At the National Alliance Workshop in Bali, many WRA members mentioned that you would like to see the WRA blog used more often to share success stories from National Alliances as well as the "how to" detailing not only results but the process behind successful efforts.
Today, I would like to highlight the efforts of a group of youth advocates for MNCH in Nigeria who have been using Skype to host e-consultations on various topics. During the e-consultations, organizers use Skype as a discussion forum to present information and to gather feedback from other participants. Last week, a group of youth advocates for MNCH in Nigeria hosted an e-consultation focused on WRA's Action of the Month: Promoting, Supporting and Protecting Breastfeeding. The objective of the e-consultation was to share information on breastfeeding, the benefits and best practices and to determine an action that the group can take this month in support of breastfeeding.
The following steps outline the process to organize an e-consultation using Skype. If you have any further questions please contact Bridget Nwagbara (email@example.com) who has been organizing the e-consultations with colleagues in Nigeria.
7 Steps to hosting a successful e-consultation on Skype:
- Download Skype. It's Free!!
Skype is a great organizing tool. It's free to chat with other users and free to make Skype to Skype calls. To make calls you will need to have a microphone and speaker, but these tools are not necessary if you wish to use to chat function. Download Skype for Windows or MAC by following the hyperlinks and clicking on download Skype under the banner that says "Skype Free". If you already have Skype on your computer, skip to step two.
- Create a Skype Account
Create a Skype Account that you can use for organizing e-consultations. The Nigerian youth group uses "Youth advocates for MNCH, Nigeria". You may also use your personal name to create the account and simply introduce yourself as the host of the meeting at the beginning of the e-consultation. Follow this link to create a Skype account.
- Determine Objectives, Time and Date of your E-Consultation
Pick a time and date that will be convenient for most participants, this means considering when they will have access to a computer with Skype. Pick a time-frame that is reasonable. Youth Advocates for MNCH e-consultations usually last 1-1.5 hrs. Note that each month, WRA publishes an Action of the Month on our homepage. The Action of the Month is an opportunity to organize around a new theme and action each month, but you are also encouraged to use e-consultations to support other ongoing work of the alliance.
- Invite Participants to Join Your E-Consultation
Send out an email to your contacts and use other social networking sites to invite participants to join. Youth Advocates for MNCH uses a Facebook group to invite participants. In your invitation, it is important to request that all attendees email you their username for Skype. You will need this information to organize the e-consultation.
- Add Contacts to a Skype Group
Open Skype and on the top task bar, click on Contacts, then Add a Contact. Type in the Skype usernames that you collected from Step 4.
- Create a Skype Group
Once you have added all of your new contacts, you can organize your contacts by creating a group. On the taskbar at the top of your Skype screen, click on Contacts, then click Create New Group. You can now drag contacts from your contact list to the blue box that says "Drag contact that you want to add here." (see red arrow in second image below)
- Host E-Consultation
Once you've added contacts to the group, you can type messages that the entire group will see where it says "Type a Message Here" (see red font above). Because of the large number or participants, Youth Advocates for MNCH has chosen to host the e-consultation as a chat forum, rather than video conferencing because they have found this is an easier and more cost effective way to include a large number of participants.
Now you are ready to host your first e-consultation. A few helpful hints are outlined below.
- Prepare notes and type parts of your presentation out before you start the meeting. This way, when it is time to provide background information on the topic of discussion, you can do so quickly and you won't have to worry about typing too much text while other participants are waiting.
- Have an agenda to help the meeting run efficiently and to help the group stay on task. Youth Advocates for MNCH usually introduce the theme for the e-consultation and ask all participants to state their name, organization and email address. They then pose a question to the group about the topic of the day. They then present key information on the theme. Next they invite participants to submit questions, which are open to be addressed by any participants. Finally, they call on participants to suggest ideas for a collective next step. Once they have reached a conclusion they close the meeting.
- Sample Agenda
- Question about topic of the day
- Presentation from Host with key information on e-consultation topic
- Questions & Answers
- Discussion of Action & Next Step
- Host summarizes agreed upon next steps
- Use the transcript from the e-consultation to share notes from the meeting. These notes are useful for any participants that were late to join or unable to join. Youth Advocates for MNCH usually shares notes from the e-consultations with all participants (and the WRA Global Secretariat) following the meeting. Often Youth Advocates for MNCH will also write about their e-consultations for the WRA blog.
- Keep order of the meeting by asking all participants to hold questions until the Q&A session. Participants can also use the emoticons (pictured below) to raise their hand during the meeting.
We hope that this information has been helpful and that it will inspire other members to try using Skype to meet your communication needs. Please feel free to contact Bridget Nwagbara (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need support or have questions. We also welcome your feedback on whether or not this sort of information and "how to" is helpful and how it can be improved. Good luck!