GROUPING BY COUNTRY: The meeting room was organized around seven tables, one per Country. The vast majority of the activities were carried out on a “National Group” basis. We had to face logistic problems as the table in the room were very hard to move and the configuration with seven “islands” could hardly be transformed during the day. Anyhow, our approach resulted to be positive and stimulated the Teamwork.
Suggestion: dedicate much attention to the facility and the logistic issues. It is a crucial point as most of the meeting rooms are equipped with very traditional furniture that does not stimulate interaction. Big round tables work as obstacles rather than platforms for communication while small mobile tables work much better.
As a compensation for the logistic difficulties, we used every activity to offer the National Teams the opportunity to interact with the others, promoting discussions and sharing at different levels.
In particular, the long session dedicated to the exposition of the Case Study offered an effective occasion to interact personally and as a group with the other Teams, creating very interesting dynamics.
The use of mobile microphones helped in maintaining the sessions vivid and generate dynamism during the discussions.
SOCIAL REPORTING TEAM: The creation a Social Reporting Team wanted to be an additional prodding for the group. It responded to two main objectives:
- To show the potential of social media to advocate for the event during and after the event, and
- To integrate off-site participants into the discussions and sessions of the Workshop.
The idea of creating the SR Team was proposed to the participants few days before the beginning of the Workshop to avoid overlapping with other ongoing activities (in particular, with the preparation of the Case Study). The participation was strictly on a voluntary basis to guarantee the full commitment of the members. The SR Team gathered for the very first time Sunday afternoon, for an informal meeting, to discuss: the idea, the background, the TORs, and the tasks distribution. Three people, other than me, took part to the meeting:
- Djalo Mamadu Aliu, from Guinea Bissau, who became the blogger on the FSCA website,
- Bah Thierno Souleymane, from Guinea, who committed himself to audio and video interviews,
- Oumar Ndiaye, from Senegal, who offered to dedicate to photography,
- Luca Servo, who acted as team coordinator and photo reporter.
Mrs Fofana, from Guinea, joined the Team during Day 1, adding lots of energy and more gender balance to the group. Additional informal meetings to verify the proceeding of the job took place during lunches and coffee breaks all week long. By the end of the Workshop, the SR Team produced:
- A blog on the FSCA website, which recorded everyday activities and the impressions of the participants,
- A photo gallery, on the FSCA flickr gallery, registering the main moments, the portraits of the participants and the groups, and all the posters produced during the week containing the results of the Team work,
- A podcast channel broadcasting several interviews recorded during the week,
- A twitter flow reporting about major steps taking place during the training.
THEMATIC ACTIVITIES: The facilitation Team had the objective to promote major integration among participants. To do so, we organized also several thematic events during lunch time which were called “Cross Cutting Gatherings – CCG”. The badge provided to each participants collected a series of information (name, country, and role) which helped organizing these events. In fact, using his/her badge, it was possible to address each participant to the right table of discussions during the thematic events which were:
- CCG I – Initial meeting by ROLE (Tuesday, lunch) to stimulate contacts within homogeneous groups of people with similar tasks inside the projects (Project staff, NPCs/NPDs/NPMs, ComDev consultants). The Facilitation Team got this occasion to join the group of National Project Coordinators.
- CCG II – THEMATIC lunch (Wednesday, lunch) to offer the chance to discuss specific topics identified by the participants.
- CCG III – Final meeting by ROLE (Friday, lunch) to ideally close the round of contacts within groups with similar tasks. The Facilitation Team got this chance to join the group of Communication Consultants.
CONCLUSIONS: The Workshop was a great success. We were able to get participants fully involved in the activities and develop high level of interaction. The final evaluation demonstrated the appreciation for the adoption of new techniques, an informal approach and a participatory methodology.
This experience strongly confirmed our beliefs and suggestions: we highly recommend to embed the Communication for Development component in every Development project/programme and to develop such a Workshop, at least twice during the life of a project: once at the very beginning of the implementation and another one at the very end.