Meena Arivananthan

Meena Arivananthan

Six months ago, when Meena Arivananthan posted the first installment of her Social Media Series on our blog, no one could have envisaged the impact and popularity of her articles. This versatile woman has a passion for both writing and knowledge sharing, attributes that are evident in her posts. Indeed, those initial pieces, written in Meena’s informative, reader-friendly style, guaranteed that visitors to our blog would keep coming back for more.

A Knowledge Management and Sharing Officer tasked with overseeing our Triple A Project, Meena joined the Program at the beginning of 2009, a mere three months before she began writing her blog series – an obvious testimony to her ability to quickly embrace new technology and tools and translate her  know-how for others to understand. However, this modest young woman is quick to point out that she couldn’t have written some of her pieces without input from Antonella Pastore and Simone Staiger-Rivas

Find out more about Meena in her Program profile.

If you missed any of the articles in Meena’s series, the following handy recap will let you know where you can get information and tips on using newsfeeds, wikis, microblogging, and much, much more:

1. Microblogging
Looks at microblogging tools like Twitter and Yammer

2. Blogging for impact
Blogging and agricultural research

3. Social Media: how do you know it’s working?
Incorporating social media into your communications strategy

4. Social Networks: friend or foe?
Using social networking sites to your advantage

5. Social Media: Are You Listening?
Practicing social media listening

6. Social Bookmarking: storm-a-brewing
Social bookmarking and the CGIAR

7. Wikis, sites, docs and pads: the many flavours of collaborative writing
Tools for collaborative writing

8. Are newsletters a dying breed?
How effective are e-newsletters today?

9. Newsfeeds: delivering the latest news to your virtual doorstep; and ways to share it!

Taking advantage of newsfeeds

10. Put it out there! Tools for photo, video and slideshow sharing

How to share photos, videos and slideshows

11. Social Media: The Next revolution

How agricultural research and development organizations can leverage the popularity of social media to get more mileage out of their research outputs

If you are looking for good ICT practice guides, or want to find out more about low-bandwidth collaboration tools, or see what CGIAR-wide applications are available to you, then ICT Infopoint is the place for you. ICT Infopoint provides CGIAR staff located at headquarters and in regional offices with a convenient one-stop location on CGX2.0, where they can find timely and up-to-date ICT information and links. If you need to speak to someone about your ICT problems, ICT Infopoint can also help by providing you with the contact information of all CGIAR Center Helpdesks. ICT Infopoint is open 24/7, so please drop by anytime!

This handy resource will be updated regularly with content from the ICT-KM Program and the Centers, as it becomes available. ICT Infopoint has also received input from several ICT support staff in small offices in Africa and India, enabling content to be developed that could potentially help them and local researchers improve the way they work and collaborate.

ICT Infopoint is a collaborative effort involving input from the ICT-KM Program’s Second Level Connectivity Project and the CGIAR Centers.  Formerly known as the ICT Briefcase, an output of the Second Level Connectivity Project led by Ian Moore (ILRI-ICRAF), this resource has been further refined in terms of design and content by Tania Jordan, ICT-KM Technical Coordinator, and Antonella Pastore, CGXchange Project Coordinator.  The change of name from ICT Briefcase to Infopoint was made to better reflect the present-day product.

Please come on by and check it out for yourself!

If you have any suggestions or comments about ICT Infopoint, please contact the CGXchange team at

Francesca Pelloni

Francesca Pelloni

Life is a balancing act. Finding an equilibrium that works for you, your family and your friends is often difficult to achieve. And no one knows this better than AGCommons Project Officer Francesca Pelloni. After a five-year hiatus of sorts from the hectic world of IT project management, she is back with a well-grounded enthusiasm for her career and a strong sense of purpose that will surely benefit the Project.

“I took a break from full time work because, like so many people these days, I found myself working from morning till night, with little time or energy left to devote to myself or my family,” she explains. “Although I did do some consultancy work during the past five years, I basically took the time away to discover what I wanted out of life.”

Fortunately for the ICT-KM Program, Francesca was planning to resume her career at a time when the Program had just committed to manage a new project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: AGCommons.

When Francesca talks about the AGCommons Project, her passion is palpable. “It’s certainly challenging to work on a big project again, but I’m excited about the possibilities,” she says. It’s great to be involved in something that has the potential to impact so many lives in Africa.”

This project officer also has a thirst for knowledge that goes beyond the information necessary to carry out her job well.

“I love learning about new things,” she says. “Although I wasn’t a complete stranger to geographical information systems when I came on board, I’ve learned so much about this technology, and this has given me a greater insight into how such systems impact most of our lives on a daily basis, sometimes without us even realizing it. Each project I’ve managed in the past has enlightened and enriched my life in a similar way. That’s one of the things I love about being a project manager.”

An insatiable thirst for knowledge is sometimes indicative of someone who is not afraid to embrace change and challenges; something that holds true for this native of Rome.

“I got into project management quite by accident,” she says. “I majored in humanistic studies and political relations at university, then got married and had my daughter. When I entered the work force a year later, it was as an assistant to the Managing Director of the Inter Press Service (IPS), an international agency that focused on the third world, as developing countries were referred to back then. At that time, the organization had offices in 90 countries, and I helped coordinate their ICT activities. That was the start of my project management career.”

In 1995, Francesca joined the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), where she was involved in a project that was responsible for equipping the organization’s field offices with email.

“I was there for two years,” she says, “and I’m amazed when I look back and realize that FAO offices have only had email for 14 years. It seems like it’s been around forever.”

After her stint at FAO, Francesca moved to Milan to manage other IT projects of a different nature and in a different environment, with a company in the private sector, after which she made the decision to move to the countryside to lead a simpler, less chaotic life.

“It was an interesting time,” she says, recalling the move. “I suddenly found myself with a completely different rhythm. Having the whole day at my disposal to do as I pleased was yet another new experience. I learned a lot of different things during my time away: I learnt about plants and how to grow flowers and vegetables, horse riding, piano lessons and belly dancing. I also took time to travel and indulged in my passion for cooking.  I can now make a mean Ravioli di Magro, even if I say so myself.”

She adds, “I love to eat. I don’t think you can cook well if you don’t love to eat.”

The same passion that Francesca has in the kitchen is also reflected in her enthusiasm for her new role in the workplace; something that’s bound to have a positive effect on the AGCommons Project. 


gcard_logo_21_5 FinalThe ICT-KM Program is supporting the GCARD process, starting with the e-consultations that should contribute a great deal in enhancing the development value of research.

Organized by GFAR, the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) is more than just a Conference – it’s a multi-year process of learning and continuous updating of the global agricultural research for development (AR4D) system. The aim is to create new ways of working together to enhance the development value of research. GCARD will be an open and inclusive process for consultation and change, which will aim to reshape agricultural research and innovation, improve resources for research, and increase its development impact.
The GCARD 2010 will result in an action plan and framework to improve agricultural research and innovation globally.

Through CIAT’s Simone Staiger-Rivas, the ICT-KM Program provides the coordination of the e-consultation process as well as support in their facilitation.

Get involved by subscribing to the regional e-consultations of your choice, following the GCARD blog or tweets.

Listen to an interview of Nancy White with Simone Staiger on the GCARD process

More about the e-consultations

Are you a researcher? Do you work in a research organisation, project or program? Are you looking for ways to better conduct your research for development, share knowledge, engage with stakeholders, and achieve impact?

To help answer those questions, visit Improving impact through knowledge sharing in researchthe newest context page to be recently added to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit.  The new page offers people ideas, experiences and inspiration on recommended tools and methods to share knowledge during the research project cycle.

The Knowledge Sharing toolkit has consistently provided lots of information on tools and methods for knowledge sharing. However, it has been striving to make this information more relevant and accessible to people’s needs and situations.


To help its visitors even better find what they are looking for or figure out what they may need and could use- a ‘What is your context?’ page was also developed.

The new context page on knowledge sharing in research-‘Improving impact through knowledge sharing in research‘- takes people right into the research process with a basic diagram of the research cycle and its key stages.

KsinR context-pic

These stages are presented as ‘entry points’ through which knowledge sharing approaches can be made use of to address certain shortcomings and limitations which traditional research may experience such as:

  1. a lack of inclusion of priorities, needs and realities from the ground
  2. inadequate use of other sources of knowledge in planning research
  3. poor collaboration with stakeholders during research activities
  4. limited understanding of how research results can most effectively be made use of
  5. ineffective ways of getting knowledge to target groups
  6. limited opportunities for learning within research process

To address these, the context page invites visitors to consider which stage of research they are in- and asking a key question related to improving that stage. The page then provides a list of suggested methods- both Online tools and Methods as well as Other Knowledge sharing Tools and Methods- to try out. These tools and methods are linked to other pages within the toolkit. Tags of related topics are also provided.


Stage 1: Identifying research (questions) to undertake

Vietnam_Vist to WorldFish Pilot_09-08 576

This information has come out of the resources collected, knowledge generated and experiences of the recently concluded two-year CGIAR ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project (2007-2009). The framework on which this context page is based was developed and tested particularly through 6 Pilot Projects.

These Pilot Projects are all projects of CGIAR Centres or System-wide or Challenge Programs which proposed to pilot the use of various knowledge sharing approaches and principles in their activities. This included:Picture3


  • The convening of a Farmers’ Conference to bring out the knowledge, experiences and needs of farmers to help in planning of activities of the Participatory Plant Breeding department at ICARDA005
  • The use of a learning alliance approach by the IWMI WASPA project to bring together relevant stakeholders to link research to action
  • The IRRI-lead Pilot Project worked with key stakeholders to 2009_01150033_resizeunderstand how to write and package research results from projects working on rice in the Northern uplands of Laos, and created factsheets which were uploaded into the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (online tool)

The selection of tools for each of the stages of the research cycle is based on the results and experiences of these 6 Pilot Projects as well as other projects and other documented cases. Documentation of the Knowledge Sharing in Research project, its pilot projects and other activities  can be found on the Documentation and Outputs page of the KSinR website section.

But this is not a blue print approach and each research project needs to find what fits with its own context, needs and objectives–the tools presented in this context page are just some suggestions to help.

If you have also used knowledge sharing approaches in your research let us know what you have done and how it worked. If you try any of these suggested approaches out, also let us know how it worked. You make contributions to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit to keep it a living and dynamic resource by signing up and adding your methods, ideas and experiences.

Chances are, you’ve used maps not only to find place or location, but also to explore an area based on a theme or criteria. For example, “I want to eat Korean food in Rome”. Where to eat Korean food in Rome is the geographic extent to a set of criteria to find what I want for planning my evening: Where Korean restaurants are located, when are they open, how are their ratings (reviews), what is the nearest public transportation to get me there and take me home, and do they take credit cards. I recently put this search to the test with an earth browser, and I must say I had a splendid night out!

The CGMap team is gearing up for the release of research plans to the world via KML, the Open Geospatial Consortium international standard for the geographic annotation and visualization in earth browsers, mobile maps, and Web-based maps. CGMap is the epitome of ICT-KM’s ‘Triple A’ approach, and once CGMap lands on the Web’s engines through KML, the project plans in CGMap will have an even greater Accessibility and Applicability potential.

Google Map Search for CIMMYT Projects

Search engines will now have geographic coordinates of the who, what, and where of CGIAR research. This means that searching for ‘maize and wheat genetic research’ will give results on CIMMYT projects, along side other relevant sources, like FAO.

Google Earth Sample Overlay CGIAR Projects with Koppen Climate Classification

Scientists, researchers and beyond … investors, partners … who use tools like Google Earth to study and plan activities will be able to build scenarios which provide a more intelligent context to their research. For example, a researcher using an earth browser to plan maize and wheat genetic research activities will be able to focus on any geographical region/location, search for maize and wheat genetic research, see results, add layers of required data (e.g: the Köppen climate classification), and save the scenario built on the fly.

Who is doing What and Where in the CGIAR?

From my first day with the ICT-KM Program, this has been an underlying question and driving force in most of my work with the Program. CGMap, launched in late 2008, is the CGIAR’s prime source of MTPs, the Medium Term Plans in which CG Centers and Challenge Programs express both their strategy and coherence to the CGIAR objectives and priorities.

Recent posts on the Social Media Tools Series have shed light on how social media tools provide researchers a more effective landscape for the collaboration and dissemination of research information. Exploiting research projects geographically will give rise to sharing and collaborating by using CGMap’s existing resources, the CGIAR project plans (who is doing what and where).

Stay tuned for future landings on maps and earth browsers of the CGIAR’s Ongoing Research: Focus on Africa (a.k.a. Eastern and Southern Africa – ESA).

Why do some of us shy away from trying out new technology such as social media? I can think of several reasons: too complicated to figure out; too expensive to implement; my supervisor/colleagues would never approve; more suitable for geeks and teenagers; it’ll take too much time … Or my personal favorite: I like things the way they are now.

Matt Hamm's social media bandwagonYes, change can be a pain, because it can shake up your organized, structured existence. However, we can’t close our eyes and hope the Internet will go away. While I feel we should not jump onto the social media bandwagon just because everyone else is doing so, social media’s potential cannot be denied. Whatever the reason people give for avoiding social media, don’t let ignorance and fear hold you back from what will probably be the next revolution in the way people communicate.

Social media is breaking down communication barriers: allowing people to reach out to others around the world – letting them connect, engage and share among themselves. Now more than ever, agricultural research and development organizations such as ours can leverage the popularity of social media to get more mileage out of their research outputs.

Social media tools can help you in your role as researcher, manager or communicator.

If all you’re interested in doing is organizing your online world, there are several social media tools that can simplify your life. These include social bookmarking sites that can help you organize your website resources and scientific literature. And if you’re struggling to keep abreast of updates from your favorite websites and blogs, newsfeeds may be your ticket out of mayhem. However, if you are yearning for more, hoping to connect with like-minded individuals or wanting to share your organization’s research with a larger audience so that it can be used, applied and improved upon, then read on!

The true value of social media lies in its ability to form communities organically. Often these communities, or social networks as they are called, come together because of common interests or a shared purpose. It is a nurturing environment filled with trust and camaraderie – the perfect milieu for effective collaboration and the sharing of ideas, information and knowledge. Add to that an outreach across vast geographical distances and the cross-linking between the different social media tools, and voila! You have a global, inter-linked audience at your fingertips.

Social media can give your communication strategy a boost in the following ways:

  • It can help you tap into a large, global audience base and go where the people are these days – the Internet!
  • The way people source for information has evolved. They are more discerning, preferring to seek out recommendations and suggestions from their colleagues, peers and experts. Information overload is a major concern, so people will not waste their time visiting a website, blog, database or any other resource unless someone they trust points them in that direction.
  • The usual way we do business is slowly coming to an end. Pushing information out to your target audience does not guarantee that it will be read and used. Information is useful only when it is received by the right person, who is looking, at the right time. Use social media tools as vehicles to get your message out.

How social media can boost your communication strategy:

Increase Visibility

  • Create awareness by raising the profile of your organization on social networking sites. Cultivate long term support for your organization by creating your own network of scientists, research partners and interested individuals.
  • Use social media tools to promote your projects, events and activities. Announce time-sensitive, newsworthy items and get a head-start on others by microblogging. Microblogging involves posting short sentences (max 140 characters) that can be used to promote your journal article or a useful website, act as a reminder for an activity, or even ask questions. Tip: Ensure that your microblogging network consists of like-minded individuals who share your interests and concerns so that the information exchange is meaningful. Be prudent in selecting whom you follow.
  • Promote your name: use social media to establish your reputation in the research and development arena. Blogging is a great way for researchers to share their research ideas with others and gain feedback from a wider, online audience. A recent Blog Tips post  provides practical reasons why blog sites may surpass websites in generating traffic to increase Internet presence.Well-thought-out blogs attract people with similar thoughts and queries, people who can validate your ideas and also challenge you by sharing varying opinions.

Engage people

  • Promote issues that resonate with people to encourage involvement and gather support for your cause. A great example of this is the Obama campaign which relied heavily on social media to garner visibility and support, resulting in victory for the Obama camp.
  • Form strategic alliances with influential people and institutions that help boost your organization’s profile.
  • Source expertise or talent, whether potential research partners, service providers or other experts.
  • In the ICT-KM Program’s Social Media Tool series, I sharedMicrosoft Clipart some thoughts on how social networking sites can help you engage with others. Reinforcing the sentiment that it is easy to find and connect with people of similar interests and even easier to set up online groups, Christian Kreutz and Giacomo Rambaldi provide interesting examples of local and global engagement. They also describe the various levels at which people engage while participating in social networks.

Share Knowledge

  • Social media transcends geographic boundaries. Test your research ideas by sharing them with your colleagues globally. Collaborate, enrich and validate your work at a fraction of the time and cost associated with face-to-face meetings. As wide-reaching as it can be, collaborative sharing sites also come with security options that allow secure knowledge sharing.
  • Create an environment where people recognize your expertise, and establish your organization as the expert in your field of research. Whether you are a researcher who is new to a field and eager to learn more, or the resident expert, share your knowledge and experiences by contributing to insightful blogs. I may be new to blogging, but already I’m learning so much from just opening up to a new community. My boss, Enrica Porcari, CGIAR Chief Information Officer, is a regular blogger and attests to its value. As she believes, and as I have been experiencing, blogs go beyond just sharing your words. The true value of blogging is in the exchange of information and knowledge, and the nurturing environment that allows differing ideas and opinions to emerge without defensiveness.  See how these successful bloggers use their expertise to share and learn:
    • Agricultural Biodiversity blogs  (by Luigi Guarino and Jeremy Cherfas, who are living their passion for all things related to biodiversity in agriculture)
    • ICT-KM Blogs (Blogs on knowledge sharing and social media in the CGIAR by 6 active bloggers and many guest bloggers)
    • Blog Tips (On blogging and social media for non-profits)
    • NEW: Rural Climate Exchange (new CGIAR blog connecting agricultural and environmental science to the climate change agenda) 
  • Share your photographs and videos online. Place useful slides online so others can learn from them. Tip: Think about the keywords/tags that you use to describe your product, such as blog, photograph, slides, videos, etc. How would you search for information online? Use that as a guide for your tags.
  • Get more mileage out of your research outputs by filtering content to fit different social media tools. Think of social media as strategic communication lines that branch outward to several different networks, which in turn branch into other networks.
  • Reach out to interested people outside your regular circle and gain valuable ideas/feedback from your pool of social networks. Practice what some call social listening.

As my colleague Simone Staiger-Rivas often quotes, “Social media is not about technology. It is about conversations enabled by technology.”

  • Going beyond self-promotion, we should be paying attention to conversations that are already ongoing on social media sites; conversations that we are also passionate about. Sharing is a two-way process, and we should take the time to interact with others in a similar fashion.
  • Share resources within interested communities and broaden horizons at a fraction of the time it would take to search for data or information or knowledge on your own. Social Bookmarks and Newsfeeds are great for keeping track of what’s being published on your favorite websites and blogs. Share this with others, and see the favor being returned manifold.

Consider your communication goals when you decide to incorporate social media into your strategy:

  • Decide on whether you want to increase visibility for your organization, share knowledge or engage people.
  • Choose the right social media tool(s) for your organization based on the target audience, research content and technology available.
  • Start small. Many social media tools are relatively low-cost to implement in your organization:
    • Experiment with a low-risk pilot project.
    • Use short timeframes, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
    • Evaluate your progress with pre-determined goals and measure its success. Read Antonella Pastore’s post on how to check if social media is working for you.
    • In the event a social media tool does not work for your organization, it is wise to let go and start over with a different, more suitable tool. Don’t take it too personally.

 Until you try social media out for yourself, you will never know what you’re missing. This reminds me of the days before the mobile telephone came along. Can’t imagine your life without it now, right? Similarly, the potential of social media is limitless. When you use several social media tools in tandem to inform, disseminate, share, collaborate and interact, you work within an environment of networks that grow exponentially. That’s power you can’t afford to ignore. Resistance is futile!

Till next time.



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