Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Maaike is our intern doing interviews with members of the e-collaboration group about their experiments with collaboration via new e-technologies. She thought of presenting her research on a blog and we had a meeting with the communications people of two organisations. At the end of the meeting she made a joke which inspired me to create this animation film about our meeting.
The meeting outlined a sort of dilemma with new technologies. At the one hand, a new technology by itself is attractive, and you should probably stimulate experimentation. On the other hand, you don't want technology to drive a solution and really want to think about the optimal choice of technology starting from the information need/audience. But if you overdo that, you may kill the initial enthusiasm.
At the end we kind of decided to try to get a blog going and produce a good old paper report as well. (and Maaike asked me to write down that in real life she is much smarter as in the animation :))
So my question is: how can you use this kind of animation in online interactions? Do you use it to summarize or stimulate discussion? Are there people who might be put off by an animation?
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Last week, the television program zomergasten had Halina Reijn as guest, a Dutch actress. It was extremely tiresome to watch the program. When you analyse it in terms of imitation, there was very little imitation between the interviewer and Halina. She kept on speaking very rapidly, and the interviewer was very thoughtfull and much slower in speaking. But there was not a sign of the two getting closer to eachother. I think it shows a lack of real interaction between the two, Halina running her own 'show' which made watching the program very tedious. As an advisor you can make use of all these kind of observations.
Now seeing the picture: both look in different directions, both in a different mood (and I didn't choose the picture because of this!)
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Ape in the corner office says:
Well, now! (5 of 7)
You clearly know how to read your environment and use it to stay alive. Still, a few useful insights into the corporate jungle could help you swing through the treetops. Check out The Ape in the Corner Office for a few pointers.
Not too bad as I tend to see office politics as a waste of time (and when it takes too much of my energy, I seriously consider resigning and working fulltime as freelancer).
What the book basically does is explain group dynamics (using examples of animal groups), especially hierarchy and collaboration in groups. It adds some physiological explanations too, like the fact that your level of dopamine increases when someone trusts you and that gives you a good feelings. Hence when you have faith and trust in a good collaborative group it gives you pleasant feelings through higher levels of dopamine (and oxytocine). The book explains group processes with more subtlety than Tuckman's famous model for team development with the 4 stages: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Reality always seems much more dynamic than this model suggests.
Conniff explains why status is often more important than content, what Senge also refered to in his explanation of processes which inhibit organisational learning. Who says something is often more important than what is being said. In that sense this book helps me to understand better why this is so. We can't do away with group dynamics, even though we have more ways of influencing group processes than apes (communication!).
Practical tips for office life: there are too little excuses on the work floor, conflicts are natural, but without reconciliation process it can have a high cost as it bring tension for the whole group. If high chimps fight, the onlookers are extremely tense. A reconciliation relieves the tension.
Interesting for cross-cultural work is that 3000 out of the 10000 facial expressions are uniform across cultures, the same expressions are linked to the same feelings. In Conniff's book examples are given to support the statement that we are loosing the capacity to 'read' those expressions properly.
Basic strategies we can learn from these group dynamics amongst apes:
- Take care of the natural shyness of people around you
- Be very careful with unjustified agression, it's dangerous
- Work with the group, a leader can give the group something good to imitate, and bring in diversity in perspectives to avoid groupthink
- Expect hierarchy, competition for status and hierarchy is natural
- Share success, it creates loyalty
- Have faith, but keep on monitoring
- Do good, work together and reconcile
- Watch non-verbal clues
- Conflicts can be healthy, but don't let them escalate
We can see communities of practice as new 'groups' in an organisation or across organisations, which will bring new group dynamics, new leadership, new status issues, etc. But this time not intersecting with formal hierarchy (hence wilder??).
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Community of ICT4D trainers
ILO/CIARIS experiences in lusophone Africa
Communities of practice in India
CoP in Ghana
Tech forum in Kumasi, Ghana
The community empowerment network in Central Asia
Ayuda Urbana, a cop on urban development in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean
Communities of practice at CARE International
E-collaboration amongst Dutch development organisations
Community of practice on e-government
UNDP's experiences in India
UNDP's knowledge networks
5 examples from Latin America
Obstacles to knowledge sharing in Ghana
Identifying CoPs within the World Bank
Aquasan, a CoP on water and sanitation
So who knows more practical examples?
Friday, August 18, 2006
* Click here to see previous messages
[16/08/2006 15:40:03] henry says: can you here me
[16/08/2006 15:40:10] henry says: can't hear anyone
[16/08/2006 15:41:17] Paa Kwesi Imbeah says: we're starting afresh
[16/08/2006 15:41:26] henry says: ok
[16/08/2006 15:41:32] Ibrahim Inusah says: can also here anyone
[16/08/2006 15:41:49] Paa Kwesi Imbeah says: Joitske is reconnecting everyone
[16/08/2006 15:41:58] henry says: ok
[16/08/2006 15:42:22] Gerard Meijssen says: if everyone is in this chat you can just click on "con\ference"
[16/08/2006 15:43:53] henry says: hello can you hear me
[16/08/2006 15:44:03] Joitske Hulsebosch says: no, I can't hear you
[16/08/2006 15:44:06] henry says: i can here eveyone
[16/08/2006 15:44:12] henry says: i can hear eveyone
[16/08/2006 15:44:20] Joitske Hulsebosch says: where is conference in the chat?
[16/08/2006 15:44:26] Paa Kwesi Imbeah says: at the top
[16/08/2006 15:44:56] Gerard Meijssen says: something does not go well for me ..
[16/08/2006 15:45:08] Gerard Meijssen says: do you have a conversation going ?
[16/08/2006 15:45:14] Joitske Hulsebosch says: yes,
[16/08/2006 15:45:24] Joitske Hulsebosch says: with ibrahim and myself :)
[16/08/2006 15:46:00] henry says: ok
[16/08/2006 15:46:06] henry says: going of line
[16/08/2006 15:46:20] Joitske Hulsebosch says: I'm starting a new conference
[16/08/2006 15:46:46] Gerard Meijssen says: ok
[16/08/2006 15:47:19] Gerard Meijssen says: ??
[16/08/2006 15:47:30] Joitske Hulsebosch says: do you hear us, Gerard
[16/08/2006 15:47:33] Gerard Meijssen says: no
[16/08/2006 15:47:44] Paa Kwesi Imbeah says: i'm starting a conference
[16/08/2006 15:48:22] Joitske Hulsebosch says: we lost henry
[16/08/2006 15:48:30] henry says: i'm here
[16/08/2006 15:48:37] Paa Kwesi Imbeah says: can you hear us?
[16/08/2006 15:48:43] henry says: no
[16/08/2006 15:48:54] henry says: change over to a new machine
[16/08/2006 15:49:41] henry says: how do i enter into the conference call
Just seems that it's an integral part of skype teleconferences to have these kind of intervals. Now that I'm used to it, it's even part of the skype fun to deal with these situations, but when you are new, it might be confusing. By the way, we had more interesting discussions before and after this part, and fortunately skype keeps them automatically, so I could retrieve them afterwards!
Ethan Zuckerman wrote a blogpost called your language or mine? in which he refers to the original goal of wikipedia:
The goal of Wikipedia (and the core goal of the Wikimedia Foundation) is to create and provide a freely licensed and high quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in his or her own language.”
which goes beyond the aim of equaling the quality of traditional encyclopedia, often quoted in the media.
He continues to outline an important debate:
I became aware of an interesting debate within the Wikipedia community. In trying to achieve Jimmy’s dream of a free encyclopedia for everyone in their own language, is the goal to create a single, coherent encyclopedia that can be translated into many different languages? Or to help every language community around the world create their own encyclopedia which will have somewhere from a little to a lot of overlap with another encyclopedia?
Personally I think a local wikipedia can be an important boost for content on the internet in local languages (now people newly connected to the internet in Africa deal with an overload of non-African content), and can work to empower people within a language group by having a space on the web where they can create their own 'world'. Furthermore, more practically speaking, there are intermediaries in Ghana who can read and write in local languages, who can access to the internet (think of community workers, extension workers, or community radio people) and who are struggling to 'translate' information from the net to local context. I think it's very important to strive for the second option mentioned by Ethan, whereby the power of writing in your own language is leveraged by writing down the concepts and issues proper to that language, in a dynamic, continously updated wikipedia, rather than translating the english -or polish, or any other huge- wikipedia.
Yet, wikipedia in African local languages don't take off automatically like the English version, which can count on numerous volunteers. So to stimulate the start, you might:
1. Translate the user interface (called localisation of the interface), making it easier for people to contribute
2. Incubate: make sure you get a certain number of articles (eg. 100) either by starting with a small group or paying for translations, before you go public
3. Make use of local networks like GINKS to get engage the active users of internet, pioneers, journalists
4. link up with projects working on 'practical content' in local languages like ICT4D training materials in local languages, background to the news, etc.
5. link up with school projects, to stimulate use of the local wikipedia or get them working on it
6. .. ?
More creative ideas welcome!
It is a question whether too much stimulation does not go again the principles of wikipedia?
If you want to get involved in the discussions, you can join the yahoo group discussion on afrophone wikis.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Leon shows a scene of the hadj, with a discussion afterwards about his large number of publications about the arabic world. Leon explains that he writes about the arabic world with 'borrowed knowledge', by reading articles and talking to people. He has not been there in the past 20 years. The interviewer, Joris Luyendijk, has lived there, published a book and is surprised that you can write about something, and have an opinion without actually going there yourself. To which Leon de Winter replies that a surgeon doesn't need to have a braintumor to be able to operate one. He feels he can judge well by reading a wide variety of articles and use several sources.
This discussion was interesting to me, because I'm like Joris in seeing the need to feel and experience something to 'ground' it. But good to know that people may have a very different take on this.
Translating this to communities of practice: I see a difference, on a gliding scale, of CoPs which talk about their practice versus CoPs with members engaging in joint enterprises, with a lot of doing together. My sceptic attitude towards purely virtual CoPs stems from not grounding the conversations by seeing each other practice. I think groups that have a lot of joint projects may move faster towards a community of practice with common practices, for me a sign of a 'strong' CoP. So we we get into the discussion of what is a group and what is a community of practice...
An anecdote to support my strong feel for actual experience as it changes your perspective: when I was in Kenya, I used to think (like many other backpackers) that the Masai are a little 'spoilt' by tourism because they ask money when a tourist takes a picture. Now in China, so many chinese people wanted to take a picture of my children, see the picture in this blogpost, that in the end I felt like asking money too. By experiencing it, you experience that it is somehow a commercial kind of relationship. (people see you, want your picture, that's all there is to the relationship). So experience, as observing and sensing the atmosphere, does change your perspective. (but not everyone feels this is important as I do).
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
He started KM initiatives at a company called Schneider by putting a toolkit for creating communities together, adapted to th company's culture. Soon he was contacted by a senior vice president who said it was wat he needed to support comptence centres he was building. Then each country was asked to build a glocal community around its domain of expertise. To support this they organised worldwide meetings where each leader had to explain the objective in one minute. The success almost killed it, as the same vice president wanted to speed up the initiative. Dugage: 'when you want communities to move faster they morph into project teams'.
And one thing which resonated with my experiences: HR, country managers and IT must convey consistent messages to employees. If experts from a country receive conflicting information, nothing will happen. (but from my experience, it is sometimes hard for them to see that they send contradictory messages, and even what they say and do may be contradictory). So managers: if your staff is not innovating and taking initiatives as you'd wish, try to get feedback rather than assume they are slow and without ideas.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Much better self tests (which can make you think) can be found at authentic happiness especially the signature strength test.
But a real nice one and not to be missed if you are advisor is the digitale zelftest voor veranderaars (in Dutch), based upon the famous book by de Caluwe and Vermaak. A Dutch video with Hans Vermaak talking about the colours of change can be found on the web as well. I haven't found an English self test online, but fortunately the book upon which this test is based is translated in English under the title Learning to change, and the test is included in the book as well. I have read this book in Dutch and I think its real strength is in showing the different paradigms in thinking about change and how to guide change trajectories.
From the English book review:
"In the third chapter, "Thinking about change in five different colors", Caluwé and Vermaak introduce their color model. They start this chapter by stating the word "change" has five different meanings. The five ways of thinking addressed by the model include different views on what the authors say, "why and how people or things change" (p. 42). The different colors include:
* Yellow-print thinking. People change their standpoints only if their own interests are taken into account.
* Blue-print thinking. People or things change if a clearly specified result is laid down beforehand.
* Red-print thinking. People change if things are appealing and inspiring to them.
* Green-print thinking. People change if they learn. They are motivated to discover their limits.
* White-print thinking. Everything changes autonomously, of its own accord. "
It would be interesting to see whether people who working with the concept of communities of practice or more white and green thinkers about change. The test should make you think about your own ideas and preferent styles as an advisors, so that you can try and flex more in styles, when people (or organisations for that matter) have other preferences. If we'd take that communities of practice in themselves are a rather -white- green -bit of red- intervention, what does that imply if you have to introduce it into an organisation which is predominantly blueish?
Saturday, August 12, 2006
By coincidence I later discovered that I had 4 or 5 feeds (no idea why) when you want to add my blog to bloglines, and that I had all kind of hidden subscribers. I was wondering how to combine these feeds. So when I mailed Marshall Kirkpatrick who now seems to blog for techcrunch more than on his own blog, he was extremely helpful and guided my through the making of a feed for my blog on feedburner. With the idea that that feed could be the combined feed of all kind of subscriptions. He explains why and how to use feedburner in a blogpost.
Yet, I still had to replace the alternate xml/rss URLs in your blog's header tags. Marshall assured me that replacing them would not effect my subscribers at all. (you don't want to delete your subscribers...). At this point it became really technical because blogger has a kind of encripted code which is not easy to replace. But you can still do it as explained here.
Now to be honest, I still have about 5 feeds coming up if you want to subscribe to my blog in bloglines, one of them being the feedburner feed. And only those bloglines subscribers are counted by feedburner (the number does correspond, so I get it!). I can now calculate my subscribers easily by adding the number of subscribers on each feed in bloglines plus feedburner, and deducting the subscribers who are double on the feedburner feed. Somehow to resolve this becomes really too technical and timeconsuming for me, but I know now that if I had started straight away with a feedburner feed, it could have been easier.
Anyhow, wanted to blog this already for a long time for people who are blogging in blogger and have similar problems and to really thank Marshall for his help as without him I would not have gotten this far in understanding it. I think it is a nice example how non-techies can learn more about how things work with the help of techies.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I'm happy that I can finally link to a four-page summary of the community readiness assessment we did last year, titled Train the trainers or let the trainers train themselves, a collaboration between IICD, Learning Alliances, and an intern from new media and digital culture. The full report of the internship is available at the IICD website.
The following recommendations resulted from the readiness assessment process and apply to the situation of the community of ICT4D trainers. However, some of the recommendations could apply equally to other global communities of practice in a development context.
- Technologies supporting distributed communities of practice are rapidly developing, and the ICT4D trainers’ community may make use of a wide range of technologies. Yet, starting with using the tools that are available and that people are familiar with is the most appropriate.
- A vibrant CoP may be able to connect local expertise and isolated professionals, and may develop a common language and practice standards. It can help spread best practices, produce innovative materials and develop professional competences as well as strategic thinking on the field of ICT4D capacity building.
- Pay attention to existing networks and links, internationally and locally, as people indicated that there are a large number of these professional networks already.
- Global community of practice would have to be organised according to the main language areas: English, French, Spanish, etc. Brokering among the communities to identify multilingual practitioners is best started roughly at the same time as designing for the CoP.
- Developing of a clear sense of local control and focus on the side of actual practice is extremely important and will depend on the legitimacy of community members who take on the leadership role. Development of such capacities requires culturally sensitive facilitation.
- If interactions can be supported with face-to-face contacts, development will be more rapid. Judicious use of travel funds may be extremely helpful.
- Just as the success of a community of practice depends on a certain amount of passion for its domain, supporting communities requires a level of commitment and constancy because the community has to grow fairly organically. The timeframe which must be kept in mind is quite long, bearing in mind the diversity of trainers’ practices involved.
- A significant role for IICD would be to incrementally develop measures of community performance; in the direction of the level of online discussion, quality and quantity of artefacts, community cohesiveness and anecdotal evidence about CoP members’ changing practices, etc..
In the meantime, there has been a first meeting of ICT4D trainers in Zambia, and I'll try to do an interview with my colleague, Saskia Harmsen who was there. She already told me that the participants responded to the question in the title of the brief with saying that it is much more powerful to let the trainers train themselves (meaning that they are in favour of a community of practice approach versus a train the trainer approach).
1. For the interview we used skype to communicate and audacity for recording the call. We did a short test (both recording the call) and found out that you hear your own voice clear enough, but you don't hear the other party's voice clearly. Instead of figuring out how to solve this, I decided to use Bill's recording instead (thought I don't need my own voice). I had sent my 4 questions beforehand by email, but Bill had not seen them yet. The whole interview was 33 minutes. In audacity you have the option to export it as an mp3 file to reduce the size.
2. As the file was too large to send by mail, Bill used you send it to give me access to the mp3 file.
3. For editing the interview I used wavepad. I decided to listen and and mark each episode with beginning and end time, before deciding which parts to keep and which parts to delete. I ended up just deleting the parts I did not want to include, and did not reverse any order. I did not bother too much on nice transitions, that would make it really time consuming.
4. For uploading the interview to the internet, and making it accessible from my blog, I used gcast. I had not figured this out beforehand, and tried googling on 'posting audiofiles on your blog' etc but couldn't figure it out. But! Fortunately I had my delicious tag on podcasting and hence found Brit Bravo's post on how to make a podcast. She explained that she chose gcast because you can easily embed your podcast in your blog or website. (thanks Brit and long live blogging and delicious!). This was really easy and straightforward to do.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The interview can be found both here, as well as on the right-hand side of this blog in the sidebar where it's called joitske's podcasts, under my profile. It can be listened to by clicking on the triangle. It takes a little while before the interview starts. The whole podcast is less than 9 minutes. A summary of the main content:
1. The point of creating a community of practice from a course situation is to achieve a situation where the learning is going on and there are people who have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge, which can be useful to people working on similar problems in similar languages.
2. The two principal issues to address while trying to create ongoing links between course participants are (1) to establish the medium, platform or instrument for maintaining contact and (2) to create a sense of community of practice and habit of exchange, which depends a lot on motivation.
3. What is needed to create a successful community of practice is an ongoing structure, somebody to nurture the CoP (with the necessary time and support), a mailing list, a concrete task and the right incentives.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
I finally started using flickr. I never saw the advantage of uploading my pictures, till I saw the captioner used by Beth. This was more than a month ago, but I kept it in mind, and I kept it in my delicious account tagged by cartoon. This will be my new favorite tool!
One day in the taxi, my daughter was talking about her new class in school, but I did not understand what she meant, so I asked her to explain again. Then she got annoyed and replied: 'Mom, you don't understand, so I don't want to explain to you'. I think this is an example pointing to a fundamental interpersonal process which determines the depth of knowledge sharing between two people: it is only when you feel that people understand you, that you are invited to share more. I believe it is not a matter of trusting or not trusting, but a matter of having the feeling that someone understand the issues you are grappling with.
Hence, communities of practice with more homogenous groups of practitioners may find it easier to connect, albeit the danger of not stimulating enough innovation. And it stresses the importance to create space for people to connect on a one-to-one basis as well.
One story someone told me was very interesting with regard to adapting to different cultural habits. A Dutch person lived in France for 15 years and came to a Dutch party after all this time. A person asked her to dance, and she was surprised to find that he was dancing 1 meter away from her! Though she could remember that 'dancing together' means for most Dutch people dancing separately, she had completely forgotten it. So it gave her an unexpected surprise.
I had similar experiences after I had lived for 10 years in Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia and Ghana and came back to the Netherlands. You remain Dutch ofcourse, but I had troubles trusting appointments and felt an enormous urge to reconfirm an appointment one day ahead of time (which I surpressed, because I knew rationally appointments just work in the Netherlands, but emotionally I didn't trust this as I grew used to reconfirmed all meetings and appointments.
On a similar note, I used to feel a small shock in conversations when people would go immediately into the topic/business at hand, after maybe one line of introduction. My natural feeling for the length of time of introduction and relationship building by exploring side topics had changed. To get used to this habit of diving straight into the topic, took me almost one year I guess.
I think it shows that living in different cultural environments changes you, at least if you really engage with the environment and don't remain in a subgroup of your own culture. And even if rationally you understand reactions of other people, you may have an emotional reaction, in the form of surprise or feeling uncomfortable.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Back to blogging! I say an enormous thank you to John and Bill for blogging here during my holidays. It was really great to read their ideas on my blog; it makes me realize how much a one person blog is written from one -your own- perspective. It stimulates me to ask more guest bloggers and do more interviews, as my topic is communities of practice for development and I have blind spots (like we all do).
In China, I tried to access my blog from 3 different cybercafes, a hotel and a home connection, but I couldn't access it. It makes me think it may be censored (like the BBC :)). Though it would be nice to think that the chinese are scared of the immense influence of my blog, it may rather be the use of the words Tibet and China in this blogpost, as my friend had accessed my blog earlier on from China.
But good news (or bad news for censors): I was able to read all my RSS feeds (even the BBC) and I could even add my blog to bloglines. But ofcourse I couldn't comment. So spread RSS in China! (otherwise I miss out 1.3 billion readers...)
NB picture is me and my children climbing the wall. Unfortunately we have seen Beijing only in a dense fog, which only became denser by the day, so I wonder if it will not disappear completely from the world in one big mist.