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Social Reporting on Training “The learning SDC Mongolia country program”

November 23, 2010 | Adrian Gnägi | SDC Experiences |

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By Adrian Gnägi
Social reporting is a new approach  in reporting about events. Its purpose is to overcome some of the well-known knowledge management shortcomings of normal reporting:

  • After an event, participants usually go back to their busy routine and, even though they might have planned to do otherwise, end up writing their reports with considerable delay.
  • When the reports finally are distributed, the event has somewhat faded away already and interest is often rather low. Reports frequently are not taken account of.
  • Reports typically come in the form of texts. Busy people increasingly are reluctant or unable to take up written information. Reports often end up unread in files or archives.
  • Reports are often one-sided. They are written by organizers, moderators, or individual participants, but the full flavor of different perspectives, insights, and judgments present during the event is missing.

With social reporting, reports are being 

  • produced during the event,
  • by different authors, 
  • published immediately on the web, and
  • using many different reporting formats like interviews, video testimonials, blog posts, pictures, audio recordings, power point presentations etc. – including of course texts.

Social reporting can be used whenever there is an interest by a broad audience to get information about the event. Social reporting depends on participants being willing and able to spend some time during the event for reporting. Interested users must be willing and able to use information provided over the web. Social reporting should not be used when it is important to have a comprehensive coverage of the entire event and this coverage should be neutral (in this case it is more useful to employ a skilled note taker), or when the information is confidential and addressed at a specific audience (in this case it is more useful for the responsible to write the report personally). Social reporting can be done without organization and entirely voluntary/spontaneously. In most cases, though, it is useful to provide some support by organizing who will report on what, when and how. Participants will then volunteer to tasks, drawing on their skills and preferences for different reporting styles.

Several people and groups  in SDC have been experimenting with social reporting during the past two or so years. Michèle Marin and Adrian Gnägi provided training on knowledge management and organizational learning to the SDC Mongolia country team in early November 2010. Social reporting was part of the training; and, as with all the trainings we do, “learning about” and “practicing to do” went hand-in-hand.

Social reporting is a new approach currently being developed. There was a first international symposium on it last year, but we are not aware of a formal manual or guide book yet. DiploFoundation, an innovative partner of SDC, put guidance for social reporting on one of their 2010 conferences online. We used this guidance for our training in Mongolia.

The first building block for social reporting on the “learning SDC Mongolia country program” training came from the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) Ulaan Bataar communication team (Soyolmaa Dolgor and Batbayar Gan). Soyolmaa and Batbayar  used an existing website, designed to facilitate exchange among SDC funded projects in Mongolia, for social reporting on the training. Taking account of and learning from social reporting on the 2009 “Decentralization and Logcal Governance Network”  face-to-face meeting in Delhi, they designed a webpage structure to assemble the links to the individual reports. In doing so, their main objective was to provide easy-to-grasp orientation knowledge to website visitors:

  • There is a landing page with a visual memory of the training
  • The main link depository is organized according to the training program, with separate colums for the  links to the respective sections in the course script, for the inputs provided during the training, and for results of group work
  • There are separate sections for pictures taken during the training, for video testimonials, and for blog posts.

The main result of Syolmaa’s and Batbayar’s work: the course documentation was on-line when the course was over.

Picture taking proved, as was the case on similar occasions before, popular and volunteers were quickly found. Blogging was not picked up at all in Ulaan Bataar, contrary to many other social reporting expereinces, where this was the most popular channel (see for example the blog on the Utrecht “Evaluation revisted” conference, or the blog on the follow-up “big push back” conference). The most fascinating experience for me came with video testimonials. Many participants had expressed interest to learn how to do video testimonials and, not surprisingly then, this turned out to be the main topic for the “open space” part of the training. The IT specialist of the SCO, Geser Makhbal, offered to train his colleagues. In order to be as “real life” as possible we advised participants to use the video function of their mobile phones, and to expereiment with different lighting, color and frame settings. I was amazed by the productivity of this module: story telling, filming with mobile phones, cutting with MS “moviemaker”, and uploading onto youToube – all in two hours. Please have a look at Batsukh’s testimonial, where the major lessons the group learned are applied. This video is proof that we are very close to being able to mainstream video testimonials as knowledge management and organizational learning method.

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