Monday, October 3, 2011

5 years sharing coffee and knowledge: the Bluebar experience (26)

Post by Tina Farmer (FAO), Pictures by Luca Servo (FAO)

1. Background of Bluebar
  • Began 5 years ago by Luca and Tina as part of an online facilitation course 
  • The result of realizing that ‘essential’ information regarding FAO activities of all sorts was sought after but not easily found; in fact, a lot of valuable information is caught through informal chatting over coffee – hence, the birth of the Bluebar (an actual FAO coffee bar) 
  • Grew from a small group – basically a loose invitation to participants of that online facilitation course – to over 100 members today 
  • Formed as an informal network of communicators with no structure or hierarchy 
  • Online presence through Dgroups list with occasional face-to-face coffees at the FAO Bluebar 
  • Focuses on practical information and issues 
The Bluebar: a list of communicators
2. Success of Bluebar
  • Brings like-minded people together 
  • Informal, no hierarchy 
  • Membership is voluntary 
  • Organic, ‘under the radar’ 
  • Good place to meet others across the organization (and in other Rome-based agencies) 
  • Great place for recommendations, advice, tips, as a sounding board 
  • Fosters level of trust among members 
  • A ‘comfort zone’ 
  • Bridges an institutional information gap 
  • Not for self-promoters 
  • Co-shared facilitation helps orient meetings and contact 
  • Mutually supportive membership 

3. Discussion on the Bluebar and future considerations
  • Ever thought of measuring the potential ripple effect, to see what is the ‘impact’? 
    • Measuring impact of the Bluebar could be an interesting exercise, but isn’t essential 
  • Ever thought of advertising? 
    • Advertising could kill the nature of the Bluebar – it’s strength is that it is organic with a self-selecting and motivated membership 
  •  Ever thought of distributing short summaries of the face-to-face Bluebar gatherings? 
    • Summaries would be a good idea for those unable to attend the coffee meetings 
  • Could the ‘model’ work in a smaller environment? 
    • The Bluebar could undoubtedly be replicated in another environment if all the similar ingredients are present, especially the need for it and good will to have it 
  • Could FAO field staff participate? If so, how? 
    • All interested people can participate, including FAO field staff – members can invite others 

4. Wrap-up
  • The Bluebar is its own niche and, for the time being, responds to certain needs 
  • Tina/Luca will initiate ‘Bluebar Notes’ to summarize face-to-face meetings 
  • Nora will keep us posted if she starts a similar group at Bioversity 

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