Although we like to look fresh and current, this isn’t the driving force behind the present revamp of the ICT-KM Program’s website. Our focus continues to be on providing our audience with an easy-to navigate, content-rich site. You won’t find any unnecessary bells and whistles on the soon-to-be-launched site, but you will be able to locate content with ease, take advantage of our interactive features, and follow what we do.

The new site, along with our blog (currently free and hosted at wordpress.com), will soon be relocated to our own WordPress content management system (CMS). But don’t worry; we’ll still be reachable at ictkm.cgiar.org. The move means that our blog will be more visible and accessible than it is presently, with information about us and what we do cross-linked and cross-promoted across the site.  In short, the new site will revolve around the blog, with lots of shortcuts to the social media we use the most, pictures, videos, twitter, etc. – all of which represent our overall approach to communication, outreach, being out there and interacting with like-minded people. Visitors will also be able to leave comments about the site content and contribute to the blog. This is the fun part of this new adventure.

However, our job is not just going to be more fun, it’s also going to be a whole lot easier for us behind the scenes. We are a small team at the Program, so we look forward to doing our housekeeping in one place, instead of managing two sites ( ictkm.cgiar.org and ictkm.wordpress.com). The CMS also means that will be faster and more accurate in keeping the site’s ‘stable’ content clean and fresh.

We’re all stat junkies at the Program, so we just love the idea that we’ll also be able to monitor and analyze traffic all at once.  This means, we’ll instantly gain more insight into how we’re doing on the Web and make adjustments accordingly.

What more could we possibly want? Well, we do have a little wish list:

  • an even more loyal audience (not that we’re complaining about our present followers)
  • more involvement from our audience in commenting, reviewing and sharing what we publish
  • more visibility and attribution for our blog authors, who are going to have more space to express themselves

With the help of you, our audience, we hope to realize this list.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new site later this month. Check back soon for news of our launch date!

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Newsletters are like teasers – they Mailing_Listhighlight issues and activities, celebrate success stories, point to useful resources and give you a hint of upcoming events. A great way to build a relationship with your target audience, an email (e-) newsletter is cost-effective and a valuable tool for communicating via the Internet.

As Nancy White, online communications expert and lead facilitator at our Social Media Workshop, believes,

“E-newsletters serve as a great summary for ongoing information that may be available in other forms such as blogs, twitter, discussion forums. The target audience that seems to appreciate them the most are people who don’t use many online tools and/or who are not online a lot and like to print and read offline.”

E-newsletters not only overcome a lack of technological know-how, they also transcend geographical boundaries and low bandwidth issues.

Used widely within CGIAR Centers, e-newsletters communicate department/project updates and Center-wide research activities. They are informative, contain useful resources and are often archived as institutional memory.

However, the BIG question is: Is your e-newsletter being read?   

To ensure that your e-newsletter is being read, there are two things to consider: target audience and content.

We know the reach of the e-newsletter is wide, and if you have an extensive distribution list, even better. But then, so does everyone else with a reasonably attractive newsletter. In effect, your newsletter will be competing not only with other research-oriented newsletters, but also with high priority emails, project meetings and an assortment of work-related activities.

Ruthless people are made, not born

People have become adept at managing their email inboxes. Many juggle several email accounts at one time, with each established for a different purpose: work, study, family and yes, even newsletter subscriptions. They can also be ruthless in deleting emails that are of little value to them, a decision that often takes place in the first few seconds of seeing an email in the preview pane of their inbox.

Unless your e-newsletter appeals to the reader in that small space, chances are it may not be opened right away, and may even get deleted.

How to garner the attention your e-newsletter deserves:

  • E-newsletter title – the subject part of the email can be used to your advantage. Use keywords from topics instead of volume number and issue.
  • Headline title – keep it short, attention-grabbing, possibly controversial
  • Subheading – use keywords, state the purpose of the news item
  • Order – place your two best stories at the top to maximize the view in the preview pane
  • Graphics – minimal is best; consider a simpler newsletter header so it does not take up too much space in the preview pane

(A little trivia: Based on eyetracking studies conducted on reading behavior, it was found that e-mail users are extremely fast at both processing their inboxes and reading e-newsletters. The average time allocated to an e-newsletter after opening it was only 51 seconds, with most participants reading only 19% of a newsletter)

So based on the data above, once your e-newsletter is opened, you have approximately 51 seconds to impress your readers.  The more discerning readers will quickly size it up by scanning the headlines and subheadings. If they do not find anything of relevance or interest, you’ve lost them for that particular issue. They may try the next issue you send out, but if the trend continues, they may un-subscribe from your e-newsletter.  So keep track of subscribers and un-subscribers.

For e-newsletter content to be appreciated, it has to be presented in an appealing manner. The look and the feel should be inviting – easy-to-read fonts, minimal images and reasonable length. Description under the headline titles should be short and succinct. Include a link to the source, for people who want more information.

Long e-newsletters risk losing valuable readership. If your e-newsletter is lengthy, it may be prudent to review the rationale behind it. Whether you split your e-newsletter content into shorter e-newsletters that are sent more frequently, or whether you decide to edit content to only showcase the top 5 -6 news items, depends on the purpose of the e-newsletter and the target audience.

There are some quarters who believe newsfeeds are slowly replacing the e-newsletter. Newsfeeds are subscriptions people can make to websites, blogs and other online sources to inform them when new content is introduced to these sites. The ‘news’ comes in the form of headlines. While this is very useful, newsfeeds are impersonal.

The e-newsletter, on the other hand, has the power to be the voice of your cause.

Till next time…

Some examples:

Resources:

The April 2009 edition of the CGIAR E-News has just been released and is now available- see CGIAR News April 2009.cgiar-news-april_ks-article-highlighted

According the Laura Ivers  from the CGIAR Secretariat Communications Unit who produces the E-News- from her Yammer post:

” This issue highlights innovative CGIAR research initiatives delivered through collective action and partnerships and the promising impact of this work in the field. We hope you find the information to be of interest.”

Of particular interest in this issue is an article prepared by Nadia Manning-Thomas, project Leader of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project, on the recently held Knowledge Share Fair. Held in FAO HQ in Rome in January 2009, this innovative event was the first of its kind, organised by FAO, CGIAR (through the ICT-KM program), Bioversity, IFAD and WFP.

To read this article see- ‘Thanks for sharing’

knowledge-fair-article-in-cgiar-news-april

The latest newsletter of GFAR features an article about the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project and its Pilot Projects. See links and article below.

See: GFAR Newsletter

See: article on KSinR project and Pilots

The CGIAR: learning how to improve its research effectiveness and impact through knowledge sharing

The CGIAR Centres and Programs together with their many partners, are creating a wealth of knowledge that is aimed at helping to increase productivity within agriculture and improve livelihoods of people, primarily in developing countries. While all players are doing much to ensure that this knowledge is widely shared and applied, certain obstacles to the uptake, use and impact of this wealth of knowledge continue to exist. One of the missing elements between knowledge generation and the application of such knowledge is knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing involves learning from stakeholders what knowledge gaps exist and what is needed to close these gaps; increasing collaboration and interaction of all actors throughout knowledge generation processes; and finding more effective ways of delivering knowledge in a manner appropriate to the particular target groups whose decision-making and actions we seek to influence and support. This requires better understanding and support of new knowledge systems, knowledge sharing approaches, and innovation mechanisms.
To address this, the CGIAR through its system-wide program on Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) initiated a two-year project starting in 2007 entitled ‘Improving the effectiveness of the CGIAR through knowledge sharing’ with a major component focused on Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR). The goal of the KSinR Project is to help improve the effectiveness and impact of CGIAR research through providing options and lessons around good practices of knowledge sharing in research.
KSinR’s main learning vehicle is six on-going CGIAR research projects which are using knowledge sharing approaches integrated into various stages of the research process, representing a new way of doing research aimed at greater impact. This includes the use of a multi-stakeholder framework for conducting research as being tried by IWMI through its use of the Learning Alliance approach in the ‘Wastewater , Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty alleviation’ (WASPA) project aimed at improving coordination amongst stakeholders and getting research into use. This project is also developing a process mentoring method to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Learning Alliance approach. The ICARDA Farmers’ Conference project is providing lessons on mechanisms for sharing knowledge with and learning from farmers to help with better design and carrying out of plant breeding research. The CIFOR Pilot is exploring better ways to share research priority assessment methodologies and the experiences around using them, as this is an important tool in figuring out those areas and types of research which can provide the greatest impact. The IWMI Wastewater project is testing various dissemination methods to improve uptake and use of research results.
This includes use of radio programs, training videos, contribution to curricula, and flip charts with printed messages and visuals to get across good practices in using wastewater.
Similarly the IRRI-lead Pilot is also exploring innovative dissemination methods through the development of the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (LRKB) as a mechanism to make research accessible for extension agents to use with farmers.
Information packets based on research identified by a variety of stakeholders are being developed in appropriate formats to be included in the LRKB. The WorldFish Centre Pilot Project is also trying out participatory monitoring and evaluation, as well as impact assessment methodologies with the aim of learning together with stakeholders throughout the research process, and gaining their perspective on progress and impact.
Synthesis of the results across KSinR and all of its Pilot Projects and other activities will be documented in a variety of media including the KS website (www.ks-cgiar.org), the KSinR blog, and through the development of practical how-to documents to be made widely available and presented at upcoming CGIAR and other fora.

Contact person:
Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader, n.manning@cgiar.org
IWMI Nile Basin and East Africa office, ILRI Campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) recently released its newsletter. Please find attached the February 2009 Issue of the GFAR Newsletter. The web edition will be available soon at  http://www.egfar.org/egfar/website/new/newsletters

The Knowledge Sharing in Research project was featured in this newsletter in an article entitled: “The CGIAR: learning how to improve its research effectiveness and impact through knowledge sharing”ksinr-in-gfar-newsletter


The January 2009 edition of the Europe Newsletter of the International Association of Facilitators recently re-printed the article “ Sharing knowledge – tell us a story”  (Pages 10-12 ) from The New Agriculturist Magazine on how agricultural researchers are using storytelling as a way to collect local knowledge.

The newsletter featuring the story is available from this link

 They also used as a cover picture a photo showing participants during a fieldFront cover of IAF newsletter0featuring photo from Farmers' Conference trip to Souran, south of Aleppo, to visit Participatory Plant Breeding sites (Credit: ICARDA)

Front cover of IAF newsletter featuring photo from Farmers’ Conference

In November 2008 the Knowledge Sharing in Research project held its Synthesis Workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A number of blog posts were written on this workshop and more information will be made available over the next few months.ksinr-workshop-in-newsletter-contents

The newest ICT-KM newsletter for 1st quarter of 2009 also features an article about the KSinR Synthesis workshop.

ksinr-synthesis-workshop-article-in-ict-km-newsletter