Social Reporting – Behind the Scenes

September 11, 2012 | LND | Methods & Tools |


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CarmenRiffNadiaNaraSocial Reporting on and from face-to-face meetings of SDC’s networks became a trendy practice. This blog post looks behind the scenes and reflects on three questions: What is actually Social Reporting? What makes it social? And is it worth the effort?

By Carmen Eckert, Riff Fullan, Nadia von Holzen and Nara Weigel

What is actually Social Reporting? And what does it bring?

Social Reporting is trendy within SDC’s networks. This year several networks were blogging from their face-to-face meetings; or doing video reporting. The first experience with Social Reporting dates back to 2009 in Delhi when the Democratisation- Decentralisation – Local Government network held its face-to-face meeting. LINK

The little word ‘social’ matters

The word ‘social’ in ‘social reporting’ is crucial. It means the participants being engaged in the reporting in a proactive way, in providing their perspectives on the event.
There are voices saying: that the word ‘social’ refers to making use of social media in order to reach out to a wider audience not present at the event. This is normally a key aspect, but from a learning perspective the participatory and reflective aspects are definitely essential.

Social ReportingSocial Reporting:
• engages participants. The act of writing observations or catching voices by video is an act of thinking and deliberating;
• triggers multiple conversations. It adds an additional layer of reflection and reasoning to the face-to-face meeting.
• reaches out to a wider audience; and makes the event visible outside its physical location even after the event is over
• helps build contacts and relations through working together on a concrete output

Two illustrations: Two National Programme Officers (NPO) who had participated in different network face-to-face meetings in 2011 shared their stories with the social reporting coordinator after the event:
One NPO said that it was the first time in her life that she actually showed the “report” of an event or trip that she had gone on to her family and friends upon her return. The other NPO sent an email several months after the facer-to-face meeting to say that a long lost colleague had just gotten in touch with her after he had happened to stumble across a video in which she had given an interview. She was very pleased that this aspect of social reporting incidentally led to reconnecting with an old colleague/ network.

Is it worth the effort?

Critical voices say that the blog posts from face-to-face events are not read and the video statements are not watched. Thus, is it worth the effort?

Are blogs read? What do the blog statistics tell us?

For example the Gender network: Over 250 single visitors were looking at several pages and staying for about ten minutes on the Social Reporting site. Three quarters were returning visitors. This means that not only the face-to-face participants were enjoying the blog. The interest reached its highest point during and shortly after the face-to-face. Three months after the meeting there are still about 50 new visitors.
The Climate Change and Environment blog counted within one month 188 visitors from 13 countries with a total of 329 visits.

And what do blog readers tell us?

Social ReportingThree blog reader from SDC Headquarters:
J’ai papillonné dans les différents blogs et leurs vidéos : je trouve que ça permet de se faire une idée agréablement et rapidement des débats et enjeux (information structurée de plusieurs manières), le mélange texte et vidéo offre une alternance agréable (on lit, on écoute).

Si, sur la page d’entrée d’un blog, je vois un long texte je ne vais pas forcément le lire. Par contre si je vois des photos, des vidéos, etc. je vais probablement y jeter un œil, et cela va peut-être m’encourager à lire plus loin.

I stopped watching the videos; they are not interesting enough.

Social Reporting is an investment

Both the social reporting team and those who were captured on video had a different type of engagement: they could express their views in a way that reached a lot of people, and was revisited later. This did not come without cost, because the team spent extra time beyond their participation, and we had to hire a couple of external people to help us with planning and technical work.
Social reporting coordinator

So, depending on whom you want to reach and the choice of social media tools, as well as the expertise available within the team, the preparation can be quite intensive. Social Reporting that benefits the event, the reporters as well as those who will follow the reporting, requires time and is an effort. Depending on the skills and experience of your existing team, you may also need to hire external expertise. The most important thing in terms of investment is that the time, effort and other resources invested are appropriate for what you want to get out of the social reporting (depth of experience, learning, types of output, etc.)

Social Reporting GroupIt is also important to realize what Social Reporting IS NOT. If you are looking for a highly polished output such as a ‘proceedings’ document that would be later published, you will probably not want to rely only on Social Reporting (though it could still contribute to the dynamism of the event and provide interesting content for inclusion in such a report).
Social Reporting is as much about the process of the reporting itself (i.e. participant engagement, shared learning, etc.) as it is about the various outputs produced.

What is your experience with Social Reporting?


Comments to“Social Reporting – Behind the Scenes”

  1. Elmi Bester says:

    Thank you for this reflection. We’ve had a Social Reporting team at a conference last year, and in addition to the outcomes listed above, we also found that it allowed more voices to be heard other than the usual presenters. We now hope that some of the bloggers will be presenters at the next conference.

    The organising committee also learned more from the blog posts than the traditional feedback forms.

  2. Riff Fullan says:

    Thanks for your comment, Elmi. The surfacing of additional voices is of course one of the main rationales for social reporting in the first place. Aside from a potential for greater overall participation in an event, the idea is to create a space where broader dialogue – not just driven by ‘official’ presenters – can take place.

    Your point about organisers learning more from the blogs is also well taken: you can easily get a more nuanced and ‘real’ sense of how people experience an event by reflecting on the social reporting element than just analysing event evaluation results.


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