Social Media in Intl. Dev: Simone Staiger

Next in the podcast series on social media in international development is a dear friend and colleague, Simone Staiger discussing the design, technology and facilitation of a global e-consultation.  Simone is orchestrating 6 regional consultations for the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)  in preparation for a major meeting next year. Listen as Simone talks about the technology, process and challenges of the consultation, as well as her unique addition of social media tools (Twitter and blogs) to provide a window “out to the world” on the progress of the e-consultations.

E-consultations seem to be a hot topic these days. I’ll add a few interesting links at the bottom.

podcast-logo Simone_Staiger_OnlineConsultations_15min

URLs Mentioned in the Podcast

About Simone

Simone Staiger-Rivas is a Knowledge Sharing specialist. She is a trained social communicator with 13 years’ experience in the coordination of international communications projects. Her interest lies in the enhancement of collaboration in institutional settings that contribute to organizational learning and change in agricultural research for development. Simone is based at CIAT, Colombia.

Previous & Related Podcasts:

Some interesting links on e-consultations

Social Media in International Development – 10 min interviews

Flickr cc image from I need your help and recommendations!

I’m about to facilitate another workshop on social media in international development for the ICT-KM program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This is the third time for this all-online workshop. In this iteration, we are trying to pay more attention to context of use, rather than focus on tools, tools, tools. The best way I know of doing this is to start the conversation with some stories of use.

To that end, I’m starting to do some 10 minute podcasts with practitioners who are  using social media in their work,  particularly those who work in international development and/or science research for global public  good (as in agricultural research.)

Who would you like to hear from? Who should I talk to?

First up, I’ll be interviewing William Anderson cofounder of Praxis101 . Bill has wrangled with the issues of sharing scientific data with his work with CODATA where he is an Associate Editor for the CODATA Data Science Journal (, and in his role as the Co-chair of the InterAcademy Panel Task Group on Digital Knowledge Resources in Developing Countries ( ). He recently ended an eight year term as a member of the U.S. National Committee for the Committee on Data for Science and Technology and as Co-chair of the CODATA Task Group on  Preservation of and Access to Scientific and Technical Data in Developing Countries.

I already have a nice collection of longer podcasts including:

However, the value of a small library of short, engaging stories is priceless. So who should I interview? You? Someone you know of? Let me know! I’d like to harvest a few stories.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons picture, “Go Vote” on Flickr by M-C

Next ICT-KM Social Media for Development Workshop

It seems like we just finished the last one, but here it comes again… the next Social Media for International Development Sector Workshop from the ICT-KM Program of the CGIAR. I’m really looking forward to facilitating it with Simone and Pete!

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

From the learnings from the successful pilot (See blog posts about the event), and second  Social Media Online Workshop, the CGIAR through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer a new online opportunity for social media explorations, this time with the specific objective to embed social media in participants’ contexts of international development work. This fully online workshop will run from September 7 to 25, 2009.

Social media offers international development practitioners and organizations a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents, listen and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders. If facilitates collaboration in the lab and in the field.

Social media also offers so many options that it can be overwhelming. This workshop focuses on exploration of social media from some specific international development contexts. So instead of saying “there is a tool, how can we use it,” this workshop seeks to answer “we need to do this activity, how can social media support it and under what circumstances.”

If you ask yourself questions like these, you might consider joining the workshop:

  • How can I support collaboration in wide-spread teams?
  • How can I provide opportunities for open dialogue with my stakeholders?
  • How do we support communities of practice and thematic networks, online and offline?
  • How do we share our content and knowledge effectively online?
  • How can we make use of social media under low-bandwidth constraints?

This online workshop is designed for researchers, research and development communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners.

Objectives of the workshop
This three week online workshop will provide a collaborative, peer based learning opportunity for you, as development practitioners, to address if and how social media can help address your needs, opportunities or challenges related to collaboration, participation, or communication. By the end of the workshop you should be able to understand and analyze the opportunities that social media can offer in the view of your specific research and development context, identify some potential tools and create a plan of action.

During this workshop you will:

  • Identify possibles usages of social media through small group synchronous and full group asynchronous conversation, exploring opportunities and constraints related to your work.
  • Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
  • Explore 2-3 different social media tools which may be appropriate for your context.
  • Start to plan the implementation of one or more social media tools that fit our work environment.
  • Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

  • Week 1 to 2 – Context and Application of Social Media: Introductions, and telephone conversations in small groups to assess your research for/and development context and identify opportunities for social media practices.
  • Week 2 to 3 – Testing Social Media Tools. Explore select social media tools in small groups.
  • Finalizing week 3 – Reflection for Action. Reflect on individual and group learning of the past two weeks and  create an initial plan for social media implementation.

Maximum Number of participants: 18

Language: English

Participant Requirement/Dedicated time: This workshop offers an in-depth exploration of social media tools adapted to your specific context with personalized support and work in small groups. To do this, we ask the following of each participant:

  • Organize your agenda to dedicate up to 1-1/2 hours per day during the three weeks. If you will be on travel and won’t have time in a particular week, save some time for “catch up.” If you will not be able to participate in more than one week, please consider taking a future workshop. It will become hard to catch up after missing significant time.
  • Participate in weekly telecons of  60-90 minutes. These are scheduled for the afternoons for those in Europe and Africa, mornings for North and South American, and evenings for Asia. We will try to accomodate all time zones as best we can.
  • Read and respond to blog posts
  • Explore at least 2 tools
  • Reflect and share your learnings on the workshop blog and wiki
  • Complete a pre- and post-workshop survey.

Open to: CGIAR staff, not for profit partners, agricultural and development organizations. Individuals, consultants and members of for profit organizations may join on a space available basis as the unsubsidized rate. (See costs below)

Platform: Blog, Skype and/or telephone, email and wiki. Our teleconference platform allows you to call for free using Skype. If you choose to use a landline for the conference calls, 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), Pete Shelton (IFPRI)

Cost: USD$ 850 for people who work in international development/NGO organizations, USD$ 1050 for those who work for for-profits or are consultants.

Contact: Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger[at] for questions and subscription

Social Media Planning and Evaluation for NGOs

I’ve been co-designing and c0-facilitating a number of workshops for the CGIAR and FAO over the past few years about knowledge sharing, and more recently, this phenomenon people call “social media.” Part of this work has been to  comb through resources and create some launch pads that are relevant to NGOs and non profits. I thought I’d share a few of them on this blog.  I’ve edited this one a bit more since the first writing.

Over time, most of this material will also be added to the every growing “KS Toolkit,” another collaborative resource I’ve pointed to frequently.

Simone Staiger, my frequent collaborator in these efforts, pointed out this quote and URL from Margaret Wheatley that is a good kick off for the topic.

In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level. (Global here means a larger scale, not necessarily the entire planet.)

A wordle from Beth KanterSocial Media Strategy Planning & Measurement – What’s Working?

As people responsible for getting things done in your organization, you know the value of having a clear strategy and a way of evaluating if your strategy is working. With social media,  however, strategy is a compass, not a map, because it is a fast changing territory.

This topic is designed to give you some tools and ideas for including social media appropriately in your overall  organizational strategic plan and to measure its effectiveness.

Strategic Social Media Planning

You might want to look at the very useful “Social Media Strategic Planning Worksheet: from WE ARE MEDIA. Like any good communications strategic planning, social media strategy takes into consideration goals and target audiences AND the technology implications. This is the fundamental part that most of us are familiar with.

Bill Anderson (in a comment on this post, which was so good I’m editing it into the post) wrote:

I have three engineering like questions to add to the list that come directly from the late Neil Postman.

From an engineering perspective any technology, be it a tool, software, or processes and procedures, or new work practices, is a solution. Whenever considering adopting a solution consider asking the following three questions.

(1) What problem will it solve?
(2) Whose problem is it?
(3) What new problems are likely to arise by adopting it?

These three simple questions help me clarify my (sometimes hidden) assumptions about what I’m doing and why I think a particular technology is useful. I think they complement the set of questions you suggest in this post.

While it might be easy to say most of your constituents are not even online, some of your strategic audiences may be, such as funders, researchers and policy makers. So scan your audiences and look for possibilities.

Social media, however, is like a river you swim in. It is always flowing past, sometimes carrying us along, sometimes dumping us on the rocks of the shore. It is important to think iteratively of your strategy so you can adjust to changing conditions.   The advice  is to experiment often, fail quickly and learn, learn, learn to allow you to adapt your strategy. Think in 6 weeks or 6 months, not 3 year cycles. Keep an eye on the goal, but but ready to switch how you get to it.

Social Media Policies

Often people’s first questions are “how do we manage and control this stuff?” Organizations working with limited bandwidth want to block applications to prioritize internet use. Organizations working in more conservative parts of the world worry about what people will access if they start using web based tools.  The first thing to know here is that you can’t control all of this. So building on your core values and developing agreements is a sound strategy.

Some organizations find having a social media policy useful — as long as the policy doesn’t squash the initiatives right from the start! Always try and look at policies from two perspectives: control and emergence. Too much control and  you will miss the innovation and inventiveness that is a core benefit of social media.

Here are two articles that you might find helpful from IBM:

And a few more if you like to read…

What we have observed is that NGOs have been slower to consider their policies. This can be an advantage to the early innovators (few barriers) but may cause worry as leadership, not familiar with social media themselves,   want to overreact rather than thoughtfully consider policy.

Work Iteratively – Measure as You Go

The good thing about using social media is it is fairly simple to experiment, iterate or throw out an experiment that is not working for you. Think small, frequent experiments and low risk, rather than trying to build “the perfect system” and over investing in any one thing until you understand the value. For example, you may try a blog as an alternative to a traditional email newsletter. Track how many times a blog post has been viewed (using your blog software or a tool like Google Analytics). See how many comments you get when you post entries that specifically ask for feedback. (People are more likely to respond to open ended questions rather than traditional press releases!). Do a search to see who has linked to that post? (Do you know how to do this on Google, Yahoo or Microsoft search? What about the new

These are examples of  using quantitative metrics. For a great list of more metrics you might consider, see Rachel Happe’s blog post on Social Media Metrics. See what blog posts are more read and then start adjusting your posting style. Some people call this “social listening.” In the early phases of using social media, you are trying things out and “listening” for the response as indicated by page views, links, responses or even action by your target audience. To read more about this, check out Beth Kanter’s blog post about evaluating first projects.

Qualitative Evaluation

There is more than quantitative metrics for evaluating your social media ROI. As you know, communications is as much a qualitative thing as a quantitative thing. Some things are intangible. Like a funder reading a blog post that told the STORY of some work and begins to engage more deeply to support the project. Or the people who start following the messages you send out on Twitter and gain a deeper appreciation for food and hunger in the world and start making small changes in their own lives. These things require a deeper listening – finding stories, doing interviews with people from your target audience. For more on this, here is another blog post from Beth Kanter.

As you get a sense of how social media is helping you achieve your communications strategy, you can begin to fold social media evaluation into your overall communications evaluation work. Keep what is working. Adjust the things that might be working. Stop doing the things that aren’t working. Just a note on this. Sometimes it takes both experimentation and time to find out if something is working. So don’t give up too quickly.

Examples of social media evaluation efforts:


  • What communications objective do you want to try and support with social media?
  • Do you want or need to have a social media policy?
  • What are the benefits, both tangible and intangible, that a social media strategy might offer? What value does our social media strategy provide to our organization or stakeholders?
  • What type of quantitative and qualitative information do we need to track to measure our success or learn how to improve our social media strategy?

Additional Resources:

Article on the CGIAR’s Knowledge Sharing Toolkit

screen shot of KS ToolkitI wanted to point out a new article on the CGIAR’s ICT-KM site about the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit Wiki that I’ve been working on and which has become near and dear to my heart. Here is a snippet:

Knowledge Sharing in the CGIAR – Tools and Methods for Sharing Knowledge: The CGIAR’s Wiki Approach
The Institutional Knowledge Sharing (KS) Project of this Program together with its CGIAR Center partners has been experimenting with a range of KS tools and methods over the past five years and has recently been assembling these and many others into a toolkit ( This evolving resource – continually updated, edited, expanded, and critiqued in wiki fashion – is targeted mainly on scientists, research support teams, and administrators in the 15 international centers of the CGIAR. But it also serves their partner organizations, as well as development organizations working in areas other than agriculture. And it benefits from their diverse feedback too.

Science has traditionally relied on a few key vehicles for sharing and validating new knowledge. The most important are experiment replication, the publication of research results in peer reviewed journals, literature searches, and formal and informal communications at conferences, workshops, and other meetings. In addition, the patent system serves as a complementary knowledge broker in instances where research spawns technical innovation. With such longstanding institutions already in place, why is there a need for new avenues to share knowledge? The answer to that question is surprisingly complex; but a few key reasons stand out.