Social Media in International Development Workshop

Do you work for an international development NGO? Then sign up now for the next Social Media Workshop offered by the ICT-KM Program of the CGIAR. Here are the details:

After a successful pilot online event (See blog posts about the event), the CGIAR, through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer an online Social Media Workshop from May 25 to June 12 2009.

Moodle space

“Social media is using the Internet to instantly collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, and causes we care about, powered by web based tools.” – [We Media]

Social media offers a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders.

Objective of the workshop: Introduce researchers, communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners to social media tools and support their social media strategy development. As a participant, you will:

Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
Learn how to apply social media concepts and tools to both gather information and increase the dissemination of your information.
Learn how to apply social media concepts and tools for collaboration and interaction with your organization’s staff and partners.
Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

Week 1 – Introductions, conversations and assessment of your communications needs and goals.
Week 2 – Social Media Tools wikis, blogs, twitter, file and photo sharing, and many more. You can join the exploration of a range of tools or start a new discussion on tools of your own choice.
Week 3 – Social Media Tools and strategies. How these tools can help you to achieve your knowledge sharing goals. Develop your strategy.

Number of participants: minimum 22,maximum 30

Language: English

Dedicated time: A minimum of one hour per day, asynchronous you decide when you go online, as well as two telephone conversations, one during Week 1 and the other during Week 3. Optional synchronous calls or chats may be offered if there is an interest.

Open to: CGIAR staff, partners, agricultural and development organizations

Platform: Moodle, Skype and/or telephone. If you choose to use a landline, you will be responsible for long-distance costs. You should have regular access to the Internet. Some tools may not be accessible for those with low bandwidths. You may need to check with your IT department, as some web-based services you wish to explore may be currently blocked in your organization and you may need to seek support to access them.

Facilitators: Nancy White (Full Circle Associates), Simone Staiger-Rivas CGIAR-CIAT, Meena Arivananthan CGIAR-WorldFish

Cost: USD 500

Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas ( for questions and subscription by May, 15 latest.

Five for Water – Social Media for Change

When someone asks how ordinary people can use social media to make a change in the world, point them to this collaborative blog of how 5 girls and 4 dads went on a mission to help families in Ethiopia have access to clean water. Five for Water. A very simple blog to hold videos from their trip. This is my favorite quote. “Mom, say hi to mars and tell him to eat his food but not socks.” (Ah, dogs.) You can read the backstory here.

SRI and Knowledge Sharing

from Friday I had the great fortune to help facilitate a session at IFAD on SRI, or System of Rice Intensification. My botany degree, while neglected as a career path, has always kept my root interest in plants and ecosystems alive. In the course of doing a graphic recording of the presentation part of the session, a few things kept showing up for me.

First, the scholars working on SRI were insistent it was not a proscribed method of growing rice that is useful to poor, small holder farmers, but that it was a set of principles for growing rice and other crops.

A set of principles.

Can we view knowledge sharing not as a proscribed set of practices, but instead a set of principles?

While there are a range of tools and methods that we call “knowledge sharing,” they are just tools. And if we overly focus on them, we miss the point that knowledge sharing is embedded in everything we do. Therefore, to make sure we have time for KS and that we do it well and strategically, we might instead focus on the princples that support KS.

Mind map of SRI session at IFAD

So what might those principles be?

Saturday morning, on my way home from Rome at the unnatural hour of 5:15 am, I was surprised to look up in the airport to see a colleague who was at the joint Share Fair in Rome and a past participant of the online KS workshop I have facilitated for FAO and CGIAR. Justin Chisenga of FAO shared the challenges of KS in agriculture in Ghana. He said there were no precedents for sharing agricultural research, but instead a culture of individual ownership, and thus very often loss, of agricultural research knowledge. Locked up in files or personal computers, and unknowingly discarded upon retirement or death, years of knowledge had leaked away. Ownership, not public good.

  • What principles could change from lock down to flow in Ghana?
  • What principles could encourage funders to reframe their support towards openness and learning? 
  • What principles could reframe organizational and national policies to support and reward building public instead of private good in fields that ostensibly are dedicated to things like feeding one’s country, region or world?
  • What principles could allow people to share knowledge even in large, complex and necessarily political organizations?

My mind returned to what I learned about SRI. SRI focuses attention on the quality of seed, the timing and method of rice seedling transplantation, and THE HEALTH OF THE SOIL and the microorganisms that live there.

What is the soil for knowledge sharing? How do we know it is healthy? What “transplantation” practices allow us to move fragile new knowledge from one place and allow it to thrive in another, without too much loss, or too much investment in water and fertilizer? How should we “weed” to keep information overload from overwhelming us?

The analogy is intriguing me. 

Rice tending image from Wikipedia

The Girl Effect – catalyzing positive change

This morning on Twitter, Idocente pointed me to The Girl Effect. WOW! As some of you know, I have been a champion of the GiGis (Girl Geeks in service of the World Cafe community) and have long been a (prejudiced) champion of females in changing the world. So it is no surprise I had a positive response to this site.  Take a look at the video.

Over breakfast today in Bonn, where I’m doing some work this week, my friend Ulf and I were talking about where we have seen positive change take place.  (Check out his cool work with Science-Connects.) We shared stories about how things seem to work better from the ground up. Where people with passion and ownship make things happen, building on assets and in spite of barriers. Girls and women are certainly catalysts for this in many parts of the world. Take a look at this data from The Girl Effect fact sheet (pdf).

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
  • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science
    and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.)

Since I was in Israel and Palestine last month, I have been struggling on how to write about my experience in a way that is not about judgement, but about reflecting what I saw. The tyranny of person over person is heartbreaking, regardless of the reasons and justifications we create. But from what I saw and learned about, women and children are victims as Israel and Palestine continue without a solution for sustainable peace. The statistics around maternal and child health paint a compelling picture that war, occupation, and the patterns that trigger them are bad for women and children. High levels of maternal depression correlate with poor child nutrition. Raising rates of stunting in children from persistent malnourishment (low nutrition and poor nutrition) are staggering. Cultural challenges that resist healthy patterns of breast feeding and trigger increased poor child health and adult obesity and heart disease in Palestinians.

Where is the hope for something better? For basic human rights of food, shelter, clothing, clean food and water and yes, even peace?

It is with the women.

The women of Palestine and Israel, both, who build bridges across the divides were the most compelling points of light I experienced amongst the bleakness that presented itself. At the conference I was attending, I met a midwife who works for the Jazoor Foundation for Health and Social Development who gave me one of the few moments of light and hope I felt during my visit. She was passionate about her profession of helping women have healthier babies. She was passionate about teaching others to be midwives, even amongst professional disdain from other health care professionals. (US midwives will remember the time when they were dismissed by doctors, and are now an important part of the maternal child health system.) Her brains, her heart, her attitude radiated light. She worked with other amazing, passionate advocates for health, social development and peace in the organization, led by another brilliant, passionate woman. (I’m kicking myself for not having her name handy, but it is on my home computer and I’m on the road!)

Women who are catalyzing positive change.

I would name this radiant midwife, and share a short video we made of her, but I have not asked her permission. I’ll try and remmber to do that when I get home to let you experience a bit of her light.

So the message of The Girl Effect site resonated with me this morning. Wherever we work – in businesses, education, non profit, or independent spirits in the world, what are we doing to foster this light in girls and women? Because so far, they are the best bet I can see for making positive change in the world. By no means am I dismissing boys. But girls are so often dismissed, when they may be the best chance we’ve got.

(A small suggestion to the Girl Effect folks. Your about page is in flash, making it hard to copy and share the stats. Yes, I know I can download the data, but that is one more step. Plus data is still locked in a PDF. For strong virality, making it simpler and easier may be more important than making it slick. )

GEWR Online Event After Action Review

This past January I helped facilitate on online event that used DGroups email list and Wikispaces wikis to enable a global, multilingual online event. The After Action Review (AAR) of the event is now up on the wiki if you are interested! Gender Equity and Women’s Rights Online Event After Action Review

Here is the text:

Reference materials:
DGroups site:

Event description
A 2-week online event to discuss what individual and groups were doing to mark the World Social Forum 2008 Global Day of Action and to begin considering how to impact and participate in the WSF 2009 global gathering in Belem do Para, Brasil. Participants from groups concerned about women’s rights and gender equity were asked to join the event. They then subscribed to the main Dgroup and, according to their stated language, either an English, Spanish or French breakout DGroup email list. The agenda was developed collaboratively by Megan, Els, Janet and Nancy. The DGroup was augmented with a Wikispaces wiki to enable quick capture, summarization and machine translation of the group emails.

Note: The survey data reported below represents a small sample due to low completion rates (10 respondents, one of whom is an organizer).

What did we intend to do?
There were 3 overarching goals plus one that emerged during the planning:

1. To find out what groups were doing for WSF 2008
2. To find out interest/plans for WSF 2009 in Belem- what are the common interests where we can collaborate, to what extent can we create a common strategy, how to proceed in Belem? How can we put gender equity on the agenda in the best possible way? How can we influence the agenda, make gender visible, not just in separate sessions?
3. Generally, to reinvigorate the group of people who had been subscribed to the Dgroup. Up until now it had been focused on content and information dissemination. Now the thought is we could revive the community and help shift their perception of the Dgroup – not just a tool for disseminating information, but a community building space. If the community had enough energy and focus, it could be used for planning and participating in WSF 2009
4. From a process standpoint, we also wanted to explore how to have these community conversations and interactions across and between languages, so we also wanted to experiment with tools and process to help with multilingual conversations.

So what did we DO?
Towards our three goals
1. WSF 2008
a. We had reports from 17 groups and one individual on what they were doing both for WSF and in general. Some submitted extensive information, others just brief mentions. The summarized list can be see here:
b. In the post event survey 67% found the updates very useful, 33% found them somewhat useful.
2. WSF 2009
a. Initially the main thrust of the 09 conversations was around how difficult it is to find funding to attend. But after the official end of the event, a robust discussion has emerged about building a shared proposal for both impacting the agenda and finding funding for participation.
b. We surfaced some face to face networking opportunities that might not have been apparent. These reinforce our online interactions w/ F2f and offer opportunities to keep momentum going
c. In the post survey, 60% found the discussions on WSF09 useful, 40% somewhat useful.
d. It is those who are most interested in moving something concrete forward who are continuing. Whittled down to a smaller group of posters. Backchannel messages support that point.
e. There still needs to be follow up to turn the conversation into tangible outcomes.
3. Community building
a. 22 people posted personal introductions. The summarized list can be see here:
b. Did people get to know each other better? We aren’t sure. People shared quite a bit of personal information. This helps bring a personal element beyond organizational stuff, and find out what motivated participants personally
c. Getting a sense about the person beyond the org which can help in networking over time
d. In the post event survey, 80% found the introductions very useful, 20% somewhat useful.
e. Some members very enthusiastically added to the conversation while others dropped in and out. Those who participated less often apologized for being late due to lack of time or internet access, showing the diversity of online habits of the group. This is important to keep in mind for future events. Two weeks is probably not long enough for those who are online less frequently. It is hard for them to keep up with the very active participants.
f. A few members reached out to each other via Skype. Megan noted a Skype conversation with Tran from SPERI.
g. The event revealed potential for ongoing community building.
4. Working across languages and tools
a. We spent quite a bit of energy trying to create a multilingual part of the event. The language sub groups were the most utilized, and few reported using the wiki/Google Translate option (80% did not use it, but the 20% who did found it useful. Nancy found it very useful as facilitator.) 78% felt they had enough opportunity to participate in their own language, and 22% did not, but we don’t have demographic data on the survey respondents to really understand what this means. The respondents may have been primarily English speakers.
b. People responded positively to cross language summaries.
c. What about the break out groups? We don’t know for sure. Due to travel and availability we were not always actively facilitating the groups. The French group was only 2 people – maybe too small to get any traction. Although ten women had signed up for the Spanish group, only two of them posted messages during the breakout. Also, although different Latin Americans reconfirmed their interest, their participation remained limited and in the weeks following the event there was complete silence from their side of the world. Taking into account that many will be going to Belem, it is important to try and find out how we can get them more involved (is it the language problem?). We wonder what would have happened if we did NOT have the breakouts. And we wonder if the breakout process was confusing. In the survey, 50% thought the language break outs were very useful, 50% somewhat useful. But does this reflect the diversity of the group with only 10 respondents?
d. We are not sure who was using the technologies, and for whom it is new technology. The wiki has given us, as organizers, a nice overview, but it appears that not many participants used it. 44% did not look at the wiki, 44% used it and found it useful and 11% found it difficult or confusing to use. The overall wiki page view does show a doubling in traffic during the event. To the right are the page views from the event pages.
e. We only know who is posting, but we don’t know who is “listening” so it is hard to come to too many conclusions about participation, particularly participation across language. It might be nice to follow up with some one on one conversation with some of the participants.

Did anything unexpected happen?

• There was a very wide range in people’s level of participation. We expected that some would only participate a little bit, but less expected the few very strong participants, even when the discussion was not that active
• We were startled by one individual’s energetic participation, particularly since she was new to the group. We wonder who else is out there but whom we did not reach who might have enjoyed/benefited from participation. This raises the issue about how to market the group and such events.
• We wonder about how much people do or do not feel the need to engage beyond one’s local context.
• We went beyond the initial 10 days. Clearly 10 days was too short. In the survey, for 90% it was not enough time, 10% said it was.
• We wonder about what level/kind of engagement do people need to see before they jump in and commit to participation. What unmet need does it fill?

What would we do again (what worked)…
• The bios and introductions were good and we’d use them again. As a follow up, we should put the bios in a word doc and upload it to the DGroups site. For future, keep offering people the chance to introduce themselves, point back to event intros, and add to the “introductions” document.
• It is good to start off with general questions such as “What kind of activities are you doing” then “what would you like to do.” Initially we thought the questions were broad and vague, but we got pretty detailed responses. Some people discussed it in their organization like Leonida’s.
• It is important to find ways to let people participate in their own languages, and then build translation and interpretation bridges across them, even if this means volunteer or machine translation. Those who could not understand frequently asked for translations, demonstrating need.
• Even though not many people looked at the wiki, it was a cool format for sharing and looking at the information. Quite a few people shared bios there. (Nancy also copied and pasted many of them in from the DGroup email thread.)
o It was a good way to introduce a tool
o It was a pity that people didn’t use the map to locate themselves, but it was probably “gadget overload” and not that intuitive to use.

What would we do different next time? (And next steps)
• Focus on fewer gadgets and options, and introduce the options gradually. We got overexcited
o Attend to the balance between the number of conversational and technical options compared to the length of the event.
o Do a tool training call about Skype or other tools.
• Explore more deeply what is “critical number” of participants for both the full group and the language sub groups.
o Think about what we can do differently with outreach to get more participants.
• Timing. Try and figure out both the length of the next event, and when it should be held.
o Past experience is that African online work habits are less online and need a longer time frame.
• Seek to understand better what is nice to know but not NEED to know.
o We want to focus on things that people say “this is worth my time and attention”
• Contact and follow up with those who might be key people for contributing and participating