Social media is using the Internet to collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, and causes we care about, powered by web based tools.” – [We Media]

Background
From the learnings from the successful pilot (See blog posts about the event), and second  Social Media Online Workshop, the CGIAR through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer a new online opportunity for social media explorations, this time with the specific objective to embed social media in participants’ contexts of international development work. This fully online workshop will run from September 7 to 25, 2009.

Social media offers development practitioners and organizations a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents, listen and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders. If facilitates collaboration in the lab and in the field.

Social media also offers so many options that it can be overwhelming. This workshop focuses on exploration of social media from some specific development contexts. So instead of saying “there is a tool, how can we use it,” this workshop seeks to answer “we need to do this activity, how can social media support it and under what circumstances.”

If you ask yourself questions like these, you might consider joining the workshop:

  • How can I support collaboration in wide-spread teams?
  • How can I provide opportunities for open dialogue with my stakeholders?
  • How do we support communities of practice and thematic networks, online and offline?
  • How do we share our content and knowledge effectively online?
  • How can we make use of social media under low-bandwidth constraints?

This online workshop is designed for researchers, research and development communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners.

Objectives of the workshop
This three week online workshop will provide a collaborative, peer based learning opportunity for you, as development practitioners, to address if and how social media can help address your needs, opportunities or challenges related to collaboration, participation, or communication. By the end of the workshop you should be able to understand and analyze the opportunities that social media can offer in the view of your specific research and development context, identify some potential tools and create a plan of action.

During this workshop you will:

  • Identify possibles usages of social media through small group synchronous and full group asynchronous conversation, exploring opportunities and constraints related to your work.
  • Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
  • Explore 2-3 different social media tools which may be appropriate for your context.
  • Start to plan the implementation of one or more social media tools that fit our work environment.
  • Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

  • Week 1 to 2 – Context and Application of Social Media: Introductions, and telephone conversations in small groups to assess your research for/and development context and identify opportunities for social media practices.
  • Week 2 to 3 – Testing Social Media Tools. Explore select social media tools in small groups.
  • Finalizing week 3 – Reflection for Action. Reflect on individual and group learning of the past two weeks and  create an initial plan for social media implementation.

Maximum Number of participants: 18

Language: English

Participant Requirement/Dedicated time: This workshop offers an in-depth exploration of social media tools adapted to your specific context with personalized support and work in small groups. To do this, we ask the following of each participant:

  • Organize your agenda to dedicate up to 1-1/2 hours per day during the three weeks. If you will be on travel and won’t have time in a particular week, save some time for “catch up.” If you will not be able to participate in more than one week, please consider taking a future workshop. It will become hard to catch up after missing significant time.
  • Participate in weekly telecons of  60-90 minutes. These are scheduled for the afternoons for those in Europe and Africa, mornings for North and South American, and evenings for Asia. We will try to accomodate all time zones as best we can.
  • Read and respond to blog posts
  • Explore at least 2 tools
  • Reflect and share your learnings on the workshop blog and wiki
  • Complete a pre- and post-workshop survey.

Open to: CGIAR staff, not for profit partners, agricultural and development organizations. Individuals, consultants and members of for profit organizations may join on a space available basis as the unsubsidized rate. (See costs below)

Platform: Blog, Skype and/or telephone, email and wiki. Our teleconference platform allows you to call for free using Skype. If you choose to use a landline for the conference calls, you will be responsible for long-distance costs. You should have regular access to the Internet. Some tools may not be accessible for those with low bandwidths. You may need to check with your IT department, as some web-based services you wish to explore may be currently blocked in your organization and you may need to seek support to access them.

Facilitators: Nancy White (Full Circle Associates), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CGIAR-CIAT), Pete Shelton (IFPRI)

Cost: USD$ 850. Individuals who work for for-profits or consultants: USD$ 1050.

Contact: Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger[at]cgiar.org) for questions and subscription by August, 10 at the latest.

Here is the flow of blog posts that document our recent social media workshop:

  1. Workshop Announcement
  2. Introductions Summary: A Mind Map
  3. Conference Call 1A Summary
  4. Conference Call 1B Summary
  5. The Challenge of introducing new tools: About attitudes and preferences
  6. The web site is not the community: it’s the people
  7. You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!
  8. Workshop Evaluation

For information about social media tools, please go to the KS Toolkit at www.kstoolkit.org.

You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!

In the very recently released final Institutional KS Project report, one of the lessons I am sharing is the one about Facilitation:

Facilitate: We are not experts, but facilitators for research for development. Hence, the effort to cultivate networks and relationships in accordance with relevant thematic inputs has paid off. The decision to share unfinished content was good: it encouraged dialogue; opportunely delivered useful material; and left time and space for adaptation, improvements, and adoption.

It was not surprising that we had a discussion in the recent social media workshop around the issues of publishing unfinished content. A couple of workshop participants wanted to be convinced about the usefulness of frequent publishing of unfinished content. Some of the worries they raised were:

  • Unfinished can mean factually wrong, and can include spelling and grammatical mistakes. There is a risk of going off subject.
  • Unfinished can also reflect badly on the image of the organization, and can bring legal problems.
  • Social media like blogs contain often too much information with diluted quality which might confuse the public about the messages we’re trying to convey.  We need to make sure that content is focused and has an editorial quality.

Now, those points about control and rigorous editing are all very relevant.  So, why did the workshop facilitators argue in favor of sharing unfinished work? ¨It depends on the context¨, says Nancy White.  ¨Are we representing ourselves to the world, or collaborating with peers? When we seek to work with partners and diverse staff, social media allows us to start a new way of working, of learning in public, of not always knowing, or ‘being right´. If we want to increase participation, we need to get comfortable with typos – especially with people working in languages other than their first language, and with stuff that is “in process” and not polished and complete. Messy? Yes¨, says Nancy.

This is so true for us who work in the development sector.  Participatory approaches have shown how the chances of adoption of technologies increase if the process of their creation is shared and if there is room for improvement and adaptation. Social media allows us to think, improve and adapt online. Together.

Below I summarize some opposite keywords that I found in our workshop discussion:

Unfinished vs. Finished
Conversation vs. Lecture
Community vs. Expert
Learning vs. Teaching or Selling
Collaboration vs. Representation
Diversity vs. Quality
Process vs. Product

Related post: Unfinished is good news (Learning Alliances)

Social media workshop evaluation

We, the workshop facilitators invited participants to review the activities through comments on the workshop platform, as well as through an online survey. We have set up surveys for all the workshops in the past. We did our own facilitator debrief as well. Here are some conclusions and ideas that emerge from the synthesis of the three types of reviews:

  • If we compare the results below with those from the evaluation of the first social media workshop, we can say that they are very similar and overall very positive. Respondents rated the workshop as excellent or good. However the group in the first workshop was smaller and more homogeneous, and the feeling of the participants was of better interaction. It seems that we should consider to limit the number of participants, perhaps to a maximum of 20.
  • Among the useful learnings, participants mention the importance of a needs and use analysis before setting up an application; The well shared resources, typology and context of tools; The useful discussion around social media practices for low-bandwidth issues; The reflections about social media strategies and the integration of tools. Some were happy to get into the use of specific tools like slide share, social reporting, delicious, twitter, wikis, the clock method for teleconference calls; The idea behind: sharing knowledge
  • In a next opportunity the workshop facilitators would like to make it more conversational, less focused on questions and replies. We would like to design a third social media workshop with a shift of focus from tools to contextual challenges i.e. :  Low bandwidth, networking / community development / stakeholder involvement, communication of research results, collaborative research / teamwork, online meetings, etc. This could make the workshop more conversational, bring in different audiences and weave in tools as they arise.

Results from the Survey:

17 participants replied  and 6 rated it as excellent (38%), and 9 (56%) as good, 1 as average.

15 respondents (88%) consider having increased their understanding of Social Media principles and tools.

In a range of 44 to 59%, participants found the different activities (introductions, tools explorations, teleconferences etc) very useful, the tools exploration getting the highest rates.

The tools that participants are already using are Photo-, Video-, and Slide sharing sites (56%), as well as Social networking sites (50%) and blogs (36%). Among the tools that respondents are most interested in exploring are: E-newsletters that incorporate social media (73%), RSS feeds (69%), social bookmarking (67%) and wikis (62%). Half of the respondents say that they don’t have plans to explore social media listening.

The moodle platform was considered as good with some 3 participants rating it as average or poor.

88% rated the effectiveness of the facilitators in supporting the learning experience as excellent

The size of the group was considered as just right for 69%.

The interaction with other participants was scored as average (47%) or poor (13%)

Among the suggestions of improvements are: more teleconference calls; hands-on sessions, make the workshop longer, work on smaller groups

Workshop facilitator’s debrief

  • This time we had some very active participants and a large lurker group. It is good to know that participants took time to read and browse through the site even if they didn’t actively contribute with comments or questions.
  • Next time we should try to give more focus in the introductory session and we need to create opportunities for more active interaction among participants. The purpose and needs of each participants could be crystallized more in this session.
  • The Tools explorations were animated and served to exchange lots of additional resources.  Most of those have been included in the KS Toolkit by the facilitators.
  • Time commitment is a real issue in on-line workshops
  • We felt that as facilitators we have been always was responsive and present; Nancy was present continuously, Jo gave valuable technical input and links to tool alternatives, Simone did lost of behind the scenes and administrative work in addition to some contributions on the site; Meena was less visible online but very active in observing and learning which was great; Antonella contributed with some great specific posts. Meena, Nancy, and Simone were continuously skype chat connected and coordinated interventions and tasks.

The web site is not the community: it’s the people

The second and last call of the social media workshop was about strategies. How do we use social media tools effectively? How do we choose the tools according to our user groups, bandwidth constraints, and organisational culture? How do we plan their introduction? How do we get them used and how do we market them?

Some principles that we mentioned when it comes to consider social media and desired change:

  • It’s about people not about tools: It is very good to know about the tools but the purpose and needs have to be clear. Early adopters and champions can do miracles.
  • Learn as you go: An important point was raised when we encouraged each other to try out different tools in different settings, adjust as we go and learn from what is going wrong.
  • Take risks: The introduction of social media doesn’t often generate immediate change. It can take a while and also, it can create change in unexpected places of the organization and among unexpected groups of people. It is worthwhile to take the risk to open up and allow broader use of social media, and simultaneously talk with staff about how we use this liberty in the organization.

Two resources were on the table for our conversations: A mind map of our communication needs and goals that we had expressed during our workshop introductions and the Developement 2.0 Manifesto sugggested by some World Bank staff.

The group of 12 conference call participants shared their ideas on how each of us might pursue social media explorations:

Tools

  • Improving existing tools set ups: Improving tagging, work on M&E of the current social media approach, practice social media listening.
  • Look at possible tools to facilitate virtual decision making.
  • Overcome the tech-jargon of social media.
  • Try out Facebook and Twitter / Convince rigid organisations to embrace such ideas
  • Include social media i.e. delicious in existing Drupal site
  • Improve staff involvement through good video streaming services / improve intranet
  • Experiment with Mobiles in Africa

Process

  • Social Media to create a global network and consider the issue of scale
  • Set up a social media approach for a new organizational research unit where lots of leadership support is guaranteed
  • Start over again and ask target groups about their needs and preferences
  • Identify champions in the target region, likeminded people for joint activities
  • Tackle low bandwidth issue in Africa through the use of mobile phone. Have a look at the gender implications
  • Involve project partners in the social media strategy and planning process
  • Survey all of our network members to define and prioritize their ICT needs.
  • Distinguish between internal communications needs for a distributed team (Google Wave promises to offer good features http://wave.google.com/), and external needs: e-newsletter to keep people in touch and engaged
  • Facilitate a core contributor group
  • Position ourselves on issues like social media abuse, bandwidth control, required standards

KS Workshop Mind Map

KS workshop mind map: Social media needs and goals (by Meena)

The Challenge of introducing new tools: About attitudes and preferences

Today we received some fundamental questions about social media practices. Getting social media into use is indeed a crucial issue and we got one question about possible ways to achieve staff adoption and involvement. I wrote this contribution with inout from Nancy White for the workshop and I am sharing it here:

social media mkt madness

In order to engage staff into social media it is important to take into account different learning styles and preferences in the way people make choices:

Learning a new tool is often not that simple:

  • Some enjoy tips and trick conversations within a group.
  • Some learn alone, and click themselves through the pages jungle.
  • Some might need some coaching, sitting down and go through the step-by-step approach.

The workshop for example combines the first two aspects. The virtual environment isn’t necessarily the best one for the hands-on part. But it is definitively a tip for you whenever you have a chance to do it to try to sit down with someone who knows and ask this person to guide you through a tool with the computer in front of you.

Also, being exposed to new tools generates feelings of:

  • Resistance to spend time exploring it.
  • Fear of not being able to understand how it works.
  • Worry of liking it so much that we need to re-organize our way of working, get team members convinced and start a new adoption cycle.
  • Doubts of loosing focus and putting the tools first instead of the people.

When it is about making choices we are often overwhelmed by the so many possibilities. It’s just like buying a pair of shoes:

  • Some are impulsive, go and focus on one pair of shoes and just buy it.
  • Some are hesitating and try out everything available in their size.
  • Some are systematic and look mainly at the prize and make a pre-selection.
  • Some know exactly what they need and buy the one pair that fits their need.

Making a choice about a tool and introducing it in an organization can certainly be far more complex then buying a pair of shoes. 😉 What I want to highlight is that we need to be aware of those preferences and be prepared for an adoption pathway in zigzag. (Nancy White once told me after I shared my frustration to get a blog adopted that it takes 7 times, 7 attempts to get it right.)

Finally it is about making a tool trendy, because when people follow a trend they overcome fears, doubts, and worries more easily to follow the crowd (for the girls in this workshop: I am sure all of us have at some point bought the most uncomfortable pair of shoes to be trendy…).

Here are some tips to make your tool trendy:

  • Try to find a champion in your organization or team.
  • Create a core group around you and the champion to then enlarge the user group progressively.
  • Keep using the tool for a while even if it is not adopted immediately or used.
  • Experiment with the many features of the tool.
  • Try to find a community of likeminded to share your doubts, and experiences (the KM4dev one is a good starting point).
  • Invite external “experts”. For some reason organizations tend to trust them more than their own staff  😉
  • Find entry points for launching the tool (like an event, a workshop).
  • Believe in what you do and don’t be afraid of insisting in your views (and that is the tuffest part for many of us).

Photo Credit: Hubspot

The 2nd Online Social Media workshop is well on its way, with the first week having gone by. social media logoParticipants had their first tele-con session, organized on Skype and held on the 27th of May in two sessions. Telecon session B saw 14 enthusiastic participants raring to go: Helen Gillman, Margaret McEwan, Helene Ni Choncheanainn, Eugenia Isnardi, Maya Rajasekharan, Alice Thomann, Olive Thiong’o Wahura, Miriam Cherogony, Pamela Kilborn-Miller, Yassir Islam , Idris Jones, Brenda Bucheli and Bonnie McClafferty.

Facilitated by Nancy White, I was lucky enough to co-facilitate. Jonathan Thompson of the World Food Program, was also on hand as mentor. A noted blogger, he has just launched an internal microblog (laconi.ca), probably the first inside a humanitarian aid organization. Here’s the post: http://tinyurl.com/oec2zu

The introductory tele-con was a great way to gauge the comfort levels of participants and also to encourage them to see online social media tools as nothing more that just ways to get better results at work. While the participants’ experiences with social media tools were varied, this in no way hindered conversation flow. Many participants discussed their frustrations in using/ advocating tools like Delicious, Skype, Go-To-Meeting, Webex. Also noted was the need for low-bandwidth options in areas with poor Internet access.

What I found personally interesting was the perception many of us have when advocating a tool/ technology. It may be easy to use, it may make your life easier but if people are not engaged, it might as well be ineffective. To counter this, Nancy suggests the first point of action should be to decide on what it is that you want to do.

Once there is purpose, you can start thinking of tools and practice. Think of what can engage them. Is it going to make a difference in their work?

On how blogging could help us track our success in engaging people, Jon Thompson, our blogging expert gave a few pointers:

  • Statistics provide legitimacy to your blogs, pay attention to them
  • Your title is the life or death of a blog post, a well-titled blog is everything 
  • Write what you believe in
  • Raise visibility of the blog by sending links by microblogging. Using tools together helps improve visibility of tools all around.

The tele-con lasted one hour, but no one noticed. Discussions could have continued. With minor hiccups of dropped calls, which were compensated by chat room texting for those missing out, participants left the virtual ‘room’ feeling energised.