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A collection of stories about
e-collaboration experiences

When you don’t know

how to ride a bike,
walking is always faster!

Product of
PSO, Capacity Building in developing countries, the Hague
IICD, International Institute for Communication and Development, The Hague

1FPQMF*$5%FWFMPQNFOU February 2007

Foreword Content overview
Have you used Skype or MSN for commu- In this relatively new area various Dutch Reading suggestion:
nicating with others located somewhere development organisations, large and This booklet contains 14 stories of organi-
around the world? Already experienced an small, are undertaking interesting experi- sations using e-collaboration in some way.
online conference meeting with a group ments and try-outs which are worthwhile You might read from A to Z. Another sug-
colleagues from different countries? to make explicit and share with each gestion is to read those stories that inspire
Or watched a video on the web from an other. This booklet describes 14 stories you, stories about e-tools you are curious
interesting conference you could not of organisations using e-collaboration in about, stories closely related to process in
attend? International Development has some way, varying from using Moodle as your own work.
always had a global character, but never an online learning platform to Teamspeak
before have the developments and use as a software tool for having an online
of web-technologies changed so rapidly. meeting with partners located all over the
Within international development, individu- globe. We hope to inspire you with these
als and organisations have similar experi- experiences, stimulating you to take this • Introduction page 04
ences and similar interests, from different first step, using your work as a laboratory
places in the world. Continuous socio- for experimenting. The following expres- • Story 01 Sharing interesting websites page 05
technological developments in the area of sion might help you getting started: When
communication and ICT make it nowadays you don’t know how to ride a bike, walking • Story 02 Skype Communication with partners
possible to connect with each other glob- is always faster! We hope you will enjoy through the internet page 10
ally in new ways, making use of the wide the stories!
range of innovations created on the web. • Story 03 KIC project Sharing knowledge with and
This offers more and new opportunities for between counterparts page 12
knowledge sharing, collaboration process-
es, dialogue, and interaction. The new Sibrenne Wagenaar, • Story 04 TeamSpeak Meeting each other online page 16
range of tools, like for instance skype, do facilitator of learning, PSO
not only make communication cheaper, • Story 05 CMS Supporting an online course page 20
but have the potential to change the Joitske Hulsebosch,
nature of collaboration and relationships officer knowledge sharing, IICD • Story 06 CMS Setting up an online database page 24
in international development too. Physical
distances can be bridged, by making use • Story 07 Claroline Using an online learning space page 26
of new possibilities to communicate. But
how do people in development organisa- • Story 08 Intranet The intranet
tions learn how to make use of new tools? as an information resource page 28
And which tools are really useful? And
how can we help them not to drown in the • Story 09 Moodle Managing courses and projects page 30
sea of new tools, abbreviations and error
messages? • Story 10 Wiki Creating together online page 32

• Story 11 Groove Working together across

distances page 34

• Story 12 Dgroups To support and manage people page 36

• Story 13 Dgroups To discuss or create page 38

• Story 14 Weblog Sharing your personal views page 40

• Findings: what do the stories tell us? Page 43

02 Foreword Content 03
Introduction STORY 01: Sharing interesting
Knowledge sharing and
Interview with Joitske Hulsebosch from IICD.
This booklet is a product of a research Learning community on f inding people
done in the development sector on e- e-collaboration “I’ve used for while now, since
collaboration experiences. We became On November 2nd 2005, PSO, IICD and January 2006, and I think it is an ideal
interested in what organisations are doing ICCO conducted a meeting for Dutch The tool: tool to organise all the information that I
with e-collaboration technologies and NGOs about e-collaboration. About 30 is an online tool. Its potential is gather in and around my work. I tried it
which questions and problems they come people visited this meeting and afterwards described in just 3 words on the website: after a discussion we had online about
across. As we define e-collaboration as a D-group (E-collaboration among Dutch keep, share and discover. (http://del.icio. web2.0 tools in CPsquare, but started to
“the process of cooperation and communi- NGOs) was started to encourage the us/) Information on the internet can be get enthusiastic when I talked to Peter
cation among individuals or organisations exchange ideas, issues, questions and collected, shared and discovered online Ballantyne and his ideas on how to use
with the common goal of knowledge shar- knowledge. This group has grown into a with this social bookmarking tool. All the it to produce a feed with relevant links
ing and mutual development with the use community or network of people inter- information stored on is public, on a certain topic. At first, when I’d just
of e-tools”, what are experiences, insights, ested in e-collaboration. An e-collabora- so everybody can see and search all the heard about, I couldn’t really
tools people use? With this definition tion learning community has been born, collected bookmarks of other people. picture the benefits for myself. Because
processes like e-learning, e-facilitating, which is shown by the effort people invest of Peter’s vision and our experiment with
collaboration, e-coaching, sharing and to keep this community alive, as well as in What can you do with the possibilities of the tool, I started using
exchanging knowledge and networking the meetings, at the D-group and between Bookmarks to websites and online PDF- it more intensively and invested time in
are all part of e-collaboration. individual members. The stories present- files can be documented online. The user learning for instance how to cluster tags.
For finding answers to these questions we ed in this booklet come from members of can assign so-called tags to these book- I use to bookmark all interest-
designed a research plan, aimed to get the e-collaboration learning community. marks. A tag according to the website is: ing websites I come across when looking
an impression of e-collaboration stories These and more stories can be found on “just a word that describes an item saved for information for work or just to keep up.
among Dutch NGOs, in order to support the internet: on” By assigning different tags Besides keeping all the information or-
and inspire organisations or individuals to a bookmark, a description is provided of ganised I also use as a search
through the experiences of others. We the information behind the hyperlink. engine.”
visited 12 Dutch NGOs, each with an The bookmarks cannot be categorized, as Can you tell me anything about the experi-
story worth sharing, focusing on inspiring you would in the ‘favourites’ of your inter- ment you started around and
initiatives which formed an example of a net browser. Instead of assigning catego- social bookmarking? “Around February
possible way to start e-collaborating with ries to the bookmarks, in you of this year we (myself and my colleague
partner organisations or within an organi- can place the tags used under a heading. Nynke Kruidering, Dorine Ruter from
sation. These categories and the tags are dis- ETC and Peter Ballantyne of Euforic)
played on the first page of, so came together and decided to start a little
Maaike van der Steenhoven, you quickly get a good idea of the owner’s experiment with to see what
student at the University of Utrecht, researcher field of interest.You can subscribe to other social bookmarking could do for us and
and PSO trainee peoples’ webpage. Their links how it could help in our work. We shared
will appear in a separate section of your an interest in actually experimenting with
Sibrenne Wagenaar, own webpage. With every web2.0 tools. Our areas of interest and
PSO, facilitator hyperlink added you can see how many work are very similar, we are all interested
people have the same page bookmarked in knowledge management and develop-
Joitske Hulsebosch, and who they are. ment cooperation. So we started thinking:
IICD, facilitator “why look for information separately if we
What do you need? can share?” We could produce a feed is online, so you need an inter- with the links we found by using a unique
net connection, and it is free of charge. tag for resources we want to share with
others. That’s why we chose to make use
of a special tag: km4dev_pilot and we
made a habit of using this tag for all our
resources related to knowledge manage-
ment in development. offers
the option of an RSS feed for a tag, so it is
very easy to create a list of the bookmarks

04 Introduction Sharing interesting websites 05

Bene fits for work the discussions we’re having about a new
Can you give an example of how it has tag. We scheduled a Skype session to
made your work easier? “Recently I had to discuss this, because we wanted to come
prepare for a presentation about web2.0. up with a good name. Besides that we are
The first thing I did was search my del. also more aware of the subject somebody webpage with the tag web2.0 and I is currently working on by looking at the
quickly found a lot of material I had come bookmarks added. But if you don’t have
across earlier. It saved me a lot of work any idea about how useful a resource is,
and time. I could select some of those as or what the others thought, it won’t stimu-
handouts, and had excellent inputs for my late any discussion.” Are there any disad-
presentation. It’s also very useful when vantages or would you like to see some
a colleague comes over with a question, changes made to the tool? “I never really
and I know there are interesting things to thought about any changes. I am used to
read on a certain subject. Mostly it doesn’t as it is now and changes would
seem worth investing the time if I have to only mean that you’ve got to get used to
start searching for materials that I know it again. What I did notice is that although
are interesting for that specific subject. information can be shared on the internet,
Now I can quite easily send a link from you can’t give any opinions or discuss any with all material I have found material. So, I use my blog for that.”
before.” Are there any aspects of del.icio.
us that are harder to get familiar with? More people, more information
that were added by our group. And Dorine Easy to use “I can’t say that anything is hard. At first What would you like to achieve with del.
used Superglu to ‘glue’ our tags together. “It’s easy to get started: you only have I didn’t immediately notice that the tags Do you see any big ideals behind
This way it is possible to make a feed with to create an account on the could be organised in clusters, until I saw the tool? “We’d like to involve more
bookmarks for a particular subject. We website. You need to create a username, it on Dorine’s webpage. Then people. We just need to take care to make
recently also created one around health password and provide an e-mail address I started to look how this could be done sure that new people aren’t overwhelmed
and ICT at IICD. To help each other even in case you lose your password. Then you which was quite easy. doesn’t by the ease with which we use the tool
more, we agreed that we would also add can get started and add your bookmarks.” have a whole lot of options, so you quickly nowadays. We probably need to support
tags concerning the kind of information Is getting started that simple? “Getting get to know the ones available. Besides these people at the start. The current plan
and the geographical area the link refers started is very easy. You can add buttons that we always have our little group where is to expand the group to seven people,
to.” Helping to find interesting information in your browser, which enable you to sim- you can ask for help. We keep in touch by but I can’t tell yet how much further we
on the web and share it: that’s what it is ply add the site you are currently visiting e-mail and Skype, where we discuss tech- can and will go. The more people, the
all about! But how did you get together? by clicking on that button (called ‘post to nical questions. For example, I wanted more information there will be, and there
“I knew Dorine from the e-collaboration’). You add a small description, to use an RSS feed at for my is a limit to what we can handle. The
group and we were both using del.icio. add the tags and you are done! You might blog. (http://joitskehulsebosch.blogspot. larger the group, the less influence you
us, although Dorine was using it more want to add your old bookmarks, which com/) Dorine helped me with that. Now probably have over the quality or type of
intensively than me. Peter found us online can take a while, but after that they’ll be the latest bookmarks are dis- information tagged. We could also think
through, because he noticed nice and organised. Adding bookmarks as played on my blog.” about having a smaller group of taggers
we were active taggers on And you work or while searching for informa- and expanding the users by promoting
I brought in my colleague Nynke who was tion is also almost no trouble at all. After Teamwork the feed. The audience can get very big,
also interested. So it’s not only possible that you automatically go back to the site Has the co-operation between you al- because everybody is free to look at what
to discover information, but also people you were on and continue where you ways been this good or have there been the taggers have added. The taggers
with similar interests to you! It is relatively left off. Because of the ease of adding changes in the relationship with the others should consist of motivated individuals,
easy to find people with certain interests tags, you’ll also add websites that are not in the experiment? “We have become a who people can put their trust in and who
using If you add a bookmark needed at the moment, but that contain real team, even though we have met only are active information workers. The quality automatically tells you how interesting information. This may be very once! We are all very enthusiastic about of the bookmarks must be maintained by
many more people have added that same useful in case you need to search for that our collaboration with, and the taggers. Also, the taggers shouldn’t
link and you can quickly click to their del. subject later on. You don’t need to search that leads to a sense of being ‘partners consider the tagging as extra work and it webpage. Sometimes there can be any more for what you have already in crime.’ We have extended the group, should fit into his or her day-to-day work.”
around 8000 people, but if there are only found.” but the 4 initiators are more active. We all
1 or 2, I often check if they’ve collected share the fun of exploring the possibilities
more interesting links.” of the tool. That is clearly demonstrated in

06 Story 01 sharing interesting websites 07

Another point of view
As soon as I heard about this social
bookmarking tool, about 2 months ago,
I started my own list at I
was shocked to see all the material and
information I had lost during my years at
the university. Thew only way left for me
to retrieve some of it, was looking at the
references in the papers I have written,
but these contained only literature I used
and that is definitely not all that I have
come across.
While searching information everybody
must be familiar with the feeling of: “I have
read something about this subject before,
but where was that?” The most annoying
part was that I couldn’t stop looking before
I had found it again. The longer I had to
search the more irreplaceable that infor-
mation became! Often it was a complete
waste of time, for I never retrieved it. If I
had only bookmarked it all!
Another advantage I see for myself in del. is the overview all bookmarks give
about the subjects you have been work-
ing on. I often think: “What was it again I
learned at the university, at what subjects
Partners’ reaction to it. A practical introduction to tagging as specifically have I looked closer and
Who would find useful? “I think a collaborative event can stimulate this. which researchers were important with
everybody whose work is involved with Dealing with information overflow is a real that certain concept? Especially as you
knowledge and everybody who wants to problem though, hence we might need an start an internship, you start to wonder
be kept informed about certain subjects. ‘infomediary’ to pre-select the best materi- about which subjects you should know
As I already mentioned we also started als (short and concise).” a lot about. All I have now is a list of the
an experiment with a unique tag within courses I subscribed to. With a
IICD about health and ICT, where we have look at my tags will do all the work!
come up with a new tag, ‘ehealthround- And how many work could I have saved
table’. It is amazing to see what happens myself and my fellow students! If you
when 3 people start tagging, you find so are in the same course, you are work-
many more useful resources than when ing on the same subjects, but we never
tagging alone. We also introduced this really shared information, only by specific
to two of our partners in the south, and requests. If I could do it all over again, I
their reaction was positive, but different would have created a very extensive da-
to what we expected. The problem was tabank with all literature online about new
not the bandwidth as we feared before, media and digital culture, in cooperation
as seemed to work well with with the other students.
them since they had broadband connec-
tions. These partners indicated that they
foresaw a problem in the time involved in
searching for resources, tagging them,
and making use of the resources. They
just have to see how easy it is and that it
doesn’t take much time once you get used

08 Story 01 sharing interesting websites 09

Story 02: Communication with
partners through the internet
Free and easy attitude towards the tool. Also, the head- Another point of view
Interview with Gerbina van den Hurk from
Around 24% of the Dutch population sets are in my room. If people want to I used Skype for the first time on Septem-
uses Skype. Sometimes because their Skype, they have come to my room first to ber 6. I am embarrassed to admit this, but

friends or family live far away, sometimes get one. This also gives them a chance to I am used to chatting a lot with my friends
What is Skype to cut costs. “I have been using Skype ask me questions, or for help if they have over MSN and I don’t have any friends or
and what can you do with it? ( for a long time problems. I think it’s very important that relatives living far away! My first experi-
“With Skype you can talk to anyone, any-
and I was always amazed why no-one people feel they can turn to someone for ence was a conversation with a total of 5
where for free. Forever.” The slogan leaps
else used it at NIZA, my organisation. In help. NIZA is now using Skype, which I’m people and we discussed the agenda for
out at you from the Skype homepage
our profession, it’s ideal, because phoning very happy about!” Are there any difficul- the e-collaboration meeting on September
– Skype in a nutshell. Skype is a way to
partner organisations in the South is very ties in getting started with Skype? “You 20. I cannot say it went flawlessly! People
make phone calls to people on the other
expensive, and Skype is absolutely free. I need to download the application and ‘disappeared’ or only segments were
side of the world, for free.
discovered Skype through an international create a user account, for which you need heard of 2 people talking at the same
What do you need to use it? The only
organisation of which I am a board mem- to invent a Skype name for yourself, and time. I think we spent half the time talking
thing you need is a (reliable) internet con-
ber. They don’t have any money, so they a password. An e-mail address can be about issues concerning the connection
nection, a computer and a headset.
use Skype a lot. I wanted to introduce the added in case you lose your password. and whether we could hear each other
programme to NIZA, but wasn’t sure how There is nothing complicated about that. If properly. In the end these problems were
to in the beginning. People thought it was you want to use Skype, you just log in and solved as somebody else became initiator
a bit strange and preferred familiar means you can talk with other people online. It’s of the conversation and invited the rest.
of communication. People prefer sticking much like MSN Messenger: you need to The computer of the person starting the
to what they know. My goal was to help add people to your contact list before you conversation probably makes a difference
people find out that Skype isn’t so strange can start a conversation. If people aren’t to the quality.
at all. I’d love people to see the potential online much, like some partners in the All of this must sound awful, but in my
of Skype.” What do you see as the poten- south, you should set up a Skype appoint- opinion these problems can contribute a
tial of Skype? “Our partners are far away ment. You can easily schedule an appoint- lot to a conversation if the intention is to
and it’s hard to build a relationship with ment by e-mail or telephone, so you’ll be improve your relationship. I couldn’t stop
them when you hardly see each other and sure you’re both online at the right time.” laughing about everybody’s: ‘can you hear
stay mainly in touch through e-mail. Skype me’ or ‘who is gasping so loud.’ Ice break-
is an easy and cost-free way of phon- Better relationships with ers could not be formulated any better!
ing. So it leaves more room for small-talk partners This also provides people with a shared
which also benefits the relationship. I think Has Skype achieved want you wanted to story and is it easy to switch over to talk
that Skype should become a standard tool achieve? “Yes I think so. At least there’s about the conditions somebody is in. For
in improving relationships.” more room for conversations about day- example: ‘do I hear rain’ or ‘are you gasp-
to-day things which has helped improve ing so loudly because of the heat.’ What I
Enthusing others relationships. I am now considering intro- am trying to say is: the more you can talk
“At one stage, one of our partners told us ducing more e-tools. Everyone’s becom- around the specific work topic, the more
to start working with Skype. They used it a ing familiar with Skype now and realises you get to know one another. A common
lot and did not understand why we didn’t. that there’s nothing complicated about it, framework can be created with shared
This was the trigger for people at NIZA. I and that it works. Now, I’d like to introduce stories. A webcam can also contribute to
think they didn’t want to lag behind their, wikis and blogs. I’ll introduce this: An image can tell you more than a
partners. Then, about six months ago, I them during an informal lunch, so that thousand words.
gave a short demonstration of how Skype people don’t feel pushed. I am planning to
works. More demonstrations turned out to invite some people working in the devel-
be needed, but people did start to under- opment sector, who already use the tools.
stand it.” Did you succeed in the end, and Then they can explain what the tools can
why? “I think that my informal introduction do, and NIZA staff can focus on the tools
to Skype helped. Everyone could experi- that will work for them.”
ment freely and slowly get used to the
tool. Official guidelines from the manage-
ment may exert too much pressure and
I don’t think that’s conducive to people’s

10 Story 02 Communication with partners through the internet 11

Story 03: Sharing knowledge
with and between counter-
Interview with Jan van Ansum from OXFAM/ Working together, sharing Practices and the partner Motivate and reward
NOVIB. ( knowledge and finding each other locator How are you planning to motivate people
“The KIC project contains multiple What I like most about the portal are the to make an active use of the portal? “We
components and aims to increase and ‘yellow pages’ and the options for shar- will announce it in our newsletters and
stimulate the exchange of knowledge and ing experiences. Can you tell me more suggest that people check it out. We are
collaboration with and between OXFAM about those? “The yellow pages are the also working on ideas for rewarding those
counterparts and affiliates. The online, partner locator. We’re planning to register who share the best practices. As I men-
multi-purpose portal is part of this. (https:// all partners, counterparts and affiliates in tioned, we let the users of the practices It offers the option of the system so people can locate them. judge them themselves. We’re thinking
sharing knowledge at the specialist sites Only a few are registered at present, but about introducing a reward for ‘the best
The KIC project by uploading documents to exchange the list is expanding. You can search practice’. Alternatively, all practices could
The OXFAM-NOVIB KIC project is an in- experiences. People can collaborate the locator by area, theme and country. be published in a book. We are also con-
ternational project consisting of an online online in the online communities, while the There’s information about each partner, its sidering offering people an option to chat
portal, face-to-face meetings, virtual work- portal also provides a listing, a kind of ‘yel- location, main themes and goals. There with a manager or expert. Chat is one of
shops, expert meetings and discussions. low pages’, of all partners. Access to the is a ‘practices’ menu where people can the portal options. You can see who is
KIC stands for knowledge infrastructure portal is open to all affiliates and partners; share experiences. This is where you can online at any time and start a conversa-
with and between counterparts. around3000 organisations in total. Visitors upload documents, with descriptions of tion with them. Offering a chance to talk
can also access the portal for news items experiences useful for others. We refer to people who are not normally easily ac-
The features of the online portal and general information, but won’t be able to these experiences as ‘good, bad and cessible might attract users to the portal.
The most important features of the web- to access all parts.” new practices.’ A template can also be Everybody also has his own profile with
site include: room for online communities, downloaded, so they can use the right their name and information about where
document sharing and locating partner Learning from the experiences format for sharing. If a document is being they work. We also want to use these
organisations. (At the partner locator.) of others uploaded, the region, theme and language profiles to indicate how active people have
Before entering the website you have How did this project get started? “The of the practice must be indicated. People been on the site, with information on how
a choice of four different languages: idea for the project was first conceived can search for these indicators. Each many documents someone has uploaded,
English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. about four years ago. It looked as though of the portal’s registered users is free to for instance.”
Visitors can also access the site in a low all OXFAM processes could be better upload documents, so there’s never a risk
bandwidth version the site although not regulated and our partners asked us if we of bad quality documents. A peer review- 2 Months later…
all features will be accessible that way. could come up with a way of exchanging ing system for documents, and “expert re- Now it’s almost two months since the por-
The portal will be public, with some closed experiences with other partners. They views” will differentiate between good and tal went live. Has word spread already?
areas reserved for members only. All part- saw other partners encountering similar lesser quality documents and practices. If “No. So far only the individuals and or-
ners and affiliates will be granted access problems and issues in their work and the KIC team finds that too many people ganisations we have directly approached
and interested organisations can gain wanted to share their experiences. The add irrelevant documents, authorisation know of it. We’re planning to send out a
access on request. The information will be project was eventually developed by two for adding documents can be limited.” Did mailing when the holidays are over. But
kept as open as possible. All partners are OXFAM affiliates and some 30 partners.” you take any precautions to encourage that’s not to say we’re not doing anything
provided with the option to freely upload How has it progressed so far? “The portal only uploading good quality documents? to publicise our portal. OGB, the OXFAM
documents. News items will be supervised has been online since 1 July. We don’t “We created an option for readers to affiliate in Great Britain has field offices
by a knowledge expert to guarantee the give all partners access straight away; it’s rate practices as a way of avoiding lower in the south and those people visit the
quality. A moderator, who can give access still being tested at the moment. The lay- calibre documents. A practice is awarded partner organisations to encourage them
to other people, will oversee the communi- out can still be improved in places, and we a certain number of stars, depending on to use online communities. They look at
ties. This can be set when a new com- intend to improve it gradually. Initially, we its value to others. This way, we hope to how their work could benefit from com-
munity is created: people either request allow access the organisations which were encourage people to only upload high munities and how they could use commu-
access or the moderator invites people. involved in the design process. We also quality documents. Of course we have to nities to further their objectives. So we’re
Every member has a profile, containing give them a script for entering the page so wait to find out if this will work.” working hard to get communities started,
information about their job description, they can explore the entire portal step by but so far people only find out about
their organisation and the field they work step. We also make sure they receive a the portal through other people or from
in. Other members online are visible and feedback list so they can tell us what they mentions in the e-letter.” When the portal
can be approached by chat or e-mail. like, where they have difficulties or have was set up, you sent feedback question-
suggestions about things to be added.” naires to the organisations. How did those
12 Story 03 Sharing knowledge with and between counterparts 13
people respond to the system in general? which means they may go undiscovered Another point of view
“Well, it took a bit of effort to get an initial and unread.” Have any practices been The online portal of the KIC project
response. We had to call people to get star rated yet? “Not yet. By the way, here contains many features and could be
the forms back; finally, only about 10 were at OXFAM we held an in-house rating for described as the ultimate e-collaboration
returned. . I guess they didn’t have time some new regulations or approaches for tool. People can co-operate, share experi-
to fill them in. The overall reaction was the entire organisation. We hardly got any ences and knowledge, retrieve informa-
positive. People thought the layout was responses to that. I think the system is tion, communicate and find partners and
logical although they couldn’t find much still too difficult. We had already planned affiliates of OXFAM/Novib. There are no
information relevant to their work; but that on dividing the rating into different areas, features missing.
information will come from the uploaded such as the method used in the practice It is hard not to become overwhelmed due
practices.” and the degree to which someone could to the many available options In order to
apply the practice in their own work. This make the best use of it you should start by
Practice documentation might make it easier to rate a practice. looking at your own situation. Where do
Let’s go through the features individually: This will then present us with the chal- the constant struggles in the process re-
how are the practices doing? Have any lenge of averaging these ratings. If every- main? What could be done more efficient-
been added? “Yes, but mostly because one finds a practice mediocre but it has ly? Where is there miscommunication or
some organisations were approached per- genuinely benefited one individual’s work, a lack of information? From there you can
sonally to ask whether they’d share one which consideration will weigh heaviest?” look at the portal and choose the feature
of their practices. People really have to be best suitable for your purpose. The many
given an opportunity to document these Retrieving counterparts features don’t have to be used all at once.
practices properly, which requires time And is the partner locator finished now? The offer of so many features at once
and effort. In the future we want to institu- “Regrettably, not. It is very hard to retrieve in one portal is often not recommended.
tionalise uploading practices more, so that the information about all counterparts. Since OXFAM/Novib is such a big orga-
it will be included in job descriptions. This There’s not list of them anywhere, waiting nization with many requirements from
way we can make sure they will be given to be printed. But the difficulty we’re many different people, they have chosen
time to make them.” Do you already have having in collecting information on the to offer all of these options. It is up to the
an example proving the benefits of the partners proves just how useful the users to choose the right ones from all the
shared practices? “I know there’s a keen locator will be. We expect it to become options made available to them. If you are
search on for a success story so it can be the portal’s main attraction. Unfortunately targeting a smaller group you should keep
shared with other organisations. There we’re also having a few technical prob- in mind that only the features necessary
are rumours but, because people are so lems. The locator isn’t working as we need to be developed. It is important that
eager for success, they may be reading would want it to work at the moment.” the option to add features at a later stage
more into it than there actually is. Another How’s the chat function getting on? Is it is kept open. E-collaboration tools must
problem in searching the practices is already in use? “I think it will only be used be able to grow with their users’ wishes.
that sometimes more than one practice if more people join the portal. We’re still
is contained in one document. Which considering attracting people by inviting
is a problem for the search option, as a a number of experts or gurus in certain
number of practices cover several areas, fields to go online.”

14 Story 03 Sharing knowledge with and between counterparts 15

Story 04: Meeting each other
Meeting at a distance wasn’t enough. this sounds pretty complicated. “Oh no,
Interview with Dorine Ruter from ETC.
“Over a year ago the programme commit- Eventually I received a reference to Team- that really shouldn’t stop you from using
tee of RUAF (Resource Centres for Urban speak. ( the application! Software installation is
Agriculture and Food Security - www. Teamspeak is a tool that is used a lot in something that always needs to be done,
The tool: Teamspeak came to me with the question the gaming world, but it seemed perfect whether you are using Skype or MSN or
Teamspeak is a software application for whether I knew a tool that would make it for the purpose of the programme commit- Teamspeak. After that, the use is fairly
online meetings. The programme has to possible to conduct a meeting over the tee. It provides the opportunity to actually simple.
be downloaded and installed on every internet. The group consists of about 10 speak with more people at the same time If you want, you can try the software first
user’s computer, and another application: people and they are spread over different over the internet and that was just what I from the Teamspeak website. You only
the server application, has to be installed countries across all continents, i.e Peru, was looking for!” have to download the client application
on a server. This can be on in-house China, Senegal. The programme commit- and than you can use the Teamspeak
server or, if that is not available, the pro- tee has one face-to-face meeting each Downloading and log in server. All the information you need is
gramme can be hosted somewhere else. year, during which members exchange “In order to use Teamspeak, you need a provided by Teamspeak.” What informa-
People need a microphone and speakers information regarding the progress in their client application for each member and tion do you need to set up Teamspeak for
(preferably a headset) and Teamspeak is region and the problems they encounter one server application. Here at ETC we your group? “Participants need the usual
free of charge. and talk about how to continue the work didn’t want to deal with the technical login name and password to connect to
Teamspeak vs. Skype in the coming year. There was a need, implications of hosting the server applica- the server address. They also need the
Teamspeak is comparable with Skype. however, to meet on a more regular basis tion on our own server, so we decided to direct number of the server, a so called IP
Both have the facilities to make phone to share successes and exchange and let the application be hosted somewhere address.
calls over the internet, only with Team- discuss how to address problems that oc- else. We chose a provider experienced in To help people set up and use the soft-
speak more people can be added to the cured. Additional online meetings will fulfil hosting Teamspeak. This costs us only a ware I wrote down a step-by-step descrip-
conversation. Also with Teamspeak you this need, but have some practical advan- few euros a month. tion for the participants, which contains all
can broadcast an image of who is talking tages over additional face-to-face meet- The people that want to participate in a the data people need, (including the login
and the conversation can be recorded, ings: participants only have to be available meeting need to download and install and IP address) and exactly what they
and a chat function is available. Par- during the meeting (a few hours) and a client application. This application is need to do to take part in a meeting. Even
ticipants in a conversation can also be there are no costs involved such as flight rather large in size (5.59 MB), so in areas the simplest steps are mentioned in this
housed in different ‘rooms.’ This makes it tickets and accommodation. The regular with low bandwidth this can take a while. document, since that’s were things usually
possible to split the group during a discus- and informal character of the online meet- A backup plan was to send the applica- go wrong (e.g. Make sure you have a
sion, so smaller groups can talk things ings should support more exchange and tion - downloaded by us - on a CD-ROM. headset, Check that the volume on your
over separately, or to hold different meet- closer links between the various resource However, all participants managed to computer switched on). It happened to me
ings at the same time. Teamspeak seems centres.” download the application directly.” All once that I had been testing someone’s
to work better at low bandwidth than
Skype, although the quality of the sound The quest
can be reduced. How did you handle this question? “I
started trying out different options (MSN
Messenger, Netmeeting, Skype). We used
MSN messenger for our first meeting for
example, but the (fast) typing turned out to
be difficult. Besides that, chatty conver-
sations can become chaotic really fast if
everybody replies to the same message.
You get double messages where both say
the same thing and can lose the overview
really quickly. Thirdly some participants
preferred a tool that supported synchro-
nous conversation with sound. This would
be closer to a real meeting.
I also tried using Skype, but at that time
Skype only allowed a maximum number
of 5 people for conference calls and that

16 Story 04 Meeting each other online 17

connection and equipment over and over Sharing problems more easily would like to contribute. Still, if you want to Another point of view
again, because he couldn’t get any sound. What is your experience with online meet- you can talk simultaneously of course. Server application… Client Application…
It turned out that the volume of his com- ings so far? “We have conducted a meet- A minor disadvantage of Teamspeak is Hosts… Technical difficulties? No, just a
puter was switched off!” ing with Teamspeak about three times I think the way the chat function works. way to talk to a few people at the same
now and the people involved are very To use that you have access a menu by time, without submitting a conference
Testing and preparing pleased with the process and the tool. mouse, so it doesn’t work very well while call at KPN. I tried Teamspeak myself. It
Do you encounter a lot of technical prob- They just wanted to consult each other talking. If it did, like with Skype where is really easy. The only question to me
lems? “No, not really. I always make sure more often and now they can with the use you can talk and chat at the same time, seemed: when will I be using Skype and
to implement some testing time for each of Teamspeak. People can come forward the chat function can be used to take the when will I use an application like Team-
of the participants, about a week before more easily with their smaller problems, minutes. Everybody can than briefly enter speak? A lot of people are familiar these
the meeting will take place. New members because of the informality in compari- what they have been talking about.” days with Skype, or have at least heard
that join a meeting for the first time need son with the annual meeting. Naturally Do the conversations run smoothly? “Yes of it. The main reason Dorine choose to
to download the application or sometimes meeting over the internet (and especially that is going really well. The goal is to try Teamspeak was because more people
the computer settings, which makes a meeting over low bandwidth and without share your experiences and problems, so could be added to the conversation. I see
firewall stand in the way, are changed. visual contact) is not the same as meeting people tell their story and others respond several reasons for trying out Teamspeak:
These kinds of things are still fixable at physically. Some aspects during the meet- to that. • With Teamspeak it is much
that moment. ing must be kept an eye on more carefully. easier to take turns. If a discussion leader
Besides that, we ask the participants to be For example, you need to make sure the See the team while you speak is missing or if there is a very large group,
online 15 minutes before a meeting starts, background noise is as little as possible. Is there a future with Teamspeak at ETC? it provides a very clear view of who wants
to have a last minute check and solve Teamspeak provides a ‘Push to talk’ “I think we just continue to use it at the to talk next. The green dot that lightens
some the last problems, like a volume but- mode. When somebody wants to acti- meetings, because it works really well for when people want to speak. At Skype the
ton that is switched off. During the meet- vate his microphone in order to talk, they our purpose. We’ll be on the lookout for only option to make this known is by just
ing I am reachable by MSN, Skype and must press a keyboard button. When not low bandwidth conference software with starting to talk.
regular phone in case somebody encoun- speaking, he/she leaves the microphone webcam functionalities, though, since we • A second reason for trying out
ters problems.” All this sounds like there muted. This reduces the noise input from believe this would help connecting and Teamspeak is when you encounter regular
is really a need for technical backup. “It those participants that are listening. This sharing during the online meetings.” problems with quality. If Skype does not
can come in handy if somebody, who’s not feature also visualises who exactly is talk- deliver the quality you need, it is hardly
taking part in the meeting itself, is around ing, since you cannot always recognize any trouble to check if this will be any bet-
for technical assistance, so the meeting someone’s voice when it’s digitalized. ter with Teamspeak.
facilitator can concentrate on the actual Also you have to find a way to make sure • A final reason could also be that
conversation. Technical backup is not ab- not everyone speaks at the same time. you just want to compare different applica-
solutely always necessary. If you just want When meeting without visual contact, all tions for yourself without blindly choosing
to talk to someone or with a few people, cues for when to speak and when not to, the one best known. (Skype.)
all you have to do is login and start the are missing. When using the ‘talk button’, • A reason not to try Teamspeak is
meeting. But with the meetings I support, a green dot appears before the partici- if you really cannot see any value the ap-
there are around 10 people involved and pant’s name. You can use this feature to plication might add. For example, if Skype
it already takes a lot of effort to find a date give notice when you would like to say works very well and you don’t have large
and time that everybody is available. So something, a bit like raising a hand if you meetings over the internet. You can only
if you have found a moment that all can have a question. This prevents people tell for sure after you tried it out!
take part in a conference call, you want from talking at the same moment and
the meeting to go flawless.” helps the facilitator keep an eye on who

18 Story 04 Meeting each other online 19

Story 05: Supporting an online
Meeting place the course a plan of action is created and participants meet at the beginning of the
Interview with Mirjam Schaap from Wageningen
“I work in the Capacity Development the participants are supposed to put this course and the forum will be brought into
International. (
and Institutional Change Programme. plan into action in their work situation, use later on. What we hear is that people
( after the course. The forum would then find it difficult to change from the relatively
acity+Development+at+Wageningen+ be the place to talk about the difficulties easy way of communicating at a face-
What is it that you use? UR/CDIC+Programme/)I am one of the or problems people come across. They to-face course, to the more complicated
Wageningen International uses an administrators of the CMS we use. We can consult each other and support one contact at the forum. This is why we want
e-learning platform, which is defined and started to design this system about 4 another. Unfortunately, when the forum people to be already active on the forum,
maintained using a Content Management years ago. We have different websites for is not moderated, people do not use the before the course takes place, but this is
System (CMS) the courses we provide and we were look- forum a lot.” very difficult. Also we will put more effort
ing for a place to manage all these. We in moderating the forum. We are also
What are the main options decided to design our own system, be- Integrating the forum with the considering implementing a buddy system
of the CMS? cause we couldn’t find any application that course in the future. Every participant gets linked
Courses websites can be easily defined, conformed to our needs. We have a lot Have you taken steps to encourage to another participant for feedback and
developed and maintained. The system of clients abroad and not all these people people to use the forum? “Yes, we have support. They should then use the forum
contains multiple websites, a library and have access to the internet. Therefore we tried a couple of things. What we want is to keep each other posted.
there is a link to a discussion forum. were looking for a system with the option that people don’t consider the course to We also noticed that calling upon the
Groups of course participants can be to place selected contents of a website be finished after the weeks or months in expertise of the forum participants works
given special rights in the system. on a CD-ROM.” What are the features of Wageningen. We want people to consider to increase the activity on the forum. We
the CMS? “There are about 35 websites the face-to-face course to be a part of a posted on the forum that we are work-
inside the CMS now and each website learning process of several months. The ing on another similar course and that
has a library. People can keep their own discussions on the e-forum are another we would like their input. More reac-
library bookmarks inside the system and part of the learning process. Right now the tions came through than normal, but that
they can place a profile with a photograph
of themselves. The contents of the profile
can be adjusted per website. That way
people can see who else is taking part
in the course. The website developed
using the CMS is the meeting place for
the course and contains all information
about the course. Course participants can
upload information to the website. A while
ago we also developed a discussion fo-
rum or actually we made a link to a forum,
which is not integrated into the CMS.”
Proud of what you made
How do people respond to the system?
“It is all very simple and website owners
– often course leaders- find their ways
quickly and easily. Besides that we have
an extensive manual to the CMS. From
feedback from our participants we got the
impression that people like the fact that
there is a place which contains all their
work. It makes people proud to see what
they have done. It gives a sense of: ‘Look!
This is what I made.’ The forum isn’t used
extensively yet. The idea behind it was
that people could stay in touch and sup-
port one another after the course. During

20 Story 05 Supporting an online course 21

doesn’t work for everyone.” or you can go to the website and check Another point of view
Is the forum the only option for interactiv- them there. If you receive them in your The advantage of building an application
ity? “We are currently looking for a chat mailbox, you can also reply by e-mail, and yourself is the control. You can decide
application, which we can integrate into you can also start a new topic by sending yourself what you want to adjust or add.
the CMS. We want to use an open source an e-mail. If you post something at the The downside is that you have to do the
application, but the problem so far is that forum you can also add an attachment, adding and adjusting yourself. Nowadays
for most of the chat application to work, but to keep the e-mails small, you will not many applications are available to choose
people have to download big files. But we receive the attachment in your e-mail box. from.
want to keep the tools which support the Instead it gives a notice quoting the size The added forum is a clear example of a
online learning as light as possible. Down- of the file, so you can go view it online. feature that is not specifically developed
loading big files doesn’t fit into keeping the These attachments can be viewed linked for a clear use or need from the partici-
use of the system accessible for people to the forum posts, but they are also listed pants. The problems of the low number
with slow internet connections. So we are in a small library.” of visitors are due to the fact that the
still looking.” participants of the course do not need the
Basic forum at the moment to finish the course.
Content management Are there any future plans for the CMS? Once a need is created, for instance, like
What are the most important features of “Well, we are looking for a chat function, the initiative to make couples and let them
the system for your purposes? “The fact as I have already mentioned, but you support each other, people will start using
that content from the different websites have to be careful not wanting too much. it themselves. This also explains why ask-
the CMS manages is very easily transfer- We encountered that with the forum and ing for somebody’s skills only works half
able or shared with another website is the library for the attachments. With every the time. People reply if they want to show
very useful to us. Subjects or courses are new feature you start to see a lot of other what they know or just want to be helpful.
often alike or share similar backgrounds options to add and most of them don’t There is nothing more in there for them,
and with the CMS we don’t have to create even require a lot of work. We want to so they will only do this if they have the
the same content twice. The most impor- keep the CMS as simple as possible. The time and can bring the effort.
tant benefit of the system though is that system now works well with low bandwidth You can also approach this from another
the content can very easily be taken and and we want to keep it that way.” point of view. Since the forum isn’t used
viewed offline. You can mark the different there is no real use for it, so why do you
things you want to place on a CD and it Tools should be used want people starting to use it? It is a
is taken care of. This way we can distrib- “The major challenge is to increase the choice you have to make: do you consider
ute the information very easily to people use of the tools to support learning pro- the process as an important stimulating
without internet access and document cesses in our courses and projects. It is feature or can you accept that the forum is
the information. This was also the main not the tools themselves that are impor- not used?
reason why we chose to create our own tant. We are now working on the pedago-
system. The forum we selected to use gy of our blended learning, and try to put
also has an advantage: you can choose more effort in facilitating and moderating
whether you want to receive the posts e-collaboration. Also we plan to develop
made in your e-mail box, like at D-groups, short bits of e-content which can be used
for self-paced learning.”

22 Story 05 Supporting an online course 23

Story 06: Setting up an online
Information supply system had to be technically accessible. prefer e-mail. The technology is available,
Interview with Jan de Vries and Dave Hardy
“We came to the conclusion that there And accessible for those who are colour but people can’t seem to find the time to
from HOM. (
was a wealth of information on Human blind. It was also important to design the get round to using it. I also used a Yahoo
Rights Impact Assessment, the subject site so that the layout wouldn’t be affected group once in a project, as a free alterna-
we are currently working on. However, by changing the size of the text in your in- tive to a D-group. The only difficulty is that
the problem with most information is that ternet browser. This isn’t always the case every participant has to create a Yahoo
it is targeted at a specific audience and in all regular websites: the text size often account and a Yahoo e-mail address. And
What is the HRIA Centre? not presented under the umbrella of hu- doesn’t change at all. The site is English there’s a good chance you’ll be flooded
The HRIA Centre (http://www.humanright-
man rights impact assessment, and other language only, although some documents with spam. Besides the Yahoo group I is an interactive resource
people have difficulty retrieving it. We will also be in other languages. We con- also used Writerly once with someone in
centre. It is based on a content manage-
wanted to create a simple, easily acces- sidered a multi-lingual site, but the centre Italy. It’s an application that helps you to
ment system (CMS) and should become
sible system so people could find all this will probably hold information on topics work on a document with others. It’s very
a platform for the exchange and retrieval
information concentrated in one place. covered by the larger organisations, and effective for the draft version, but when
of information and knowledge on Human
It provides general information, like the we assumed that English would be suf- completing the final document it’s best to
Rights Impact Assessment.
definition of Human Rights Impact As- ficiently established as the principal lan- split it up. With Writely, it’s hard getting
sessment, plus tools and instruments that guage there. But although the system is a good layout.” How do you think e-col-
What can you do at the centre? people can apply. About a year ago, work- English language at the moment, we may laboration can benefit (Dutch) NGOs? “I
At the moment the centre is accessible to
ing with a freelance consultant and a web well make it available in other languages think work can be done in a more effec-
everybody in need for information about
developer we’ve worked with before, we in the future.” tive way but, as I already said, too little of
Human Rights Impact Assessment. Core
started to shape the tool. We began with the available options are used. You really
information can be searched in four differ-
a questionnaire to get an accurate needs Taking it step by step need to invest some time in getting to
ent areas. There is an explanation of the 8
assessment and circulated it among 150 “In the end, it took us a year to set up the know new technology. I also came across
steps for a cyclical approach towards poli-
stakeholders; we received around 60 re- centre. This is pretty fast! We use an itera- the downside of the internet once at a
cy development and project management,
sponses. We then proceeded with the out- tive approach though. At the moment the conference. At the break, half the people
developed by HOM with material about
comes. After a few months we developed centre is mostly a database for information headed for the library to check their e-mail
these steps. A collection of instruments for
a beta-release of the system that identified retrieval. The site has now been online and search for information. They seemed
approaching HRIA is available. There are
a number of problems, which were solved for a week and we are still working on to have forgotten the value of exchanging
also case studies about the subject and,
with the official release.” What were approaching people and networks about ideas with the rest of the conference-go-
finally, information on organisations work-
your starting points? “The system had the centre. We won’t expand the features ers. People may be drawn too easily to
ing in human rights impact assessment,
to be easy to use and clearly structured, until our system has become more widely their computer screen nowadays.”
news on the issue and interesting links.
because a wide range of people had be known. We will eventually develop a login
able to work with it. Because the system is section giving people the opportunity to
What do you need to get there? available to people all over the world, the upload their own documents. At the mo- Another point of view
The centre is set up in such a way that
ment, only HOM has this authorisation. There are two ways of collecting informa-
everybody should have access to it. All
From then on we will fulfil a more manag- tion: collect the documents, or collect
you need is an internet connection.
ing part in the project. We also want to be the places where you can retrieve the
able to provide online education modules documents. The HRIA centre focuses on
and workshops.” the first and is an example of
the second approach. The way the centre
Yahoo Messenger and Groups has come into existence is an example of
Do you use any other e-tools in your thinking from practice: A missing link was
work? “I also use Yahoo Messenger to discovered and from there the design of
keep in contact with our partners in Asia. a solution began. A question asked with
They are actually more used to tools of a portal like the HRIA centre is: how open
this kind than we are. They conduct a should it be? The more open, the more
meeting at a scheduled time once a week, freedom visitors will have and the less
when everybody makes sure to be online work there is to HOM itself. A danger is
so they can all take part. It seems like an that the overview and the structure and
ideal situation to me. In the Netherlands, quality will get lost.
it sometimes seems as though people

24 Story 06 Setting up an online database 25

Story 07: Using an online
learning space
which they mostly use to upload their or de-activated, so you can just show the
Interview with Hanneke Spaans from MDF.
portfolio. Only the student and the coach students and the coaches what they only
assigned to the student have access to really need. If you just want to make use
this space. The coach and student meet of the calendar for instance, you can just
What is Claroline? face-to-face at least once, which I think is turn of the rest. It’s a pity that the students
Claroline is an open source e-learning essential for maintaining a good relation- don’t make more use of the applica-
environment, where workshops can be ship in the future. A degree of trust has tion. I think this is partly due to the bugs.
shaped and participants supervised. to be established between them and that Students upload their portfolio, but other
What are the features of Claroline? doesn’t happen very well online. Fur- activity is very low. We’re working on inte-
You can set out instructions or assign- thermore, our system on Claroline offers grating Claroline with our website. We will
ments, keep a schedule. Claroline con- websites specifically devoted to the differ- then make use of the more recent version
tains a knowledge bank, forum and a chat ent competencies, which only the coaches of Claroline and hopefully the bugs will be
application. can access. Here the coaches can find resolved by then.” So the forum is closed,
examples of assignments to give to their but are there any more options for infor-
What do you need? students. Also bookmarks and literature mation exchange or communication? Like
It is open source, so free of charge and a concerning the competency are available a chat-room feature? “There is an option
server application has to be installed on a in that section.” Do the coach and the stu- to chat, now you mention it, but I’ve never
server, either in-house or hosted else- Portfolio dent have any contact through Claroline? tried it before. Let’s try it out right now.
where. High bandwidth is not necessary What is the main use of Claroline for “No, they mostly use the telephone or There is a message there already, but it
as the application is kept very simple. MDF? “Claroline is mainly used by the e-mail. I would like to see that happening only shows the time and there’s no date. I
student to create a portfolio. In the Inter- more though, because it is an easy way guess somebody has wanted to try it out
national Advisory Trail we work with com- to keep up correspondence and store it before. As an administrator I can delete
petencies: Students need to make clear somewhere central. Right now all discus- the message. Let’s make a new one as a
Exchanging information and which competencies they already pos- sions are stored in individual e-mail boxes normal user. The text I type is displayed
guiding students sess, in order to create an individual tra- and that can be awkward, especially if the nicely and there is also an option to save
“MDF is a management training and jectory for the ones they need to master. coach is replaced for whatever reason. the conversation. Oh, that’s nice: A docu-
consultancy bureau for enhancing man- They need to be able to prove the compe- It can be difficult for the replacement to ment with what I just have been typing
agement capacities of professionals and tencies they say they already have, and find a good overview of what has been appears in my document section. We’ll
organisations in the development sector. that forms part of the portfolio. Documents discussed.” have to remember this.”
We offer individual trajectories to people in can be uploaded here, such as word
the development sector, but also stimulate documents, excel sheets, powerpoint Start-up and experience Skype
mutual collaboration. About two years ago presentations and PDF-files by students Do you explain anything about Claroline “Skype has been used here at MDF for a
the need emerged for an e-collaboration and coaches. Unfortunately pictures, mov- to the students or provide them with a while. My colleagues got very enthusias-
platform. We first started to look what our ies or sound files are not possible in the manual? “We only send them a small doc- tic about it as soon as they heard about
needs were. We wanted the students to version we are currently using. These may ument, where we briefly explain what the the application and everybody started to
be able to make an online portfolio and have been added to later versions, but we intention is behind using of Claroline and use Skype. But what happened was that
to exchange information and we wanted are having problems with the upgrade. An what the application is all about. This isn’t the in-house network was becoming very
to be able to give the students assign- advantage of Claroline, in comparison with a big deal. It’s more like a preparation, slow because of this. So, the IT section
ments, instructions and exercises. We for example D-groups, is that students can so they know what will be next. Claroline then told us not to use it any more. I’ve
started looking at different types of open make their own categories in the files they does have a very extensive manual with just received an e-mail this morning. They
source software, but soon came across upload. They can create folders and place a separate one for students. This manual have set up a separate computer room to
Claroline. A member of the team had good the documents there. Subsequently it‘s can be downloaded by the student if the use tools like Skype and MSN. They’ve
experiences with this tool and it offered easy to change the location of the docu- need arises. Claroline is mostly self-ex- connected them to a separate server, so
all features we were looking for. An added ments from one folder to another.” planatory. The biggest disadvantage is the network won’t suffer any more. I’ve still
bonus was the fact that the application the bugs. For instance, the forum doesn’t to go and check it out, but I think it’s very
didn’t require high bandwidth. At low Subdivision work properly. A warning pops up when positive they have created this opportu-
bandwidths the platform is very easily ac- How is Claroline subdivided? “You start you try and make a post, so we’ve had nity.”
cessible as well.” at a general website and after logging in to shut the forum down. However, that is
you get access to your own section. Every also one of the great advantages of Caro-
student has their own space on Claroline, line: All features can be easily activated

26 Story 07 Using an online learning space 27

Story 8: The intranet as an
information resource
a place for document sharing. Those other hand relatively few people visit, you
Interview with Aad Steenhorst from the Red
are the most important features. People might possibly like to attract more visitors,
Cross. (
have access to it from home, they just because you don’t want to lag behind the
need to login. Naturally the volunteers other editors.”
The intranet ( and the professionals don’t get the same
login.jsp) at the Red Cross provides news access. Certain parts are disabled for the Basics come before greatness
and information to their employees and volunteers. We have different subjects on What kind of future do you envisage for
volunteers. It is closed for people outside the site, which can be divided into staff the intranet? “I always say: Better have
the organisation. information and the activities of the Red a living dwarf than a dead dinosaur! The
Cross. Staff information is only accessible basics must be taken care of. Web editors
to the professionals. The intranet can need to be given extra time to provide the
best be seen as a databank on everything information for their part of the intranet
concerning the Red Cross and is aimed and the intranet must develop into a
at professionals and volunteers. One of real knowledge centre. When somebody
the goals we wanted to achieve was that phones us with a question, which I men-
everybody could have access to informa- tioned was one of the goals we wanted
tion at their own time and place.” to achieve, we should be able to say: go
to this place on the intranet and you will
Realization find what you are looking for. If all that is
How did you get started from the iden- going well, we can, for example, consider
tifying the need to arriving at a digital The front page of the intranet is currently expanding its function and adding more
resource? not really up-to-date. For instance, some interactive parts. Right now we have
Digital comfort “We approached a company to design news items should have been posted in communities and polls, but the polls don’t
“At a certain point in time it just becomes a system for us. I don’t know very much the second column. Currently it is empty. work properly yet. We need to take care of
clear that you need to switch to digital about that, but they set it up for us. When The problem is that a date is attached to the basics first before we can go thinking
ways of communicating and that hap- we received the system, it seemed to the news and when it becomes too old it ahead and we really need to start thinking
pened at The Red Cross over two years me like we didn’t really know what we is sent to the archives. You can still find about using those features too.”
ago. Digital information is easier to had bought. We had to figure it out when some news there, but it is not a really an
distribute and store. More and more of our we got it and could start trying out the inviting place to visit when empty spaces
volunteers also have e-mail addresses, so options. There has been a team respon- appear.” Another point of view
it made sense to use the internet more. sible for the intranet set-up: team intranet. The intranet at the Red Cross is a good
Moreover it can be very convenient to There are people from communications Information attracts people example of how problems can cover up
have a collection of news and information and the ICT department, for instance, in What are the responses to the intranet? other things. It is comparable to an onion
that every professional and volunteer has that team.” Is the intranet well set-up in “Everybody was very positive in the begin- skin, where every layer covers another
access to. In the past when somebody, your opinion? “The intranet offers great ning, although there were some login one and the core can only be reached if all
say a volunteer or somebody else, phoned advantages and opportunities. I just think issues at that time. Fortunately these have separate layers are all pealed away. For
up with a question, he would have been there’s hasn’t been enough thought gone been resolved now. The greatest obstacle the intranet the technical problems with
referred about five times: Nobody wanted into the people responsible for provid- now is the content. That should be kept the log-in had to be overcome, before oth-
to take the responsibility for answering. ing the content. There are web editors up-to-date and refreshed regularly. The er problems became visible. The problem
In 1999 the service bureau was set up to assigned to different parts of the content. web editors need to be encouraged, one that then appeared is the lack of content.
overcome this problem. Since then 95% The only problem is that these people way or another.” How do you think this As far as they can see at the moment, the
of the questions can be answered right are not given any extra time besides their can be accomplished? “Perhaps mention- users of the intranet are positive about the
away. In 2006, the intranet now seems a normal duties. They are supposed to pro- ing the importance of the contents in the system, taken into consideration that the
very good medium to store all information, vide information for the intranet alongside newsletter would help or maybe when we information will be kept more up-to-date.
so that we can also refer to that and also what they have always done and that has can maintain statistics of every page. If As long as this is not the case you cannot
where people themselves can find the in- proved to be problematical. You can see a lot of people visit a certain area of the say for sure if no other problems will arise.
formation they need.” So the intranet has some parts of the intranet are quite active intranet, these positive responses can en- The users’ attitude can be very negative
arisen from the need to go digital. What and up-to-date. It really depends on the courage you to invest more time, because or perhaps people encounter difficulty in
can be found and done on the intranet? time people have on their hands and how you don’t want people to get disappointed finding the information they need.
“There is a news section, a calendar and much they’re motivated to make the effort. with the information available. If on the

28 Story 08 The intranet as an information resource 29

Story 09: Managing courses
and projects
although there are websites that offer teams or for specific tasks like writing a Another point of view
Interview with Camillo Villa from HIVOS.
you the opportunity to work with Moodle business plan, for example. Besides the Applications are designed for a certain
on someone else’s server. You can then in-house groups, we have D-groups with purpose. There are applications for talking
create your course there. If you want to try different themes and groups for our part- (Skype, Teamspeak), applications to share
out Moodle, you can do this very easily on ners.” For what purposes are D-groups documents, applications to create docu-
their website, where they run a demo ver- usually employed? “The idea behind ments together (wikis) etcetera. This does
sion. You have access to all the options D-groups was to create a low-bandwidth not necessarily mean though, that the ap-
an administrator would have, so you can working space, where people could share plications need to be used for this purpose
What is Moodle? make and change a course or add partici- knowledge and work together. What D- only. Off course they are best suitable for
According to their website: “Moodle is a pants plus all the other Moodle options.” groups are ultimately used for is mostly what they are designed for, but most of
course management system (CMS) - a not known. The most that we can see is the time you can use them any way you
free, Open Source software package Moodle and partners the number of messages sent, but the like. Camillo has named another purpose
designed using sound pedagogical prin- You use Moodle outside HIVOS. Do you knowledge exchanged and created within for the use of Moodle. Originally, Moodle
ciples, to help educators create effective also see possibilities for using it at HI- the group remains inside the group. For is an e-learning tool, so its purpose from
online learning communities. You can VOS? “Absolutely. We often have different instance, in all the thematic groups there design perspective is to shape online
download and use it on any computer you projects going on with partners. They all are hundreds of questions and answers courses. Camillo sees an opportunity here
have handy (including webhosts), yet it have different timeframes and different that have been posted. This information for projects. There is a calendar, multiple
can scale from a single-teacher site to a themes. Moodle would be a good place is usually only used by the individual who users can be added and there can be
50,000-student University.” to store all these projects. Especially asked the question and maybe some added a time span to the course. These
when writing a report together or going other people inside that group, but it are all aspects of project and course
over a proposal. At the moment people doesn’t go out of the group. I think that a needs. I myself once used an MSN com-
Moodle use e-mail to do that, but that means that tool should be developed to enable search munity in a course at university to share
“At HIVOS we use D-groups very inten- documents are being sent, commented options through these groups and make documents, discuss roles and tasks and
sively, as well as Skype. I also use Moodle on and returned. This goes back and forth this knowledge publicly available; this announce deadlines. An MSN community
in the workshops I provide. This has and the result of this process is lots of could be done in combination with wikis or is not designed for courses, but why not
nothing to do with HIVOS though.” Can documents in e-mail boxes. If they could blogs. It is a shame that all the information use it for one? From my point of view
you tell me something about Moodle first? use Moodle for this process, all steps from gets lost inside the group.” this blog was not intended as a normal
( “I needed an e-learn- the initial to the final document would be blog. I just saw it as a way to publish my
ing programme, so I started searching dif- kept in one place. This is particularly con- They are aware of the systems, research in a nice format, as an alterna-
ferent applications to see what my options venient if a colleague is being replaced. but don’t know how to use them tive to a website. I did not really see the
were. Then I ran into Moodle and found The replacement is then able to trace the How do you think that e-collaboration can need to keep it going and up-to-date like
it worked very well. I use it at workshops process and see what decisions have contribute to the work of Dutch NGOs? with a normal blog. What I saw was an
and the application is ideal to shape the been made. Besides that, it can also be a “I think working together gets easier easy way to share the interviews, where
content of the course. It is a very easy place where presentations or photographs and more information can be shared. people could leave comments. As excited
to use e-learning platform and doesn’t of the launch of a project can be kept. In The problem is that lots of people talk as I am about the idea that people are
require high bandwidth, since it is very ba- that way the online environment can also about new technologies, but don’t have willing to keep it going, I still don’t believe
sic. You can upload documents and keep strengthen the team spirit. If the informa- any idea how to use them. That’s why that people will no longer read a blogpost
a schedule. This way you can keep all the tion is private you can close off the entire we’re planning to offer our colleagues an if it is outdated. Of course my research
information together and the information area, but you can also make it public, introduction to the new tools, so that they will be dated very soon and it is important
is accessible to all course participants. depending on what you want. can become more familiar with the tools that people who read it know when it took
Multiple courses can be simultaneously available. People shouldn’t see new tools place. Especially in a field like e-collabora-
stored and the number of participants is D-groups as replacements for the older ones; in tion that is evolving so quickly.
not limited. There is also a forum area, “At HIVOS we use D-groups a lot, but some cases they are complementary. I
which has the option to redirect all posts that is not surprising since we are one of don’t think that a tool should combine all
to your e-mail in case you don’t want to the founders of D-groups. We have two possible features available, like communi-
keep checking online.” Is Moodle hard different ways of using the groups. One ties, chat functions, sharing spaces, etc.
to work with, or hard to get started with? is internal at HIVOS. Every department Different tools can be used to help you get
“No, all options are self-explanatory. To has its own D-group, where for example all the functions you want, but they don’t
start working with Moodle you have to announcements are posted. We also have necessarily have to be implemented in the
install a server application on a server, separate D-groups for the coordination of same system.”

30 Story 09 Managing courses and projects 31

Story 10: Creating together
them to tell something about the day
Interview with Saskia Harmsen from IICD. that changed their lives, so we would get
( as many interesting stories from people
as possible. To get the details of these
The tool: wiki stories, we also asked all participants to
A wiki is a website where users can easily interview a fellow participant. That’s why
add, delete or change the contents. For the stories were more in-depth. After this,
both editing and reading the website there everyone had to place the story on his/her
is the option of making the wiki public or own page on the wiki. We used this way of
available to a specific group of people. working throughout the whole workshop.
As soon as people had discussed things,
What can you do with it? they had to place it on different pages on
On a wiki you can add text and upload the wiki themselves. We never gave them
documents. any proper explanation about how to use
a wiki. There were only a few trainers who
What are the requirements? were already acquainted with wikis, but
A wiki is an online tool, so an internet everyone understood the ‘edit’ and ‘save’
connection is essential. There are various functions. There were a few people who
websites where you can make a wiki free needed a bit more time before they started
of charge, such as pbwiki. to fill their page, i.e. two or three days. I
don’t know if this was because they didn’t
know how to go about working with the
wiki or if there was another reason. It is
Exchanging knowledge also possible that people wanted first to
“We used a wiki during an international wait and see what others had put on their
workshop in Zambia for trainers from personal page, or that they weren’t happy to place his/her material on the wiki after wiki is a source of information and it gives
Africa. ( We as yet with their own page.” each session. In principle, we had a good me the possibility to show others what has
wanted trainers to exchange knowledge internet connection, and we’ve not tested been discussed during the workshop. It
amongst themselves, rather than us giving Bandwidth and privacy what the problem was. Also, occasionally gives a very good overview of the course.
information to the trainers. We used a wiki What was the reaction of participants to the pages just disappeared. Sometimes It’s a pity that it’s impossible to get the
to document all of this knowledge.” Why using a wiki? “The people read the other someone had written and saved a page, visitor statistics to the wiki with the free
did you use a pbwiki? ( ) participants’ stories and created some- but it didn’t appear on the wiki. Occasion- version. Currently I can only see who the
“A wiki is a very convenient way to create thing together. This promotes a group ally, this was annoying if people had typed last ones were to make adjustments to
content together with other people. Also, feeling. The initial plan was to extend this directly onto the wiki and had to start all it and to which part, but I don’t know if
you can always change the content when group of trainers with other trainers, but over again. Also, for some people the fact the trainers are also using the wiki as a
you want to. That’s why a wiki is very use- the original group decided they preferred that the wiki was public was a problem. source of information.”
ful in collecting and saving the knowledge to keep the familiarity of the initial group. Everyone is able to see what others have
that was exchanged. The trainers that They said things like: ‘ok, but then these posted on it and sometimes people had Cooperation
participated in the course are all ICT-train- new people will also have to add their posted a chain of thought that was only What opportunities do you see the wiki
ers. We are proponents of the learning-by- story to the wiki.’ Some people are so en- part of the picture or their opinion. When providing? “Besides ‘saving’ knowledge as
doing principle, so in this way they could thusiastic that they still occasionally enter they placed this on the wiki this informal we did during the workshop, I think a wiki
experience the tool for themselves. We the wiki and make adjustments to their information all of a sudden appeared to can also be useful for jointly developing
used ‘pbwiki’ because we had tested sev- story, for example.” Were there any prob- be formal. Not everyone enjoyed the fact a program or policy. This often happens
eral Wikis for user-friendliness and their lems when using the wiki? “We had some that their developing thoughts appeared through e-mail, but that then results in
suitability for the needs of the workshops problems with bandwidth, especially when on the wiki, in black and white, with their sending different versions of a document
and pbwiki came out on top.” How did logging onto the wiki. It sometimes took name beneath it. At the time, I wasn’t back and forth. In a wiki the document is
you introduce the wiki? “We introduced quite a long time before you could enter. aware that it is possible to hide the wiki online and the participants can directly
the wiki in a fun way. We asked partici- Maybe this was also due to the fact that from the public, so I’d like to ask the train- change things themselves. It is clearer.
pants in the workshop to tell a story about everyone often worked on the wiki at the ers whether they would prefer this. I would I see it as a book in which everyone can
themselves. More specifically, we asked same time, because every participant had prefer keeping the wiki public. For me, the write his or her own chapter.”

32 Story 10 Creating together online 33

Story 11: Working together
across distances
Communication Just like Microsoft Office Sharing and contact
Interview with Anja Panjwani from ETC. “We wanted to improve communication How did you get started? “One of my Does Groove meet your needs? “I am
with partners in the South. We’ve always colleagues suggested Groove, so we de- very enthusiastic about it! We share files,
used e-mail and telephone and now and cided to try it out and downloaded the trial keep it all organised and if I need one
The tool: Groove then received a report or update on how version. I think it’s the best way to get to of the partners I can contact them using
Operating via a network, Groove Virtual they were doing, although it sometimes know a new application, because you can Groove. It constantly shows who is online
Office software allows teams of people to took time before we heard anything. Espe- only find out if it meets your needs by ex- and who is currently in the workspace.
work together as if they were in the same cially when a project plan or the like was perimenting with it. We’ve only used it with There’s also a chat function and a mes-
physical location, through their website. involved, when we’d only hear from them our partner in Tanzania. Our colleagues sage function. The latter is very similar
when they were finished. It meant we there have introduced them to Groove and to e-mail, but I found that contacting the
What can you do with Groove? never really worked together on a project, shown them how to use it. At first it was all partner using Groove leads to a quicker
You can share files, track data and pro- because we couldn’t give our input until very new so we spent a lot of time trying response most of the time. They probably
cesses and get work done together with the final version was ready. So we started out the different features. It’s a very easy receive a great deal of e-mail and not
people who are not in the same location. looking for a place to share documents. programme to use because everything is many Groove messages, so they can deal
And discovered Groove. (http://www. much the same as Microsoft office.” Are with those with more quickly. We do still
What do you need? ” How do there any rules about using Groove, or use Skype if we need to talk, instead of
Groove is available in different versions you use the application? And what do is there someone keeping an eye on the the chat function. The Groove chatroom is
and different price categories. There’s a you mainly use it for? “I haven’t checked process? “Someone’s responsible for the very open, so everybody in the workspace
version that runs on low bandwidth and out all the options yet, as we’ve only just projects in each country, and they will also can see the conversation. Although it’s
a full version, available at a higher price. got the full version. We worked with the monitor the process at Groove a little. Dif- often used to say ‘let’s Skype’. We do use
You can ask for price information at the trial version before, but the function we ferent users have different rights. You can e-mail less, which is a plus for me. Before,
Groove website. A 60-day trial version most use is the file sharing option. Before be a manager, a participant or a guest. documents were sent back and forth and
is also available; after the trial period a Groove we always had reports available This way there is some kind of hierarchy that happens far less often now.” Has the
number of features will no longer be op- on the website, but that can’t compare to in Groove. We are currently working on a relationship with your partner improved?
erational, but the core - like the document what Groove offers. It gives us the option guideline. For instance, one partner added “There’s far more discussion and coopera-
sharing feature - will still function. of sharing documents in progress, so we a lot of pictures, which are too heavy to tion, so I’d say our working relations have
can work on them together. Groove now download at low bandwidth. We have to definitely improved.”
contains documents like knowledge pro- set up parameters for this, which is what
files, project proposals, contracts etcetera. we’re currently working on.”
One of the big advantages of Groove is
that all files are shared automatically, as
they’re stored on your own hard drive.
So you don’t have to be online to access
them. For our people in the field, who
will be travelling with laptops and won’t
always have internet access nearby, it’s
perfect. They will always have the updated
information to hand. Added documents
are also marked with an asterisk (*) so
you can easily see how many updates
and new documents there are. Uploading
is simple, as Groove works from you own
Windows Explorer. The options avail-
able in the standard (trial) edition include
shared files, discussion, calendar, sketch,
web links, shared pictures and notepad.
This gives an impression of the way you
can use the Virtual Office.”

34 Story 11 Working together across distances 35

Story 12: To support and
manage people
Positive attitude Getting information out
Interview with Sarah Cummings from KIT. How are Dgroups used at KIT? “We have In Dgroups a lot of information is shared
( about 20 groups here, which support spe- and knowledge exchanged. What do
cific projects or are used to keep in touch you think of the ways this knowledge is
and cooperate with partners. We notice, for shared with people outside the groups?
Dgroups ( “I have a very wide variety of roles in example, that new members of online com- “I really like the Wiki used by KM4DEV. I
Dgroups, or ‘Development through Dia- Dgroups. I am a researcher, creator, munities are often reluctant to share their even used it in parts of my research as it
logue’ is an online home for groups and representative of a member within the opinions, because they feel every word yielded such brilliant information – pearls
communities focused on international partnership, facilitator, passive and active will be judged.” With your mixed role in of wisdom! – which I would never have
development. The platform provided is member of Dgroups, all at the same time. Dgroups you must have a lot of experience been able to find anywhere else. One of
simple, non-commercial (no ads), re- At the moment, I act as moderator for 2 with how the system works for people. Do the reasons that the KM4D Journal was
spectful of privacy, and targeted at low groups and am an active member of about you have some tips for people who strug- started was to share the deliberations
bandwidth users in the South. It currently 8-10 groups. I have been interested in gle with aspects like motivating people to of the community outside the group.”
hosts 1884 groups with 66,589 mem- online communities for the past few years post their reactions?“I would suggest that, if Could Dgroups be improved to stimulate
bers. Dgroups was created in 2001 by a and have done some research in the past. you start a group, you should have a clear knowledge sharing even more? “It would
partnership of development organisations Now I am starting a research project about goal of what you want to achieve with it. be nice if you could link different Dgroups
who share a joint vision of the need for a Dgroups themselves.” What are your Then everybody will know what to expect, more easily or could share files among
common platform for development-related points of interest or main focuses in your and what is expected of them. Next, begin groups. This, and many other ideas to
online communities. Current members of research? “It is still at the design stage with a round of introductions so that people stimulate knowledge sharing, are things
the Dgroups partnership include: CIDA, but the main focus is on investigating the can get to know one another. If a new that the partnership are working on at the
Hivos, IICD, ICCO, IICD, Danida, FAO, function, role and effectiveness of online member comes in, a personal e-mail with moment.”
KIT and SNV, among others. knowledge networks in development, look- a word of welcome will offer encourage-
ing at Dgroups. I will be building on some ment. Your messages should also have a
research undertaken in 2004 but I think clear structure. Start your e-mail by briefly
Dgroups are being used more strategically mentioning the subjects you’re going to talk
than two years ago and that should also about. This makes it easier for people to
prove interesting to investigate. I’m plan- scan the messages and avoids the impres-
ning to look at: who are the members and sion of information overload. I would also
the facilitators, how is gender visible in advise taking a positive tone. It’s important
the groups and does use vary depending not to be critical, particularly in the begin-
on continent. I am going to take a survey ning with inexperienced members, but if
monkey as my main method, comple- you must be critical, make it constructive
mented by interviews and case studies of criticism. If you share your opinions, try to
individual communities.” be as clear as you can so as to reduce the
chance of misunderstandings. In a discus-
sion, it’s important to make your position
clear and not be afraid of making a fool of
yourself. These ‘tips’ seem very obvious,
but they’re useful to keep in mind. Some
people seem to have a knack for clear-cut
responses, others rapidly get disorganised
or write very long messages. In the end,
the most important thing is that participants
should realise what e-collaboration can do
for them. If they don’t see what they can
get out of it, they’ll simply say they don’t
have time or don’t need it. Some people
might even consider e-collaboration a sort
of threat, because it means getting knowl-
edge and information out in the open.”

36 Story 12 To support and manage people 37

Story 13: To discuss or create
Use of a mailing list
Interview with Maarten Boers from ICCO. “I am in charge of an internal project
( entitled ‘Capacity development, Knowl-
edge systems and Networks’. In brief, this
project aims to stimulate systematic learn-
ing both in-house, as well as with and be-
tween partners. There is no escaping from
D-groups e-collaboration then. I was already familiar
D-groups is, according to the website: with knowledge sharing using mailing lists,
“the starting point for fostering groups and because I was involved with the Grupo
communities in international development. Chorlaví, a learning network in Latin-
We are a partnership which caters to both America. This network started in 1998 and
individuals and organisations by offering its purpose is the sharing of knowledge
tools and services that bring people to- and experiences about rural development
gether. Whether you are trying to support in Latin-America. So, in that way I became
a team, a group, a network, a partnership familiar with the possibilities that a mailing
or a community, we hope to provide you list can offer and I saw the potential for
with the capacity to do this in an environ- ICCO. Forces can be joined to make both as a source of extra e-mail. The biggest future ICCO-network-organisation. But of
ment which is simple, non-commercial, sides stronger. This is why we became problem is to make clear what Dgroups course Dgroups will also play an important
respectful of privacy, and targeted at low a partner of Dgroups. We wanted to really are about. The basis of a Dgroup role in the knowledge sharing among all
bandwidth users in the South.” stimulate collaboration at ICCO and with is sending e-mails to a (large) number parts of the network organisation and its
partners.” How do you use Dgroups? “Un- of people with one address, but this can partners.” What do you think are the main
til now we have created about 22 groups also be done with a normal e-mail, where problems with Dgroups? “Spamming is
of which 8 are in-house groups. The latter everybody replies to all emails. The a real nightmare for Dgroups. Messages
are mostly used for preparatory stages of benefits of the use of Dgroups are that originating from the Dgroups server are
meetings or to make policy plans. Real all e-mail is stored in one place together often marked as spam, so people won’t
discussions are still mostly held face-to- with documents and links – the groups’ receive the messages in their normal
face, because people are close by. The web-site. It is easy to retrieve a message e-mail. Within Dgroups we are doing ev-
groups we set up with partners are mostly you accidentally missed or the docu- erything possible to avoid these problems.
learning networks.” ments placed on the site. The website Another problem is that people find it dif-
can also be accessed from wherever you ficult to write their ideas or opinion in an e-
The essence: A community are, so you don’t have to go to your own mail to people they do not know very well,
Are people eager to start a Dgroup? “I computer or even ever store them in your because they see it as a form of official
am promoting the use of Dgroups by own e-mail box.” What do you see as the publishing. That might be also the reason
approaching those colleagues who I essence of Dgroups? “Dgroups have the that – mostly in the South - the e-mails
assume will be interested, because not potential to create communities. Unlike are written quite formally, with many lines
everybody will see the potentials right just sending e-mails, there is a place devoted to just courtesy alone. In that way
away and many people – not only within people can go to. The mere fact of having a real open discussion is very difficult or
ICCO – seem to have some resistance to a name of the group itself also helps to even impossible because formality “kills”
the use of “new” web-based tools. So the create “community-sense” and even trust open discussions. So what you see is that
idea is to get the people who are already among the group members. You can refer people use the Dgroup as an address-list.
interested using Dgroups and let them to the group by its name.” This is not necessarily a bad thing, but
share their experiences with others. In that depends on the initial goal the group
that way I hope a snowball effect will take Dgroup etiquette was set up for. There should be a way to
place. Good experiences and enthusiasm How do you see Dgroups evolving in the introduce some kind of etiquette for the
from colleagues can stimulate others. future for ICCO? “ICCO is decentralizing use of Dgroups, which stimulates people
Some groups were started just as an and becoming a real network organisa- to use it more loosely and so it becomes
experiment, where people can go to check tion. There will be regional councils and common knowledge that a message to
out for themselves what Dgroups are all regional work organisations. So I think such a group does not have to contain all
about. Most people are reluctant to start Dgroups will be an instrument for the inter- formalities of a formal letter.”
one though, because they primarily see it nal (management) communication of the

38 Story 13 To discuss or create 39

Story 14: Sharing your
personal views
Expressing yourself
Interview with Wouter Rijneveld from “I started my blog around March this year.
Woord en Daad. ( ( ) Since then, I’ve
posted about 50 items. I started blogging
A weblog or blog because I read a lot and sometimes the
According to Wikipedia, A blog is: “Blog things I read frustrate or stimulate me.
is the contraction universally used for Which urges me to express my opinion
weblog, a type of website where entries somehow and somewhere. I am quite
are made (such as in a journal or diary), active on the internet, so I knew about
displayed in a reverse chronological order. blogging. It seemed to me the perfect
Blogs often provide commentary or news way to express my views.” Do you want
on a particular subject, such as food, to achieve something specific by blog-
politics, or local news; some function as ging? “No, it’s something I do purely for
more personal online diaries. A typical myself. I simply want to be able to express
blog combines text, images, and links to my views. I don’t try to change the world,
other blogs, web pages, and other media which probably wouldn’t work anyway
related to its topic.” with the way I blog. As you can see, I
blog about a wide variety of topics: very
personal things, like the birth of my son,
but also about issues connected to my
work. If you want to achieve something
with a blog, I think you need to keep a
clear focus. I realised this when I regis-
tered my blog at certain services, which
make finding my blog easier. I always
find it difficult to choose the categories
to put my blog in.” Can you describe the
subjects you cover? “I blog about develop-
ment, religion, general news and personal
issues. You might say my main theme is
unfair trade or the injustice in the world.
I’ve considered splitting those topics into Other people’s feelings blogging accentuates some feelings,
two separate blogs: private and develop- How is your blog connected to your work which I might also express in my work. I
ment. But this means keeping two blogs at Woord en Daad? “It isn’t. I only share try to avoid naming Woord en Daad in my
going and people who read my blog now my opinions and as my interests con- blog. I won’t specifically mention anything
will have to start reading two. And be- cern my professional life, some subjects that directly opposes the views of Woord
cause I blog for myself, I didn’t really see overlap. When I explicitly refer to develop- en Daad. This also holds for my former
the need.” Why did you choose blogger ment-related issues, the problem is that I employer. I do not want them to take
as a blog service? “I searched options for then somehow have to consult or get the offence with me. In general, I am very
free blogging and came across Blogger. approval from Woord en Daad with every careful when my views directly oppose
Its very user friendly, which is an aspect post I write. Since I’m only blogging for someone else’s. If I read an interview,
I looked into. Later, I tried out a couple of myself, I want to avoid going trough the I will refer to that interview but without
other free sites, but didn’t feel they offered communication department. My work does specifically naming the interviewee. I don’t
many advantages compared to Blogger. influence my blog a lot, because I come want to make personal attacks. I also
One problem I did encounter is that Blog- across interesting issues at work. How- avoid rubbing up someone in my own
ger does not allow putting posts in catego- ever, the reverse hardly ever happens: network the wrong way, although I usually
ries. But I got around this by tagging my my blogging doesn’t have much influence take a critical stance on issues.”
posts at delicious.” on my work. The only thing might be that

40 Story 14 Sharing your personal views 41

To be, or not to be known Another point of view FINDINGS –
How did you get your blog publicised? I don’t keep up a blog myself. I have the WHAT DO THE STORIES TELL US?
“People gradually became aware of it in feeling that I don’t have anything to share, place. The initiators are not necessarily
my own network. Half were positive while so I would not know what to write. I have technicians or already have experience
the others didn’t give any specific reac- used a blog once for a course at the We tried to cover the field of e-collabora- with e-collaboration. In general, they are
tion. I guess they didn’t see the point in university. We had to record there what tion among Dutch NGOs as broadly as curious and like to experiment with ICT on
sharing your opinion over the internet. we wrote. At that time it didn’t really make possible, to give an impression of the the basis of their personal interest. They
They also might regard me as too critical. sense to me. I thought the teachers chose many different ways Dutch NGOs use e- often know their way around the Internet,
People aren’t always clear why I like to a blog just to have something else instead collaboration in their work. The interviews and this could be one of the reasons they
share what I share. I don’t really promote of WebCT Vista, which we always used. were carried out with just one person from can so easily see the benefit of sharing
it much. After all, my initial goal wasn’t to Now I am beginning to think that I could an organisation, this in many cases being knowledge and views via the Internet. If
attract a lot of visitors. Although I have have kept up with the blog to organise all I the initiator of the project. All stories are you are familiar with the different ways the
to admit that I keep track of hits on my have ever written. It is a very useful tool to independent and relate the personal opin- Internet is used, you already have seen
site; I’m increasingly interested in visitor show progress or a change of ideas over ion of the interviewee about e-collabora- the way it could work. If you read blogs,
numbers and really enjoy people reacting time. tion. The interviews are the basis for these make use of Wikipedia, and if you need
to my blog. That way you get some credit conclusions, although the meetings of the any help on a topic you can search on
for your work. The only promotion I do is learning community and the interaction Google and often end up at a forum where
to enter the address of my blog whenever at the D-group helped in formulating the other people provide you with answers,
I create a profile anywhere on the internet. questions and problems more effectively. so you can already see the value of
It is also registered with Google and con- These conclusions have been built up in sharing knowledge. These people have
nected to a website I have with a friend.” the same way as the interviews. beliefs about e-collaboration such as, for
Do you get a lot of visitors? “I get around instance,: ‘It helps in communication with
7-10 visitors a day. It’s not a huge number Orientation and experimentation partners’; ‘we have to follow that route in
- the maximum is around 50 visitors a day. One general observation is about the order to not lag behind’; ‘it would be fun to
People seem attracted by unusual view- phase in which Dutch NGOs are at the experiment with the possibilities’; ‘if he (a
points, but sometimes they get to my blog moment. Overall, people are becoming colleague or a friend) is so enthusiastic,
through very weird word combinations. I curious and are seeing opportunities for then there has to be something in it.’ In
can see the search words that lead them themselves and for their organisations in every organisation experimenting with
to it. Because I cover many topics, there e-collaboration. They are experimenting, e-tools, most of the time there are one
are a great number of possible combina- exploring and trying out different e-col- or two enthusiasts, unless the initiative
tions. As my blog isn’t in English, people laboration tools. They are exploring the comes from the organisation’s manage-
who can’t read Dutch will log off pretty benefits of e-collaboration and the ways ment. The ‘man with the vision’ is then
fast. I get the idea that more individuals in which they can best approach and harder to locate.
then organisations visit my blog.” implement it. A good example of this is
the size of the e-collaboration group: with The reason for ‘doing’
Corporate blog? 57 members it indicates that people are e-collaboration
Do you see any potential or advantages interested in e-collaboration, as well as in The reasons for starting using e-tools can
for a corporate blog? “We did a trial and e-collaboration with others interested in be divided into two categories. The first
kept a blog during a field visit, but the time the subject. is centred on information, the second is
involved and practical questions like ‘what about relationships.
can and can’t you make public directly’ A tool or the process as a
and who would be interested enough in starting point Information sharing, searching, collecting
the projects to read such a blog, con- E-collaboration is approached from differ- and management. The benefit of e-tools
vinced us against continuing the experi- ent angles: people can start with an e-tool here is the fact that information can be
ment. But it might be continued for certain and experiment with that. Or they start made accessible to a lot of people in their
special events.” from a process that they want to improve own homes and that they can access it
either within their organisation or between at their leisure. Information is also more
themselves and their partners. These are and more about the experiences and
two different ways to go about e-collabo- knowledge of others, since people see
ration, but many principles or problems similar problems arise for other people or
account for both approaches, as well as organisations. A question that one comes
why people start e-collaborating in the first across regularly is: How can we learn



from the experience of others? How can 01. Sharing interesting Information sharing
we make this implicit knowledge explicit websites Finding people
and make use of all the knowledge out Creating links and a network with people
interested in the same topics. Linking up.
there? Interaction among organisations
and within organisations, entering into
02. Communicating Skype Improving relationships by having contact
dialogue and discussion, gets more promi- with partner organ- in a more informal and definite way
nent with the goal of learning from each isations through
other. The difference between knowledge the Internet
and information comes into the mix at this
stage. In the initiatives studied there is a 03. Sharing knowl- KIC portal Information sharing
clear guideline as to where knowledge edge with and Making implicit knowledge explicit
and where information is shared. The between counter- (sharing lessons and stories)
parts Establishing learning communities
definition of information is that it can be about certain topics
easily spread and copied, and therefore it Connecting people and organisations
exists in static documents or text. Knowl-
edge, on the other hand, is what people 04. Online meetings Teamspeak Sharing knowledge
know and have learned, and this comes To have meetings online
out in conversation, discussion and train-
ing courses. This also means that sharing 05. Supporting an CMS Training
your knowledge by sharing documents or online course
reports is very difficult.
06. Setting up an HRIA centre Information sharing
The other category is about people and online database Collecting information about a certain
relationships. E-tools create the opportu- topic and making it accessible
nity of working in closer collaboration, to
become more informed about the prog- 07. Using an online Claroline Training
ress or the situation somebody is in, which learning space
itself makes cooperation easier. Overcom-
ing time and space differences are the 08. The intranet as Intranet Sharing information
most obvious benefits of e-collaboration an information To provide a accessible database about
through maintaining or building relation- resource all work-related topics
ships. Development is about working
09. Managing courses Moodle/D-groups Training
across borders, so e-collaboration can or projects
really help out there. Good relationships
are also crucial if knowledge has to be
10. Creating together Wiki Sharing information
exchanged and people want to learn from online Sharing knowledge
one another. People need to have a sense Cooperating
of trust in order to exchange knowledge, Community building
so the relationship building should always To collect all data shared at on a
face-to-face course
come before the learning aspect can
commence. This is often done by meet-
11. Working together Groove Cooperation
ing face-to-face. There are also practi- across distances Sharing information
cal reasons for using e-tools, such as To share documentation with a partner
money-saving, but improving relations or
the information flow and learning from one 12. To support and D-groups Sharing knowledge
another are the main reasons lying behind manage people Debating
e-collaboration. The processes behind
that that I came across in my research are 13. To discuss or D-groups Sharing knowledge
displayed in the table. create Debating

14. Sharing your Blog Sharing knowledge To reflect about topics

personal views read about


Influences (from the south) bandwidth? What features does it have by simply providing the tool and letting After the introduction of a particular tool,
Despite all the benefits available, people to contain? What is the price? Is it user- them figure it out themselves, or instruc- people have to be convinced to start
sometimes have to overcome an initial friendly? Can the tool be expanded? Is tions can be given. Both happen just as working with it. First of all, if this concerns
barrier. This can be achieved through the in-house technical support available? And often, but it depends on the tool and the an entire organisation, not everyone is
enthusiasm and clear vision of somebody so on. A conclusion from this research is people. Most e-collaboration tools are self- approached at once. The people that are
else, or by experiences with similar proj- that there were never any real problems in explanatory, if you have basic experience very likely to be interested are approached
ects in the past. The influence of partners finding a tool. The initiators know their way with computers and the Internet. Mostly first, so that they can then help spread the
in the south is also apparent. If they start around the Internet, or people make use people are approached with the tool and word. As I have already mentioned, an en-
using e-tools, then this will positively of their own personal network. They start not for the process to be improved. The in- thusiastic colleague can be of great influ-
influence the organisations in the Neth- searching for tools and compare a couple troduction of the (pre-selected) technique ence. The main goal is to create a positive
erlands. Thus, the stimulus often comes of them. Often there is a friend, relative or always comes first. This is a hurdle that attitude towards e-collaboration. This can
from others. Although it can be very hard colleague who has some experience with has to be taken, as people are very often be done by introducing the tools in a fun
to influence others in their opinion about a particular tool. The smaller organisa- reluctant to try new things. This approach and informal way. Participation is encour-
e-collaboration, it does turn out to be one tions often start looking for open source can work, because it is often the case aged by positive reactions to contributions
of the main reasons people embark on systems or for free applications. In gen- that once people start to use an e-tool, that can shape people’s attitude and can
it. Enthusiasm is the key. People need to eral, larger organisations have a greater they cannot then do without it. We have form a sense of trust. It is also a way of
be convinced to start thinking: “wow,” this budget to spend, so they can either have not come across initiatives where people rewarding people for their effort. Another
sounds like fun, something new and excit- something designed for them or design a are approached with a process they want way is to reward them directly by provid-
ing and the options are endless! On the system themselves. Most of the time the to improve. We tried to look from the ing opportunities for them, or to show
other hand this thought can also be very decision as to what tool to use is based aspects of processes in this research, them, in a rating or publication, that their
daunting. We will get back to this when we on the opinion and experience of some- but since we focused on different e-tools, efforts have been appreciated. This also
discuss the difficulties one can encounter. one else. Very often people have tried somehow an e-tool always came first. works for people who maintain a blog.
an application. As soon as it provides all From examining the possibilities that a Comments can stimulate them to keep
Design and implementation stage the features needed and it seems to work certain tool could provide, we looked at going, because it indicates that people
When starting an initiative about e-collab- well, they stick with what they have found. how this could add benefits to somebody’s read the blog and the topic or opinion has
oration, different steps need to be taken. Continuing to look further as soon as you work. This approach is not recommended attracted their interest. Another important
These steps can be very different whether have found something that seems to work in the literature. Generally, looking from thing is (technical) support. If people can
you start from a tool or a problem/process does not really happen. This also seems within one’s own work and identifying go to somebody when they need help, or
and whether you are on your own or your to be the only way to go, as one can never obstacles or problem situations is to be if they are connected to somebody with
organisation has taken the initiative. The compare all the tools available, and as recommended. From there a solution can similar usage, such as in a buddy system,
budget that is available also makes a long as it suits one’s needs you have got be sought in e-collaboration. The experi- then they become more comfortable. They
huge difference. We will now discuss the what you want. Once you have selected ment with proves that to start don’t have to struggle on their own. Some-
different questions encountered. the e-tool, other issues will arise. How do by using the basic facilities of a tool can body facilitating the process can also help
you regulate access, quality, openness, work very well. I even think these types of by adding structure to it.
How to choose the right e-tool? and moderation? These are questions that initiatives are very valuable. Tools have to
First of all there is the choice of an e-tool. need to be answered, and the answer will be explored to get the best out of them, What questions have arisen for the
This issue will not arise if the tool is the come through trial and error. Organisa- and people who see the potential are the future of the projects?
starting point, but if you want to improve tions often try to keep their systems as best at proving their worth. This is only Since most e-collaboration initiatives are
a process or solve a problem you have to open and accessible to as many people or workable for people who are interested, still in the exploratory and experimental
choose the tool that will be the most suit- organisations as possible in the begin- eager to explore and curious about the stage, they are still trying to promote the
able for the job. In situations where some ning, but as soon as quality and safety possibilities. People can be approached initiatives and have not yet come to the
sort of training or course is the issue, the issues arise, measures are taken. through newsletters, but mostly they are stage where they have to make sure that
type of tool is quite clear: you need an introduced to a tool personally. They will everything will be kept running. What you
e-learning tool or online learning platform. How can people become involved get a face-to-face explanation as to how can see is that people are starting to think
If this is not the case you need to start and motivated? they can use the tool in their work. Provid- about questions such as: How will we
from the process and try to see to what Once the tool has been selected and cus- ing the opportunity for them to try it out for expand the group, how can we make the
qualifications the tool should possess. Is a tomised, you need to involve people. New themselves is also a way. This can work initiative more broadly used, should we
synchronous or asynchronous tool need- tools have to be introduced to those who very well, as they then overcome the first assign a moderator, which role will this
ed? Does it have to be accessible at low are to work with them. This can be done technical barrier. moderator fulfil and when can we leave


it up to the participants? Also, rules are have done. Another benefit not always to. Unfortunately these are not the most of questions should be addressed in the
drawn up, as sometimes the need for immediately recognised or articulated is tangible aspects. In addition, a great deal initial stages, after which you can adjust
some regulation appears. Overall there the way e-collaboration can contribute to of time and effort has to be invested be- your strategy to meet their wishes. The
is a tendency to make e-collaboration a sense of community. There is a place fore the results are perceptible. This can next step is to formulate a clear goal
more the common way to do things or (which is virtual, although it is also visible very easily hold people back. They can and to make clear agreements so that
even to institutionalise the sharing and and accessible to all) where people come only see the additional work involved or everybody knows what to expect and what
cooperation with others. Another common together and create something. This the number of e-mails to be read, and the is expected of them. The goal should be
next step is expansion, both expansion place, the name of the group collaborating benefits seem to lie far away in the future. specified in the best way possible, with
with new tools or features, as well as the and the fact they all share a goal, all cre- The fact that the benefits are not easily a specific time span, which people are
expansion of people. There is never an ate a sense of group feeling. People can visible and the fact they are also difficult involved, and the quality and quantity
‘ultimate goal’ with regard to the range or be in this group for different purposes: for to make visible can also cause problems of interactions, et cetera. The tool used
time span. People always view the cur- enriching someone’s knowledge or creat- with the employer. Time invested cannot must be appropriate to meet the intended
rent initiatives as the start of more, which ing a specific plan or document, but if the always be justified, and often this time is goal and, more importantly, should be
can be complicated, as they will never be group works as it should, a feeling of trust not taken into account in the job applica- integrated within the process. If it is not
satisfied this way and might overlook too is formed, as well as reciprocity between tions. Another issue is trust. Trust is one used, then it probably did not have a
quickly what they have accomplished. the members. This can be very beneficial of the main requirements for building a clearly defined purpose or need. Tools or
in future work, because social capital has relationship, according to the theory about other features should not be added simply
The main benefits of expanded and entry points to knowledge social capital. Unfortunately, no explana- because they are available. Every feature
e-collaboration or skills are acquired. tion is provided about how trust can be must have a purpose or, if it cannot be
The main benefits people find in their work gained or established. What can be seen hidden, the choice to omit it must be made
are closely related to the reasons why The difficulties from this research is that the lack of trust, clear. Additionally, people have to be given
they started collaborating in the first place: We expected people to experience difficul- trust between people, or with the tool or sufficient time to get used to the tool, plus
It saves time and money, information stor- ties in finding the right tool. Nowadays, with another culture can result in the in- time to sustain its usage. People cannot
age is better, and more easily retrieved. the range of products available is so great correct use of an e-tool. This is particularly be expected to e-collaborate at the same
People can become more involved with that it is difficult to decide which tool to clear when it concerns people’s opinions time as carrying out their normal duties,
the work of their partners or colleagues choose. Many of the applications avail- or thoughts shared in a Wiki or a D-group. unless this replaces part of them. The
who are far away. It gives them opportu- able are free, and comparing them all is The feeling can be that sending a mes- organisation sometimes has to adjust its
nity to have contact with people working in very time-consuming. However, technical sage to a D-group or placing a thought policy in order to create the opportunity to
the same field in other countries. People difficulties are sometimes encountered. on a Wiki is a form of official publishing. work with these kinds of tools.
get connected, and the available knowl- Obvious obstacles are problems such Therefore only balanced opinions or Furthermore, you should be sure that
edge becomes more visible, because it is as bugs or other technical issues, for completely elaborated considerations are the foundations are solid. People should
stored and shared in online discussions. example low bandwidth or spam. These shared, and not ideas in progress; this can not be overloaded at the outset; one or
Some less obvious benefits are also pres- have to be solved (or accepted!) before a really be an obstacle to fruitful discussion. two features should first be introduced
ent. Contacts become more informal and good overview can be achieved. Another initially, and only when people are used
more regular. This results in better mutual problem we expected concerned the col- Issues to consider: to them can expansion begin. A feature
understanding and better relationships. laboration with partners via the Internet. recommendations overload should to be prevented at all
Another benefit of documenting informa- What we found was that partners are less When embarking on an e-collaboration times. People will become overwhelmed
tion or work online is the value people reluctant to try new e-tools than expected, initiative some things must be kept in too easily and will not know where to
attach to an overview. For instance, as although in some instances they are even mind. They may seem to be quite obvi- start. If e-tools are to be introduced within
with the Wiki on the course: it gave the ahead of us. Of course there are problems ous, but this does not detract from their your organisation, then the best option is
initiator of the course an overview of what with bandwidth and other technical issues, importance. First of all: make sure you to start informally and in a fun way. Let
has been done there, the results of which but all partners within the scope of this know what people want, or have a clear people try out the tool for themselves in
can also be shared easily. Besides that, it research are very positive. Another thing picture of what kind of process you want a face-to-face meeting, and do not forget
can promote a sense of pride. Something that people come across is the difficulty to improve, and how. Is there a lack of to emphasise the benefits that e-collabo-
tangible has been achieved from the ef- to make the essentials visible for others. information about a certain subject? What ration can bring. People need to have a
fort made, which can be seen as a kind The benefits, the possibilities and all the subject? Are relationships in need of vision about what it can mean for them
of reward to those involved. This is very other advantages that e-collaboration can improvement? And in what way: personal and their work, and backup and support
evident with e-learning courses, where the offer have to be made clear. These are or closer co-operation? More sharing, or should be provided where they can sub-
students have a place to show what they the visions the initiators were attracted sharing of a higher quality? These types sequently get help. The initiators in this


research always have a positive attitude Acknowledgements
towards the use of e-tools, but they can
come across people with a negative atti-
tude or negative experiences. Even if you Design
are – or want to be – the initiator, you can MURW, Zairah Khan
experience feelings such as: I will never
get people motivated, it will only cost me Illustrations
a great deal of time, and it will never work. Mark de Koning
In this research we have not met such
people, but these issues do arise in the Printing
e-collaboration meetings. From our point RS Drukkerij, the Hague
of view, the main point is to keep yourself
enthusiastic and keep being inspired by Downloading
what you see in e-collaboration. Focus These articles can be downloaded from: http://
on small successes and try to get some
people on your side. There are always
those who are prepared to try new things Correspondence
and, if this is not the case, you should
‘infect’ them with your enthusiasm. Do
not think that e-collaboration necessarily
involves engaging in a large project: There
are many opportunities open to you, and
the trick is to choose the option that is
right for you. Simply starting to use Skype
can already create a major advantage
for you and/or your organisation. Do not
underestimate this. Once you get familiar
with one simple tool, the following step is
very small, but does not necessarily have Copyright
to be taken. The concept is: take what you © 2007 PSO,
can use and leave the rest! You should Capacity Building in Developing Countries,
also bear in mind that the first step is just the Hague
the beginning, and there is still a long way
to go after you have implemented and Information and orders
introduced the tools. The facilitation of the PSO
process comes next, which can easily be Scheveningseweg 68
forgotten at the beginning. This is all about 2517 KX the Hague
thinking about what you are going to do, The Netherlands
how you plan to do this and how you plan
to keep it going.

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