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

When I was in university, I had an ingenious way of bookmarking important facts/points from articles: 3×5 inch white, lined cards! I would use one side to write out a key point and the reverse side for a citation of the relevant book or journal article. What can I say… it was the 90’s! My 300-odd cards were so valuable to me that whenever anyone wanted to borrow one, I’d watch them like a hawk – till I got it back. Not that I’m averse to sharing, but the time and energy spent bookmarking key points, and the fact that I was relying heavily on them to complete my literature review, made this resource too valuable to lose.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and enter social bookmarking. Filling a niche need for Internet users who navigate their way through websites, social bookmarking is like a little storm in a big teacup – a storm that it is growing bigger everyday.

Some of us may already be saving links to useful websites we visit by ‘adding’ them to our ‘Favorites’ or Bookmarks in our preferred browser. While this means these websites are pegged or bookmarked, the time it takes to retrieve these ‘favorite’ links and the fact that you will need to use your own computer to access the websites, limits this organization tool.

Social bookmarking takes you, the user, to a new level of organizing your precious research, whether it’s a useful restaurant review or a comparison of pathogenic plant viruses. Social bookmarking services such as let you save and store your favorite online resources in a single location that is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. All you need to do to organize your web links is to assign keywords (tags) that will help you recall the link when you need it. Bookmarks on can be shared publicly, for others to see and add to their resource lists, and vice versa. What a great way to filter through the information overload on the Internet!

How can you within the CGIAR benefit from social bookmarking?

Well, first, online resources can be shared across your Center between scientists and their peers. All that’s needed is a bit of thinking when tagging favorite website links with specific keywords.

As one participant of the Online Social Media workshop put it, “I can see real value in using social bookmarking to create ‘validated’ libraries of information sources on the Web. Choose a topic, set a ‘Network tag’, sign up a bunch of people interested in the topic and away you go. You could post the link to these ‘libraries’ on your own or your organization’s website.”

When you start using network tags, that’s where you really see the power of social bookmarking. Here are some simple instructions provided by Nancy White, online communication expert and lead facilitator at the Online Social Media workshop.

1. Choose a tag. This is a key practice!

2. Recruit Taggers. Here is my rule of thumb. In a group of 20 people, having 2 taggers will make a difference. It doesn’t have to be everyone. Some people are better scanners/taggers than others. I find people who are fast readers and global thinkers make great taggers. First I try and find out if anyone is already using and tagging. Then I ask them to consider tagging for the group as well. I always encourage people to install the little tag bookmarklet on their browser.
I REALLY love it when people don’t just tag, but they add a short annotation of why they think the link is valuable and add other tags beyond the shared tag that help further define the tag.

  • A tag should be somehow obviously related to the topic. People need to be able to remember it.
  • If it is related to an event, add a year at the end. So if we wanted to identify the CGSocialmedia resources to this year, we could make the tag CGSocialmedia09
  • If you need it to be unique to your group, you will have to work harder to make the tag unique. The tag socialmedia is used by many people so it is too generic.
  • Some caveats: Tags that are too long, have slightly weird spelling or too obtuse tend to have challenges. People forget them, mispell (and thus mistag) them. So bottom line, keep it as simple as you can while still being unique.
  • 3. Make the tag feed visible to users. So this may mean you are recruiting users, or simply making the fruits of the tagging visible to an existing group. You can pull the RSS feed (Meena: coming soon, I promise!) and embed it in a blog or webportal page or any site that allows simple scripts. You can find the RSS feed for any tag at the lower left of that tag page on

    Social bookmarking and scholarly literature

    Maybe you don’t use 3×5 inch cards, maybe you’ve been trying various free or licensed software to keep track of your references on your personal computer. How about a web-based application that allows you to do exactly what allows, for your scientific literature, with no more than a mouse-click?

    There are too many web-based/social bibliography management tools out there that try to meet the needs of the scientist, created by various sources from esteemed journal publishers to PhD students. I’m going to highlight just three here, namely Connotea, Aigaion and CiteULike. Not for any other reason except that Petr Kosina of CIMMYT sent out a little question on Yammer (see post on Microblogging) asking which of these three online reference management tools would be suitable for geographically distributed research institutions – which would apply to the CGIAR.

    A quick scan of Connotea, Aigaion and CiteULike reveals:

    • All three software are free: CiteULike and Connotea are hosted services, while Aigaion is a web application that needs to be installed on a server
    • You can save and organize your links to references found online
    • Your bibliography/list of references can be easily shared among colleagues/peers
    • Use any computer to access your list of references anywhere, anytime
    • CiteUlike allows you to store your pdf files for easy access from any computer
    • Aigaion enables you to export references to other formats, like bibtext

    (Updated: Here’s another bibliography management tool, Mendeley, which indexes pdfs and manages bibliography in Word – courtesy of William Gunn)

    As you can see, your choice of online reference management software will depend on your needs. Shop around and check out some of the links below that make more detailed comparisons.

    If I can sum up the utility of social bookmarking sites, I’d say it’s the wealth of useful links you can get from having access to your colleague’s list and vice versa. Cutting out unnecessary trawling, it is time-saving and leads to the discovery of new, subject-relevant articles. Also having all your useful website links online just makes it easier to shed a few pounds off your travel gear. It’s just one more way to lose your notebook when you travel!

    Till next time….



    The workshop was only the beginning hopefully to more communication and exchange among the CG colleagues – thank you for bringing us closer togetherquote from a workshop participant

    In-between all this important and exciting traffic on our blog, I am coming back to our social media online workshop to share the results of the participants evaluation.
    15 of the 30 participants replied to the survey, which seems like the maximum you can get in those days of evaluation overload. 😉

    The workshop was rated excellent by 57% and good by 36%.

    Here is a summary of the workshop evaluation:

    • 73% of participants say that after participating in this workshop they have increased their understanding of social media principles and tools?
    • Usefulness of each activity and discussion focus: The lively welcome and introduction session was very useful for 64%. All participants found the tools exploration or very useful (50%) or useful (50%).  The suggested discussion on the opportunities of social media for the new CGIAR didn’t fully kick off, maybe because the 2-week workshop was really short. Only 36% found it useful. The teleconferences and the discussion summaries were useful for those who participated or looked into it.
    • Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, Photo-,Video-, and Slide Sharing as well as social networking sites (i.e. facebook) are the social media tools that most participants already use. After the workshop the following tools triggered interest:  Micro Blogging, the use of social media for organisational web sites, social reporting, social media listening and social media for new e-newsletters, as well as social media strategy M&E.
    • Participants found the Moodle platform good in terms of ease of use, connectivity, look and feel, and structure.
    • 65% scored facilitation excellent, 29% good.
    • For the majority (85%) the size of the group was just right. The interaction with other participants could be better: 50% found it good, 36% average.
    • Half of the participants state that they did make useful contacts during the workshop.

    ICT-KM is currently thinking about offering two more social media workshops for the larger community, including researchers, partners, and development practitioners. This time the workshop would be 3-week long to respond to the mayor suggestion for improvement: Give more time for the tools exploration.

    Stay tuned….

    Today we had our second and last conference call with 11 participants. Before the call started Nancy White shared some statistics with me about the workshop participation. It was interesting to see that participants were more active in the first week (this week there was apparently an annual report deadline in many centers), and that there were more or less three times more reading then posting going on. This was confirmed in our call today where participants highlighted that they enjoyed the reading even if they didn’t participate that much.

    In total and until today 165 posts have been shared and approximately 800 views registered. Not bad!!!

    We did a first round of comments and asked participants what ideas the tools generated. Here are some examples:

    • Innovative e-newsletters using more communication channels like YouTube for example
    • Possibilities of social media as a discussion topic in the upcoming Penang workshop of Communications Directors
    • Social reporting
    • Twitter / Yammer as a short messaging system
    • Start to think about M&E of social media
    • More strategic use of social bookmarking
    • More strategic use of Wikipedia, Bioversity experience
    • Google apps for increased collaboration needs in the CG
    • Use social media promote a campaign (Facebook, YouTube)
    • Support school to school exchanges in Africa (Mobile phones)

    The other topic we started to surface in the call relates to the question on how we might use social media in the “new” CGIAR: Should we have a strategic approach or should we experiment and learn first?

    • We should go the exploratory path. We could put some funds into pilot projects, learn and make recommendations.
    • We need to start to think about quantitative and qualitative analysis of the experiments we undertake.
    • We could start to more intensively aggregate feeds from different centers
    • Social media could kick off the Marketing group again who lost its energy and impact. The Marketing group was networking solution of its day. We should combine it with social media, the technological aspects and open it up to new members.
    • Social media is subversive as it goes around the formal channels element. And this is the perfect time to present the opportunities and do some positive disruptions within the CG
    • Social media represent the tools of the future. We need mechanisms to get to talk about them widely, and go beyond the experts to reach a second level of adoption.-    Social media can empower the younger CG staff. We should let them show us the way through social media instead of telling them what to do.
    • We need to show the impact of social media in research to convince.

    Some closing impressions from participants

    • Now I know some people I can go to if I have questions
    • We shouldn’t be that careful and try things out.
    • The potential of social media becomes clearer
    • We have to look at the M&E of social media
    • Look at just to get a sense how powerful Twitter might be!

    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?
    Bookmark this

    Bookmark this

    Everything is ready for this event that registers fully booked with 30 communication professionals from 13 CGIAR centers.

    We will start for three days with introductions and a short review of our communication goals. Next Tuesday we will hold a teleconference call (in two sessions to cover different time zones). We will talk about what social media is and how it can help us achieve our goals.

    For two weeks participants will explore specific tools of their interest (i.e. blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, photo and video sharing, micro blogging etc). For each tool the facilitation team (Nancy White, Petr Kosina, Simone Staiger) prepared a short introduction, recommends some resources and offers a couple of questions as discussion starters.

    At the end of the workshop we will discuss via the event platform Moodle and a second conference call how social media might play a role in the new CGIAR communications approach, taking specifically into account the CGIAR change process: What role could / should social media play in future communications strategies? What are the ideas that we could start to try out together?

    Watch out this space for regular posts about this event.

    Image Source:

    On-line Social Media Workshop for CGIAR Communications Professionals March 2-13, 2009

    070119_finish_your_rssToday, Communications within the CG must go beyond scientific journal articles, press releases, or static web sites to engage the users of our research in new ways. Social media is an alternative to traditional mass-media that may allow the CGIAR to target its audience in different and more effective manners.

    In addition to the exiting forms of communication and marketing of our research processes and results, social media has a huge potential for the CGIAR to increase its visibility, participate in conversations and debates around our research areas, and strengthen relationships with peers, partners and actors in our field of work.

    This two-week online workshop offered by the Institutional Knowledge Sharing project will allow CGIAR communications professionals to go deeper and explore how social media can help to innovate in the communications area.

    The workshop is a follow-up activity to the KS Workshop that has already involved many center and partner staff.   Nancy White will facilitate our collective exploration with support from Simone Staiger-Rivas (CIAT, ICT-KM Program) and Petr Kosina (CIMMYT).

    I was very happy to attend the Share Fair session where the FAO Official Representatives Web site was presented. Not that I have much to do with its content. But the person who designed and developed the site, Maria Grazia Bovo, was one of our alumni in the first KS workshop. When we started the workshop this web site didn’t exist and Maria Grazia designed the site as the workshop unfolded.

    It was fabulous to see it up and running now and I really liked the site:

    • It has a sober FAO design adapted to its user group
    • It has blog lines that are daily updated
    • It also allows non official representatives who work at FAO to access lots of information through the Intranet
    • It has a Google calendar with all FAO events and it allows to follow webcasts and offers podcasts through a clever mash up with other parts of FAOs Intranet.
    • In addition it is now the only way to access important information that was beforehand distributed via fax o paper copies, a good way to get users on board and increase consultations.

    Bravo Maria!

    These are reflections from Agnes and Marco about Open Space Technology which was used during the face-to-face phase of the 2nd FAO KS Workshop.

    Interview with Agnes
    Agnes’ first words were: lots of new Ideas! And the interview could have stopped there. But there’s more. She came to the workshop with specific needs so throughout the process she always kept her ears and eyes wide open to pick up every little detail.
    Open Space was engaging, constructive and a good learning experience.  How? The idea of people with specific needs converging and discussing real issues was great.  Agnes felt fully involved and was glad to hear experiences from a diverse group of people.  In particular, she found the session on Intranets very remarkable since it gave her hints for concrete application in her work space.
    Besides the content discussed, Agnes particularly enjoyed the process of Open Space (and other methods) because it gave her the opportunity to interact with other participants. The social aspect of the process helped to share and take in from the whole experience.

    Interview with Marco
    Marco’s idea of attending the workshop was to explore tools and methods used in knowledge sharing. Open Space among other methods experimented, was an experience he found good for motivating participation.  This was particularly with the concept of having participants develop their own agenda. He was skeptical about this at first, but later appreciated the freedom and democracy the approach gave to the participants.
    Marco’s observation about the sessions was that there was a mix between specific and more general topics. He points out that much as the process was quite engaging; especially in delicious and community radio sessions, content was not fully analyzed in others. He admits that generally, he benefited not only in understanding content but also application of the processes.
    He appreciates the fact that his quest has been met given that the exposure he has received will help him find possible applications in his work.

    Other participants have also added their feedback:

    All other posts regarding the workshop are at:

    Have a look at Nancy White’s post on the KS Workshop. Her reflections will be followed soon here by a summary of the participant’s feedback.

    Nancy White and workshop participants

    Nancy White and workshop participants

    Based on a former post on a framwework for institutional knowledge sharing, the project has now published a Web page with the revised framework and the achievements of the project in the different areas of intervention:

    We can use knowledge sharing (KS) principles, methods, and tools to support our organization’s development. They can help us build internal capacity so that we can work, in even more effective ways, towards our mission and to sustain ourselves over the long term. That is:

    • KS can help us recognize and deal with today’s complexities, while strengthening our skills and attitudes. It also supports organizational learning and evaluation processes. 
    • By incorporating KS tools and methods into its strategic planning and change processes, our management can promote involvement, buy-in, and follow-up action of both staff and stakeholders. 
    • Systematic KS can make organizational day-to-day business more effective, visible, and transparent. 

    The Institutional KS Project supports activities for three strategic areas, and looks at the potential impact of KS for organizational development from both a transformational and practical perspective.

    We use the following action framework to plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate our KS interventions in those three areas. The text below also highlights our Project’s achievements.

    KS Framework

    KS Framework

    1. Capacity building, M&E, and Learning: Dealing with complexity to empower staff

    KS Workshop

    • Workshop concept and design developed, and two workshops held.
    • Reached 13 CGIAR centers and 7 partner organizations, involving 80 participants.
    • FAO took the lead for the second workshop.
    • Seven participants are co-authoring an article on challenges and experiences in their areas of work at the time of the Workshop.
    • A pool of facilitators and mentors is being built—two workshops had eight facilitators and/or mentors, with four being former participants.
    • Read more

    Evaluation study

    • KS activities for Phase I (2004–2006) evaluated in 6 centers and the CGIAR Secretariat.
    • Criteria and indicators for an M&E framework developed.
    • Preliminary Findings :
    • KS approaches are crucial if we aim to build our work upon the collective knowledge of our staff and research partners
    • When introducing KS, it is best to start small
    • KS enables us to pay attention to the process of our interactions and create spaces for people to be heard, and unintentionally suppressed talent is freed up.
    • KS assures continuity in institutional cultures while facilitating change processes.
    • KS works best when applied simultaneously at the grassroots and the leadership level
    • Building capacity in KS pays off
    • Read more

    Involvement with the KM4Dev community

    • Visibility of CGIAR raised among practitioners of knowledge management (Km) for development 
    • KM4Dev journal on “KM in Latin America and the Caribbean” guest-edited.
    • Sponsorship of two CGIAR staff participating in the annual KM4Dev meeting.
    • Participation in the community core group.
    • Pool of co-workers and consultants created.
    • Visit KM4Dev

    2. Strategies and change management: Promoting involvement in organizational change processes

    CGIAR change process and stakeholder engagement

    • Support within the organization for strategic meetings (AGM 06, 07, and 08), applying KS principles.
    • Advised on and facilitated consultation processes with stakeholders, whether through virtual (e.g., blogs) or actual means (e.g., face-to-face meetings).
    • Contribute and facilitate engagement with civil society organizations (CSOs).

    CIFOR pilot project

    • Promoted participation of staff and Board in CIFOR’s strategic planning.
    • KS approaches used to increase participation, and identify and address common issues and concerns.
    • Framework included to monitor and evaluate the implementation of strategies.
    • Read more

    3. Problem solving and best practices: Making organizational processes more interactive, visible, and transparent

    Pilot projects

    KS Toolkit

    • This resource, in wiki format, targets professionals working in international development. It has been expanded and improved. A user community has been created and membership promoted, particularly through active linkages with the KS Workshop. So far, the Toolkit wiki contains 70 tools and methods for sharing knowledge, receives more than 10,000 visits per month, and has 68 registered members.
    • It also contains descriptions, experiences, how-to guides, and relevant links for Web-based applications and face-to-face group processes. It features a “context” page where users can search for appropriate tools and methods by either defining the nature and needs of their work or using keywords (tags).
    • FAO has become an offical partner for the Toolkit.
    • Visit the Toolkit

    KS Project’s website

    • Continuously updated through the incorporation of Web 2.0 tools.
    • The Toolkit wiki is the main resource featuring on the website.
    • A photo gallery, housed in Flickr, contains more than 1200 images (including photos and illustrations). As of October 2008, it records an average of 120 viewers daily.
    • The KS blog receives more than 1000 visits per month.
    • More than 160 important resources are bookmarked, tagged, and dynamically shared on the home page.
    • Users can also subscribe to website updates via RSS feeds.

    Eight participants, and two facilitators of the first KS Workshop are joining efforts to write a joint article about their multiple perspectives around knowledge sharing in the context of our workshop experience. I am talking about Alessandra Galié (ICARDA), Ben Hack (consultant), Alexandra Jorge (ILRI / Bioversity), Florencia Tateossian (CGIAR Secretariat), Andrea Pape-Christiansen (ICARDA), Vanessa Meadu (World Agroforestry Centre), Michael Riggs (FAO), Gauri Salokhe (FAO), Nancy White (consultant) and myself.

    What are we trying to do?
    We want to share and document a snapshot of our professional lives, at the moment when the KS workshop took place. Clearly, our backgrounds, current responsibilities, and applications of tools and methods learned in the KS workshop are diverse and we hope that we can provide readers with multiple perspectives on, and examples of, the contributions of “modern” KS approaches to our development work. Overall we will look at the value or significance of KS approaches (and the KS workshop itself) to us as international development professionals?

    How are we getting this done?
    In order to get such a joint article done, we benefit from the help of Gerry Toomey, a science writer who will coordinate our efforts and edit the different pieces as a whole. Gerry had short interviews with each of us and just sent us some guidelines so we can work on our individual contributions. For this enterprise we use a wiki set up as a private space. Each of us has a personal page where we can compose or paste in our texts. While we will not be editing anyone else’s text, we are all encouraged to leave comments, questions, suggestions, or words of encouragement on each other’s pages. Gerry will then work with each of us individually on our drafts.

    We are all looking forward to it and hope to come back to you soon with a useful piece. Happy writing to all!