs and priorities with regards to Agricultural Knowledge Sharing, Education and Learning. Concrete suggestions for action were also part of the form.

See the profiles:

Another great example of innovation to add to our AAA campaign: Get your research off the shelves!

A blog post in September on the ICT-KM AAA concept argued that a research-oriented organization such as the CGIAR cannot be satisfied just knowing that it has produced good research. It is critical to ensure that the knowledge or outputs this research produces is put to the best possible use. Using the same philosophy that questions how a crop grown in a lab can feed a hungry person, the issue here is to find the pathway that will take research information off of library shelves and out of hard drives and make sure it is available to its intended users – be they policy makers, researchers, extensionists or the farmers themselves.

Dr. Paul Van Mele of WARDA , the Africa Rice Center, in his recent article Making Science Work published on Rice Today, argues that the best agricultural research in the world won’t help a single farmer if it stays on the shelf. To ensure that good science gets real-world results, the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) and partners have developed educational tools as part of a Rice Rural Learning Campaign to communicate relevant science and to stimulate learning all. By promoting better access to scientific results, the campaign is helping African rice farmers and processors improve both rice productivity and marketing opportunities.
Dr. Van Mele and colleagues from UK-based Countrywise Communication will present their innovative use of rural radios and videos for improving farmers’ productivity in the Knowledge Fair event in Rome in January.

How do we know their approach works?  To assess the videos’ impact, 200 women were surveyed in Benin. After watching a video on parboiling rice, over 90% cleaned and dried their rice properly (compared with 20% in a group who did not watch the video), and 42% adopted improved rice parboiling (compared with 5% in the nonvideo group). Not only did rice quality improve, allowing the women to obtain a higher price, but they also learned to work better as a group.

The title “Making Science Work” says it all!

This booklet summarizes the project achievements of the Institutional Knowledge Sharing project of the ICT-KM Program in the areas of:

  • Capacitiy builing, M&E and learning;
  • Strategies and change management;
  • Problem solving and good practices.

The booklet also tells the story of the three pilto projects that have been supported at CIFOR, IRRI, and WorldFish:

  • Transforming IRRI’s  research data into global public goods
  • The storymercial: Fishing for donor support and partnerships
  • Strategic planning at CIFOR

Download the booklet (850 kb)

bikeracer)

(photo credit: bikeracer)

On the second and last day of our Maputo workshop we wanted to to hear back from the groups. We used the fishbowl technique: the group listens in as three participants (sitting in the middle of the circle: in the fishbowl) question each other about what was discussed in their groups. Anyone can move to the middle. Read more about this and other methodologies in the KS toolkit.

Although at first somewhat uneasy, later on the Fishbowl worked really well to have a more conversational, more open and more participative summary and digest of the group work.

Here are some notes on the Fishbowl session: notes-on-fishbowl-session-maputo.

Here are some notes of the last session of the KM group, about capacity building: capacity-building-and-km-exploring-commonalities.

UPDATE 31 December: another post on this session is here

Nadia capturing participants expectations

Nadia capturing participants' expectations

During introductions the first morning

During introductions the first morning

After grouping the post-its

After grouping the post-its

zooming in

zooming in

On the first day of the workshop participants thought about their expectations for the workshop -and shared them. Nadia captured what people said on post-it notes and slightly grouped them. This was the result. See more pictures here.

Expectations

Networking
New opportunities
Meaningful conversations

How to attract investment

Inter-institutionally
Needs of all actors present
Institutional mandates

Partnerships
Collaboration and Synergies
Coalitions
Work with others
Build community
Develop partnerships
Links with other orgs
Partnerships in Africa
Private sector and intermediaries

KS and Learning and Change
Understand KS better
Effective KS
Learn about KM from other organizations
Support culture of learning and KS
Learn innovation tools of ICT-KM
Learn concepts
Learning Models
Current thinking on ICT-KM in CGIAR
Learn about ICT-KM Program
How KS can be implemented in the CG?

Opportunities
How to make use of strategic opportunities?
Role of ICT-KM in change?
New thinking in communication?
KM approach for CG

Action
Get busy in the same direction
Honest and realistic practical actions
Moving this forward

Outreach / Uptake
Learn on how to get messages out
Explore barriers to reaching target groups
How to talk to all at the same time
What beyond publications in journals
How to get research into use?
Getting info of CG out
Ways to explain what we do

Capacity Building
Use of ICTs for Capacity Building
Link ICT-KM with cap. Building

Education
Universities to have two way links to KS
Understand how K products be used in education

Farmers
New models for farmer learning
ICT-KM to work with farmers – new developments
Farmer knowledge

At the end of the workshop as a kind of evaluation participants were asked to comment on the workshop. This is what they said.

Evaluation

Increased confidence in our group. (opinions, rich discussions)
Good sense about the KM community
Happy to seeing space / role for YPARD
Happy to see other methods. Chat show did not really work, fish bowl was great. Too much technology focus with first presentation. Output through WP -brilliant.
2 sides of the coin. technology and new young generation. positive about bringing universities to KM community.
Content versus IT. Information is not Knowledge.
Welcoming idea of CLO. More structuralized collaboration between KM and capacity building.
Strengthening relationships. ILAC & ICT-KM helping each other in the change process on complementary issues
Great idea to merge Agric Ed. &KM connection with change process. work systematically together.
So much overlapping  & combined interests
A lot of necessary conversations. Need to think about scaling up process how to respond broader / bigger issues
Reminded about what he left behind when moving from a large organisation to a smaller.
Hoping little but more profound talks on KM strategy
Separate groups wouldn’t have benefitted from the outside views. Moving towards the cross polination of perspectives
Great diversity (org & geographically) a lot of new ideas. Interesting example of social reporting.

At several occassions during the KM, E & L Workshop in Maputo, we split up in three groups: Knowledge Management (mostly from a CGIAR perspective), communicating and learning with rural communities, and Education (how to reform African universities).
In each group, notes were taken by “reporters”. Herewith we share some of these notes.

Group on Agricultural Education

Identifying needs in Agricultural Education. Focus: Public Institutions
Action oriented approach: What opportunities for collaboration?

Key Questions to help in Action Planning
-How to ensure knowledge generated is part of Knowledge sharing web?
-How do we capture the needs/demands/ of the beneficiaries?
-how do we capture the information and resources that can address the needs of the beneficiaries.

Check institutions with best practices in KM to adopt.
1. Conduct regular particpatory needs analysis to identify learning needs
setting objectives

curriculum development

    implementation
    M&E
    Promote cost sharing among stakeholders.

2. Review and identify policies ^policy frameworks, institutional systems, resources and structures neede to perform university fuctions optimally.
Involve CG centres & research institutes to ensure quality in research to gain adequate competencies by the learners.

3. Review teaching and learning practices to meet expected learning outcomes.

4. Review the KM systems of instittions in order to identiffy best practices to customise to our environment. Develop criteria for our best practices.
Roles and responsabilities of partners
Follow up of decisions taken: what mechanisms. timelines. Validation.

Wrap – Up session Agricultural Education

Needs assessment
Verify what already has been done
Who is dong what to satisfy the needs
What more needs to be done at global and regional levels
What mechanisms should be used
Inventory of learning resources in agriculture
Coordination of capacity development and education in the CGIAR, FAO etc
Exchange of staff and students to support learning on ICT / e-learning
Intermediary products (print and electronic) of CGIAR and other organizations made available to shape and contribute to agricultural education
Need to develop an investment agenda by the universities.

——————————————————

Group on Rural Communities (by Petr Kosina)

Group on Rural Communities (by Petr Kosina)

Communication with rural communities

How old model relates to new technologies.
How can experiences be exchanged with communities

community has to be directly involved in the process
private sector is involved through telephony and ICT providers, farmers themselves,
the privatization of agric knowledge (generated by public institutes) has made tremendous impact on the lives of poor people. eg no tillage

Organizations need to change their values, structure. Part of their evaluation should include what they contribute to the communities’ progress and development.

* Reward system
* Accountability
* Monitor knowledge flow

See more notes on the first session here.

KM group (by Petr Kosina)

KM group (by Petr Kosina)

Knowledge Management group

strategy for CG, particularly in the face of changes coming up

what is KM within CG. where does it stop? at the organizational boundaries of CG?

next step: determining what scope will be addressed, in this group
what principles can be expected
something concrete for future action

—–
Q: Are the problems faced by CG also faced by others? we would be wanting to give generic recommendations.
did you consider

how to deal with parters and collaborations
boundary spanning in a potentially new CG model
with other centers and other actors

Principles

transparent decision-making
accessible and available research
applicable and applied research results
people’s ideas count
connect people

Actions
Enrica- Promote the triple A framework
Enrica- Offer support to centres to apply Triple A
ILAC- collaborative research assessment
CIP- parnership research
AVIDC- Web2.0 to develop vegtable inormtion for Africa
CIAT- communication strategy
CIP- digital inentory project
Online training for Web2.0 tools
Institutionalise CC
Green Ink- free strategy feedback
2009, Share 10 Success stories and external success/failure stories and Front Office

Priorities in Community Learning
(what do we want to be doing tomorrow)

Ideas of Activities –> position paper for the consortium
Provide feedback to other groups
Use opportunity to talk among capacity building and KM

See also Enrica’s post on this session.

some snapshots of the day, by Petr Kosina, click for more

some snapshots of the day, by Petr Kosina, click for more


I asked a couple of participants to give their impressions of the first day in a few words.

Warwick: intriguing, questioning, epiphanic.

Simon: Lively, relaxing, enjoyable. I had fun! I did not wish once to be on the beach instead.

Monica: Discussions were passionate. Sense of uncertainty: Who will be doing this, who will pick this up? But glad I was here.

Bala: Rich learning experience, inspirational. But a bit lost between the two agendas in one workshop: 1) education and learning and 2) KM. Will we go in one direction for further action, or in two?

snapshots of the day, by Petr Kosina, click for more

snapshots of the day, by Petr Kosina, click for more


Joanna: Cross-fertilization. Interesting mix of people. Valuable.

Harry: Good ideas but lack of integrating (what will you do tomorrow?)

Nadia: stimulating to talk to other people with same goals. Some direction to common goals. Manage to find agreement on goals.

 is the motto of our ICT-KM program…. this video, produced by IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, is a great example of the power of connecting people with technology to share knowledge…

You will see many of these examples at the Share Fair which will take place in Rome in January.

PS: thanks Peter from www.theroadtothehorizon.org for the link

Susan kindly shared with us an article she wrote with input from her participating colleagues from ILRI during day 1 of the workshop.  

 

Whither Research Communications?

Should they be about
building ‘knowledge management systems’
or holding more and better ‘conversations’?

Susan MacMillan, Liz Ogutu, Boni Moyo and Richard Fulss.

Steve Song, of Shuttleworth Foundation (formerly of Canada’s International Develop-ment Research Centre, where he led the ICT programs for Africa), was the first workshop presenter. He described two changes in communications. First, Carl Rogers helped change the notion of information as a static thing to produce or ‘get’ to a ‘moving’ phenomenon to participate in. Second, science is no longer perceived as a ‘union with truth’ but rather as a social enterprise.

But by far the biggest change, Song said, is our new connectedness. If you are connected in an interactive network, more isn’t just ‘more’. ‘More’ in this case is different.

Song described ‘The Birthday Paradox’ to illustrate this point. Most of us think that among 35 people, the chance of two people sharing the same birthday is little. That is not true. Among 5 people, the number of connections is 10, not 5. Among 10 people, you have 45 opportunities for connections. And among 35 people, there exist literally hundreds of connections.

Being ‘density connected’ through mobile networks and the internet offers brand new opportunities. We need to build two different kinds of capital to go to scale with our research innovations: ‘bonding capital’ and ‘bridging capital’. The unprecedented density of today’s networks allows us to do this.

Over the last 5 years, people have started 180 million blogs. In the last 2 years, the Twitter website has become an important new form of micro-blogging—rather like sms-ing for the web—that limits communications to 160 characters. This has become a profoundly using tool for bridging capital. People are subscribing to Twitter feeds from others. In just 2 years it has grown exponentially, with  3 million ‘tweets’ now produced every day. Several of the media analysis pieces focus on how Twitter is being used more frequently than blogs to share information. That makes sense, given the fast-moving nature of the events. Twitter’s a strong tool for real-time reporting, especially given the ease of posting from mobile platforms – we saw friends like Juliana Rotich reach for Twitter when reporting on violence in the Rift Valley of Kenya earlier this year.
Here is Steve Song on his blog about Twitter:
‘There are more obvious ICT-related examples of constraint leading to innovation such as the 160 character constraint of SMS messages leading to an entirely new form of expression. This innovation has helped accelerate the growth of similarly-constrained microblogging services like Twitter.  In fact, the discipline enforced by Twitter and text messaging has proven so popular that we see proposals like five.sentenc.es which propose to constrain email to a more distilled format.’
http://manypossibilities.net/

For me this can also be seen as an incremental edging up of the quality and clarity threshold for communication on the Internet.  As we are overwhelmed with increasingly amounts of information, our tolerance for poorly crafted, excessively wordy communication decreases.
The average user of the web is not your average user. A few people provide massive contributions while most remain consumers doing a few interesting things. That is completely normal communications behaviour.

‘Conversation’ may be a better term than ‘knowledge management’ for what we want to do. Cory Doctorow, an open source guru, says: ‘Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.’ Seth Godin says, ‘It’s not about whether you blog or not but whether you are part of the conversations of others.’ John Seely-Brown transforms the Cartesian notion of ‘I think, therefore I am’ into ‘We participate, therefore we are’.
Here is Ethan Zuckerman on his famous blog, My Heart’s in Accra, on knowledge management systems vs short videos:
Inside [the Spanish telecommunications giant] Telefonica, Domingo’s hoping to unlock information and increase communication between members of his team by aggressively embracing social media. Rather than trying to dig ideas out of a giant document repository, the knowledge management system that so many large companies have embraced, he’s instituted an internal video sharing service. Researchers working on projects get two minutes to explain their work to their colleagues – some break the rules and run long, but most as well-behaved, and it’s possible to get the gist of most projects with just a few seconds of video, making it far easier to surf through than a huge document repository. (I assume they’re heavily tagged and annotated to make them highly searchable.) Using Yammer, 350 members of his team share ideas on a Twitter-like network that’s closed to the company, and encourages employees to share what they’re working on and what problems they could use help with.

http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/

And here is Ethan Zuckerman on necessity being the mother of invention:
Innovation comes from constraint. And most of us aren’t smart enough to know what to do with a blank canvas.
My argument was that innovation often comes from unusual and difficult circumstances—constraints—and that it’s often wiser to look for innovation in places where people are trying to solve difficult, concrete problems rather than where smart people are sketching ideas on blank canvases.
I offered seven rules that appear to help explain how (some) developing world innovation proceeds:
• Innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
• Don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)
• Embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)
• Innovate on existing platforms (We’ve got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)
• Problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)
• What you have matters more than what you lack (If you’ve got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)
• Infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa – see my writings on incremental infrastructure.)
http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/10/17/innovating-from-constraint/
Participating in web conversations allows people to transcend time and space. Social networking tools and their related meritocracy processes allow people to find people key to solving their problems. The reality as well as the assumption is that somebody else out there has the key to unlocking your puzzle. And if you do not use these web tools, others will, and they will get there (to solutions) before you. That’s the new reality.

Here is David Tait on his blog on innovation in Africa:

Provide skills, not just finished technologies. The current revolution in design for developing countries is the notion of co-creation, of teaching the skills necessary to create the solution, rather than simply providing the solution. By involving the community throughout the design process, you can help equip people to innovate and contribute to the evolution of the product. Furthermore, they acquire the skills needed to create solutions to a much wider variety of problems. They are empowered.

http://designinafrica.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/innovation-in-africa-tips/

The mathematics of connectedness mean that mobile networks are enablers. In the next web generation, for example, information and people will find you as often as you will find information and people. There is an explosion of sms-ing in developing countries, with new tools now bridging the internet and mobile phones. In 5 years you won’t know the difference between these tools. Twitter is used on internet and web. There is a merger of these platforms.

You have to leave traces of yourself on the internet so people can find you. Leave breadcrumbs online and develop an online personality. We have to develop the skills to ‘drive’ in this new world, so we are using the wealth of roads and road signs rather than being overwhelmed by them.

Those who are well connected have access to a ‘meritocracy of ideas’ that hugely facilitates learning. For example, ‘The Giant Pool of Money, an episode of ‘This American Life’ broadcast on National Public Radio, was a cogent explanation of the global credit crunch, a highly lucid way of explaining this that was recycled broadly on the web.

Other cool stuff mentioned
Technorati: http://technorati.com/
Technorati is a kind of blog-ometer of the internet; it measures the success of blogs,  providing a kind of meritocracy of blogging.

Digg: http://digg.com/
Digg also allows the most useful sites to rise to the top of the pile. People discover and share content from anywhere on the web by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories. Voting stories up and down is the site’s cornerstone function. Many stories get submitted every day, but only the most Dugg stories appear on the front page.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/
Facebook, the internet’s largest social network, gives people the power to share and makes the world more open and connected. Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. Most of Facebook’s features depend on the idea that there are people in your life that you like to stay in touch with, keep up with, and generally connect with. On Facebook, whether these people are best friends, family, coworkers, or acquaintances, once you connect to them, they are considered Facebook friends.

Quake-Catcher Network: http://qcn.stanford.edu/
Quake-Catcher Network is like a seismograph that can measure lateral motion. It is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers.
With your help, the Quake-Catcher Network can provide better understanding of earthquakes and give early warning to schools and emergency response systems.

Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons Licenses, which allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of other creators. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from ‘All Rights Reserved’ to ‘Some Rights Reserved’.

OpenROSA: http://www.openrosa.org/
OpenROSA is an initiative for data capture that will work on a variety of networks. The OpenROSA consortium reduces duplication of effort among the many groups working on mobile data collection systems by fostering open-source, standards-based tools for mobile data collection, aggregation, analysis, and reporting.

MXit: http://www.mxit.com/web/index.htm
MXit is a free instant messaging program for your mobile phone and PCs. You can use it chat to other MXit users on their mobiles and PCs, anywhere in the world, for free. It enables you to send and receive text messages to and from mobile phones and PCs via the Internet using GPRS or 3G, rather than by using standard SMS technology. So each time you chat you are allowed up to 1000 characters at a fraction of the cost of an SMS.

Learning from successes in agricultural development is now more urgent than ever. Progress in feeding the world’s millions has slowed, while the challenge of feeding its future millions remains enormous and is subject to new uncertainties in the global food and agricultural system. To learn and share lessons from past successes, IFPRI, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is leading an initiative titled “Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development” to document evidence on what works in agriculture—what sorts of policies, programs, and investments in agricultural development have actually reduced hunger and poverty.

IFPRI invite nominations highlighting interventions that have had a significant impact on food security, including those that have empowered women and vulnerable groups to improve their livelihoods. Nominations may include, for example, research and extension programs that have improved on-farm yields and outputs for small-scale farmers; public investment programs that have helped food-insecure consumers meet their daily nutritional requirements and accumulate assets; community-led efforts that have conserved soil, water, forests, and biodiversity; or market-based interventions that have strengthened the ability of small-scale farmers and food-insecure consumers to gain access to production inputs, rural services, and agricultural commodities.

You can submit a proposal at http://www.ifpri.org/millionsfed/call.asp . Call open until 31 December

Learning is also about celebrating successes!

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