Hands-on experimentation with technologies for communities and networks and evaluate/recommend them for specific uses/users

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  • Title of the Project: Editing Hands-on experimentation with technologies for communities and networks and evaluate/recommend them for specific uses/users

  • Project Leaders: Satish Vangal, UNDP and Luca Servo, FAO

  • Brief description:

In development organizations like UNDP and FAO, there are two well-defined groups of staff in terms of technical abilities. One group is very savvy, on top of many of the latest information gathering tools and often younger. The other group is more or less the opposite, and make little use of online tools apart from email. The majority of senior staff (the decision makers) - fall into the latter category. A big part of the challenge is trying to bridge the gap between the end users and the in-house IT services group.

The goals of this workshop are threefold:

1) TOOLS THAT WERE EASY TO ‘SELL’: Exchange experiences and brainstorm about particular tools / technologies that have captivated the (usually older) ‘technically challenged’ community members without too much, selling’.

2) OTHER TOOLS, AND THE WAY THEY WERE ‘SOLD’: Other tools / techniques that were a harder sell, and the different methods that people have used to nudge these same ‘technically challenged’ people into (hopefully) more efficient means of information and knowledge gathering / sharing.

3) TOOLS THAT INTEGRATE AN EMAIL-BASED APPROACH: In particular – explore tools and strategies that combine the use of email with other tools as a means to reach the end user who is mostly just focused on email.

The key of course is to maintain that fine balance between focusing on end user needs and constraints, but also moving your organization along in terms of improving overall efficiency.

  • Current stage:

In UNDP, our information and knowledge sharing is mostly email-based (both moderated and un-moderated communities), and we are now trying to compliment this with access to other web-based tools such as collaborative workspaces for our different communities. Some of the tools we have adopted with some success are: SKYPE, encouraging staff to use SURVEYS as a more structured approach to collecting information and validating the outcomes of E-Discussions and Queries (different products are used by different offices; the LYRIS survey tool has been rolled out to around 20 of our Country Offices); introducing new tools with humour – using Dilbert Style CARTOONS to encourage staff to try something new

Before we invest more heavily in new tools such as increased usage of RSS feeds / Customized Intranet Home Pages (MY UNDP), web-based applications such as online Back to Office Reports, collaborative tools to allow online group drafting and decentralized publishing etc. we would like to get some peer validation of what has worked and what has not, given the specific profile of our staff and test new tools that perhaps none of us have explored yet.

FAO is interested in using new technologies to enhance capacity building. Online interaction is considered one of the most powerful way to succeed in this approach. So, FAO invested resources in the creation of the IMARK eLearning module on "Building online communities and network", then started organizing virtual workshops on online facilitation and interaction and it is actually supporting the creation of in-house Thematic Knowledge Networks.

At the actual step, in addition of providing training and support, the focus is on offering the technical infrastructure to build a network. Our aim is to create a kit of well-known and "supported" tools that people can easily adopt to manage their networks. Under this point of view, FAO is focusing on CMSs (Joomla, Typo3, Drupal), LearningCMS (Moodle) and other tools like Wikis, Blogs and Forums. Moreover, we are testing and using various Web conferencing platforms like Elluminate, Webex, Breeze, and Skype. FAO is also monitoring free online tools to find out occasions to use them (storing images on Flickr, tagging on del.icio.us, creating documents on pbwiki, writing postings on Wordpress) to enhance knowledge sharing inside online groups.

  • Estimated work time needed: 9 Hours

2 HOURS: Exchange experiences on end user needs. Output would be a 1-2 page document that captures user needs across different organizations here staff fit a similar profile as described above

4 HOURS: Identify tools and techniques that were used to address the needs of the users (according to the categories defined above). People with experience in a particular tool will take 15- 30 minutes to demonstrate the basics of the tool to the others. Test new tools.

3 HOURS: Write up assessment including evaluation and recommendation of specific tools for specific uses.

  • Outputs:

1) A comparative analysis of end user needs in different organizations that have a similar staff profile to the one described above.

2) 4-5 Concrete tools identified to support COP collaboration and recommended steps to roll each of them out to our communities.

  • Experience/Skills sought in potential collaborators for the projects:

No special skills needed – just experience with communities where the majority of members tend to be older and less-tech-savvy.

  • Logistical needs:

Nothing special apart from at least 1-2 workstations with web access (more the better). WIFI access would be fine, if most people bring laptops.

  • What would you like to see come out from the workshop?

We would like to better support our communities with enhanced interactive / collaborative tools, and the workshop would be a way for us and other organizations with a similar staff profile to identify key tools / technologies to focus on in the next few months.

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