Jul 28, 2008
What I actually expected on forehand I do not recall, but to act as one of the main presenters and main resource person at a w...
What I actually expected on forehand I do not recall, but to act as one of the main presenters and main resource person at a workshop and present in French on how to write for the web was not as hard as I expected it to be. Maybe it was the people who participated; maybe it was the heat that makes you automatically slow down and become more relaxed. We simply kicked off and the workshop immediately took its own course.
The workshop ‘Ecrire pour le site web’ was organised to meet the demand of the members of the thematic network group on ICT and agriculture. The members, all project partners of IICD in Mali who had started to use ICT to improve and strengthen the activities of their own organisation, wanted to improve their writing skills to better document and share their experiences with others. Some of the participants had some experience with writing, others not: but all were eager to learn more.
Though I had proposed to hold this workshop, it was not completely without self-interest. As a member of the communications team my constant concern is how to get interesting stories about IICD’s work on the ground. Stories that give our stakeholders a better idea of how ICT can help to overcome the shortfalls of basic public services like health care, education, but also the lack of good governance and the obstacles that prevent small entrepreneurs from earning a decent income. Not an easy job if you are miles away from the place where everything happens. It is even more difficult as we do not know all the people who work on these projects in person. Hopefully, giving the project partners and members of the thematic network group some experience with writing would result in a growing number of interesting stories published on their organisation’s website or on www.mali-ntic.com, which could feed into IICD’s website.
Full of good spirit I had started my preparations, but the closer I came to the date of departure to Mali and Burkina Faso, the more nervous I got. It was years ago since I had spoken French and how much experience did I have anyway with workshops? And what about cultural differences: would they respond to what I was saying and ask if something was not clear? And if they attacked me with questions, would it be possible for me to answer them all? Or would there be no interaction at all: me being the only one talking, trying to encourage people to come forward with their ideas? My colleague Bénédicte Marcilly reassured me: yes, the participants were used to people who were not at ease in speaking French, and no, I did not need to be afraid of silent intervals. Still, I had my doubts whether I would withstand or fall.
What discouraged me a little was the fact that there was unfortunately no opportunity to discuss the programme of the workshop with the other resource person of the workshop, Filifing Diakité, in advance. His role was quite essential: not only would he explain about the sort of content on ICT and agriculture he was focussing, he also had to keep the fire burning directly after the workshop by following up on the articles participants of the workshop were supposed to finalise for the website. But Filifing Diakité was not able to arrive before 10 am on the day of the workshop itself due to other pressing matters.
But then on the day itself: all my worries and foreseen problems disappeared one by one. The people showed up, and on time. Filifing Diakité arrived during my own presentation. He showed his flexibility by changing his presentation on the spot; he presented some very interesting showcases of how to write articles. My French was of course lacking, but somehow with the help of Bénédicte Marcilly and the participants themselves, we were able to understand each other. The attaque of difficulties turned out to be nothing more than an introduction to an article, my downfall - the chute - was nothing more than a round-up of the whole article. It was a good learning experience: not only for our partners, who participated in the workshop, but also for myself. Never be afraid of something what you do not know.