Friday, May 21, 2004

Conflict-sensitive monitoring and evaluation

This is a very interesting document providing practical advice to develop monitoring and evaluation systems that are "conflict-sensitive". By "conflict-sensitive", the authors are referring to a "system that captures the interaction between project and context, and to identify relevant indicators to monitor this intervention."

Conflict-sensitive M&E is really part of a broader approach to conflict sensitive project design and implementation and this document is just one module of a series that addresses conflict-sensitive development projects.

Related questions:
1. What are the obstacles/constraints to M&E in conflict situations? In some situations, either pre-conflict, conflict or post-conflict, going around asking questions or asking people to fill questionnaires is going to be problematic.

2. Are ICT projects even more problematic than other types of projects with regards to M&E in conflict situations?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Moving books where they need to be...

Camel Mobile Services in Kenya

Uganda Bookmobile

There was a little brownbag today around the Uganda Bookmobile. While there is only one Bookmobile in Uganda, it seems that there are many ideas for using bookmobiles not only in other places in Uganda but around the world. The main problem at the moment isn't the lack of ideas for scaling up and replicate in many different settings, but rather to find business models that would make the individual bookmobiles or networks of bookmobiles sustainable.

- What's the demand for the kinds of books that are being made available at the moment? When you're starved, you'll eat about anything but what's offered to you isn't always what you would have picked, given some choices, and it's not always what's best for you.

- Who will pay for the books? Can a ministry of education pay for a dozen bookmobiles to go around the country and print essential book collections for school libraries? Do the children (and their families) end up having to pay for the books?

- How can the price per printed page (about 1 cent) be further reduced to truly make the cost of a book affordable in rural areas of developing countries?

- How can the content available for printing be systematically collected and organized in such a way that databases of printable documents are easily searchable? Is there software available to quickly cut-and-paste a series of documents, print and bind them into a resource book?

- Can a bookmobile serve a small network of telecenters? I'm really interested in exploring this option because the bookmobile can be a very effective marketing tool for the telecenters. Also, for the cost of one bookmobile, 4-5 telecenters can have access to a bookbinding facility. There are many development-related information resources that are online but would be costly to print multiple times for users of a telecenter. If a telecenter is able to identify key resources of value to the community, the bookmobile can help print out high-quality booklets/books to fill the shelves of the telecenter's library. Sometimes libraries become telecenters and sometimes telecenters can have a couple of bookshelves and a system for lending books or allowing patrons to read books on site.

- What about CD-ROMs from the Humanity Library collection? Would it be possible for all this information to be part of the bookmobile's database? If the CDs are located in a telecenter, can a traveling bookmobile print on-demand based on what the telecenter patrons or staff have selected as essential resources.

There is certainly a great need to think about the sustainability of different bookmobile models, partnerships with content providers, strategies to get local communities to produce and publish their own local content for local distribution, partnerships with existing local organizations, including local governments, agricultural extension offices, health centers.... Good luck to the "anywherebooks" team! I suspect they will be busy for several years to come.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Press release on Global Support for Information Society Targets

Information Society Targets- What are the priorities?

Based on an online survey with 1250 respondents... here are the priorities:

1. Connecting universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs
--- 85.43% viewed this target as a very important.

2. Connecting scientific and research centres with ICTs
--- 84.76% viewed this target as a very important.

The list goes on but I thought it was interesting that the two highest priorities were the two listed above... The main problem is that these two statements focus on "connecting", which is really only part of the issue if it is seen essentially as a technical/infrastructure problem. Connecting educational institutions will do absolutely nothing by itself. There is so much that must be done to prepare administrators and educators to use the technologies effectively.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Informational Influence in Organizations: An Integrated Approach to Knowledge Adoption." By Stephanie Watts Sussman & Wendy Schneier Siegal. In Information Systems Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2003, pp. 47-65.

I came across this paper looking for information on decision making processes in the adoption of Information Technology, which led me to the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and ultimately this paper.

Abstract:"This research investigates how knowledge workers are influenced to adopt the advice that they receive in mediated contexts. The research integrates the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) with dual-process models of information influence to build a theoretical model of information adoption. This model highlights the assessment of information usefulness as a mediator of the information adoption process."

I must admit that I wasn't particularly interested in the findings but much more interested in the model itself and its conceptual underpinnings.

Reading notes:
--- Technology Acceptance Model (TAM): people form intentions to adopt a behavior or technology based on their beliefs about the consequences of adoption and their evaluation of these consequences. --- [that sounds reasonable!]
--- Perceived usefulness is a fundamental predictor of user adoption [sounds pretty obvious!]
--- Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM): Elaboration involves attending to the content of the message, scrutinizing and assessing its content and reflecting on issues relevant to the message.
--- Under conditions of high elaboration likelihood, argument quality is a critical determinant of informational influence.
--- Under conditions of low elaboration likelihood, source credibility is a more critical determinant of informational influence.
--- Source credibility is used in this study as the key peripheral cue that individuals use to assess a message (without any reference to its content). There are other possible peripheral cues that individuals use to assess messages (ex: subject heading, # of people the message is copied to, the status of people the message is copied to, etc...)
--- Prior expertise influences the extent to which individuals are likely to elaborate because of increased ability to process information.
--- Motivational levels also alter recipients' elaboration likelihood.

Why does all this matter?
1. By understanding how people adopt mediated advice (advice sent via email), we can design processes that support effective information adoption. I'm thinking this has important implications for online coaching and support to project staff in the field.

2. The external validity of potentially shared knowledge -- how useful it is for the problem at hand -- is actually more important than the internal validity of that knowledge. In short, just-in-time (valid) knowledge is what people need, so the timing of the advice is important.
Knowledge for Development - FURL Archives

I decided to experiment a little more with web tools and started a FURL (not sure it's a noun!). Am I "furling"? That doesn't sound very nice...:)

The FURL will be a tool to organize web links in specific categories and make them accessible on the Knowledge for Development web site. The BLOG will remain a tool for more in-depth postings, reflections, etc...

Monday, May 17, 2004

Dissemination pathways and indicators of impact on development: a review of the literature

This paper is part of a larger program (funded by DFID) titled "Spreading the word: practical guidelines for research dissemination strategies."

"Practice what you preach" looked at the "Spreading the word" project itself to see how it had been disseminated.
The power of questions: putting the interactivity into online self-study

How questions can be used in training... I've always thought of questions as being a very important tool for learning and especially useful to facilitate others' learning experience. Not only you can pose questions that learners need to answer but you can encourate learners to ask themselves questions. They will usually come up with questions that are most relevant to them in connecting existing knowledge to new knowledge.
'Sous l'arbre à palabre' or 'Under the palaver tree': The story of an ongoing partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

Question: Is the palaver tree the community level equivalent of the water cooler at the organizational level, with regards to knowledge management?

More on the palaver tree... "In the shade of the palaver tree"
Torres, Rosalie T. and Preskill, Hallie S. "Communicating and Reporting: Practices and Concerns of Internal and External Evaluators." Evaluation Practice, Spring/Summer 1997, Vol. 18, Issue 2.

This article reports on the findings of a survey of evaluators and focuses on communicating and reporting practices.

Reading notes:
---- don't bother writing long, elaborate reports, even if a few people will read them, their actual impact is likelly to be limited.
---- delivery findings/lessons through a variety of communication channels, add visuals, use understandable language.

---- continuous engagement of stakeholders works best to ensure "utilization" of evaluation findings.

---- challenge of balancing negative and positive findings.

---- internal and external evaluators tend to face the same challenges. Internal evaluators often have a better understanding of the politics involved and are sometimes in a better position to adjust their message and communication strategies for maximum impact.
The Economic Impact of ICT: Measurement, Evidence and Implications

I am collecting resources on evaluation of ICT projects and programs. This large study focuses on OECD countries and is essentially quantitative but my interest is mostly in the analytical framework upon which the study is based, the types of arguments that are being made relating ICT to economic impacts.
Ethnographic Action Research: A user's handbook developed to innovate and research ICT applications for poverty eradication

This is a very interesting approach and one that seems to be gaining momemtun and credibility among some development agencies. There is, in some places, a move away from traditional evaluation approaches and towards a learning approach to project and program evaluation that makes the most of qualitative methods.

Reading notes:
------ By observing our actions we can generate knowledge and learn from our experiences --- informed reflection.... That's quite obvious to me at the individual level, but more difficult to realize at the organizational level.

------ Need to integrate research into the project's continuous cycle of planning and acting ---- yes, but the word "research" will scare off a lot of people, why not call it "systematic learning" or action learning.

------ Develop a research culture through which knowledge and reflection are constantly fed back in ways that help projects develop ----

------ Idea: connect with academia (ph.d students) who would have the time and interest in doing field research.... even better, connect with academia in the country where the projects are being implemented.

------ Question: How costly is all this? Ethnographic action research is very time consuming. It doesn't fit well with short project cycle frameworks that are being used by most development agencies.

------ Question: How do you integrate action research/action learning into an organization's work without making it a large project? Is it possible to start small and grow based on positive experience and evidence of benefits? How do you successfully bring in an action learning approach into an organization that is heavily influenced by pressures to document "successes"? How do you help an organization transition from evaluation to learning? How to you go beyond paying lip service to "lessons learned". There is a tendency to document "lessons learned" but very little evidence that lessons have been truly learned.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A Story About Teaching Digital Storytelling at Scottsdale Community College

I'm interested in using storytelling both in instructional settings and in knowledge networking in organizational and cross-organizational context. This is an interview but the page has some interesting links to related websites about digital storytelling.