This social media guide aims at promoting African knowledge (in particular about climate change adaptation).
This is the central part of the guide, showcasing key resources for the most important topics around 'promoting African knowledge (about climate change adaptation) through social media.

Social media to promote African knowledge, along the 'knowledge cycle'

Quick access to key resources

Find a description for each of these resources at the bottom of this page

Promoting African knowledge in practice is not straightforward but can be achieved if Africans are involved in decision-making and participatory processes at various stages.

Knowledge itself goes through several stages in its life cycle as illustrated in the knowledge value chain introduced by Mathieu Weggeman (1997). Each stage of the knowledge cycle [1] can be supported by social media.
The knowledge cycle stages in the knowledge value chain are the following: -
  • identifying knowledge needed,
  • identifying knowledge available,
  • developing knowledge,
  • sharing knowledge,
  • applying knowledge,
  • and finally, evaluating knowledge.

Below are a few examples of how social media can support every stage of the knowledge cycle.

Identifying knowledge needs?

Identifying one’s own knowledge needs is best carried out through a series of internal consultations or a survey (on e.g. SurveyMonkey) but can be supported by social media:
  • Online meeting facilities help organize consultations;
  • Internal questions related to knowledge needs can always be asked on most of the social networks (Facebook etc.), on wikis and Google docs, on an internal Yammer network etc.
  • Questions for the public could be posted on Quora or a relevant LinkedIn group, or on Twitter, or even as a blog post consultation.

Identifying knowledge available?

Some information is available in repositories. The best place to start here are social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, because they normally provide curated content (by people that you choose to trust). For knowledge on more complex matters, it usually helps to connect with experienced colleagues, partners etc. who possess or know where to locate relevant expertise more easily than search engines. Yammer and other social networking sites help connect with those experienced people and explore together with them.
If looking for specific resources (videos, audios, presentations etc.) specific collections (on e.g. YouTube, FlickR, Slideshare) can help greatly.

Developing knowledge?

Developing knowledge is either a) generating new insights (mentally) or b) developing information products.
A) New insights can be found on almost all social media through conversations but social networking sites (Facebook etc.) and reflective blogs probably give the best chance.
B) Developing information (together) is best done through wikis and Google docs or through project management and online meeting tools. Blogs can also help and allow different roles (writers, editors, contributors etc.). For one-off documents, Google docs or blog posts might be best. Ongoing team work can benefit from a wiki.

Sharing knowledge?

Social media thrive on sharing information (content, on any topic, in any format) and knowledge (instructions, advices and opinions about that content – related to crowdsourcing). About all social media allow commenting on content and rating or assessing content. Many social media allow uploading content itself in various formats (audio, video, presentation), shapes (short bits with micro-blogging, longer text on blogs, wikis), types (citations on Mendeley and Zotero, links on social bookmarking sites) and some social media allow re-sharing.
Using a combination of social media reinforces their overall impact: a publication could be posted on a website, reviewed in a blog post, announced on Twitter and Yammer, questioned on Quora; an audio-recording of the abstract could be posted on Podomatic and a Powerpoint presentation could be made on the presentation, posted on Slideshare and embedded in other websites from there.

Applying knowledge?

Putting knowledge in practice happens mostly offline, unless we mean using information to do research, i.e. the 'developing knowledge' stage.

Evaluating knowledge?

The feedback functionalities offered by almost all social media are a first option to assess / evaluate knowledge. Comments, likes, ratings, followers and the conversations that burst out of posting resources are all indicators of the quality of the content posted - although they say little about the use of that content and its related outcomes. Social clout tools offer another way to assess the popularity of a given person or their content. Question and answer services can also be useful to evaluate knowledge. Ultimately, internal consultations are key to evaluate knowledge, whether they involve social media or not.
The field of knowledge assessment, monitoring and evaluation is vast and could be the content of a guide in its own right.


[1] Each stage mentions 'knowledge', although in practice, it might relate to information (see our glossary for further definition).

Key resources

Social Media: A Guide for Researchers (Research Information Network - February 2011)

This guide provides practical information on a wide range of social media tools available which can facilitate the full research knowledge cycle. It helps researchers get to grips with social media and equips them with everything they need know before making an informed decision on which tools to use.
We've chosen this as our "ultimate" key resource because it is comprehensive, well researched, clear to read and understand, and very useful. In other words, if you only have time to read one thing.... pick up Social Media: A Guide for Researchers.

How to define a social media strategy (Peter Casier - February 2012)

In this four-fold blog post series, independent consultant Peter Casier explains how to develop a social media strategy looking at the context, content, audiences, connections, engagement strategies and ways to refine the strategy. These blog posts are related to the wiki Social Media for Research Institutions and Programmes (see below).

Social Media for Research Institutions and Programmes (Thinking Knowledge Wiki - February 2012)
This excellent resource is a collection of topics and links to support an exploratory discussion with a research project about social media. It contains everything from definitions, guidelines, tutorials and examples re:social media, to related stories, case-studies and interesting articles. We recommend using this portal as a window to all sorts of interesting thoughts, theories and practical solutions to using social media along the knowledge cycle. Several of the resources within the Thinking Knowledge wiki are Africa-specific, and others have an additional focus on climate change.

IFAD Social Media Guidelines (International Fund for Agricultural Development - April 2011)
IFAD's social media guidelines explain how IFAD has conceived its social media strategy and how staff members can practically engage with social media. This is a very good guide for beginners, and those who wish to refresh their memory and go4 back to basics. The presentation also provides a great introduction to social media, a general outline of how to use social media in practice, descriptions of some of the most popular social media tools and platforms, and some really handy tips.

Social Media As A Form of Knowledge Sharing (Johanna Wahlroos, Industry Analyst at Google, January 2011)
This practical powerpoint presentation on Slideshare advises organisations to use social media in internal communications, and suggests what to consider when doing so. This source clearly outlines the importance of knowledge sharing, and how to connect social media with the knowledge cycle. Wahlroos provides useful advice for organizations on making the most out of social media and also draws on a variety of interesting, related resources. If you're looking to introduce or expand the use of social media within your internal network - this is the guide for you.

New Qualitative Research: Choosing Among Today's Qualitative Methods (Green Book - Spring 2011)
In Spring 2011, with the support of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA), qualitative advisors Betsy Leichliter and Jay Zaltzman created a user guide for understanding modern, qualitative research methods: New Qualitative Research Methods and Tools. This guide showcases the different benefits of using online and mobile communications for research. It's a good resource for those of you looking to choose between the whole range of tools available for every step of the knowledge cycle. Plus, it's clearly presented and an interesting read too!

Cameroon Councils Against Climate Change Network (Alert Net, Thomson Reuters Foundation - April 2011)
In 2011, local councils in Cameroon introduced a new social network to increase public and government participation in climate change efforts. The idea behind the Cameroon Councils Against Climate Change Network is to improve communication between different local councils, exchange accurate climate change knowledge, and give local communities a voice. It's a great example of the ability social media has to empower and increase capacities of individuals and whole communities working on climate change in Africa.

The 4Cs social media framework (Gaurav Mishra, CEO of social media & research company 20:20 WebTech - July 2009)
Mishra focuses on the four underlying themes in social media, the '4Cs' of social media: Content, Collaboration, Community and Collective Intelligence, progressing towards increasing engagement, synergy and value creation - which can also be used as a model for digital activism. Taken together, these four themes constitute the value system of social media and go beyond the individual tools that are used.

Climate Conversations: Building climate resilience with social media (Alert Net, Thomson Reuters Foundation - June 2011)
This resource discusses areas of potential volunteer technology communities toward climate change. Social media tools are facilitating ‘borderless community action’ by networks of experts and practitioners that collaborate towards identifying and solving pressing problems to vulnerable populations in the developing world. Online social networking and exchange can further help to raise awareness on local priorities and foster a culture of information sharing and collaboration around climate change topics.

A Moving Story: putting the film in context (ICT-KM - November 2010)This compelling story from the African Agricultural GIS Week 2010 highlights the need for social media tools in addition to traditional knowledge sharing tools. The story includes excerpts from a presentation given by a researcher from the International Potato Centre (CIP), who outlined three stories about he and his colleagues' work, and a short film too. This resource is another example of social media driven empowerment, and we've chosen it because it conveys that very message well.