This social media guide aims at promoting African knowledge (in particular about climate change adaptation).
This is the background to the guide, explaining the purpose, structure and caveats of this guide.

As outlined on the home page, this guide aims at promoting African knowledge about climate change adaptation using social media. What does it mean in practice? Who is concerned with this? How is this guide structured in practice to address this broad agenda? Here are a few pointers.

Who is this guide for?

This guide was compiled on behalf of the AfricaAdapt initiative by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). AfricaAdapt is an independent bilingual network (French/English) which facilitates the flow of climate change adaptation knowledge for sustainable livelihoods between researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations and communities who are vulnerable to climate variability and change across the African continent.
This guide is one of the various resource guides which AfricaAdapt is developing in order to provide a quick overview and access to information on key issues related to climate science, adaptation and knowledge sharing.

This particular guide is targeted at researchers, civil society practitioners (from non-governmental and community-based organisations) and information intermediaries working on climate change in Africa.
However, this guide provides a lot of information of general interest about social media in particular. As such we hope that it will be useful for many other audiences and intend to promote this guide so as to be of use to many other audiences.

Purpose of this guide?

This guide is meant to help the main target audiences outlined above to find inspiration and practical ways to share, access and exchange climate change information and knowledge (1) from and about Africa, using social media. We hope that this guide will inform, interest, stimulate a desire for and ultimately lead to act towards this goal.

This overall purpose can be further detailed in various objectives:
  • Explain what social media are in more details, to give as comprehensive a view as possible, bearing in mind that the field of social media is evolving fast and may become out-of-date rather rapidly;
  • Explain the potential benefits of using social media to share knowledge on climate change in Africa;
  • Highlight the potential limitations of social media too (in order to avoid the 'silver bullet' syndrome where social media might be wrongly seen as a panacea for every issue) and pointing to other communication and knowledge sharing approaches that complement social media and bridge the gaps inherent to the latter;
  • Illustrate the relationship between social learning, social communication and knowledge sharing and how social media fit in this picture;
  • List some of the most effective social media tools for identifying, developing, sharing, applying and evaluating research knowledge;
  • Explain in practical terms how to use those social media tools in practice, either strategically or operationally and how to get started with them;
  • Encourage readers to become comfortable with using and experimenting with social media tools;
  • Provide a useful list of resources and resource persons and institutions that can provide additional information about all the above.

Structure of the guide

This guide is set up as a wiki for various reasons: it has allowed a collaborative approach to develop this guide, it remains easier to update on a regular basis (as a living/working document) and it reflects the non-linear structure of this guide: It is not necessary to read the guide from the background information to the appendixes in a straightforward way. Instead, readers may pick and choose any section that fits their needs. They may also arrive to any page of this wiki guide from a search engine, reflecting the multi-faceted navigation that is characteristic of the World Wide Web.

This guide is structured as follows:
  • The executive summary offers a shortcut to reading the guide and finding out about its content;
  • The background section offers basic explanations about the central aspects of this guide: social media, promoting African knowledge and climate change adaptation; it also provides some information about the structure (here) and purpose of the guide as well as some possible limitations of the guide due to the fast-changing nature of its contents or the way it has been compiled;
  • The 'unpacking social media for African knowledge about climate change adaptation' section introduces a bit of theory and conceptual framework for the main aspects of the guide, as background information that will help readers make better sense of the guide contents: what it means in practice to promote African knowledge, what are social media and how they support African social learning, some typical doubts and benefits associated with social media, a tour of some of the most prominent or interesting social media initiatives supporting climate change adaptation from Africa and elsewhere, some caution about the limitations of social media and how to overcome some of them, as well as looking at the broader picture of social learning and the other approaches and initiatives that can conveniently complement social media;
  • The 'desert island' resource features one extremely interesting and relevant resource which covers as much ground from this guide as possible - the one resource we would recommend reading in the absence of time to delve any deeper;
  • The section on 'key resources' represents the crux of this guide and features about five key resources and/or initiatives that relate to the four main issues we have identified in this field of 'African knowledge for climate change adaptation mediated by social media': Promoting African social learning, a selection of the best social media resources for empowerment; a more practical selection of social media following the knowledge cycle (2) where applicable.
  • Conclusions and ways forward review the contents of the guide and summarize the main issues and pointers highlighted in the guide; they further indicate simple ways to apply the contents of the guide in practice with simple steps, both for the intended target audiences and for other reader groups; finally, some gaps in the literature or practice are highlighted, to invite anyone to further explore the fast-changing social media world and keep reinventing them, following the unspoken rules of social media ("just do it");
  • Finally, the appendixes bring additional information: the full list of references made throughout this guide; a list of relevant institutions and people working in the field of social media (in Africa and preferably for climate change adaptation); a reference guide that listing all key tools key resources to use them and finally a glossary that hopes to shed light on the key terms used around social media and helps structure the language we use to work with social media.

We hope that this structure guarantees the best introduction possible to social media for African climate change adaptation, whilst remaining open to other tracks that complement it and providing safeguards against over-confidence or over-reliance on social media.

(1) The difference between information and knowledge can be illustrated as the following, based on a definition by one of this guide's authors:
  • Information: organised/formatted/packaged bits of text/signals that are concretely available for our senses: in print or images (sight and touch) and in sounds and music (sound).
  • Knowledge: is information in use. It represents the way that we combine data and/or information with a variety of inner characteristics (experience, skills, attitude, emotions, interest, intention and need to use data and information) to make sense of this data/information and apply it to a given situation where we need to apply it.
Various definitions have been provided about information and particularly knowledge among which this one also by one of this guide's authors.

(2) The 'knowledge cycle' is derived from Mathieu Weggeman's seminal book 'Kennismanagement: de praktjik' (knowledge management: the practice). It refers to six knowledge processes that influence knowledge management: identifying knowledge (needs), making knowledge available, acquiring or developing knowledge, sharing knowledge, applying knowledge, evaluating knowledge.