Monday, October 3, 2011

Role of Social Media in Development (206)

Post and photos by Lisa Cespedes (FAO)
During this session, Musa Masilela, Acting Water Manager at SWADE (Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise) shared some lessons learned from a Share-Fair event of the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP), "Linking Farmers with service providers and markets – a social media analysis for rural development in Africa, Swaziland".
Musa shared the following key lessons from the LUSIP event:
  • Use of social media is a growing opportunity among their project's participants, inspired by the prevalence of mobile phones. 
  • Social media shifts the paradigm from being event oriented to continuous sharing of information e.g. people shared more information post the event than during the event.
  • Limitations include rural adults’ partial ignorance and fear of the social media as It can potentially leak confidential information to the public.

Soon after, the lively session and active participants started to brainstorm and share their experiences on the question posed by Musa:
What social media tools have you used for development projects? How? 

Among the many experiences shared, some of the key points summarized by the participants included:

  • Lack of resources (time and people) is a problem in maintaining social media accounts for organizations
  • Some organizations are 'conservative'  and people don't have the freedom to use social media. For example, blogs need to pass several layers to be approved.
  • In reference to the problem of control: organizations need to define a social media policy/guidelines that works while leaving enough space for inspiration 
  • Not only one person should be the 'custodian' of your organization's social media channels.
  • Organizations assume that social media is all about the "communication people", it is not! 
  • There isn't a complete understanding of the POTENTIAL of #social media in organizations
  • Social media offers access to instant feedback from members and people in different regions. "There are 2 million Facebook users in Kenya. If we have a question that we cannot answer, we ask the audience and we get replies!" 
  • We need to choose the tools that work for our own organizations, otherwise, we lose sense of direction
  • Social Media tools change very quickly - but still people use these tools for social purpose, not quite yet for work
  • It is necessary to find a balance between individual exploration and corporate requirements.
  • A diverse group of people using social media tools provides various points of view, showing the totality of your organization
Towards the end of the session, the participants were taking bets! 
Some food for thought included: 
Will Facebook survive the next 5 years?
Will Google+ survive in 18 months? There was a general consensus that it will not, what do you think?!! Let's continue the discussion here!

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