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.

Beyond social media: The broader social learning spectrum

Quick access to key resources

There is no silver bullet to development. There is no panacea for sharing African knowledge. Despite their potential and momentum, social media are no exception. The pitfalls highlighted above offer some clues as to the limits of social media. However, there are other approaches that can favour strong knowledge sharing and social learning in Africa and by Africans. These other approaches are worth looking into; in fact they may complement a social media presence very effectively.

The huddle (group) that focused on climate change during the annual Knowledge Management for (see references for this group in the Key resources section) identified a number of knowledge management or sharing approaches and tools that could be worth considering in the climate change field, showing the richness and diversity of knowledge sharing methods that might help to share knowledge (not specifically from Africa) about climate change:
  • Diagramming
  • Drama
  • E-bulletins
  • E-conferencing Meetings
  • Face to face Meeting
  • Knowledge Banking (Data Systems)
  • Knowledge Mapping
  • Mentoring / Coaching
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Multistakeholder discussions
  • Networks
  • Organizational Learning
  • Partnership Building
  • Peer assists
  • Radio
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, D-group, Blogs, Chats, E-Mails, SMS, Wiki, Youtube
  • Social Media: Radio, TV, Blip, Flickr, Web 2.0
  • Storytelling
  • Virtual Libraries
  • Web Platforms

The African social learning case

In a recent communication on the Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev) mailing list, Charles Dhewa (formerly member of the organisation 'Knowledge Transfer Africa') was pointing to the nature of African knowledge sharing and was inviting whoever working in knowledge management and sharing in Africa to look beyond 'traditional' social media to consider other ways of 'mediating meaning'.

We have seen that promoting African knowledge in practice begs the necessity to adopt a broad look at social learning, echoing Charles Dhewa's plea. Looking at the specific case of Africa, some tools and approaches come to mind as particularly appropriate for the continent. These tools and approaches include:

Mobile phone applications (SMS services, mobile radio)
Statistics from the International Telecommunications Union from November 2011 estimate that 1.4% Africans possess a telephone land line, as opposed to 53% of the population possessing a mobile phone subscription. Some African countries such as Kenya are leading the way of mobile telephone applications such as mobile payments. There is naturally a number of very promising mobile applications to complement social media activities in Africa such as early warning systems, monitoring (of e.g. water points), mobile payments, sharing information on e.g. market prices, either purely text-based or - increasingly, as smart phones are entering African phone markets - using pictures and videos.

Radio initiatives
The radio has traditionally been a strong communication channels in rural areas worldwide. In Africa too, radio stations are seen as useful alternatives to communicate when the Internet fails to reach certain pockets of the population. Add text here .

Face-to-face approaches
The most powerful way to share knowledge, in Africa and elsewhere, is directly from one person to another, face-to-face. This approach is all the more important in Africa, a continent that has a very strong storytelling tradition transmitting stories verbally from a person to another or a group of others. The 'griots' from West Africa and 'arbres à palabres' (palaver trees) are just two witness standposts to this age-old tradition codified in e.g. Southern AfricanUbuntu, stone sculptures and rain-making ceremonies.

It is commonplace to hear that online communities need to establish trust in order to stimulate. Trust is best established through direct contact, ideally on a regular basis. Other knowledge sharing approaches that enhance African social learning thus include: meetings, workshops and other events; study tours and exchange visits; joint work (e.g. action-research); training and coaching/mentoring approaches; informal get-togethers such as drinks etc.; retreats and other reflective group activities.

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community information centres which also serve as social clubs

Certainly visual communication is of great importance to communities where the use of print information sources is not always favoured because of low literacy levels.
This would include the use of videos, pictures on the walls, and posters to convey messages concerned with poverty issues and other behaviour change goals

Oral communication is also very important as a tool in addressing poverty issues as most of the people rely solely on it for KS. This can be woven around discussion forums facilitated by adult education and community development tutors or even religious leaders, regular talks given by agricultural and livestock extension workers, public health workers, and school teachers. Radio listening clubs, particularly for development programmes such as health, adult education, agriculture, and small business management, is another useful tool. This could be enhanced by discussion forums where the issues raised in the radio programme are discussed further and its application to the community made more explicit.

Print materials in the form of books and pamphlets, textbooks, and recreational reading such as novels and plays can also be a valuable tool in poverty eradication.

The contribution to education in general at primary, secondary and adult literacy ICTs are increasingly being used for KS in many rural and urban communities in Africa. The key problem is that ICTs rely on ‘infomediaries’ as most of the urban and rural poor lack ICT use skills. Indeed, the lack of local content reduces the value of ICTs as tools for KS. However, in the long-term, ICTs have great potential because of their power to share information over a vast geographical space and time span, thus achieving economies of scale in the creation and use of content. Given that there are core common areas of information needs for addressing rural and urban poverty, one could envisage content development from a central location to address the common core areas of need, focusing on accessing and adapting global information and other forms of external information, shared over a nationwide network on poverty alleviation. The information needs which are location specific and dependent on climate, agricultural practices, and cultural heritage (e.g. indigenous knowledge) would be created with local communities.

multiple communication methods (including word of mouth, visual materials, drama, games and cultural interaction, and networks)

Part of the challenge of empowerment is to enable the community to use information and knowledge to think for themselves and about their situation and how to work together to get to solutions. The community should learn to create their own meaning from both incoming information and their own traditional information and knowledge in the light of social and cultural changes which have and are taking place.

Also for climate change adaptation, these alternative ways of sharing knowledge and social learning should not be overlooked as they greatly enhance social media approaches to share knowledge, about climate change adaptation or any other topic.

Knowledge sharing tools and methods toolkit (2008 and ongoing)

This toolkit developed by the ICT-KM Program of the CGIAR with FAO, UNICEF, UNDP and KM4Dev is a living knowledge repository about knowledge sharing, “created it to be a resource both for KS workshops and as an ongoing place to learn about, improve upon and generally share our knowledge sharing practices.” It is not the only guide but the most actively updated one. It contains a wealth of methods and tools to share knowledge, face-to-face or otherwise.

ICT Update and the mobile web: Rural telephony (September 2008), Mobile services (October 2009) and Mobile apps (December 2010)

CTA’s excellent ICT update resource dedicated these three issues to mobile telephony (in Africa and elsewhere). The combination provides a rich selection of perspectives, case studies and practical tips. These issues cover phone based voice-over-Internet services, SMS services for pricing information, call centres, mobile banking etc. A great selection of inspiring uses of mobile phones, pointing at some limitations and capacity requirements too…

Radio in Africa - CommInIt Soul Beat issue 191 (February 2012)

This (very rich) special issue of CommInIt’s Soul Beat newsletter features a great review of radio initiatives, across Africa, aiming to promote awareness and discussion about peace and democracy, environment and livelihood issues, and health. Also looks at some challenges and solutions to ensuring the sustainability of community radio stations in Africa and relates to Soul Beat’s theme site on radio. Soul Beat Africa is generally a great resource for African issues.

Storytelling: taking stock (March 2011)

In this blog post, a selection of very useful storytelling resources is made and annotated for easier use, including among others a leader’s guide to storytelling, a practical guide by the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency, a listening and storytelling guideline from PeaceCorps and a list of resource persons for additional information. The resources help anyone get started with storytelling. Quite useful in combination with some background on African storytelling traditions.