Every December, there is a magical week when Internewsers from all around the world descend upon Washington for the Internews Annual Conference (IAC), more affectionately known as the “December Meetings.” It is a time of incredible energy, when program staff from all around the world get to mingle and learn from each other during big group discussions, smaller strategic meetings, and perhaps most importantly, in the hallways of the office, along the lunch buffet line, during coffee breaks, or with a drink in hand at the Holiday Party. With two rounds of December meetings under my belt, I can say it is the most enriching and inspiring time of the year, and I am left at the end feeling incredibly proud to be an Internewser.
Beyond the fun and excitement, the December Meetings also represent the one chance during the entire year to get critical face time with field staff, and so we have always seen it as an important occasion to share our most important and impactful ideas with the rest of the organization. In years past, the Center has organized sessions on the value of futures thinking and mapping signals of change (see some outputs from that here), as well as introduced the concept of human centered design and our pilot project applying design research in the tribal areas of Pakistan (see more on that here).
This year, we decided that the theme of our session would be information ecosystems. In 2014, our Rockefeller Foundation-supported research allowed us to develop a conceptual framework and advance our understanding of the relationship between information ecosystems and resilience (a helpful summary of the project is here). Now, it was time to take this to the field.
In our one hour session (see our introductory slides below), we handed out our “Mapping Information Ecosystems to Support Resilience” tool, and asked people how to make it better. We learned a great deal. We heard that a tool needed to be cheap, usable, and fast, with the ability to adjust for time and scope. We heard a desire for surveys, additional questions, the integration of research methodologies, and links with monitoring and evaluation. We also heard additional perspectives on the value of an information ecosystems approach: that it could allow practitioners and staff to respond better to shifting operational contexts, be more reflective about their work, and develop theories of change.
We listened, and we will continue to listen and learn. As we look ahead to 2015, it is our priority to work closely with Internewsers on deepening our knowledge of information ecosystems and applying it to programs. Stay tuned for more on this journey.