Friday, October 22, 2010

The teacher gets schooled in social media for development

Social media for whom? photo by meaduva
One of the best things about being in a training or facilitation role is the learning experience. In addition to learning new things about the subject at hand, I always learn unexpected things, for example about how people interact with technology.
For the last four weeks I've been facilitating for Euforic Services the UNITAR/FAO Innovative Collaboration for Development course, an online training programme which introduces social media concepts and tools to development professionals. The course is very hands-on, and challenges participants to use tools in a way that's appropriate to their context. I find that selecting the right tool for any context to be the trickiest part of using social media, and can really make or break a communications strategy. Many organisations are responding to this with resources to help guide people through the minefield of tools and approaches; one example is the very helpful Knowledge Sharing Toolkit (a wiki produced by various agricultural and development agencies such as the CGIAR and FAO).
The challenge of helping people choose the right tool is compounded by the fact that participants come from a range of contexts and backgrounds. Most of the participants in my section come from Africa: from Jos, Nigeria and Maseru, Lesotho to El Fasher, Sudan and Creve Cœur, Mauritius (just for example). Cultural differences have not posed a challenge, but rather been the source of interesting insights. The main barrier to overcome in our group's context is the availability of high speed internet varies, and access to a computers with a reliable connection. the full story on Vanessa Meadu's blog