Social Reporting – three events

Posted on Friday, 26 December, 2008 by

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I recently did three social reporting jobs at face-to-face events (first links are to the official main websites of the events, last to the resulting social reports):

1. Anim@te in Lisbon. 1 day, about 100 participants in plenary. I worked with Beverly Trayner and a team consisting of participants, most of them not very familiair with social media; result (in Portuguese).
2. The KM and learning and education workshop by CGIAR and GFAR in Maputo. 1,5 day, about 40 participants in mixed settings. I worked by myself; result here.
3. “Powering a new future”, the final event after 8 years of Equal (which was the European program for social innovation) in Lisbon. 3 days, >500 participants. I assisted Beverly Trayner and David Wilcox. Result here.

In each of these cases, we used a WordPress blog as a home for publishing all media: video (YouTube, Blip.tv), photo (Flickr), text, Twitter. We worked in close cooperation with the event organisors. We had the first content up within hours after the start of the event, and a finished end product within hours after the end.

The three events each gave a different perspective on the new practice of social reporting.

Animate showed how well Social Reporting can work as a crash course in Web2.0 tools and collaborative, social way of working. When you actually SEE how photos originating from different Flickr accounts via tags and rss are instantly shown on a blog, you GET it. When the issues you were vigorously defending over coffee break at an event are videod and blogged, and you get reactions…. you no longer question the relevance of “all those trivial blogposts about nonsense”. When the colleague who could not attend gives you intelligent feedback the next day because he has been following the twitter stream or blog…. you feel the potential. Learning to master the tools is easy, once you understand what web2.0 can be used for. Another great effect was the community engaging and community building happening in our small team.

The workshop in Maputo, Mozambique was with less people and the focus was more on the content itself. I did a mix of note-taking, videos, impressions. I think the result (see the Outline of the Social Report Simone Staiger compiled) may be quite useful for participants, organisors and others. Compared to a formal report this is rich, easy & entertaining to look at and read, a mixture of authors/contributors, quickly available, and open for comments. It is therefor more of a start, where a formal report always has something defenite and seems like a closing.

The Equal event was huge, with 3 large auditoria and many parallel sessions in smaller spaces. It was great to work in a team of three, each of us all-rounders. I think we helped to give an informal account of the event, highlighting interesting work and people, weaving media, languages and voices. We have extensively reflected on the practice of Social Reporting at the Equal event, which David blogged about here .

Learning, community building, building & extending conversations, documenting and weaving voices… The sum of the three events really convinced me: Yes, this is important. Social Reporting is changing the way we organize events. I much enjoyed the social reporting work! I liked having an excuse to talk to people, asking questions you might otherwise not have asked. I also enjoyed getting their stories out to the world, allowing connections to be made. And yes, -at best- there is more to social reporting than just surprising participants with their photos and video online.

During the last event I assisted Bev Trayner, who brought reporting into social learning, and David Wilcox, who brought social into reporting. Interestingly, something we reported about (Etienne Wenger’s talk on how social learning spaces are important) helped us strengthen our common understanding of social reporting. After digesting for a few days, David blogged on the insights he had, and others (see comments) are taking it from there. The way this conversation is now extended both in time and in people taking part in it, is in itself a demonstration of how social reporting works.

Yes we ARE all networked learners!, and like David, this “theory” helps me understand the attraction of the web and how it all hangs together. It also shows the important roles of the future: Let us continue to create the social learning spaces, keep them open, connect people, and continue to enable access for those of us who -for whatever reason- are new. Weaving online and Real Life in smart ways -such as by Social Reporting- will stretch the possibilities for learning across boundaries.

Of course we are not the only ones “discovering” the genre. Many blogs work in the same way. Dave Briggs seems to work at events in much the same ways. Rober Buzink (freelance journalist) reports in detail (but in Dutch) on the well read journalism blog “De Nieuwe Reporter” about an experiment using real time textmessages (using coveritlive) to cover an event. It is very exciting to think what will happen if on-site and digital get more interwoven, with on-site screens showing the digital conversations, and more people connecting.

Finally, a few alineas from the forthcoming publication on Social Reporting, meant for event organisors, by Beverly Trayner and David Wilcox and sponsored by Equal:

The aim of social reporting is to create an informal narrative to the event, which could complement the formal results or conclusions of that event. The idea of social reporting has been growing in response to two important changes in the organisation of today’s types of events. The first is the explosion of new and free online tools that opens up communication and the publishing of information of different types (such as text, photographs and video recordings) in different ways and to different types of people.

Equally important as the new ways of publishing is the growing recognition that many insights and learning that happens at face-to-face events takes place during informal conversations and not necessarily in the formal presentations or sessions. Social reporting aims to try and stimulate and capture some of these improvisational coversations as a way of bringing more voices to the table and of surfacing some of the stories that help give context to the event.

While mainstream reporting is usually about capturing surprise, conflict, crisis, and entertainment, and in projecting or broadcasting stories to audiences, social reporters aim to work collaboratively with other people, producing words, pictures and movies together. They may challenge and even provoke, but they are sensitive to the resources and parameters of the group, community or organisation they reporting for. They are insiders rather than outsiders. It is about using skills in story-telling to help the conversation along in ways that may help people work better together; treating everyone with respect; and ideally making it all a fun and rewarding experience. It’s more about conversation, collaboration and celebration than conflict, crisis and celebrity (although these should not be overlooked!). It should – like the best journalism – be about promoting some transparency, accountability and openness, but not about thinking that only journalists can do that. It should be sociable, and for social benefit.

I remain thinking of how to broaden Social Reporting beyond events. Reporting on change processes, development, collective action. Reporting about/with social artists… about the changes web2.0 brings to collective action….
Much like David is doing with his entire blog, i guess.  Clay Shirky, who wrote a book about web2.0 and collective action, is suggesting to report on what is happening.

So this is one of the things I intend to do in 2009. I will focus on rural areas. What does web2.0 and increasing connectedness mean for rural areas? What are the implications, the new opportunities, new organisational and business models for agriculture and rural areas? What does networked learning mean for agricultural extension, for versatile countrysides?