Capitalising on the potential of ICTs, both at the individual and broader NGO community levels, is the historical and ongoing challenge that SANGONeT has set itself to bring NGOs and other development agencies in Southern Africa into the digital environment.

The annual SANGONeT Conference is one of SANGONeT’s strategic interventions in response to this challenge.

The four main objectives of the 2009 conference in Johannesburg and Cape Town are:

# Awareness-raising

The rationale and choices made by NGOs in relation to their ICT applications are influenced by their awareness and perceptions of available technologies and the need for such tools.

The 2009 SANGONeT Conference will focus on the relevance of social media tools to the South African NGO sector, highlighting and promoting practical benefits, opportunities and lessons learned to date. It will provide NGOs that are ICT-enabled, as well as those organisations that are considering introducing ICT solutions to their work, with an important opportunity to discuss critical issues of common concern and learn from one another’s experiences.

A number of specific interventions during the event will ensure that participants are exposed to important ICT and social media issues directly relevant to the NGO sector:

  • SANGONeT and World Wide Worx will present the findings of the 2009 “State of ICTs in the South African NGO Sector” research project. The purpose of the study is to establish how effectively South African NGOs are using ICTs, and whether it is making a difference in their ability to serve their constituencies. To view the 2007 findings, click here.
  • SANGONeT will release the findings of the ”Social Media and NGOs Survey”, conducted during August and September 2009, which will complement the results of the above-mentioned research project.
  • SANGONeT will announce the winners of the 2009 “South African NGO Web Awards”. Now in its fourth year, the competition aims to raise awareness about the benefits of having a web presence among South African NGOs, stimulate interest in the application of web solutions and applications, and showcase best practices and innovation in website use.
  • An ICT and social media exhibition, “The Social ShowPlace”, will run concurrently with the conference. The exhibition provides NGOs, ICT service providers and IT consultants with an opportunity to showcase their products, services and the latest technological developments to a large audience. A dedicated session during the conference programme on Day One will also give participants the opportunity to engage with exhibitors.

All these interventions, and the conference as a whole, will hopefully result in greater awareness and adoption of ICT and social media, thereby maximising the activities of NGOs and contributing to strengthening the sector as a whole.

# Skills Transfer

The conference will bring together a large number of South African NGOs to discuss and debate a wide range of social media issues in plenary and break-away sessions. They will also participate in technology demonstrations and practical training sessions which will cover a range of topics to enhance their.

The comprehensive programme will cater for a wide range of needs and interests, from basic introductory training sessions to the discussion of cutting edge developments.

Three interactive workshops on the morning of Day One, covering topics such as “The Social Web”, “The Mobile Society” and the interface between the “Offline / Online” environments, and facilitated by experienced speakers and presenters, will provide participants with important insights into the relevance of and/or the challenges presented by social media tools for NGOs. These workshops will be repeated in the afternoon to enable participants to attend at least two of the three workshops.

The first session on Day Two, titled “Practical Socialising: Using Social Media Tools”, will consist of short, 15-minute presentations covering various social media tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MixIt, NGO Pulse, etc. The talks will rotate to help ensure a manageable audience size and to ensure participants are exposed to a number of tools, with presenters repeating their sessions several times.

The objective is to expose participants to a wide range of social media tools, and to build their capacity through sharing information and skills to strengthen their understanding of the role and relevance of social media in support of their work.

# Strategic Planning

In addition to creating awareness amongst participants about social media, exposing them to specific tools and applications and enhancing their skills in using and applying these tools, the conference also aims to enable participants to reflect on the value and relevance of these tools to the day-to-day work of NGOs, and to shape future applications and innovation in this regard.

The final two sessions of the conference are structured to achieve these outcomes.

The “Social Media: The Big Picture” session, to be facilitated by a leading international NGO and social media expert, will assist participants to understand the value of social media tools in relation to the core operational and strategic requirements of NGOs - fundraising, networking, reputation-building, outreach, recruitment, etc.

The final session of the conference, “Social Impact Labs”, will draw on the diversity and collective expertise and experience of participants to conceptualise, share and develop social media ideas relevant to the work of NGOs, the challenges they face and the communities they serve.

These outcomes will be shared with funders, social entrepreneurs, ICT service providers and other NGOs in the post-conference period to generate wider awareness, interest and support for the social media and ICT requirements of the NGO sector.

# Networking

The conference programme, exhibition and two social functions at both the Johannesburg and Cape Town events will provide participants with many opportunities for networking and information-sharing.

The SANGONeT conference is a unique event on the civil society calendar and every effort will be made to ensure that it is a memorable experience for all participants.

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