On April 24th, 2012 a meeting was held in The Hague to review the progress and future of Dgroups. The meeting brought together all Dgroups board members and Damir Simunic, director of WA Research, which has provided the technical platform for Dgroups for the past 2 years and has led the redesign of next Dgroups.

Participants moved from a common definition of what Dgroups is and what it stands for. As the tagline in the logo suggests, Dgroups is about development through dialogue. Our vision is a world where communication for development is accessible to all and has maximal positive impact on international development.

The main part of this face to face meeting was dedicated to explore Dgroups’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – and the actions to take forward. As some of the Board members said, the meeting was very constructive and useful.

From discussion that emerged from the SWOT analysis, it become clear that the first and most obvious strength to leverage upon is the Dgroups partnership, the group of development organisations that support this initiative. So what efforts should be taken to maximise this strength and to make sure that Dgroups partners become also active ambassadors and contribute to the further enlargement of the membership base, and therefore the financial sustainability of Dgroups itself? The ideas that were discussed included:

  • Redesigning of the Dgroups home page at dgroups.org and the landing pages at individual group level;
  • Publicizing the openness of existing discussion groups;
  • Putting more effort in networking and communicating with existing and potential partners, in order to increase the membership base and ensure the financial sustainability of Dgroups;
  • Working on Dgroups branding and effective online presence that reflects this brand;
  • Making more use of the Dgroups blog to showcase how Dgroups is put at work in different contexts and for different purposes;
  • Defining and communicating to Dgroups members the advantages of the cost-sharing strategy which underpins Dgroups existence.

Some of these actions are already in motion.

Weaknesses included a lack of a marketing strategy to engage new Dgroups partners, and the Board will take new measures to promote Dgroups and enlarge the partnership. Related to this is the opportunity to reach out to new partners in the South.

A threat is that current budget cuts in the development sector are forcing partners to reevaluate their budgets. But this can also be seen as a good investment by current and future Dgroups partners, as it offers a flexible tool for communication, designed particularly for low bandwidth, that can complement and in some cases replace the need for expensive, face to face meetings.

We also discussed progress on the development of the next Dgroups platform and a number of outstanding functionality issues, including the redesign of the Dgroups homepage and landing page of individual groups; the completion of the users’ interface in the different languages that Dgroups supports; the possibility for groups administrators to edit the email footer for each community; improved statistics at group level.

We shall work together with WA Research to solve these issues by the end of June 2012.

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