Friday, August 11, 2006

Practical examples: community of ICT4D trainers

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Pay attention to existing networks and links, internationally and locally, as people indicated that there are a large number of these professional networks already.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. If interactions can be supported with face-to-face contacts, development will be more rapid. Judicious use of travel funds may be extremely helpful.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).

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