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.
SCHEDULE: the Facilitation Team agreed on dedicating five full days to ComDev. One can argue that it is not enough time but for us, given the background and the resources, this was a good compromise. In line with the objectives, the agenda was divided into five main Steps and several activities. Every step was described in an ad-hoc agenda which was distributed to the participants before the beginning of the Workshop:
1. BASICS (1/2 day)
- Intro to workshop about KEY points of the week
- Description of the OBJECTIVES of the training
- Proposal of a people-centred approach to describe the projects through people’s perspective
- Overview of the projects’ innovative aspects and main benefits
- Collective reflection on the beneficiaries’ perception, expectation and participation with regards to the project
- ComDev component-activities to date and first impressions
2. COMDEV THEORY (1/2 day)
- Theoretical background
- Communication planning
- Gender and Communication
- Methodological approaches tools
- Tools, channels, techniques
- ComDev strategy design
- Monitoring & Evaluation
3. COMDEV FOR FSCA-PISA PROJECTS (2 and 1/2 days)
- Analysis of Communication Issues in FSCA projects
- Success vs Constrains: Identification of communication issues
- Presentation of Case Studies
- Matching Constraints with Solutions
- Regional approach
- Networking Initiatives
- FSCA forward looking: Ideas for the future and Collaborations&synergies
4. LABORATORIES (1 day)
- Web Lab
- Photo Lab
- Radio Lab
- Video Lab
- Mobile Telephony Lab
5. CONCLUSIONS (1/2 day)
- Workshop Evaluation
- Closing session
In addition, we prepared also a detailed plan for facilitators only, with more information such as: name of the facilitator, learning objectives, description and details of the activity, facilitation technique, materials and specific support required, and a long list of notes taken during the prep meetings.
These notes were very important to give a shape to the flow of the training and collect all the reflections done by the Team members during the preparatory works: I strongly suggest to collect them. It really helps keeping record of the logical evolution of the planning as you can easily lose track when the preparation takes long.
FACILITATION METHODS: we decided to adopt a specific facilitation method for each session of the training. This choice had 2 objectives: offer the participants the occasion to test the widest range of new methods, and organize dynamic sessions introducing different kind of incentives. As a result, we carried out:
- A Chat show, with the communication consultants, to introduce the actors and their work,
- A World café, finalized to learn more about expectations, perceptions, and participation of the beneficiaries in the field,
- A Case Study exercise, to highlight a specific obstacle encountered in the implementation of the ComDev strategy,
- A SWOT Analysis, to make a collective effort of analysing good and bad aspects of each project,
- The network mapping, to graphically design communication flows inside and outside the National teams and develop a visual approach to communication,
- The mind mapping, to discuss the objectives of the national projects and their inter-regional connections,
- The Wall of participants, to link names with faces and put people in contact,
- A public Rules collection, to have the participants fully engaged in the workshop,
- A Dotmocracy, to collect a final feedback on the main aspects the workshop,
- The Social Reporting Team, to provide direct feedback on the activities and get participants involved in the use of Social Media.
Moreover, in the effort to stimulate higher attention in the audience, the Facilitation Team decided to avoid powerpoint presentation. Initially, this decision provoked astonishment in the participants but it produced positive results in stimulating people’s fantasy and creativity, especially during the presentation of the Case Studies (see the photo below!).
Introducing important tools like the Case Study exercise and the SWOT analysis were significant steps. At the end of the training, we asked for a punctual evaluation both of them, receiving, respectively, a 52% and a 70% of positive votes.
The training on Communication for Development organized for the FSCA-PISA programme was a great success. We saw enthusiasm and a lot of interaction during the five days spent in Dakar with the seven National Teams. Now it is time to put order among all the innovations we introduced. My first notes are about the Organization and the Language issue.
- ORGANIZATION: the FAO Facilitation Team composed by Riccardo, Silvia, Antonello, Catherine, Elena and I worked for long time on the preparatory activities. The original idea of delivering a technical training was launched early 2010 and evolved into a broader event, aimed at discussing ComDev in general.
The debate on the objectives took long. At the end, we decided to approach ComDev as a whole rather than focusing on a specific tool (the web, in our case). This choice answered to the perceived need to clarify ComDev concepts and details among the FSCA National teams.
The first discussions took place before Christmas. At the beginning we defined objectives, target audience and a draft calendar of activities. Then, one meeting after the other, we got into each macro activity to define it in details, from the learning objectives to a precise timetable.
- 7 COUNTRIES and 2 LANGUAGES: the language issue was one of the main problem to afford. Both the organization and the content were strongly influenced by this factor, in every step of the preparation. The initial idea of having two different sessions, one for the Anglophones and another one for the Francophones, was abandoned in favour of one single workshop with interpretation provided to the two groups. As a consequence, the budget, the agenda, the schedule, the content and the logistic were deeply affected.
I admit that this was the right choice to do: being an introductory training to a strongly participative but relatively new discipline for the participants, the one-group approach highlighted all its strengths. At the end of the event, people’s appreciation for meeting all together confirmed this idea.
Suggestion: do not underestimate the problems and the costs due to interpretation of the workshop and the translation of the documentation. Moreover, test the ability of the interpreters and provide them the training material well in advance.
We are just few hours from the official starting of the FSCA-PISA workshop on ComDev. It is night and I’m almost closing my laptop after having prepared the latest documents for tomorrow.
This afternoon, during “day 0“, the first important goal was achieved: the Social Reporting Team met to discuss our activities and share the tasks. We decided to go for pictures, podcasting and blog posts. Video is a possibility but we have to find time and support for that.
As you can see in the picture, the Team is officially (and initially) composed by Oumar Ndiaye (Senegal), Thierno Souleymane Bah (Guinee), Mamadu Aliu Djalo (Guinee-Bissau) and myself.
Follow us and you’ll have a great experience!
This is the last week before the beginning of the FSCA-PISA Training in ComDev that will take place next week in Dakar, Senegal.
The list of tasks to complete is long at least as the list of innovations and new opportunities we are offering the participants. Among others, I would like to remember:
- the use of several interactive methodologies to facilitate the sharing of knowledge (World Café, Chat show, Open Space, Dotmocracy, Network Mapping, SWOT Analysis, Mindmapping)
- the six different communication labs dedicated to: web, video, photo, rural radio and mobile telephony
- the preparation of a Case Study to identify the main issues in the Communication strategies
- the five Cross Cutting Thematic Meetings organised during coffee breaks and lunches
- the proposal of a Social Reporting Team to document the event
- the video-photo coverage of the week
- the interactive website collecting any information about the event since early this year
- the informal approach used for the training
Sometimes all of those ideas seems old and not valuable. In reality, while preparing such an event with over 45 people involved, you realize how difficult is to adopt new approaches and what big benefits the trainees can have from them.
One of my main tasks in this period is the organization of a training workshop on Communication for Development from 11 to 15 April 2011 in Dakar, Senegal. This training is a direct outcome to the recommendations of the FSCA-PISA project team during the latest Regional Workshops.
We consider this event being fundamental for the progress of the project: it aims at enhancing the communication skills of project staff and key stakeholders, and at strengthening the linkages among the various FSCA projects and harmonizing communication approaches. The workshop also aims at addressing the specific training needs expressed by the individual projects.
Our first worry was to design a highly participative workshop, where trainees are asked to contribute with their own experiences, know-how and visual material from their own projects. These will constitute the basis for interactive sessions during which all participants convene around themes of common interest, prepare case studies, share successes, approaches and lessons learned through tools such as World café, Open Space, Chat Shows and other modern km techniques.
Each project is asked to propose a team of maximum 7 participants among whom we suggest representatives of Ministries of Agriculture, involved in the activities, members of farmer based organizations, partners and the communication consultants. The selection process is fundamental because these people play a crucial role in the management of the projects. A focal point will be designated to coordinate the participation of the whole country team.While waiting for April to come, we don’t want to loose time. So, the training will consist of two distinct phases: a pre-workshop distance learning step and the proper 5 days face-to-face workshop:
Phase I – The distance learning step must be completed in advance. It basically consists of a data collection exercise about the projects and about the participants themselves. Our team of facilitators will soon contact them individually and guide them through the process. This phase will help in solving part of the problems due to distance and differences of the 7 countries involved in the FSCA-PISA activities. The more data and objects related to the activities will be collected the better. They will be used to give the other Teams the feeling and the sense of what each project is like.
Phase II – Face to face workshop will be held over a 5 day period in Banjul, Gambia. In addition to the theoretical presentations, there will be practical, participatory labs for communication tools such as web, video, photography, rural radio and mobile telephony. The training sessions will run in parallel for both English and French groups.
Engaging people during a meeting is one of the most difficult tasks a professional can face.
While listening to a recent presentation, I put together some suggestions:
- Content is fundamental BUT the way to present it is at least as important as content
- VARY THE WAY to present your content to the audience. Do NOT adopt common methods but use a different style. The surprise will “shake” the audience and attract the attention, provoking emotions: this is the reason why, NOWADAYS, my suggestion is NOT to use .ppt presentations. They have been abused and, as a consequence, not able to stimulate reactions any more as the audience is TOO used to them
- AVOID the term PRESENTATION: it is always better “to meet people”, “to dialogue with them”, “to discuss about a certain topic” rather than to PRESENT them something, giving a clear one-way direction to the meeting
- Your VOICE is fundamental. The TONE and the VOLUME are key elements to engage with people in front of you
- Use IMAGES and CARDS as they can help to provoke emotions and reactions in the people listening to your speech
- Start speech with the CORE of your message, to capture the attention of the audience, and THEN provide more details and explanation of specific aspects
- DO NOT SIT behind you laptop during the presentation. Stand up and walk around the room. You need to add dynamism to the situation. If you have ten people sitting around a table, standing there for 1 hour or more, they need continuous stimulation to maintain their attention vivid and to the point. Otherwise you will loose their attention
- KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) Principle has to be always in your mind. Even if you like to talk, try to be as short as possible and keep your talking to the point (be sure with previous assessment and questions about what the exact point is)
- PREPARE EVERYTHING WELL IN ADVANCE and be sure that everything works in front of the audience at the right time. Otherwise you will offer a bad idea since the beginning
- Make your audience LAUGH. It always works
Note: if you see people yawning or leaving the room in advance, it is a clear sign that you have to go quickly to either the point or the conclusion of the speech!