Thursday, 13 January 2011

ComPart Evaluation - Three key roles to support collaboration and learning

We are still thinking through the implications of the recent ComPart evaluation, first announced on this blog, We know it wasn't the perfect time, given the changes the ICCO Alliance has been going through lately, but if you have been able to contribute to the evaluation in one way or another, we really want to thank you for your time and effort.

One of the suggestions of the evaluation team was to develop and work with three key roles (though not necessarily three distinct people) to support this way of working. If you're somewhat familiar with ComPart, you probably know the ComPart admin team (based in Europe) relies heavily on the continuous efforts of the ComPart ambassadors (personnel of the regional offices) and the ComPart enablers (web 2.0 and collaboration experts in the regions).

The evaluation suggests working with three 'roles':
converer - technology steward - facilitator
The evaluation team suggest a somewhat different constitution of the roles: conveners, facilitators and technology stewards. The conveners are the ones that bring people together and they make sure that there is trust among the group. The facilitators focus on the processes and the activities that come with it. The technology stewards, in their turn, will assist the group on technological issues, but without loosing the community perspective.

We believe that these three key roles can have a big impact on the adoption and implementation of new ways of working where collaboration and learning are vital. When looking back at our own experiences with ComPart, we have seen several examples of how this can work in practice.

One such case was when ComPart went global for the first time. During the Conference on Informal Education and Literacy in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) several sessions were to be held in which the participants would be introduced to ComPart with exercises to get acquainted with this new way of working. The very first day of the conference, however, the people who had organised the workshop came to us with a problem. During the presentations, the three countries had so many interesting questions about the others' programmes that they needed to spend at least an additional two hours to this session, which, in turn, would seriously mess up the schedule. So we were asked if ComPart couldn't solve this urgent problem. And it could...

We quickly created wiki-pages for the questions per country and instead of starting a 'ComPart session', as we had planned, we briefly introduced the event wiki as a way of getting the work at hand (i.e. answering all the questions) done as quickly as possible. So instead of having a seperate ComPart session about wikis, we integrated it in the session Presentations – part 2.

The wiki was used to let the participants of the
different countries asked and answer each others questions
There were several reasons why this worked so well. First of all, we were lucky to have conveners and facilitators like Machteld Ooijens (ICCO) and Tine Veldkamp (IC Consult) present. They knew the group very well, spotted the need for a ComPart intervention and had the authority to suggest and introduce this 'new way of working'. Local enablers Christophe Hien (Burkina Faso) and Oudou Bengaly (Mali) had good knowledge of the ComPart tools but also had a perfect understanding of the local context, the technical difficulties people might encounter during their daily work and they were acquainted with the theme of the conference. The results of this experiment (it was improvised after all) were remarkable. All questions were answered in less than an hour, where it would have taken more than 2 hours to answer them in the 'traditional way'. Everybody had used and contributed to the wiki without it feeling as a burden or something 'extra'. Instead, it was seen as a real time saver and something that helped them get on with the job at hand.

We think this example not only shows the validity of working with conveners, facilitators and technology stewards. It is also linked with other recommendations of the evaluation team, like blending learning with getting work done, create time-delimited experiments or change one thing at a time.

The evaluation has a lot of valuable suggestions for the ICCO way of working. Luckily, we don't have to start from scratch and we can build on previous experiences (successes but also failures) ComPart and ICCO have had. And that's what learning's all about...

Danny Aerts

No comments: