Title: Open space minutes for Online collaboration

Who started?

Who was there at the beginning?

Who joined?

Who left?

Opening question/s

Denise: Groups of work within FAO are trying to work together but it’s not working right. We need an online platform that looks more collaborative and less directive.
Agnes: People in our organization are using email to respond to interactive work within an organization. What are other possible tools for people to work collaboratively within an organization? How do you introduce something new for people to start using new tools?
Kay: how do you plan or use the work process of online collaboration?
Jo: What’s the difference between wikis and google docs to share documents?
Karin: Stakeholders of an FAO project ‘Linking global learners’ have started developing businesses are trained to use new tools. Idea is for stakeholders to learn from each other how to make business. Does the public sector have a role in this or should the private sector be doing this work?
Anna Maria: Working on development of food standards at the regional level. How to involve people to put information on the activity’s website?

Key discussion points

Online tools for collaboration
Alternatives to email
Google applications
Knowledge resources persons
MS Sharepoint

Additional info needed/follow-up questions

Stefano: Partners of the collaboration can contribute to the shared knowledge of the community. How to deal with connectivity problems in developing countries?
Denise: Moodle allows a community of practice to collaborate online but also allows people to know who’s online and then also share personal messages between participants. Social perk of the tool was probably important to make a success of the online collaboration.
Kay: when do you decide which tool to use?
Nancy: depends on purpose of the group, depends on activities that need to be supported within the group. Is there anything one can already use without having to learn a new tool? Tool choice also depends on the context: how often are community members online? Small group of people can try lots of different things with short trial cycles.
Google doc allows to change a document online: similar to a wiki (with several people working online and with history) but interface of Word. Google doc users need a gmail account.
Sharepoint is a MS file management system useful for shared calendaring and contact list. Not very strong in collaborative practices because uses file folders.
Nancy has a chapter of a book on tools for public collaboration for communities with high-bandwith Internet access; available on demand with a flashdisk.
Public or private tool? All this depends on the context of the group.
Kay: how do you make people participate in the online community with the new tools?
Nancy: discuss with your group to motivate the group to use the appropriate tool for their problem. Do people have time to do online collaboration?
Mariam: I will have to create a tool on the Internet that keeps institutional memory and allows knowledge sharing for finishing and starting projects in Sudan. Is Internet going to be the right tool to share and pass on knowledge on management between projects in my context?
Nancy: check out the Aid workers’ network. This community began in a bar in a developing country. People don’t want to show that they are asking a question so are using private emails rather than business email. This network has found ways to apply the best tool for some specific activities and contexts for development; everything is related to a face-to-face model of collaboration.
Denise: organize face-to-face meetings in order for people to meet and share their experience and then contact each other more freely.
Nancy: people go to ask questions to other people; they won’t be looking it up in a database. Who is connecting people, who knows the information? These need to be central players in the network. It does not necessarily go online.
Jo: Identify people who know and send people asking questions to people who know.
Meena: create key words for each procedure. A short protocole is put online. It was very difficult to implement this. People didn’t want to contribute to the protocols: people didn’t want to stop their work, reflect on a protocol and write it down. The whole process took 6 months. Draft protocols were too long; they weren’t step by step; they weren’t precise enough. Protocols had to be reviewed three times. Management put an ultimatum in the end for everybody to contribute their knowledge.
Nancy: tell a story about how you executed this protocol with somebody to prompt the story teller. We know more than we can say, we say more than we can write down.
Mariam: make sure the interface is user-friendly and people find the information they want very quickly.
Mario: shorten the gap between institutions and people. What is the space for discussion between institutions and people within and outside the institution? Is a website the right tool? A website should be maintained regularly. How does online collaboration continue when project funding stops? Any lessons learned?
Nancy: people need to have a high value out of a tool to continue running a tool without outside funding. Read Clay Shirkey. “Here comes everybody”. 1) Easy to publish, 2) feedback possible, 3) allow people to organize content in the way they find easy: allow tagging and RSS. Create value for users and allow users to feedback on your content. Such sites become self-sustaining.

Mario: how to create this momentum in developing countries?
Nancy: check out “Linking local learners”: use several tools: mobile phone, internet, radio, videos, sms... always allow easiness, feedback and customization by users. Read David Weinberger “Everything is miscellaneous”: organize things and tools at the last minute after you’ve identified the problem, issue and context. Note: this is how terrorism networks work!
Denise: Google Apps? Google applications.
Nancy: Google Apps are all applications and software hosted by Google: Gmail for email (allows you to run your email on Google servers), Google docs, Googls spreadsheets, Google translation, Google powerpoint, Google calendars, Google homepage creation, Googlegroups.
Ask Enrica, CGIAR has just done an evaluation of Google Apps.
RSS allows you to subscribe to different content and receive notices without login in into different websites.
Michael Smith Genome Research Institute has a good RSS and data output.
Denise: the important thing is to be rewarded for knowledge that is shared rather than knowledge that is hold.
Nancy: Watch out: online tools can uncover problems within an organization. It’s important to start a discussion in the organization about what the problem is and then how the organization wants to address the problem. The tool comes afterwards and should be endorsed by the stakeholders.
Story of the KS toolkit wiki.