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!

Advertisements
Twittering away...

Twittering away...

Attending a workshop in a time zone vastly different from your own can often tax your powers of concentration, especially when you have to participate in an afternoon session after a heavy lunch. Full stomachs and jet lag can lead to diminished attention spans, putting pressure on facilitators and presenters to come up with ways of re-energizing participants.

Someone who certainly knows how to deal with post-lunch fatigue in others, even while combating her own jet lag, is workshop facilitator extraordinaire Simone Staiger-Rivas, who successfully led day one of the CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop in Penang, Malaysia.

In a lively half-hour lunchtime session, Simone introduced participants to Twitter and Yammer, social media tools that can a have huge impact on the way we communicate our work to colleagues, friends and the world.

Simone excitedly recounted a recent experience with Twitter, a real-time short messaging service that works over the web or mobile phone.

“Last week, I conducted a seminar at CIAT on social media entitled Let’s Really Go Online! The Potential of Social Media for Improving Organizational, Project and Personal Impact,” she said. I was a little disappointed because only 20 people came to this face-to-face meeting.

“However, prior to the meeting, I’d uploaded the presentation onto SlideShare, a Website for sharing presentations, and put the link on my Twitter and Facebook pages, and also on my Skype Status tab. By 3:00 pm that day, just before I gave the presentation at CIAT, 20 people had seen the presentation online, and I’d received about nine comments on Facebook.”

By the following afternoon, more than 180 people had viewed the slide show, and Simone began to get really excited.

“My Twitter contacts, some of whom have a huge number of followers, had ‘re-tweeted’ the link to the presentation, sharing it with all their contacts. And that was the beginning of a snowball effect. Then two days later, almost 300 hundred people had seen the presentation.”

Three days after the CIAT seminar, more than 400 people had viewed Simone’s presentation, with seven bookmarking it as a favourite. As a result of the number of hits her presentation received on SlideShare, the site listed the slideshow under the ‘Technology’ section, giving it even more prominence.

Now, 400 isn’t an enormous number, but when you compare it to the number of people who attended the face-to-face session, it’s huge.

Yammer

Simone also talked about the usefulness of Yammer, often called Twitter for organizations. Like Twitter, Yammer is a micro-blogging service that allows users to post short messages (140 characters maximum) and follow updates from others. Unlike Twitter, Yammer focuses on work-related networks comprising users with the same organizational email address. Yammer users can update colleagues on events or ask each other questions without clogging e-mail inboxes. Users can also search Yammer to find people working in similar fields and subscribe to RSS feeds on a specific topic.

Participant Mike Listman, CIMMYT, was excited about the possibilities of such social media tools after listening to Simone’s demonstration. “I’d never heard of Yammer until today, but I’ll certainly get my team to explore how we can use it in our work,” he said.

Ellen Wilson, Senior Vice President, Burness Communications, on the other hand, is already a convert. She and her colleagues, who are spread across four different offices, use Yammer regularly to update each other on their respective activities, share cool articles, and answer work-related questions.

“If you are reluctant to use services like Yammer, the messages can also be sent to your email account,” said Ellen.

Such was the enthusiasm for Yammer that the CGIAR communication specialists attending the workshop have decided to establish their own Yammer group.

This not the first time Twitter has been highlighted during a CGIAR event. The ICT-KM Program conducted a training session on the tool during the recent Share Fair held in Rome.

Please visit the Program’s Twitter by clicking here!

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.

Live Updates from AGM08 on the Change Management Blog

The CGIAR Annual General Meeting 2008 (AGM08) is in full swing in Maputo, Mozambique, with some 500 participants from around the world. The revitalization of the CGIAR is a prominent topic at AGM08 and blogger Sue Parrot is covering these events live from Maputo. Visit the Change Management Blog to stay up to speed on the discussion and to hear stakeholders’ views about the future for the CGIAR.

Also watch the 5 Minute Video of ‘A Revitalized CGIAR – A New Way Forward’
Interested in a quick explanation of the Change Management proposal being discussed at AGM08? This five-minute video explains the key points of the reform proposal: ‘A Revitalized CGIAR – A New Way Forward’. The video was produced by the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project and the CG Secretariat.

change-in-the-cgiarRecently I was introduced to Wordle, a tool for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

So one week from the CGIAR Annual General Meeting to be held in Maputo, I looked at the CGIAR Change management Blog and generated a “wordle”…to see what were the most prominent ideas discussed in the blog. I thought a simple image would give me at a glance an idea of what really mattered to people. I do not think the image needs much commenting. And this is the nice thing about the tool, at a glance you can see what matters to people.

Another example of how technology can help!

If you have not seen it yet, you may be interested in reading the reform proposalthat will be discussed at the Annual General Meeting.

Change ahead…an opportunity to renew!

Thanks Peter, who manages the road to the horizon for showing me this tool! Today I also found the wordle advanced version, where you can generate your own clouds by adding words and the weight. A real powerful way to show ideas!