The tools and methods discussions are still ongoing on our workshop moodle platform. Here is a summary of some of the tools discussions that participants and facilitators initiated:

Peer Assist

Tags / Tagging

Michael gives a really nice introduction to the topic:

  • A tag is a keyword or term that is given to a bit of information (a bookmark, an image, a blog entry, etc.) in order to help find it later and also to associate it with other, similar or related bits of information.
  • Many of the web2.0 tools we are discussing in our workshop make use of tags. Indeed it is because of these tools that tagging has become popular and widely used.
  • Tags are chosen by the individual at the time they are put into use. They are more flexible than the formal metadata and can sometimes be used as leading indicators of new concepts. However, they can also be somewhat inconsistent and lack the relationship specification of defined taxonomies.
  • When many users have tagged many items within an application or around a set of items, this collection of tags becomes what is called a folksonomy (i.e. an informal taxonomy generated by the people or “by the folks”).
  • Explanatory video in relation to Social Bookmarking at: http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=x66lV7GOcNU&feature=user by Common Craft 

Social Reporting

  • Social Reporting is the practice of capturing and sharing the learning that happen at F2F events online for the group and possibly others not at the F2F. Nancy launched this topic as a way to suggest some practice in this area during the f2f meeting in Rome.
  • Here are some tools used for social reporting: wikis to take life notes from sessions and document them; online photo galleries like Flickr to upload each day visuals of the event; Live blogging to capture impressions or results of a session; video interviews to give a voice to participants and tell their own story and perspectives on the event, a topic or a session. 
  • Resources: http://partnerships.typepad.com/civic/2006/10/social_media_so.html; http://socialreporter.com/ ; http://www.eudaimonia.pt/btsite/content/view/115/32/

Discussion Groups

  • Jo launched this thread with the question: Can anybody share stories about success and frustration on different discussion group interfaces? Which interface and provider to choose from for best result for all participants having and “equal position” in the group and possibility to manage email to customize involvement?
  • Jo took the lead to explore some of the suggested options: Yahoo groups, Google groups, Dgroups, Ning, Drupal. And it seems he really liked our Ning community that we set up in order to allow us exploration and perhaps the creation of a longer lasting bond between various workshop editions. http://ksworkshop.ning.com/
  • Some of Jo’s findings: The interface is centered on the members; its a free public discussion group interface, and we get topic-related advertisements in the right-hand column of the site through Google ads; Ning group members can customize their own page to make it look different from the rest; When you ask to become “friends” with another member, you get faster access to their personal pages and blogs
  • Cristina mentioned her experience with Dgroups and her move to a restricted blog on her new Drupal site, because of the complaints by her team and stakholders about the Dgroup email overload. Her challenge now: “stimulating people to visit the website and comment on the issues raised.”

Blogs and Blogging

I started a discussion on blogs:

  • Nancy points to examples of blogs in development work with her delicious tag, devblogs
  • Different uses of blogs. Chronological ordered and News based website for project reporting and communication (important to use tags to distinguish different aspects of the project or authors)
  • When do blogs work well. Nancy shared a post from Pete Cranston to the KM4Dev community: be personal, less obviously institutional, update regularly, acknolwedeg that spending time on communicating your perspectives is valuable,  have a group of bloggers for organizational blogs, be open, don’t control. “Blogs work when they are constructed and maintained so that they become part of the blogosphere, get linked to – and link to others – and generally have access to audience.  Blogs designed for a bounded audience have a much harder time.” Blogs are also a welcome alternative to progress or back-to-office reports, or for specialist groupings that focus around meetings, or issues.
  • Blogs versus discussion groups: Blogs are not tools for team communication. They can’t really replace email.

Wikis
A wiki is a web site that allows users to add, remove, and otherwise edit and change content. At its core, a wiki is a simple online database in which each page is easily edited by any user with a Web browser

  • Wikis are really rather flexible … not just as a shared document writing/editing tool, but they can be used as an entire website platform (with pages open for editing or not), as a growing knowledge base, like Wikipedia and the KS Toolkit, or even as a simple intranet. There are commercial wiki packages now that are pitched that way.
  • Obstacles to broad wiki use: All members can overwrite; no track changes directly visible. Publishing of “unfinished material” => cultural shift. Needs accountability, rewarding and facilitation.
  • Kay compares a wiki with her actual sharpoint application and finds it friendlier, easier, quicker
  • Public / private: When do I need to make that choice? Options: open to all for viewing and editing (be aware of spam problems if you use this option); open for all to view but membership request for editing (ex: our KS Toolkit); membership request for viewing and editing (if you need a confidential space for groupwork, i.e. before publishing)
  • Nancy shares some lessons learnt while doing wiki training session: Use any training opportunity to also build relationships; make sure there is hands on practice/use – don’t just talk about it; create a short “how to” document to send in advance with screen shots  – but keep it simple; don’t over describe all the features the first time.

Intranets

  • Should we use a platform “one package solution” or should we integrate bits and pieces?
  • Pete thinks that “there is no all-in-one package out there and even if such a platform existed to meet our staff needs today, this certainly is no guarantee that it will meet all of our needs tomorrow.” I think this is an important lesson for working with Open Source software as well as within the context of Web 2.0. At the end of the day, it’s all about interoperability and integration of services. If you have a system that can produce RSS and uses tags, then that content can be easily shared on other pages within your intranet. “Sharability” is a key feature.
  • There is a group of intranet curios participants of this thread who meets a group of skeptical ones: No one really has an example of a successful intranet site; I am asking; How much information is there really besides financial and project management information that need to be closed and internally only? Or: “I’m also cynical enough to believe that some prefer to keep information on the intranet because there it is not likely to be questioned or challenged by “outsiders”.

Other KS methods and tools that have been suggested / discussed:
• Online collaboration
• Language translation technologies
• Participatory Impact Pathways
• River of Life % samoan Circle
• PhWeet
• Icebreakers
• Twitter. Many set up an account and we are nor following each other 😉
• Joomla- a CMS tool for Websites

Advertisements

The last week of the online phase of the KS Workshop offered an opportunity to continue discussions about KS tools and methods. We also started reflections about the workshop experience, invited participants to take an evaluation survey, and offered an additional conference call with our guest Sophie Alvarez on Participatory Pathways Approaches (PIPA).

In the weekly conference calls we reviewed the network mapping exercise, and asked for participant’s interest in specific tools and methods to explore further in the Rome face-to-face meeting next week. Here is a summary of one of the call sessions: Many found the network maps really useful: “it is good to have it as a visual.” “It was the best workshop lesson because it showed the weaknesses and what I can do better to involve others” “It was good but now I have difficulties to relate the map with the tools” “It was great to do it with my colleagues” are some of the reactions. We also learnt an interesting unexpected use of the map: As an induction to a newcomer in the project team, or as a way to explain an organization, a project or a team during a recruitment process.  For the upcoming workshop in Rome, many tools are on the list of desired hands on sessions and explorations: wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, social bookmarking, tagging, Content Management Systems, but also communities of practice, World Cafés and After Action Reviews. Among the facilitators we decided to organize a 1 ½ day Open Space session to allow detailed exploration of all those topics in small groups. 

A Conference call on Participatory Impact Pathway Approaches (PIPA)
The call was joined by 6 curious workshop participants and our special guest was Sophie Alvarez who works with the PIPA team out of CIAT, Cali, Colombia. Without getting into the details of the PIPA methodology (see ILAC brief for that), what I most highlighted for myself was that PIPA tries to bring to the surface the mental models, the perspectives of the stakeholders about how their project might achieve impact. PIPA combines elements of classic project planning with social network analysis and appreciative inquiry.

First reflections on online phase of the workshop
Here are some of the very first and fresh reactions as the online phase is ending:I have appreciated the first four weeks of the Workshop. Alternately, I have felt overwhelmed and enthusiastic.

  • I thought that the resource library (imark lessons, screencasts and podcasts) was very useful and I liked that I could go back to things at my own pace.
  • The support facilitators was really a positive aspect .
  • I loved it.
  • A few little disappointments: 1) Skype connection from work was horrible.  2) Skype teleconferencing was just not my thing. I had nothing to look at so my attention drifted. 3) I found the KS toolkit didn’t go into enough detail.
  • The interactions with all of you were great and enriching. I had lots of fun trying out some of the tools and blogging on my learning log.
  • This is a great community that has been emerging.
  • I am hoping that while the Phase 1 workshop officially ends this week, we can still use the F2F and online to move to that more strategic bit. To take all the good work of the maps and thinking about purpose and people and map those tools and processes in a holistic way

More to come soon about the participant’s evaluation of this event.

As we start the last week of the online phase of the KS Workshop, the conference call this morning was about looking back at the network mapping exercise and its usefulness. We talked about the tools and methods that we are currently exploring on our virtual discussion space, and we did a short evaluation of the workshop so far.

Many found the network maps really useful: “it is good to have it as a visual.” “It was the best workshop lesson because it showed the weaknesses and what I can do better to involve others” “It was good but now I have difficulties to relate the map with the tools” “It was great to do it with my colleagues” are some of the reactions. We also learnt an interesting unexpected use of the map: As an induction to a newcomer in the project team, or as a way to explain an organization, a project or a team during a recruitment process.  

For the upcoming workshop in Rome, many tools are on the list of desired hands on sessions and explorations: wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, social bookmarking, tagging, Content Management Systems, but also communities of practice, World Cafés and After Action Reviews.

Finally there was a round of feedback on the workshop so far, and the issue of the amount of information and interaction that seems difficult to digest for many. On that one, I just came along a post by John Smith of CP Square called “How much time does it take?” He describes a very similar situation in his workshop about communities of practice. Have a look!

Week two was very active at the FAO-CGIAR KS Workshop. Participants were invited to think about the people we do / need to share knowledge with. After having explored the issue of the “Why share knowledge?” during week 1, which aimed basically at getting to know each other’s contexts better, during week 2 we dived into the area of our networks.

KS is about people and people organize themselves in groups of all kinds. The network theory / approach allows us nicely to analyze those groups –call them teams, communities, units, organizations– in terms of: How do we share our knowledge currently and what could we do to improve interaction, enhance innovation, reach out to new users… We invited participants to listen to related podcats, look at a related IMark module, participate in a conference call, and most important to develop a network map that would look at the today of our project / group dynamics and at the opportunities for improvement. Our special guest this week was Eva Schiffer, former IFPRI, now consultant, who specialized in network mapping and helped us explore the potential of this method.

We offered two podcasts:

  • In her interview on social networks Patti Anklam who has a strong KM background and has been working for large computer companies before becoming a consultant, highlights how social network analysis (SNA) helped her to make sense of her intuitions: “SNA helps us to improve our understanding of organizations and ask relevant questions. We are used to see organizations through their charts (who reports to whom?), but to get things done we use much more our personnel connections. SNA illustrates the existing knowledge pathways and a map can illustrate questions like: Are we focusing too much on some individuals? Who are the connectors? And SNA can reveal the hidden value of people. Where do we need to create more pathways?” Patti recommends a reading for those who want a introduction to this area: Robert Cross: The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations
  • Eva Schiffer complements nicely Patti’s interview by linking SNA to our R4D context. She tells two stories that illustrate the use of SNA in research projects, done in low-tech environments with basic materials like paper, markers and post-its. “SNA opens the black box about impact, because it helps us to understand how things work and why we have or don’t have impact. It can give us additional information on how to reach better out to end users.” Eva uses SNA in meetings and asks project stakeholders questions like: – Who are the actors in your project? – How are they linked? What is their role (donor, advisor, partner…) – How influential are they? (using influence towers) – Have you influential friends / enemies “The complete map is for many an eye opener and generates excitement. It confirms intuitions for some, for others it highlights the different understanding that the actors can have about the relationships and dynamics in their network”, she says

Our weekly resource, the IMark module is definitively an extremely rich and useful resource for those who want to go more systematically through the issues of on-line communities and how to establish and make most out of them. The module offers us a first exploration with concrete situational examples within our R4D domain. Then it helps us go through a needs assessment, and have a look at the available options and tools. It guides us through all the design issues of on-line communities—from roles and responsibilities to online security issues—and has also a crucial chapter about online facilitation. On that one, and just as example, I really like the slides about cross-cultural differences i.e. about how we start a conversation, use humor, our attitudes towards time, conflict and moments of silent… very insightful.

Our weekly conference call (divided as always in three alternative schedules to cover the different time zones of our participants) allowed us to have Eva Schiffer with us and to explore network issues around some examples given from the participants. On the call we explored questions like: incentives and the existence of a “tipping point” for active participation and how to reach it; the role of a core group as most active members who engage the others; the potential of focal points to reach out within the network; the notion of “boundary spanners” between the more connected and the less connected in a network; the trap of seeing us too often in the center of the network as an indispensable node; the power of informal meeting opportunities for networking; the power of on-line tools for active networking and the need to offer different tools or channels to meet member’s varying preferences.

The network mapping exercise generated some good on-line discussions on our Moodle space. So far participants contributed 10 maps or so. The discussion came up about the need to map the network with regard to the people we have relationships with, not so much the units or groups. It’s the nodes between actors of the network that we can influence / work on. Another important step in the mapping exercise is to look at the map as it is now but also to add the links and relationships we dream of developing. Here are examples of issues that emerged while analyzing three of the maps:

  • “ By looking at my map, I found that we should involve more on our Focal units, because they are working at the national level and they have a close collaboration with their national institutes and researchers. A Regional Information System doesn’t mean nothing if it doesn’t has the support of National Agricultural information system.” The feedback suggested for example to aim at a face-to-face meeting to strengthen and motivate the focal units.
  • “ I envision that I have currently centralized to such a point where I am the only connector and now I would like to ensure that the relevant areas take on ownership of their own pieces of the Portal.” Eva reported an example of a colleague who tries to be very involved in the strategic development of his projects in the beginning, but who right from the start will look for a “leadership apprentice” to take over and who can assure continuity.
  • “Our partners are of different nature, positions, cultures, but they are all committed to information exchange. The actors involved are basically those who produce information (data providers) and the big audience that uses this knowledge.” Workshop participants reply: the challenges is to moving individuals in the network from a mindset of “data exchange” to thinking about KS, i.e. What would the map look like if those same end users were able to shape the type of content that goes into the platform in the first place?

It is also worthwhile mentioning that this week we experienced some problems with our Moodle space. Many participants had problems to post their messages, specifically when they were pasted from another document. While this is been currently addressed we all had some frustrations and certainly lost some good comments. We hope that next week will be a no technology problem one! We are looking forward to now explore tools and methods for knowledge sharing during week 3 of our workshop!

As the workshop moves into its second week of on-line discussions, and learnings (week one we talked about Why KS, now we explore the Who via a network mapping exercise), I wanted to share with you the amazing role that our two workshop mentors are playing. Not only do we have two former participants (Pete Shelton from IFPRI and Gauri Salokhe from FAO) as facilitators. We have also two mentors who volunteered to redo the workshop and bring in additional perspectives: Michael Riggs from FAO/Asia and Alexandra Jorge from ILRI/Bioversity are doing an amazing job in bridging the two workshops, supporting participants with tips, and linking many ideas. Congratulations Alexandra and Michael.

The second edition of the KS Workshop is currently kicking off with a “Week Zero” which is dedicated to introductions, and orientation around the online space of the workshop: Moodle.

Week 0 has been added by the facilitators to the workshop agenda. We hope that it helps to give the group more time to get ready for the workshop – a need expressed by the participants of the first edition of this event, held between April and May 2008.
Since Monday, many participants have been starting to introduce themselves and we can already see the richness of professional backgrounds and organizational settings, mentioned also in Gaurí Salokhe’s previous post. Nice to see that introductory messages already led a participant to suggest an informal gathering of the Rome-based group, which is quite big, due to the fact that the face-to-face part of the workshop  will be held in there (early October).  Others discover their similarities in challenges and areas of interest: Web-site development, Marketing, Librarian issues, Networks, incentives for KS …

Tomorrow a first conference call will provide an opportunity for a workshop orientation: expectations, overview of the agenda and a “Moodle tour”.

The 2nd KS Workshop has seen an overwhelming interest with over 45 registrations coming in over the month of August. The registration is now closed with 35 participants for its online phase. The participants come from following organizations:

  • Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East & North Africa (AARINENA)
  • Bioversity International
  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property (CAS-IP)
  • Central Laboratory For Agricultural Expert Systems (CLAES)
  • Christian Action Research and Education (USA)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • Institutional Learning and Change (ILAC) c/o Bioversity International
  • International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
  • International Fud for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
  • Makerere University
  • Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance-CIAT Africa Bean Program
  • The WorldFish Center
  • UN World Food Programme (WFP)
  • World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

We hope this mix of participants from different organizations will lead to cross-fertilisation of ideas and organizational cultures that is mutually productive and beneficial to the participants.We look forward to great cross-fertilisation of ideas and organizational cultures that is mutually productive and beneficial to the participants.