Monday, July 10, 2006

Dgroup administrators meet to compare notes

Fifteen people working as administrators and moderators of discussion groups on the Dgroups platform met up last week to exchange experiences and lessons using Dgroups.

Dgroups was created in 2002 and is currently supported by some 21 organizations – such as DFID, IDRC, IICD, OneWorld and the World Bank. These have combined to create and sustain a platform that has allowed almost 60,000 people to exchange information, prepare positions, hold conferences, collaborate on joint ventures, and generally engage in dialogue that supports more inclusive and participatory forms of development.

In recent years, both the number of new groups and new users has grown rapidly and participants in the ICCO-hosted workshop in Utrecht were keen to exchange ways to make most effective use of their Dgroups.

To feed the discussions, participants from ECDPM, FAO, IICD, INASP, and KIT shared their experiences using the platform. A striking element from these, and other experiences brought to the discussions, was the great variety of uses that the platform is being used for.

Building on an earlier 2004 study on the uses of Dgroups in Latin America, participants sought to characterize their uses in the following categories: Internal communication among people individuals in the same organization; Communication between organizations; Organization of events; Virtual communities; Virtual forums of limited duration; Work groups facilitating coordination on a specific task; Publishing and distribution of news etc.

The results for the 142 groups administered by participants in the workshop showed that 33% were for virtual communities, 27% for internal communication, 14% were virtual forums, and 10% were for cross-organization communication.

In terms of processes (or purposes) of different Dgroups, participants explored the notion that a Dgroup can serve a ‘rainmaking’ function – in which people come together, ‘seed’ ideas, and ‘condense’ collaborative activities that spin off from the Dgroup and its community. This goes beyond communication or joint tasking; it seems that (some) members of a group often build on the group interactions and dynamics to generate various other (unplanned or unexpected) products.

Other processes (or purposes) identified that justify use of a Dgroup include: Consensus building; consultation; networking; facilitating collective action; promoting events, public relations; questions and answers, peer2peer help; supporting other knowledge sharing or dissemination instruments; information management with group ; sharing documents, links, resources; learning; generating new knowledge and understanding; sharing with Southern partners; generating motivation and participation; testing and teaching; and promoting professional development.

In 2006, Euforic Director Peter Ballantyne took a coordination role in Dgroups, including the preparation of a forward looking ‘roadmap’ for the partnership and contributing to this meeting. A report of the workshop is available on the Dgroups ‘administrators’ space.

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