Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


The workshop was only the beginning hopefully to more communication and exchange among the CG colleagues – thank you for bringing us closer togetherquote from a workshop participant

In-between all this important and exciting traffic on our blog, I am coming back to our social media online workshop to share the results of the participants evaluation.
15 of the 30 participants replied to the survey, which seems like the maximum you can get in those days of evaluation overload. 😉

The workshop was rated excellent by 57% and good by 36%.

Here is a summary of the workshop evaluation:

  • 73% of participants say that after participating in this workshop they have increased their understanding of social media principles and tools?
  • Usefulness of each activity and discussion focus: The lively welcome and introduction session was very useful for 64%. All participants found the tools exploration or very useful (50%) or useful (50%).  The suggested discussion on the opportunities of social media for the new CGIAR didn’t fully kick off, maybe because the 2-week workshop was really short. Only 36% found it useful. The teleconferences and the discussion summaries were useful for those who participated or looked into it.
  • Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, Photo-,Video-, and Slide Sharing as well as social networking sites (i.e. facebook) are the social media tools that most participants already use. After the workshop the following tools triggered interest:  Micro Blogging, the use of social media for organisational web sites, social reporting, social media listening and social media for new e-newsletters, as well as social media strategy M&E.
  • Participants found the Moodle platform good in terms of ease of use, connectivity, look and feel, and structure.
  • 65% scored facilitation excellent, 29% good.
  • For the majority (85%) the size of the group was just right. The interaction with other participants could be better: 50% found it good, 36% average.
  • Half of the participants state that they did make useful contacts during the workshop.

ICT-KM is currently thinking about offering two more social media workshops for the larger community, including researchers, partners, and development practitioners. This time the workshop would be 3-week long to respond to the mayor suggestion for improvement: Give more time for the tools exploration.

Stay tuned….

Advertisements

And no, this is not that sort of blog.

Enrica Porcari

Enrica Porcari

“If we expose ourselves to alternative avenues of communication, such as the innovative and social media tools that are now available to everyone, we can get our messages out to audiences that we haven’t tapped into before,” said Enrica Porcari, CGIAR CIO.

And she should know, because she practices what she preaches. Just visit the ICT-KM Program’s blog (which is probably where you’re reading this) or Twitter space to see how active she and her staff are in getting Program messages out to as wide an audience as possible.

Enrica, who is also the Program’s Leader, was talking during a short interview after the conclusion of the CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop held in Penang, Malaysia, last week.

“I came here because the Program’s work is very much in synergy with the work of the communicators,” she said. “And I wanted to show them that there are alternatives to the official media release. These days, it’s all about social media tools, something the Program explored with the workshop participants during an online workshop a few weeks ago. That’s why the lunchtime sessions were requested during this workshop, so that participants could see first-hand the tools that were demonstrated online.”

Twittering and Yammering
Indeed, the first such session was so popular, that the CGIAR communicators have now signed onto Twitter and Yammer.

“It’s going to take them a little while to adopt it,” conceded Enrica. “There are some people who haven’t been exposed to such tools before, but there is also a new generation of people coming into the CGIAR who basically grew up with this medium. So these tools are becoming more popular, and we’re seeing a lot of success stories. Although there’s not a specific set of tools or approaches that will replace the traditional printed media, we want to tap into other networks that can help distribute our stories to even more people, and help us ‘hear’ what other people have to say. It’s almost like using a network to get to other networks. Some of these methods can also be used to receive and send out messages about the revitalizing process the CGIAR is presently undergoing.”

Well received
Enrica came away from the workshop feeling encouraged by the responsiveness of the communicators.

“There was a warm reception to new ideas,” she said. “People were willing to explore and hear enough about them,” she said. “It’s very encouraging to see such openness. This is something I appreciate within the CGIAR: the ability of staff to innovate and adopt innovations, while seeing it as an opportunity and not a threat.”

The new CGXchange
During the workshop, Enrica also had an opportunity to conduct a session on the new CGXchange.

CGXchange 2.0 is a response to a need within the CGIAR to provide avenues for people to collaborate both within the System as a whole and with their partners,” she said.  “In the past, people have asked us to show them how to develop proposals, connect with others, set up online workspaces, etc. So we thought the Program could fill that need.CGX 2.0 is more like a lighthouse, a place you can trust, where you can explore applications, try things out, and get guidance and suggestions to suit your needs. We also provide tutorials on how to use the various applications and tools.”

The old CGXchange
Although GXchange is no longer an Intranet for the entire CGIAR System, the concept is still valid and the site has just been put on a back burner for a while.

“We were ahead of our time,” explained Enrica, “and we had problems finding common ground with regards to the site’s content. We’re now focusing on the demand for collaborative spaces. CGX 2.0 has just had its soft launch. It has been populated with some material and is now available on the Web. There’s also a space reserved for CGIAR staff on CGX 2.0, where they can access tools for which we have licenses. We’ve obtained a lot of powerful tools at a relatively low cost.”

Not the only resource in town
“Obviously, there are other applications available, but the ones that make up CGX 2.0 have been requested more and more. It all goes back to our principles. We want to be engaged with the larger community. We want to be partners, contributors and receivers of ideas from others who have the same needs. I feel the CGIAR is becoming more and more referred to as a reliable resource of information and knowledge. We’re becoming a trusted player in this arena, and CGX 2.0 has a role to play in this. Indeed, one of the important indicators of success is manifest when people from the same field as you come to you because they value and trust what you say. I’m excited about the possibilities.”

And all you have to do is expose yourself!

Microblogging is a form of blogging based on short posts. A real-time communication platform, microblogs are short, tight snippets of information that tell others what you’re doing, where you’re going or even how you’re feeling at any given moment.

In a social context, you could essentially be keeping tabs on your friends’ activities and vice versa, within a private group or publicly on the Web. Several microblogging services are available: we’re featuring two popular ones in this post.

twitter Twitter is a networked web and mobile phone based shared short messaging system. It allows users to write brief text updates (max 140 characters) and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, MP3 or the Web (source).

You can open a free account at twitter.com.

yammer_logo_smallYammer is a similar tool for organizations, that allows quick networking and information sharing, with the added benefit of connecting easily within the common organization email domain (i.e. cgiar.org). Note: if you have a valid @cgiar.org email address, sign up to join the growing cgiar network on Yammer.

How can you use microblogging to your advantage?

Having started out as a “What are you doing now?” social communication tool, microblogging holds great potential at work. Whether you see it as an annoying distraction or powerful communication tool, it is in the hands of the user, you. 

Here’s why you should consider using microblogging at work:

  • Brevity. First, the 140 character limit on your microblog forces you to scale down your update to just the facts. Post an idea, a useful link*, ask for quick feedback all in less than a minute. This works in your favor because the responses are just as brief and to the point. (*Last week I mentioned learning about tinyurl.com. TinyURL is an excellent tool that helps you shrink a long url into a tiny one which you can then share with others via Twitter, Yammer or other instant messengers).
     
  • As an informal communication tool
    • Announcements to promote events/ activities
    • Asking for quick feedback and posting short updates create an informal structure that gets your point across without getting bogged down by more formal means of communications.
       
  • Updates from colleagues you ‘follow’. This feature is really the crux of microblogging. Whom you follow determines the type of updates you gain access to. By intelligently selecting the right people, you are now privy to their experiences, ideas and insights. You have the potential to ‘mine’ their resources as your followers ‘mine’ yours. What are the benefits?
    • You get breaking news. Real time conversations can be very revealing.
    • Networking is easier. The informal setting allows quick introductions and gets you straight onto their microblogs.
    • Connect within a community at work, increase visibility and engage with partners and colleagues.
       
  • Less email. Microblogging on Twitter or Yammer reduces the need for email exchanges, which help de-clutter your inbox. The versatility in sharing your messages through a variety of ways reduces the dependency on email access.
     
  • Real-time sharing during events (e.g. conferences, training events, meetings). It is one of the key tools for social reporting, i.e. “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.” (explore the  ‘social reporting’ tag on this blog). Microblogging during events increases visibility and outreach of the knowledge that is generated at a rapid pace during face-to-face meetings, and it helps build a level of engagement and participation that goes beyond physical presence.
Why some people love Twitter

Why some people love Twitter

 

How to be a ‘savvy’ microblogger

  • Post updates that add value. This could be an idea, interesting links and shortcuts that have appeal but do not warrant a blog post.
  • Respond to microblogs when you have a contribution to make. You don’t have to interact on all posts that are shared.
  • Exercise caution when posting updates. In a more public group, you may want to hold back on personal details.
  • Choose whom you ‘follow’ wisely

Who’s been microblogging

  • Conference share and “back channel.” In the recent ShareFair in Rome, several participants twittered live and during the sessions to share insights and highlights with their twitter networks. Current example? Colleagues are now twitting live from the African Geospatial Week in Nairobi (with special postings on the Yammer cgiar network).
  • Incorporation of Twitter in CIMMYT’s blog. The ICT-KM blog (where you are now) incorporates the Twitter updates on the sidebar.
  • Media giants like BBC and The New York Times use Twitter to post headlines and story links (NYT and BBC)

Have you had any experience you’d like to share about microblogging? Perhaps you’ve identified other uses for microblogging at work. We would love to hear from you.

Till next week!

Resources 

Get these links and more from the microblogging tag at CGXchange on Del.icio.us

   Srikant Vasan, BMGF  

Srikant Vasan, BMGF

An interview with Srikant Vasan, Senior Program Officer for Agricultural Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and member of the AGCommons steering committee. Now at the AGCommons meeting in Nairobi

Q: What’s the Gates Foundation’s major interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

A: Agriculture is your prototypical geospatially referenced industry.

Q: Um, translation, please?

A: In other words, for agriculture, location is critically important. It matters where your farm is, what type of soil is there, where the water table is, what your climate patterns are, the distance to your markets. That’s why maps are interesting. The other piece is: Agriculture is very technology and information intensive. We’re big believers in the power of science and technology to improve outcomes. So for both these reasons, we think of geo-spatial information as a key piece of the puzzle.

Q: How are you using GIS?

A: First of all, location intelligence forms a key piece of several grants across our portfolio, from AfSIS (building digital soil maps) to HarvestChoice (enabling key analyses using geospatial information in agricultural development to AWhere (creating local weather data layers to better inform farming decisions). Second, my colleagues in the policy and statistics sub-initiative are looking at primary “Statistics from Space” data and filling gaps, to feed policymakers’ decisions, and enable better crop models using remote sensing data. My focus, though, is based on the assumption that there’s a lot of data already– but it doesn’t get to the field. We want to help data cross boundaries–boundaries within and between institutions. And also to disseminate information out to the field and closer to the farmer. I’m interested in seeing a transition from a focus on data to a focus on solutions. This is happening in bits and pieces. Why should a farmer care what we’re doing How can this data affect a farmer’s life? How can it ultimately improve incomes on the small farm, the dollar-a-day farm?

Q: So how DO you get information to farmers?

A: A good example is Mali Shambani here in Kenya. It’s a radio program that reaches 2.2 milion farmers weekly with information they can use directly.

Q: Not very high tech….

A: It doesn’t need to be cool or fancy technology to be useful! Radio is fine by me. We’re also exploring using cellphones. There’s a model we’re looking into of farmer helplines: people can just call up and ask about their problem and get an answer. It’s showing good early signs of success. Video works, too: local mediators video what successful farmers are doing, then gather a group of 25 to come and watch the video together and talk. In terms of adoption of improved methods per cost – early indicators show that it is up to 10 times as cost effective as regular extension services. We’re planning to support it. Now they are dealing with 1500 farmers. How can you scale that up to 100 times that? And how do you show you have a viable model while doing so?

Q: What are other focus areas of the Foundation for agriculture?

A: The agricultural development initiative has four subdivisions: science and technology, farmer productivity, market access, and policy and statistics. We have 200-plus grants across those four initiatives.

Q: Do you work a lot with the CGIAR centres?

A: The foundation views the CG centers as key partners in our efforts across the board; CG centres are key grantees in all four of these areas.

Q: What is your background, and why are you at the Gates Foundation?

A: I’m an IT entrepreneur, having started, built and sold two companies. After selling the second company in 2007, I wanted to find a way to use my skills and experiences to try to ‘give back’, which is what led to this role at the Gates Foundation. I try to find ways to use IT to turbocharge our efforts to help smallholder farmers.

We want to make sure we let you know what is happening in Nairobi. We are twittering from the AGCommons meeting at www.twitter.com/ictkm and we are preparing a number of interviews with the participants. We want to hear from ‘those around the table’, we are giving them a space to talk…. stay tuned….you will read their stories here.

On the third day of the joint CSI and AGCommons workshops is AGCommons Day. Today the focus shifts from looking mainly at the CSI community to looking at the broader AGCommons project.

On the agenda will be:

  • Presentation on Program goals, objectives, governance [Srikant Vasan, BMGF];
  • Phase 1 activities and deliverables [Enrica Porcari, CGIAR]
  • Presentation on Phase1: learning/consultation process, Result of scan, report on West Africa consultation [Jennifer Barnes, Rolf de By, KAi Sonder]
  •  AGCommons Quick Win Process and Outcomes- Overview and presentations
  • Panel discussion
  • AGCommons Partner model and resource mobilisation efforts
  • Building AGCommons as a sustainable community
  • Activity to look at and identify key opportunities for AGCommons
  • Report out and group prioritisation of opportunities
  • Poster session

Looks like a long and exciting day ahead.

Check out our social reporting on this blog, on our Flickr site, Twitter and Yammer (for CGIAR staff)