Thursday, July 26, 2012

FAO Social Media Workshop

Last week both Pete and I were in lovely Rome for the first of three social media workshops with FAO staff. It was great to facilitate again a workshop together - as we work together almost on daily basis, but virtually. It was also great to be back at FAO and work with our good friend and colleague Gauri Salokhe.

However, I must confess I was a bit nervous as we were getting closer to the kick off of the workshop... 

Well, it certainly was not our first social media workshop, quite the contrary...And we were well prepared: we had spent quite some times over the weeks prior to the event to design the workshop and produce slides and training materials, counting also on the excellent collaboration of Vanessa Meadu (CCAFS and Euforic Services Associate, who will co-facilitate in the next two session) and the useful feedback from Gauri. 

However, this time around we had opted for a complete new methodology and we were very curious and excited to see how it would be received by the participants. 

[Workshop participant Uwe Barg reflects in what he learnt in the Social Media workshop]

Over the years, we had learnt the lessons that social media tools are fun to use and you can get training participants very enthusiastic when they put their hands onto things like Google reader and Netvibes, or when they practice to edit and upload a video online. The question remains, however, on how they will adopt the different tools in their daily work practices, and if they will be able to incorporate social media in the tasks they are required to perform at the workplace. Even more so, as you consider that these people are probably the middle and late adopters of social media

So how did we go about it?


Start from the business functions, not from the social media tools!

Quite simply, instead of starting from a standard set of tools - the typical social media toolkit of a knowledge worker in development - we started from the business functions this worker has to  perform. The KS Toolkit provided to be an excellent starting point, with a quite comprehensive list of example contexts and specific tasks one may need to achieve. From this long list of functions, we boiled them down into three main areas:
  • Project management
  • Collaboration
  • Communication and promotion.
For each of these, we identified a set of specific sub-functions. Through a pre-training survey, participants indicated the work processes and functions that were most relevant for them and on the basis of the results, we matched functions and tools; better yet, we bundled a set of core tools around each of the specific functions that were chosen in the survey, excluding the tools that were already known to participants. At the end of the first day of the workshop, we 'negotiated' with participants and together selected the tools that we would practice with (hands on) or simply demo and introduce (in speed geeking session) on the second day of the workshop. 

Overall the agenda setting was very flexible and 'democratic', and we tried to accommodate participants requests as they emerged. Still, three sessions were 'non-negotiable':
  1. A stakeholder assessment - This in fact was the starting point of the workshop: you need to have clear who you want to reach and engage with, before you look into the how social media can help you doing it.
  2. A session on 'personalized listening dashboards' (i.e. Google reader and Netvibes - and yes, we do need a better title for it...) - We strongly believe that being able to read the web through RSS feeds and mastering the tools to do so is fundamental in today's personal information management and to avoid information overload (or filter failure, according to how you see it)
  3. A closing session on strategy - From our experience, getting participants to start thinking strategically how they would put social media at work in their context is a key component of an effective workshop, something that participants can go back to their desk with and start implementing immediately.
So how did this work out?

Positive feedback...but there's always room for improvement!

Personally, I had the feeling the overall methodology worked well: starting from the business functions put the whole workshop in a complete different perspective. Moreover, the fact that the ultimate choice of tools to explore came from participants themselves put the ownership of the event in their hands. The personal feedback we received from the participants also confirmed these impressions, as well as the overall score of the online evaluation we asked them to fill in after the workshop. 

However, as always, there is room to improve the workshop, and we're already working to incorporate the lessons learnt in the next sessions:
  • The group (15 participants) was a mix of communication officers, programme officers and technical officers. This meant that the entry level and the knowledge and practical experience with social media was very different amongst the different participants. We'll try to have more homogeneous groups in the next two sessions.
  • Across the workshop, we repeatedly stressed on the concept of 'content object': we wanted participants to understand that being online today is not just about uploading a report online on your corporate website. Increasingly, it is about creating different content objects around it, or different products for different audiences. These objects ought to have 'legs' to be able to travel across the web - and to be share-able so that your audience can pass them on to their own friends and followers and help you disseminate what you do. This concept worked out well but we need to have more graphics and diagrams to make it even clearer, especially to a beginner audience.
  • We had a conversation around FAO social media policy on the last day of the workshop - right before participants had to develop their own social media plans, for their programme, project or team; for some participants, this conversation should have happened up front at the beginning of the whole workshop, so that they would have a clear idea what they are allowed and encouraged to do. We're still discussing where this session would fit best.
The next two sessions will be in October and November, there are already quite some FAO staff that have expressed their interest in participating - and hopefully there's some positive buzz in the building after last week training and both sessions will be fully booked.

By the way, did I mention we also had a very interesting peer exchange session with some FAO senior managers? Well, stay tuned, we will be blogging about it soon!