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African conference on agricultural science looks for social media volunteers

Posted on Jun 21st, 2013 by
idowu ejere

Idowu Ejere: How young people can inspire young people through social media…

“It isn’t where you came from,
its where you’re going that counts.”
—Ella Fitzgerald

Few young people raise to a position, early in their career, where they can inspire others and make a change. For those who do, even fewer dare to take the risk then, to stand up, and push for changes.

Idowu Okheren Ejere is one of those few. As a young Nigerian diplomat and researcher, she is presently the Communication and Public Awareness Officer at FARA. Given the opportunity to coordinate the media outreach at the upcoming Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), she took her task as an opportunity to use young people’s enthusiasm for social media, and pull them into the conference’s social reporting team.

One month before the conference, over 100 young professionals are now already part of this team, ceasing the conference as a way to learn new tools, and learning how to integrate these into their daily work.

This is a story how African youth can inspire people, when given the opportunity…

Meeting Idowu

Idowu holds a B.Sc in International Relations from Igbinedion University Nigeria, an M.A in Globalization and Development from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex (UK). She is currently studying for a PhD in Development Studies at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich and an MSc Poverty Reduction at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She also holds several professional certificates from Harvard University and China Agricultural University.

Her career spans the public and private sectors with a keen interest in the research on food security, resource management, conflicts, agrarian change and rural development.

Discovering the power of social media

As a born communicator, she held several social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger, etc, but used them mostly for personal purposes until last year. In November 2012, she attended the Social Media Training in Uruguay under the auspices of GCARD2. Idowu says this was a turning point in her life as she realized the power of social media: How it could be used to preach the gospel of poverty reduction and food security. At GCARD2, she discovered how social media could foster the goal of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) and specifically how social media could be used to get the voices of millions of people across the globe heard in high level discourses.

Implementing social media at the AASW

After GCARD2, she was part of the Planning Committee for the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW). She realized from the previous AASW that one of the challenges was “getting the message out to people outside the usual audiences”, including policy makers, young people and the general public.

With the upsurge in the use of mobile technologies in Africa came the use of social media. Today Facebook is the single largest -virtual- nation outside any country with over 500 million active users. Twitter and Myspace are doing just as well. This “virtual nation” cannot be underestimated in the current architecture of agriculture and food security discourses.

With this in mind she suggested to the FARA Secretariat Organizing Committee to invest in bringing a group of young social reporters to the AASW. They would be trained on social media tools and would report “live”, from the conference. This onsite team would be supported by a virtual team, from all over the world, who would remotely assist this group of “social reporters”.

As great minds think alike, FARA teamed up with CTA, GFAR, CGIAR and YPARD with the common goal to build the capacity of young people as a voice for the role of research in African agricultural development. This “Communication Partnership” culminated in the AASW social media team we have today. This would not have been possible without the support of Prof. Monty Jones of FARA, Dr. Michael Hailu and Mr. Sam Mikenga of CTA, Ms. Marina Cherbonnier of YPARD, Mr. Piers Bocock and Mrs. Enrica Porcari of CGIAR and Mr. Peter Casier.

The role of social media at the AASW

The world is changing and we need to have people from all ends of the world contribute to discourses that involve their future and well-being. Africa is no different, and the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week is no different: At the conference, social media will create an avenue for those who are unable to participate physically at the science week. Social media will allow us to involve more people than merely those present at the conference venue, especially the youth who are easily overlooked in global development discourses.

In this way, social media would allow inclusion, participation and collaborations to achieve the conference’s goal of “Africa feeding Africa through science and innovation”.

Get involved!

The AASW social reporters team is a fast growing virtual team. With over 100 people in the group already, we are already virtually working together to learn the social media tools. way ahead of the conference. The AASW social reporters are now organising webinars and peer-assist sessions, coupling the “experts”, with those eager to learn more. At the same, the team is preparing the conference’s social media outreach via a Google Groups email discussion forum.

Do you want to join this virtual team? Send an email to p.casier(at)cgiar(dot)org, the AASW Social Media Coordinator and we’ll gladly integrate you in our group!

Original post was published on the AASW6 blog – Follow the conference via the #AASW6 Twitter tag, follow @FARAinfo on Twitter and on Facebook

3 Comments to “African conference on agricultural science looks for social media volunteers”

  1. Peter says:

    For those interested, here is a more detailed background, taken from an email I sent to all AASW social reporters, at the beginning of the project:

    Hi everyone,

    Once again, it is really nice to meet so many new people, in this group. At the same time, I am glad to notice many “old friends” in our group: people I had the pleasure to work with in previous conferences (RIO+20, GCARD2, Planet under Pressure, COP18, or even going as far back as IFWF3 or the Addis Sharefair)!

    With one month to go to the AASW, it is time to get to work….

    My first task is to explain what we are trying to do here. And why. And how…
    (This is a condensed version of the outline on our Google Site )

    1. A word of thanks

    None of this would have been possible without the tireless efforts of FARA and especially by Idowu Ejere, FARA’s Communication and Public Awareness Officer. She has come up with the idea of our social reporting group, as part of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW), and brought it to the level it is now, with the strong support of Prof. Monty P. Jones, FARA’s Executive Director and his whole team.

    We had crucial support by Samuel Mikenga from CTA (The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) who funds a large part of this effort, particular the training component.

    On top of these, part of the core team giving birth to our group were Marina Cherbonnier from YPARD, Mark Holderness from GFAR, as well as Piers Bocock and Enrica Porcari from CGIAR.

    Thanks to you all!

    2. What are we doing here?

    Up to a couple of years ago, conferences had a rigid way of communicating: Most had an official website, reached out to “traditional media” (newspapers and magazines) through press conferences and press releases, and after the conference, the “official proceedings” were sent out.

    With the birth of social media, things changed. Social media allowed us to interactively and in real time, bring out the messages from the conference itself, almost live, as things happened.

    Reporting from conferences through social media, we call “social reporting”: participants from the conference, often with a group of social media enthusiasts (like us), would use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, webcasting and many other tools to “capture” what went on, in a conference through blogposts, pictures, podcasts, videos etc… While the online reporting had a “reporting” value, it also allowed onsite participants (at the conference itself) to enter in online discussions with offsite participants, anywhere in the world.

    This made “social reporting” an interactive mechanism to involve many more people that just those at the conference itself, extending the “reach” of the conference in ways we could never do before. (you really need to read this article, and watch the video on what can be achieved through social reporting, using GCARD2 in Uruguay last year)

    And that is the main task of us, the social reporters at AASW. Through social media, we will:

    • Raise awareness of AASW, as well as FARA and its partners, and their work
    • Disseminate information and views emerging at of the conference
    • Identify and promote the main themes developed around the conference
    • Integrate traditional media and social media outreach in order to maximise awareness and support for AASW both efficiently and widely

    3. Why are we doing this?

    Well, for three main reasons:
    AWARENESS: Raise awareness before, during and after the conference of the AASW topics, discussions and outcomes, and document the conference on social media channels.
    INCLUSION: Allow stakeholders who are not physically present at AASW to participate virtually in the event and discussions through live webcasting and online chat channels, giving immediate and real-time feedback to the on-site panels, raise issues for discussion etc
    CAPACITY BUILDING: Expand the FARA partners’ social media footprint as well as empower/build capacity of the staff and partners of FARA in the use of social media as a social reporting and advocacy tool.

    4. How will we do this?
    Pre-event (From June 1 to July 13):
    The AASW Social Media coordinator will assemble the virtual team of volunteering social reporters and social media focal points from all interested parties (FARA stakeholders as well as other organisations, institutes, universities).
    This Social Media Team will interactively refine the social media strategy, coordinate the social media outreach, discuss the tools,… The team is coordinated via an online discussion forum.
    A wide range of topics and existing content will be repurposed using the AASW social media tools, prior to the conference, to generate interest in the AASW social media channels, train the social reporters, and build the team dynamic.
    Up to 20 young social reporters, identified through CTA, FARA and YPARD, will be sponsored to attend AASW. They will be trained in social media and, as social reporters, will cover the whole event on a wide range social media channels.
    On-site (July 13-20):
    Two days social media training for the social reporters (planned for 13-14 July)
    Live (real-time) webcasting of the sessions in the main venue
    Online moderation of chat discussions, questions. Feed questions to onsite panels.
    Live (real-time) coverage via Twitter from the main venue and panel sessions
    Blogging from all sessions (including topic discussions, interviews, pictures and video.)
    Broadcast of all core content pieces (agenda, press releases, input documents, press clips, officially released documents)
    Publish all presentations, speeches,… on Slideshare
    Publish all video captured from the webcast sessions on YouTube
    Aggregation of all FARA content generated by partners and NGOs

    5. How are we organised?

    A. The Coordinating Team
    Idowu Ejere is the overall coordinator of the AASW media team.
    She has two groups working in her team:
    - the traditional media team, which she also coordinates herself, and
    - the social media, which I coordinate.

    B. The Social Reporting Support Team
    This consists of most of you: a loosely knit team of volunteers (“the good and willing”) from different organisations, who will contribute to the AASW social media efforts.
    Part of this this team will work at the conference itself, but most will work remotely. As the AASW Social Media Team carries “capacity building” high up in their flag, some “supporters” might just “watch” over the fence, learning from the team and process, while others will actively participate in some of the tasks.

    C. The Social Reporting Trainees
    Several young social reporters, identified by FARA, CTA and YPARD are invited to attend the AASW. They will be trained in their social reporting tasks, and will cover the whole event on a wide range social media channels.
    Just like the Support Team, they will participate in the online discussions before the forum. During the forum, they will work full time in the social media team.

    6. The strategy behind it all

    All of what we do, is based on a strategy, which we defined with the coordinating team: Read more here. — Which is based on the experience we documented in this Social Reporting tutorial.

    7. What are the next steps?

    In the next days, we will start with the actual work:
    we will start dividing up the tasks. And there are many, check here. Some are for onsite social reporters, and some can be done remotely. This will allow us to practically prepare for the conference’s social reporting itself.
    we will start looking at existing FARA and AASW material, and “re-purpose it”: this is “content” that FARA already has (reports, videos,..) which we will “convert” into blogposts (and you will be doing most of this work). This step will allow us to “populate” the AASW blog and have people “discover” our blog.
    Once the blogposts are published, we will all use our social media networks to “spread” this content. This will allow us to push more traffic to the AASW blog and website, get more people interested, have more people participate in the team and in general “stir up a social media momentum”. We will continue to do this all the way up to the conference.
    During our work, we will use this Google Group email list for our discussions, and continue to register our findings/decisions.. on our internal Google Site (please do not tweet or blog about this site, this is our internal site). Have a read through this, a lot of material is already there!
    … and while doing all of this, we will get to know each other, and get used to work with each other. After all, it is the team, and its spirit which will make this project a success.

    8. And most importantly.

    Talking about the team and its spirit, and how we work:

    We are an informal and “loosely knitted” team of volunteers, working for the common purpose. Some of us are already quite an expert in social media, and some of us are just beginning. We want everyone to learn during this project, so afterwards, you can take this and apply it in your own job or life.
    At the same time, life is too short to be boring. Our group will interact in a very open and free way, ensuring everyone enjoys it, and has fun. There are no “sirs” and “madams” amongst us. We are the AASW Social Reporting Team…. #Yeah !

  2. You guys are young and energetic with a broad shoulders and big heart. You will certainly make huge contribution through social media. I am happy to be part of the group and learn and contribute. Our unique method is proven in India and the approach is totally different in the world of development. We do development as a business and the triple bottom line to this business is people, planet and profit. It is all about by the people, with the people and of the people.

  3. The initiative taken is huge and is achievable since the commitment and love prevails in the group.

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