Collaborate, Create, Communicate

It’s all about the people: please meet the CGIAR Ongoing Research Map focal points

This week during the AgKnowledge Africa Share Fair in Addis, a quite secretive group of people was wandering around the ILRI Campus. While at the Fair everything was open to all and people could walk around and participate in learning pathways, focus groups and lively sessions, what was a small group of 10 doing locked up in the Computer Lab?

In true Share Fair spirit, we were doing just a bit more knowledge sharing, only in its software development flavour: user-centred design, a design methodology that aims to incorporate analysis of the needs, constraints and priorities of end users at different stages of the software development process (read a concise overview on Wikipedia). The focus of our attention was the CGIAR Ongoing Research Map, now in beta and in the process of being extensively redesigned.

The CGIAR Ongoing Research Map has emerged from a prototype based on a mashup of data management technologies, then released as a Beta version last January. Since then, new requirements have been collected through direct feedback from Map users and through Evelyn Katingi, the Map coordinator at the CGIAR Collective Action to whom we owe much for the relentless efforts she spends in weaving relationships, promoting the Map, collecting feedback.

However, so far we in the development team in ICT-KM hadn’t had a concrete opportunity to involve a core group of users in the development process. For this and other reasons here was the idea to hold a workshop with the Center focal points who contribute project information to the Map.

Why a workshop at this time? We have been hard at work on an extensive system redesign so that we can finally peel off the Beta label. The underlying platform has been reassessed from the ground up, the projects migrated to a new content management system, the backend designed from scratch and the frontend restyled. It is not online yet, the launch is planned for November.

The focal points were invited to learn how to use the new CMS, discuss and agree upon the to-do list before launch, and give us the opportunity to hear first-hand what their preferences are and set together the work priorities for the future.

There will be ample opportunity to report on progress of Ongoing Research in the next few weeks. This post is about the people who participated in the workshop. For me, the workshop was first of all a team building experience. It was  great to find a group of keen, committed, competent colleagues involved in this project. We had ILRI, ICRAF, WorldFish, CIFOR, CIAT and CIMMYT represented. At some point, Katarlah Taylor, the Mendeley resident expert at Day 0, popped in to get some news  to take back to our colleagues in IFPRI. A few invitees couldn’t make it, but promised, we’ll be in touch with you soon to get you involved as well in the release of the new system.

This post is for you all: thank you for being so committed and enthusiastic to a project that represents perhaps one of the most successful examples of collaboration across the CGIAR. With people like you behind the scenes, it can only fly higher. Keep it up, and I look forward to meeting with you again.

And here we are: the CGIAR Ongoing Research workshop participants relaxing at the end of Day 2.

The CGIAR Ongoing Research Workshop participants, Addis Ababa, October 2010From left to right: standing Evelyn Katingi (CGIAR Collective Action), Katarlah Taylor (IFPRI), Tiberious Brian Etyang (CIAT), Wubelem Dejene (ILRI), Lucy Gacheru (ILRI), Tezira Lore (ILRI), Anne Munene (ICRAF), Chanchala Kariyawasam (IWMI), Sarah Kibera (CIMMYT)

Seated: Antonella Pastore (CGIAR ICT-KM), Li Ping Ng (WorldFish, also representing CIFOR at the workshop)