We’re all familiar with this problem in evaluation: whether you’re using 1st, 2d,3d, 4th or even 5th generation evaluation methodology – there are always cases where an organisation works in different continents, countries, or even regions in a large country, and you can never physically visit all the projects – the evaluation would become more costly than the actual project sometimes….
I’m using NING (or nowadays trying ELGG, like on our own evaluation-5 platform) with different methodologies: Most Significant Change (for publishing the stories on-line and discussing them in a forum), but also to invoke comments on a case study, even for stakeholders’ meetings in Fourth Generation evaluation.
You need to be quite doggishly chasing people to contribute sometimes (and that’s an understatement), but compare it to all these ours in planes, trains, cars, waiting in lines, waiting for latecomers, etc. etc….
In the end it is almost always rewarding.
If you go to www.ning.com you can open your own little virtual corner on the web for free (although you have to accept google adds – the business model of many of these services). It shows itself. ELGG is a bit more difficult, but that’s why I’m experimenting with it still.
NING even has possibilities to form internal groups, chat, post documents, open or closed membership, you name it. Even working like in a WIKI (working together inside a document) is possible with an add-on now.
The first time I organised a group chat it was no success though: it was in a ‘Most Significant Change’ process: we had gathered stories from 50 people throughout the programme and they had all been published on the NING on the Forum page (we even did receive some comments….). The next stage in MSC is to discuss the stories in a subgroup (like one countries’ stories, etc.). The final stage is a group on the level of the organisation itself, discussing all the outcomes of the different subgroups and always based on the question ‘what are the most significant stories about this project!’
The idea was to have the country discussions through a (written) chat session: the chat was supposed to take place on a Friday afternoon and I opened my NING in time, announcing by email, that I was there online and we could start. At least that’s what I thought! Apart from my colleague evaluator in South Africa simply no one came on line!
So much for the chat option!
Anyhow we soon found out, that chats via Skype work a lot better (don’t ask me why!) and after we put a real prize at stake (in this case people could win the possibility to support a project of their choice in the 1% club…) we got people voting, and they even came on line in order to hear who won the prize….
It’s nice to use the new generation social networking tools, but you need to accept that everyone uses them on their own time… Group chats are not in fashion anymore nowadays, unless you add some extra’s…
Next time: ELGG, for free as well (open source software) and no adds….