Taking part in the recent SANGONeT NGO Engagement on 12 March 2009 in Cape Town, was both challenging and rewarding. The event introduced representatives from various NGOs to the various web 2.0 features on the new-look NGO Pulse portal.
This interactive event focused on how online spaces can help nonprofits to communicate, share ideas, resources as well as building relationships online.
Speaking during the event, NGO Pulse editor, Jan Moolman, encouraged organisations to take ownership of the portal content by contributing to groups relevant to their work. Moolman pointed out that the portal is about having conservations.
Participants were registered as users on the portal beforehand. Now with their usernames and passwords, the SANGONeT team took them through the process of adding press releases, opportunities, events, resources and general content to the portal. This process was aimed at paving the way for participants to start engaging on issues that are relevant to their, through the portal.
It is worth noting that while many organisations share a view that while Web 2.0 tools present an opportunity for the portal to interact with its larger audience, the reality is that we have to invest in educating users on the use of its interactive features.
Their knowledge of web 2.0 tools will not only encourage them to own the content, but also encourage them to introduce their counterparts to these tools. Since many of the NGO represented had websites, the NGO Pulse will enable them to link to their websites.
For me the highlight was when I met the likes of Pauline Solomons from the Community Development Resource Association, Tasneem Gamieldien from the South African National NGO Coalition in that province, Ernesto Vialva from the Southern African Media and Gender Institute, etc. I have been communicating with these individuals since joining SANGONeT. They all pledged to continue contributing to the portal.
Participants also explored Twitter, a service that allows for friends, family and co-workers to stay connect through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? Participants were encouraged to create their own Twitter accounts in order to use this service.
The other interesting feature of this event was the discussion around the Prodder/GuideStar NGO Directory Project. This project will utilise the existing Prodder NGO Directory to create a searchable database of profiles and reports on individual NGOs in South Africa. While many participants agree that publishing information such as the annual reports on the database can help to improve transparency in NGOs, it is advisable to summarise the report so that users can contact the organisation for more information. They argued that this will also give organisation a clear picture of who reads their reports.