Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Search4Dev: knowledge sharing among Dutch development professionals

On December 16th, in the historic library hall of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam, was launched. The platform is the result of a government funded innitiative to provide an innovative searchengine to a repository for Dutch development organizations.

Search4Dev is an online library for the full text digital publications of Dutch development organizations. Search4Dev offers quick and easy access to these publications for those working in the Dutch development sector as well as for the rest of the world!

Search4Dev is an initiative of the Development Policy Review Network (DPRN), a network of development experts and policy makers who aim to reduce the gap between science, policy and development practice. The initiative is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The online library has been realised by KIT Information & Library Services in collaboration with the the Digital Production Centre (DPC) of the University of Amsterdam.

ICCO: Interchurch Organization for Development Cooparation was one of the first development organizations to submit their digital publications for inclusion in Search4Dev. By participating in Search4Dev ICCO granted KIT Information & Library Services permission to include their digital publications in Search4Dev.

One of the entries is the option to search on the participating organizations. Searching on ICCO at the moment of the launch you would find 39 publications.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The role of diaspora in development

"It is important to empower the diaspora, because we are in contact with the grassroots¨ explains Mekka Abdelgabar at a public debate called 'women speak!'. A panel of six diaspora women from (former) war zones shared experiences on the female´s role in peacebuilding processes. Abigail Gonowolo from Liberia passionately described the exemplary role of women in Liberia in advancing towards peace: obstructing those who acted out of bad intent and placing sexual violence on the international agenda resulting in the adoption of resolution 1325. Mekka Abdelgabar described the peacebuilding trainings she gave in Darfur, referring to the Liberian example. Diaspora women spoke from their hearts during this meeting and the audience could feel it. It examplifies a possible role of diaspora in development, a topic that two recent meetings held in Brussels covered at length

The 8th Brussels Briefing took place on Thursday 11 December 2008 and focussed on the issue of migration and development. Two panels addressed the issues of migration and development, focussing specifically on the role of remittances and the involvement of diaspora communities in development policy and practice. In this regards, Cécile Riallant, migration and development advisor at the UNDP, explained the aim to promote the creation of a European diaspora platform. She also explained that a budget of €10-11 million was made available to support initiatives on migrantion and development. Alache Ode (AFFORD, VSO)focused her presentation on the Diaspora contribution to rural and business development, while Leila Rispens-Noel (Oxfam Novib) presented the work of her organisation in working with migrant diasporas. Last but not least, Ken Ndiaye, migrant and entrepreneur from Senegal, rounded up the session with a personal perspective on migrants’ life in Belgium.

Before this Brussels Briefing a Knowledge Fair on Migration and Development took also place in Brussels from 1 to 4 December 2008. The Fair aimed at contributing to the international dialogue on the benefits of migration for development and to create a 'Community of Practice'. This Knowledge Fair, which was initiated by the European Commission and the United Nations (UNDP), featured a 'Knowledge Marketplace' exhibiting various good practices of civil society organisations and governments on migration and development. During the Fair, civil society groups could network, find partners and share their experiences. Participants could also join several workshops and attend presentations on four main themes: remittances, migrant communities, migrant capacities and migrant rights. Atikha, a Philippine partner organisation of ICCO & Kerk in Actie was invited by the UNDP to exhibit its project: a trainers' training on financial literacy and peer counselling for Overseas Filipino Workers, seafarers and their families and the accompanying manual.

Different initiatives are thus taking place at all levels of society to involve diaspora in development practice and policy.

By Marja Rijerse and Stephanie Zwier

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Getting ComPart to Angola

Lately we started the important step to expand the ComPart training sessions to our partners in the South. As you might have read in this blog, a couple of weeks ago two colleagues from Euforic were in Ouagadougo training participants of a Seminar on education; last week I was in São Paulo to introduce ComPart to the participants of a seminar on Land and water rights; and this week I was in Luanda to “train” staff of several partner organisations in Angola. It is really great we have now come to this stage because in the end ComPart is meant for communication and learning with and among partners, is it is very important that they know how to use the tools.

Certainly here in Angola it is clear that the (good) use of Internet communication tools can be very helpful. Transport is very expensive and difficult to organise and normal telephone quite costly. So the felt need for good and cheap means of communication is evident. Although very much in the Angolan way only after some reminders and at the last moment, 22 staff of about 14 partner organisations subscribed to the training. Nearly all of them attended all three days. Luckily enough, my colleague Arie Jongejan managed to hire a “ICT-lab” with 30 PC’s connected to Internet just one day before the training started., which is quite an achievement under these circumstances. So everything was prepared as well as possible.

The training itself went well, although it was not always easy. Far more than twice, in the middle of a presentation or explanation an energy cut forced an unwelcome pause. I really admired the patience of the participants and their ability to come back with their attention (although at some moments it was clear we all felt real frustration). As one of the most expressed needs was to have an alternative for the expensive telephone (mobiles) Skype was one of the tools I explained right after the general presentation. Perhaps that was a mistake, because all the time afterwards one could hear the well known sounds of skype calls, and thus the internet connection slowed down nearly all the time (I must admit also because one or two participants were downloading videos). In general the Internet connection was OK, but sometimes and especially the last day really very very slow. It took about 3 minutes to load a page and often resulting in the so well know notice that the page could not be loaded at all because of a time out. To say the least, that makes it difficult to explain and practice!

Most time was spent on the explanation and practice with wiki’s and blogs, but we also worked on Dgroups, Skype, Feeds, RSS, iGoogle and other tools. Participants were really enthused and regularly it was difficult to get them to have a break and even lunch. Several times they were also teasing each other by messing up each other’s pages or posts. So we also had fun ;-).

However by the way they were working and the questions they asked it also became clear that part of the participants had great difficulty to really understand what Internet is, e.g. understanding that saving a text on your own computer is something different than saving a wiki page or a post. So I had to spend quite some time on explaining the very basics. And I must admit sometimes I had quite a hard time because I felt I didn’t always manage to explain them in an understandable way. Fortunately also some participants helped each other (levels of understanding varied much), so for most, in the end, much became more or less clear. At least they said they learnt much and made some concrete plans to work with the tools within their work for the Education for All and the Hiv/Aids programmes and other activities.

As for future training activities for expanding ComPart to the South some main lessons learnt are:

  • Training should really start at a very basic level;

  • Whenever possible try to do separate trainings for “beginners” with ICT and the “advanced” users (e.g. it was impossible to explain the embedding of videos and presentations, even though it was an explicit question of a few participants);

  • It is necessary to have enough time for personal attention (explanation) so their must be at least one trainer for at the most 12 (?) participants;

  • Certainly at the start of the introduction of ComPart it would be better to have a couple of training sessions every one or two months than one longer one. Anyhow follow-up sessions should be planed from the beginning;

  • It is important to involve local trainers because they know the wording used in the different countries (Brazilians and Angolans both speak Portuguese but some ICT terms are very different and cause confusion);

  • Connectivity of course is also an issue. Although it is always needed to take low connectivity for users into account, whenever possible the training sessions should take place in a venue with as good as possible connection (interruptions make it really difficult to maintain attention and keep the training somewhat inspiring).

    Luanda airport, 6 December 2008
    Maarten Boers