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!

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