Engaging around the ILRI LinkedIn group

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ILRI@40 LinkedIn engagement

Connecting people around ILRI@40 events

The ILRI@40 events (the first official event is Tropentag, in Czech Republic, 17-19 Sep 2014) will be engaging partners, current and former staff members. The interactions between ILRI staff and ILRI alumni is crucial as it relies on strong social bonds and connects like-minded people with opportunities that go beyond their current or former employer, and thereby contribute to healthy conversations and activities for livestock development as a whole.

The ILRI LinkedIn group: the place to connect and engage for current and former staff

One of the primary spaces to engage current ILRI staff with former colleagues is the [https:www.linkedin.com/groups/International-Livestock-Research-7490762| ILRI LinkedIn group] (not to be confused with the [https:www.linkedin.com/company/international-livestock-research-institute-ilri| ILRI LinkedIn page]). The group currently (as of 31 August 2014) consists of 112 members and has so far no structured coordination despite excellent efforts to keep it alive with regular posts. It is thus unclear, as yet, why people should join the group or what they are expected to do on it when they have joined.

This plan proposes ideas to use this group and suggests activities to make it work.

The vision:

This LinkedIn group should become the place of choice for current and former staff to connect and engage around ILRI@40 events (and beyond) in a safe space. For the ILRI@40 events, this group would be an informal space to:

  • find out about upcoming events and their results,
  • discuss issues emerging around the anniversary events,
  • understand the diffuse impact that ILRI is having worldwide through its extended alumni network
  • and ultimately to keep building the network (i.e. to expand it, but also deepen the connections between its members), among others to involve members in the events.
  • beyond the events the group could be the catalyst for interactions between alumni and ILRI staff.

How does it work?

What would happen on the group?

This group would essentially cover three objectives: 1) connect people and conversations, 2) engage and learn, 3) grow and build. Each of these objectives would be served by specific activities:

1) Connect people and conversations

The group will be facilitated so it remains alive, at least while the events are happening. A moderator will welcome members and explain what they can do with this group, now, at the ILRI@40 events and in the future. As and when, the moderator will encourage group members to introduce themselves and, especially for alumni, to ask them what ILRI means for them, where it has led them to and what they are interested in, in relation with ILRI and livestock development issues. New members will be also kindly invited to share resources, ideas, questions and to start conversations around topics that matter to them. The moderator will also do a light analysis of the members and highlight interesting patterns (where alumni are, in which institutions etc.)… Members will be invited to suggest additional people to involve in this group (“Who, out there, is critically missing”) perhaps through an announced challenge of getting e.g. 500 or 1000 members. As and when, (interesting/interested) alumni may be invited to attend events or to be featured in online interactions (if at all possible during those events). If possible, a map displaying the geographical position of all alumni will be developed and maintained to illustrate the reach of this community, beyond the ILRI@40 events.

2) Engage and learn

Selected ILRI posts will be harnessed from ILRI blogs, with key questions posed to the group for conversation, whenever possible related to the ILRI@40 events. The whole list of ILRI@40 events will be posted as dynamic information on the group so anyone knows where to engage with ILRI next, what events will take place where. Each of the ILRI@40 events will be promoted duly on the group, with a bit more information about the specific focus and key questions that matter for that event. The moderator and the people in charge of covering the event should prepare some short information to inform the group members how they can engage around that particular event. Specific events sessions will be advertised with questions related to the contents of the session, to gather insights from the group members. During the events, feedback from the group will be channeled to the event organizers and important insights from the event will be shared on this group (perhaps adjusted from Yammer or the other way around) as well as important outputs from the event. The outputs from the event (e.g. posters, presentations etc.) will be shared as much as possible on the group, and contribute to the conversations taking place. As and when, specific (bi-weekly?) ‘thematic conversations’ will be entertained on the group around emerging issues from the ILRI@40 event, and interlinked with blog postings and wiki documentation notes. One of these conversations could focus on what the ILRI alumni community represents and how it can help shape the livestock research / development agenda. Another one could be about ‘What we like about ILRI / what we miss about ILRI’, as it is one of the easiest points of connection between members. Another one still is ‘What does the livestock sector looking like by 2030 and how can research amplify the livestock goods and mitigate the livestock bads?’ After the series of anniversary events, a short but structured consultation will inquire members about their wishes re: outputs from the anniversary events and re: the continuation of interactions on this group, to build upon the connections made and conversations held. In addition, a summary blog post will take stock of the points conveyed over group conversations throughout the anniversary period; it will be posted on an ILRI blog. All the while, a ‘resources’ section will compile the resources mentioned during the group conversations, for future reference.

3) Grow and build

This group goes beyond the anniversary events. It can be used to grow and build a strong community of interest in ILRI and livestock management issues. In a possible thematic conversation, the group will focus on immediate/short term opportunities to initiate collaboration towards a smart livestock research/development agenda. The profile of new livestock specialists (as may be required by our changing field) could be discussed in another conversation and lead to identify job opportunities now and in the future, at ILRI and beyond, to connect livestock specialists with each other and further build a specialist network. This third objective is anyhow related to the longer term plans for this group (see final section of this concept note) and as such less important strictly for the ILRI@40 events.

The mechanics: how would it work behind the scene?

When people join, they would receive an automated message explaining what this group does, what they can do (e.g. introduce themselves, suggest other members, join ongoing conversations, start new conversations, examine the list of ILRI@40 events, share resources and questions/issues, help moderate this group etc.). Every week or two, new conversations would take place and would be animated by a rotating person identified by the supervisor (it could be herself in charge too). These conversations should be supported by the comms focal point for the program(s) concerned too. During specific anniversary events, the LinkedIn group moderator, and persons in charge of the thematic conversations taking place on the group would liaise with the event comms team/representative, to link up face-to-face and online conversations and to channel feedback to and from each space. The supervisor would maintain the calendar and resource section accordingly.

The people in charge of keeping this group alive would be:

  • Tigist Endashaw for overall supervision (and e.g. clearance of new members and welcome message) with support from Liya Dejene (for clearance of new members, welcoming and organizing conversations)
  • Susan MacMillan for the selection of regular postings and event coverage (updates from the events)
  • Ewen Le Borgne and the E&C team for event coverage – unless otherwise specified and always in cooperation with ‘embedded’ comms staff
  • Ewen Le Borgne and Bernhard Hack for overall engagement and collaboration support
  • Liya Dejene for overall LinkedIn technical support and supervision support

New members who seem interesting would be notified (by the overall supervisor) to Nadine Sanginga for possible follow-up in relation with the ILRI@40 events.

What needs to happen?

  • Ø Finalize this concept note and implement the work;
  • Ø Polish the ‘welcome the new members’ message;
  • Ø Develop/polish a static message explaining what this group does and re-stating how members can be involved;
  • Ø Display the list of events and update it continually;
  • Ø Identify talking points for each of these events and prepare thematic conversations in relation [ONGOING];
  • Ø Identify thematic conversations to start interactions on the group [LATER];
  • Ø Develop a resource section on the group or link with a resource page elsewhere if not possible;
  • Ø Explore options to develop (and if possible implement) a map showing the geographic location of all alumni.

Appendix: Longer term plans with the ILRI alumni community

The ILRI LinkedIn group will be used specifically for the ILRI@40 events but will also contribute to develop a large, healthy and active ILRI alumni community that leverages the network of former colleagues and engages ILRI staff and partners into vibrant conversations about livestock. This alumni community hopes to do some or all of the following in the future: Connect:

  • Provide alumni with a ‘closed’ (protected) ILRI Alumni LinkedIn Group of emails etc. that they can use for their own purposes
  • Maintain, rebuild and improve their social networks, bonds, capital with a rich and diverse community that has something in common with them
  • Stay in touch with former colleagues and friends
  • Stay in closer touch with Kenya, Ethiopia or another developing country they lived in when they worked for ILRI

Engage and learn:

  • Stay in touch with developments in livestock research and with global development issues
  • Discuss interesting topics that they care about or that ILRI prompts
  • Find jobs, consulting opportunities, calls for proposals related to livestock development

Grow and build:

  • Set the agenda of livestock-related policies and exert influence at conferences and events
  • Identify opportunities and initiate new collaborations with other (research) organizations
  • Support recruitment of high-quality staff through headhunting based on recommendations and alumni connections
  • Increase ILRI’s attractiveness as an employer by offering targeted personal development through mentoring by alumni
  • Advertise for ILRI
  • Co-finance positions, shared appointments (new ways of working)