Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate as guest speaker to the first training session about Wikis at FAO and it was an enriching experience!

The 2-hour session was moderated by Gauri Salokhe and Romolo Tassone, both from the Web Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building Division at FAO.

These sessions at FAO are part of an ongoing series of workshops on the methods, tools and services that can facilitate knowledge sharing.  These trainings are offered weekly by the Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building Division (KCE), in collaboration with Staff Development Branch (AFHT).

The session was fully booked and it was interesting to see how more and more people that couldn’t register were arriving to see if, just by chance, they could get a seat to participate in the session. This shows there are a lot people interested in learning more about collaborative tools and how these can be applied to their work at FAO.

Initially the moderators introduced Wikis by showing one of the world’s most popular Wiki: Wikipedia. Actually at FAO, they have implemented MediaWiki, the software behind Wikipedia as their internal Wiki, but they also offer other Wiki tools depending on the users’ requirements.

Together with Gauri, we showed the example of the Knowledge Sharing toolkit (KS Toolkit), a collaborative wiki site using Wikispaces that assembles knowledge sharing tools and methods resources. The KS Tookit is an initiative of the ICT-KM’s Institutional Knowledge Sharing project and in collaboration with FAO and the KM4Dev community, it currently has approximately 120 people that contribute to keep this global public good growing.

I had the opportunity to show the Wikis we have implemented recently in the CGIAR. As part of the CGXchange project, we are currently offering Google Sites which is a Wiki that users can easily setup themselves and start collaborating quickly. Some of these Wikis are public or private. The private Wikis in the CGIAR are mostly being used for project/team collaboration and meeting sites. The public Wikis are shared with the world for viewing and only a few people with editing rights can maintain the content: (site that gathers tutorials and trainings of the collaboration tools available for the CGIAR staff) (the strategic framework of the new CGIAR is being shared through this public Wiki)

We also discussed about the Wikis that ‘die‘ because of the fact that people do not contribute. Of course…Wikis are just like any website, they need a moderator or at least a group people that are committed in keeping the content updated and encouraging others to contribute so they can be useful.

Towards the end of the session the participants had the opportunity to edit a Wiki that had been setup for the training using a free Wikispaces guest account. The participants had a lot of fun adding content, links, inserting videos and deleting what others had written!…thank goodness that Wikis have version history and you can easily go back and retrieve older versions! 🙂

You can find a summary of all the links to the Web pages that were viewed during the training session on this Delicious page:

I would like to thank Gauri and Romolo for the invitation to participate as guest speaker for this session. I believe we learned a lot from each other and hope we continue partnering in these knowledge sharing sessions in the near future. 

I believe that we, in the ICT-KM program, are doing a lot of research about social media tools and have vast experience on these topics. Given the CGIAR’s dispersed locations, currently our main method to communicate our knowledge is using our blog, which is great, but many people still prefer hands-on training sessions than reading. In this respect, my take home message is that we should learn from our FAO colleagues and start organizing on-site or online training sessions as well, every now and then, to share our knowledge on social media tools for our colleagues in the CGIAR…

social mediaThe second social media workshop of CGIAR’s ICT-KM Program kicks off next Monday with 35 participants from 10 different organizations, among those IFAD, CTA, IRG, and CARDI.

The facilitators team Nancy White, Meena Arivananthan, and Simone Staiger-Rivas also welcome participants from 2 Challenge Programs, 6 CGIAR centers, as well as eco-regional and systems-wide programs, and the CGIAR Secretariat.

In this edition we are also happy to have a workshop mentor: Jonathan Thompson from the World Food Programme.

We are looking forward to three weeks of social media explorations and discussions. Pre-workshop preparations include a short survey that invites the group to share existing IDs or set up accounts for the social media tools that we will be learning about (Skype, Fickr, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) The three weeks have each a different focus:

  1. Thinking About Your Social Media Needs
  2. Exploring and Picking Tools
  3. Social Media Strategy and Implementation

The workshop menu includes also 2 optional teleconference calls and discussions on the internet platform Moodle. The facilitators provide the group with discussion starters, tools introductions and related links, and will refer to the KS Toolkit as central resource. Watch out this space for summaries of the event!

Photo Credit:  Matt Hamm

On the second day of our Social Media Workshop we had our first conference call with ten participants.

Nancy White facilitated the call and kicked off by asking what social media tool each one of us has been using most recently: Blogs, social bookmarking, wikis, Dgroups, photo and video sharing, social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn , and Skype were some replies.

  • Immediately an important issue was raised: The personal versus the professional use of social media. Most of us have our first social media experience in the personal domain to connect and keep up relationships with friends and family. Nancy thinks that this is a great entry point and might help us to create a comfort zone and then move on to additional professional uses . Moreover, social media allow us to reach younger generations who are growing up with this natural mix. But it is definitively an issue when we consider the habit of separating our professional lives from our private lives, which is typical of many organizations, i.e. when we discuss IT aspects like the bandwidth required, or organizational policies.

Two other important discussion points are summarized below:

  • From the pipeline and dissemination to the conversational mode: Social Media enables us to interact more broadly with our target groups even if so far only 10% of social media activity generates interaction. Nathan Russell invites us to keep a critical perspective: How sure are we actually that social media empowers people? Some experiences in the field show that interactive communication tools can even increase inequity. Two interesting replies to that question were given, one by Nathan himself: Emphasis has to be given to empower rural organizations rather then individuals, which has greater and broader impact. Nancy highlights that Mobiles can be seen as having huge potential considering their exponential growth in number and coverage, as they are benefitting a much wider constituency.
  • Reaching (sub) target groups: Edith Hesse asks us how social media can help us to reach our different target groups, like donors, development professionals, the CGIAR community, policy makers? Paul Neate suggests that we, communication professionals should think about democratizing the communication exercise, which means motivate and support our staff to interact with their target groups more directly and actively, instead of having messages coming from us exclusively. Paul Stapleton adds that we need to see the individual relationships behind the target, i.e. our interaction with a donor is at the end a one-to-one relationship which we need to cultivate. Those comments seem to suggest a more fragmented communications approach rather then a broad and massive dissemination of our research products and outcomes. Nancy adds that it is probably a combination: We need to get the message out and available and then engage users around that content. One example could be: Publish a blog post and let your networks know about it and invite them to subscribe via Facebook, Twitter, on your skype status, or via a newsletter etc. Another important and often missing aspect is our availability and effort to actually listen to what our target groups communicate. Active (social media) listening is a key to relationship building and requires openness and readiness to hear negative feedback. Antonella Pastore wonders how we then manage to bring all the bits and pieces of social media interaction together. How can we avoid to become too dispersed?

We closed our conversation by going around the clock and raising some questions that emerged for each of us during the call:

  • How can I engage and keep up a dialogue with users of our CG information systems to keep content relevant?
  • How can I use social media to involve donor offices, identify my donor network, and move to a more informal connection with the donor community?
  • What are the ideas and examples to communicate more effectively (i.e. Alternative Slash and Burn approach)
  • How do we deal with the organizational fear of letting go and open up, including the IT departments?
  • How can I prioritize some tools versus others knowing that there are so many options?
  • How can social media support internal organizational discussions, i.e. support the interaction between Communication and researchers to discuss the content of a new website?
  • To which degree can we expect to mainstream the use of social media in our work? What are the next steps?
  • How can we assure that we support the use of social media through good facilitation, including the challenge to cover several languages?
  • What are the opportunities to join forces among centers, like important events?

Participatory Web – New Potentials for ICT in Rural Areas

The KS Toolkit features in a recent GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft for Technische Zusammenarbeit) publication now available for download. It contains 8 contributions in form of case studies and stories.


Table of Content

  • Participatory Web – New Potentials for ICT in Rural Areas (Annemarie Matthess, Christian Kreutz)
  • NABUUR: Effective Online Peer-to-Peer Knowledge Transfer (Rolf Kleef, Raul Caceres)
  • Innovation, Interaction, Information: Using the Social Web (Peter Ballantyne)
    in Agricultural Development
  • Empowering Farmers in India Using the Kisan Blog (Runa Sarkar, Debahsis Pattanaik)
  • Web 2.0 in Ecuador: Enhancing Citizenship (Paula Carrión)
  • Farmer-led Documentation (Dorine Rüter, Anne Piepenstock)
  • Potential of Mobile: Cambodian Farmers Turn to their Phones (Ken Banks, Christian Kreutz)
  • The Knowledge Sharing Kit: CGIAR’s Wiki Approach (Gerry Toomey)

Nancy White is an amazing woman. Nancy helped us to set up the KS toolkit, and also “her job is done”, we benefit from her continuous input and energy to move projects forward that are close to her passion. Have a look at the KS toolkit. It has now a new section with links to glossaries that can help to find our way through the KM terminology jungle. Nancy says: “There are a lot of technical terms related to tools and method. What makes sense to one person, is jargon for another. Instead of creating (or recreating) a new glossary, we decided to link to some other good existing glossaries. If you know of a good glossary, please add the link!

Thanks Nancy!