change blogI have talked in earlier posts about the blog “Embracing Change” that supports the sharing and documentation of the organizational change process of the CGIAR.

In this post I would like to look closer at the learning curve and the progress that I have been observing and talking about with the team over the last 2 years or so.

Learning curve step 1: The blog started in June 2008. At that time the CGIAR Secretariat had been tempted to do a blog for a while but it was really the beginning of the CGIAR change process that provided an ideal opportunity to experiment with this new media.

Step 2: The beginnings were filled with uncertainties and questions: Who will blog? What should be the tone? Do we need an editing process? How often do we need to update the blog? How official is this site? And so on. These were all legitimate questions and ended up being answered with a relative conservatism: Let’s publish official messages from the CGIAR Chair Kathy Sierra! The advantage of this approach is that many people are interested in what the Chair has to say, the inconvenient being that the message has to go through a complete editing chain, and looses the personal tone to become very institutional which– the experience proves– doesn’t really make a blog thrive.

Step 3: To boost the frequency of messages and subsequent traffic, it was decided to hire a blogger for some of the key CGIAR change events, the first being a stakeholder meeting in the Philippines in September 2008. Indeed the number of visits increased dramatically. In a related post, the event blogger Sue Parrott from GreenInk stated: “The blog, as a new channel and trendy media, generated interest among the meeting participants who responded very positively to my interview invitations. I could work very independently also I would almost have liked interviewees to be more controversial.” Due to the little experience everybody had with the blogging process, the team felt at that time necessary to revise the blog posts before posting them. The blog started to mix nicely photos, and videos with the interviews.

Step 4: The experience was considered positive and pursued in December to cover the Annual General Meeting 2008 of the CGIAR in Maputo, Mozambique. Now, Sue Parrott could post her stories without revisions!

Step 5: The Strategic Communications Meeting of the CGIAR included a great opportunity to meet with the CGIAR change Transition Management Team (TMT) and to talk about the best ways to communicate the change process. The need for a more personalized tone was emphasized by a lot of participants. This led the TMT members to follow the suggestion and write more frequent updates and to post those on the blog as TMT Journal updates. The recent donor meeting in London was another opportunity for live blogging. And new features appear on the site, like the Flickr photo gallery.

That is where we are in our learning curve right now: The blog got more ownership, and became less formal in its tone; the statistics prove the concept, as the number of visits is growing. There is still a small number of comments, and sometimes it might seem discouraging, but from our ICT-KM blog experience it is urgent to be patient: People need time to find you, and they need time to feel comfortable enough to jump into the cold water and expose themselves to “everybody”.

The next steps could include an agreement among the bloggers on who replies (more quickly) to the comments as this encourages other readers to contribute (Learning curve step 6: Always reply to the comments you get). The blog posts could also deal with and link to partner and center sites where related topics are discussed (Learning curve step 7: Cross linkages increase readership and help to raise the profile). And finally “somebody” should take over the flagship and listen to what others say about the CGIAR change process and related topics on the web, go to those sites and start an online conversation through comments and links. (Learning curve step 8: Social Media Listening is key for engagement online ).

Congratulations to the blogging team for taking up the challenge and continuous improvement!

A workshop for CGIAR communications professionals will take place next week at WorldFish Center, in Penang, Malaysia. From March 23 to 26, some 20 participants from 14 CGIAR centers, the Secretariat and the Alliance will meet to:

  1. Provide input into communications during the CGIAR reform process and consider the role and scope of communications in the new CGIAR.
  2. Identify means, incentives and specific opportunities to strengthen our collective communications.
  3. Develop a Work Plan for Collective Communications through 2009.
  4. Identify a set of news story ideas that will provide a focus for CGIAR media outreach over the next year.

The Institutional KS project will support this event with facilitation, documentation and some social media hands-on sessions. ICT-KM Program leader Enrica Porcari will also participate with the objective to contribute to the vision of the new role of Communication in the renewed CGIAR and share the program experience in making information available and accessible.

1) Compelling!

Watch how creative commons philosophy applies to science.

Thanks Simone for the link!

2) “Seed Hunter” was shown recently on Australian TV regarding ICARDA’s Ken Street’s search for landraces in Tajikistan.

The underlying themes: why crop genetic resource conservation is  important particulary in the context of climate change, inadequate research budgets, gene discovery, how aid agencies have played a role disseminating modern varieties and the unintended consequences of  that on diversity, how remote communities are most likely to be 
custodians of landraces, etc. The full programme is 55 minutes long but can be viewed in 3 parts. 
It is well worth watching, if you are interested in knowing to how to make such research accessible and interesting to a wide audience.

3) In an attempt to help people understand why and how the CGIAR is changing, the Knolwdge Sharing Project of the ICT-KM program produced this short video. A must watch!

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR, is facing unprecedented challenges. Today, rural communities across the developing world are suffering from sky rocketing food prices, the grave threat of climate change, energy shortages and unstable global financial markets. To continue to be relevant, the CGIAR has to adapt to the changing times and this video is about the revitalization process which is currently underway.

This video has been produced by the Institutional KS Project as a contribution to the socialization of the CGIAR change process. The script was done in collaboration with the CGIAR Secretariat. The multimedia was produced by a CIAT team and the original video style idea is from The Common Craft Show who kindly authorized us to use it.

agm08_logo_circleSince 2004, the CGIAR has been able to showcase more effective face-to-face interactions using KS. It is time to demonstrate that overall inclusiveness during important events is possible.

In that vain, the Institutional KS Project together with the AGM08 organizers brainstormed on a set of social reporting activities for this important event that will represent a cornerstone in the CGIAR history as it sets the stage for a huge transformation of our System.

Social reporting is about using different types of media for enhancing interaction, each media type being accessible to different types of people with different purposes. It’s about an additional effort to engage stakeholders with the change process, and it’s about Illustrate change by introducing new and participatory forms of communication and reporting.

Among the ideas: an explanatory short video about the Change Process, an event page on Facebook, live blogging during the event, a photo gallery, a pin-board in the conference center, and more than that.

While we are working hard on the video, the Facebook page was set up quickly and is now available for you to join and discover direct links to blog posts and related information.