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Dgroups elects new Chairman of the Board

In the last meeting on 24th April, 2012, the Board of the Dgroups Foundation elected its new Chairman.

The outgoing Chair, Caroline Figuères (IICD) has been the first ever chair of the Dgroups Foundation after this has been established in 2009. In her words, the past three years as Chair of Dgroups have been “a challenging but also rewarding experience.” Above all, according to Caroline, it has been very rewarding to see the commitment of people involved in Dgroups, in its Board as well as amongst partners and users at large. The main regret she has is that “we are not as far as we were expecting” as some of the objectives indicated in the Business Plan could not be met. However, she remains confident that the Dgroups Board and members will continue the good work that has been put in place over these past years.

As new Chairman, the rest of the Board members nominated Neil Pakenham Walsh, representing INASP. Neil has been involved in international development for the past 20 years. He is the coordinator of HIFA2015 and until recently he has been working at INASP. In the video below, he reflects on the vision and mission of Dgroups.

Dgroups aims to improve communication for development (C4D) and it can do so from its unique role. Indeed, Dgroups is a unique partnership of diverse development organisations that can play a crucial role in improving connections amongst communities of practice globally.

According to Neil, fragmentation is a real threat in communication for development and Dgroups can make a difference in this area. As a new Chairman of the Board, Neil is very much looking forward to carrying up his role and working with others to improve communication for development.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank once again Caroline for her guidance and contribution over the years – and to wish Neil best of luck as new Chairman of the Dgroups Board.

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Towards Next Dgroups and beyond

On April 24th, 2012 a meeting was held in The Hague to review the progress and future of Dgroups. The meeting brought together all Dgroups board members and Damir Simunic, director of WA Research, which has provided the technical platform for Dgroups for the past 2 years and has led the redesign of next Dgroups.

Participants moved from a common definition of what Dgroups is and what it stands for. As the tagline in the logo suggests, Dgroups is about development through dialogue. Our vision is a world where communication for development is accessible to all and has maximal positive impact on international development.

The main part of this face to face meeting was dedicated to explore Dgroups’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – and the actions to take forward. As some of the Board members said, the meeting was very constructive and useful.

From discussion that emerged from the SWOT analysis, it become clear that the first and most obvious strength to leverage upon is the Dgroups partnership, the group of development organisations that support this initiative. So what efforts should be taken to maximise this strength and to make sure that Dgroups partners become also active ambassadors and contribute to the further enlargement of the membership base, and therefore the financial sustainability of Dgroups itself? The ideas that were discussed included:

  • Redesigning of the Dgroups home page at dgroups.org and the landing pages at individual group level;
  • Publicizing the openness of existing discussion groups;
  • Putting more effort in networking and communicating with existing and potential partners, in order to increase the membership base and ensure the financial sustainability of Dgroups;
  • Working on Dgroups branding and effective online presence that reflects this brand;
  • Making more use of the Dgroups blog to showcase how Dgroups is put at work in different contexts and for different purposes;
  • Defining and communicating to Dgroups members the advantages of the cost-sharing strategy which underpins Dgroups existence.

Some of these actions are already in motion.

Weaknesses included a lack of a marketing strategy to engage new Dgroups partners, and the Board will take new measures to promote Dgroups and enlarge the partnership. Related to this is the opportunity to reach out to new partners in the South.

A threat is that current budget cuts in the development sector are forcing partners to reevaluate their budgets. But this can also be seen as a good investment by current and future Dgroups partners, as it offers a flexible tool for communication, designed particularly for low bandwidth, that can complement and in some cases replace the need for expensive, face to face meetings.

We also discussed progress on the development of the next Dgroups platform and a number of outstanding functionality issues, including the redesign of the Dgroups homepage and landing page of individual groups; the completion of the users’ interface in the different languages that Dgroups supports; the possibility for groups administrators to edit the email footer for each community; improved statistics at group level.

We shall work together with WA Research to solve these issues by the end of June 2012.

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New Board, new platform, renewed commitments – Dgroups partners meeting 2011

The Dgroups membership met last week in Rome during the Rome 2011 Share Fair for the 2011 Partners meeting. This was the first face to face meeting of the Dgroups partners since 2009, when we met in The Hague just after the Foundation was created and the migration of the platform to WA-Research was completed.

The meeting was well attended, with half of the Dgroups partners participating and actively engaging in the discussion on Dgroups present, its value and concrete plans for future activity and development.

New Dgroups platform

New Dgroups platform

In the first part of the meeting, Hapee de Groot and Rob Witte from the Dgroups Board reported on 2010 activities and finances. In the discussion that followed, Dgroups partners addressed the issue of how to enlarge the membership and market Dgroups amongst development organisations. Dgroups remains a unique initiative in development cooperation, partly because it is email based and so is suitable for those still numerous areas where Internet access is expensive and unreliable,  but partly because we are independent and so not subject to the same regulations and constraints as Google and other commercial platforms based in the US.  These factors, together with the current site redesign and the budget available for further technical development, will definitely help promoting Dgroups in the months to come.

As part of the business meeting, Dgroups members also agreed to enlarge the Board to  6 members and confirmed the nomination of 3 new Board members . This was also the chance to thank outgoing Board members Riff Fullan (Helvetas) and Maarten Boers (who stepped down last April) for serving as Board members in the first elected Board of the Dgroups Foundation and for their great contributions.

In the second part of the meeting Dgroups members had the opportunity to meet with Damir Simunic of WA-Researchto discuss updates and plans related to the Dgroups platform. The site redesign is almost complete and some existing groups have been already migrated to the new version. There are still some bugs currently being fixed and some more groups will be migrated in the next month to further assess if the platform is robust enough to proceed with the full migration. On the basis of the feedback and information received, the Board will decide on a date when the complete migration can be started.

Dgroups futures exercise

In the last part of the meeting, Dgroups partners looked into Dgroups futures. The session was designed to combine and adapt two facilitation methodologies – appreciative enquiry and ‘future backwards’. In two groups, participants listed Dgroups assets, then they shared and combined them. From this basis, the two groups defined a ‘nightmare’ and a ‘dream’ scenario for Dgroups 2 years from now. Finally, they described the steps that lead to each scenario and reflected on what can be done to influence the path – focusing on immediate, medium and longer term actions.

The complete report of the meeting is currently being drafted and will be circulated to members soon in the coming days.

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New Dgroups Board members nominated

During the 2011 Dgroups Partners meeting that took place in Rome on 27 September 2011, the partnership council nominated 3 new members to the Dgroups Partnership Board:

  • Giacomo Rambaldi, from CTA
  • Kristin Kolshus, from FAO
  • Neil Pakenham Walsh, on behalf of INASP
The three new members join Caroline Figuères (IICD, Chairman of the Dgroups Board), Rob Witte (ICCO, Dgroups Treasurer) and Hapee de Groot (Hivos) to form the Dgroups Board for the year to come. The first meeting of the new Board will take place early November 2011.
After the Partners meeting we had the opportunity to talk with two of the new Dgroups Board members. In the videos below, Giacomo Rambadi and Kristin Kolshus explain why their organisations have decided to take an active role in the Dgroups Foundation and which direction they see for Dgroups in the coming period.

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Dgroups at Share Fair 2011

From next Monday to 29 September 2011 IFAD in Rome will host the the second AgriKnowledge Share Fair.

After the previous Share Fairs in Addis Ababa (2010) and Rome (2009), also the programme and design for this year event looks impressive:  more than 150 sharing and learning sessions on issues related to rural development and agriculture; talks by renowned practitioners in different fields; a vibrant market place; and a series of trainings on knowledge sharing methods and tools on Day0 of the Fair.

Dgroups will also be participating in the Share Fair. Here’s what we have on the menu for next week:

  • On Monday 26 September Hapee de Groot (Hivos) and Damir Simunic (WA Research) are hosting training session on Dgroups (14:00-15:30, room B500)
  • On Tuesday 27 September, Damir Simunic will lead a session on Dgroups going mobile (11:30-13:00, room B200)
  • Also on Tuesday 27 September, the Dgroups Partners Meeting will bring Dgroups members together to discuss present and future developments of Dgroups.
Follow this blog for Dgroups updates from the ShareFair, or subscribe to the ShareFair newsfeed for all news from Rome.

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Dgroups at PICNIC 2011

In the context of the International Cross Media Festival PICNIC in Amsterdam, on Friday 16 September 2011, Dgroups member IICD co-organised the session Digital Media for a Better Future.

The meeting addressing the issue of contributing to a better world through digital connection between the Netherlands, other western countries and developing and emerging economies.

In her presentation, IICD’s Saskia Harmsen underlined how:

For many professionals working in development organisations both in the North and in the South, their email inbox remains the main space from which they work. With all the new technologies and services that have emerged, be it mobile phone, tablet, or desktop-based, email continues to play an important role that has not been displaced by SMS or new media services. Especially when it comes to conversations among many different people within working groups and professional networks with geographically dispersed members, a reliable, non-commercial, and low-bandwidth friendly solution is key. (Source: IICD News)

In her views, the Dgroups platform, and the partnership of development organisations that supports this initiative, makes such communications and development dialogue possible.

Watch Saskia’s presentation below here.

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