By Rosamelia Andrade*
Rimisp (Latin American Centre for Rural Development) is a small regional NGO working on research projects related to rural development, poverty reduction, economic growth, social inclusion and environmental governance in various countries of Latin America. Its office is located in Santiago, Chile, but as a regional organization, Rimisp also has personnel based in other countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Rimisp partners with several public and private institutions that help implement our projects and collaborate with us in different capacities.
The structure of the organization in itself bears important challenges to the internal communication process. This is probably not that uncommon nowadays when many organizations have flexible working environments and human resources located in more than one geographic setting.
Several project coordinators in the organization have expressed repeatedly the need to have communication systems in place to improve the internal communication amongst team members in a way that is easy, yet effective, and without investing an enormous amount of time figuring out how something works.
With this challenge in hand, the communications team at Rimisp received the visit of Marteen Boers from ICCO, an old friend of the organization who knows well the limitations and challenges we currently face.
Maarten worked with us setting up a 4-day hands-on workshop schedule that included collective and individual meetings with team members as well as working sessions to learn specific collaborative tools that could help our organization deal with the difficulties of communicating in the world of web 2.0
The week with Maarten opened a whole range of new tools, platforms and ideas that we could implement in our organization, not because we didn´t know about the existence of this material in the web, but mostly because he showed us how these tools have changed the way people work with one another and how we –as an organization- could benefit from it.
I think the most important thing that I learned from these sessions is the fact that we –Rimisp and its members- have to start thinking about a different approach to our work. This means, we need to change the way we do things; the way we view things. We are not alone in the world. Other people are doing similar things and they are interested in what we do. The present times prompt us to share information as opposed to restrict knowledge. And we need “to get out there,” where other people co-exist (collaborative platforms), to share with others what we do best.
I believe there is significant potential for Rimisp to begin implementing and using collaborative platforms and tools. The first step would be to bring on tools that could directly solve their most pressing difficulties, for example sharing a common calendar of appointments, meetings, events, etc, so everybody in the organization and in specific teams are informed of what is going on with one another. Or a platform that would help them share documents and allow them to work collaboratively to obtain a final version that incorporates everybody´s input.
The next step is to show all the members of the organization the type of tools and platforms that are available and what they can do for the organization and the teams. I think this could motivate people to incorporate new instruments into their daily routine and activities. Sharing experiences from other organizations going through similar processes could also be useful to encourage people to adopt this new way of doing things.
Finally, training and capacity building are extremely important in the success of integrating new collaborative avenues in an organization. People feel much more inclined to accept something when they learn how it works and when they see that is actually working.
In Rimisp we have started producing a strategy to implement new collaborative platforms and tools to our daily work. This will not be easy and it will take time. At least we know that our people have needs and challenges to resolve and they are open and excited to learn how the web 2.0 could help them. A good indication is that they have begun asking what this is all about...There is hope.
Rosamelia Andrade is the Communications Coordinator of the Rural Territorial Dynamics Program at Rimisp. She is a communications professional with experience working on international development projects. For more information about Rimisp, please visit www.rimisp.org