As part of a recent virtual discussion around online collaboration use cases, Saskia Harmsen hosted a talk show in which five Dgroups Foundation partners introduced their groups as examples of different collaboration use cases encountered online.
IFAD Innovation Network
Gladys Morales presented the IFAD innovation network as an example of using online groups to discuss an issue in a community of interest. The IFAD Innovation Network is an informal group of innovation practitioners, authors, and global influencers that aims to reach 2,000 members by the end of the year. The network serves as a hub for innovation-related activities and initiatives within IFAD, as well as a mechanism for engaging with external partners. It provides a space for collaboration, dialogue, and learning, with the aim of driving innovation in IFAD’s operations and beyond. It is open to the public, and members include innovation practitioners, authors, and renowned global influencers in innovation, as well as individuals from academia, research institutions, private sector companies, and civil society organizations.
In terms of platform functionalities and features that are used to enhance collaboration, engagement, and knowledge sharing among members of the network, Gladys focused on the use of hashtags. Hashtags are used consistently to categorize posts related to specific innovation themes or projects. This makes it easier for members who are interested in that topic to find and engage with the post, to track the overall conversation and engagement around a particular theme or project.
Vivan Atakos introduced the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform as an example of using online groups across initiatives or projects. She shared how they use the group platform to support networking and sharing across different initiatives related to gender in agriculture. The group brings together gender researchers from 14 research centers across the world, and the platform is used to actively enable internal knowledge sharing, learning, and collaboration. The group has 225 members, including gender researchers, donors, and practitioners interested in gender issues. The platform provides a safe space for informal exchanges, sharing of events, publications, job opportunities, and consultancies related to gender in agriculture. Vivian encourages membership by providing targeted emails to new staff members, inviting them to join the platform, and providing a link to sign up.
A group feature that is particularly relevant and used is the calendar – a convenient and effective way to track key events and ensure everyone is informed. It is a simple solution that makes a big difference in keeping members updated with the latest happenings related to gender in agriculture.
KM4Dev (internal) groups
The KM4Dev group is well-known as an example of a successful online Community of Practice. But behind the main, public, group, the KM4Dev volunteers and core group also use several other online groups. These are normally small groups, set up and used to facilitate specific processes related to the management of the community and community activities – for example: to organize the rotation of monthly volunteer moderators; to discuss research and research issues; to coordinate between KM4Dev Journal editors; to plan and follow up on Core Group meetings and discussions.
Sarah Cummings illustrated how these different subgroups work and how they are managed, and some of the platform functionalities that they use. In the volunteers’ group, using polls makes the process of identifying monthly list moderators very efficient – the poll functionality is part of the platform, and polls can quickly be set up and launched.
C4C Advocacy group
John Ede from Charter for Change (C4C) illustrated how C4C is using online groups to support their advocacy initiatives. Charter for Change is an initiative led by national and international NGOs aiming to implement changes in the humanitarian system to enable more locally-led humanitarian responses. The C4C Advocacy Group is a smaller group within the network that advocates approaches to address imbalances and inequalities in the global humanitarian system and make equitable partnerships with local and national actors core to funding streams. The group has approximately 150 members from local, national, and international NGOs, as well as allied networks and organizations working on the localization of aid agenda. Members exchange information and collaborate to advance advocacy as individual agencies and collectively as the Charter for Change network, driving progress on the localization of aid agenda.
The group uses the email list functionality of the online platform to organize calls and discuss joint statements or pledges, which are then fed back into the group for comments or additions. The group also jointly develops advocacy statements as INGOs and national NGOs to influence key humanitarian decision-makers or strategies and organizes localization-focused side events.
D4Ag online dialogue
The online dialogue aimed to identify priorities and gaps in capacity-building opportunities for digitalization in agriculture. The dialogue, designed and facilitated by the Dgroups Foundation, was conducted for a three-week period across various platforms such as Zoom and the email list. Other group features were used to support the process, such as: the calendar, to publish the dialogue timeline and milestones; the wiki, to explain the dialogue process, provide technical guidance to participants, and publish weekly discussion summaries; the hashtags, to organize messages and topics.
He also focused on some of the challenges of engaging people to contribute to such exercises. From a survey he conducted some time ago, the results indicated that members in online groups may be hesitant to contribute due to their language constraints, which make them afraid to write and contribute publicly to a dialogue. He suggested that a similar survey could be replicated, with a standard questionnaire administered across different Dgroups Partners groups to identify other potential challenges to engaging contributors.
The chat and discussion throughout the talk show highlighted how the groups.io platform is rich in functionality, facilitating member engagement and providing a voice to many. Participants also noted the importance of ‘democratizing’ online dialogue and exchange through user collaboration and engagement. Some participants also suggested organizing training for the community at least once a year to remind members of the platform’s functionalities and to foster adoption. Finally, participants suggested and encouraged to continue this type of experience-sharing events to all benefit from individual experiences across the Dgroups partnership.
This is the third of a series of short posts from the discussion. The other two posts cover:
- Online interaction around events and meetings – the peer assist
- Online collaboration experience exchange – the 24 February session