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,, 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:

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: 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!

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