Over the years, the Ugandan NGO has developed a range of ICT-based services and materials, including its Kubera and Ribe Ber information centres, an SMS market information service, multimedia information and training materials, quarterly newsletters, issue briefs, handbooks, community radio and visual aids. WOUGNET also uses social networks such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, websites and blogs, and a web-based platform Ushahidi, to share information generated from the field on issues of bad governance and poor service delivery from project areas in northern Uganda.
Yet in spite of making real progress in increasing knowledge exchange among Ugandan women, the organisation was convinced it could do more. Shortcomings included limited accessibility of WOUGNET information centres by farmers, poor usage of its resource and document libraries, low visibility of publications, limited farmer access to market information services, an inadequate IT infrastructure and insufficient capacity in Information and Communication Management (ICM).
So in January 2013, WOUGNET jumped at the chance to pilot CTA's learning model in the development of an ICM strategy.
"Given the above issues, WOUGNET needed to develop a ready-to-implement ICM strategy that would strengthen the information and communication management capabilities of WOUGNET and our member organisations too," said WOUGNET Coordinator Dorothy Okello.
The process of developing the strategy involved a desk review to identify best practices happening elsewhere in the world, an information audit to analyse knowledge creation, dissemination and its use within WOUGNET and identification of the gaps and how to address them.
The project took advantage of free online collaboration software, including a closed wiki for discussions among team members, who are scattered in various geographical locations and a public blog about the experience of developing an ICM strategy. The online tools used by WOUGNET enabled the team to work together and streamline project management functions, such as task assignments, managing deadlines and shared calendars.
Hurdles have included developing a skilled and committed staff, accessing financial resources and encouraging use and acceptance of the strategy by all stakeholders. But the results so far show that all the efforts have paid off.
"The ICM process has been most useful in enabling us to shed light and re-examine our various tools and their effectiveness towards our mission," said Okello. "The benefit of this process has been to develop an ICM strategy which in turn guided the development of WOUGNET's 2014-2018 Strategic Plan." The Plan identifies 7 key support strategies with a special focus on WOUGNET's ICM processes over the coming years. Staff members are expected to report on a monthly basis on how they are contributing towards the strategies.
Including all WOUGNET staff from the outset has been crucial to the success of developing an ICM strategy.
"While we had a core team responsible for the process, all staff were engaged regularly and were informed through the public and private blogs," said Okello. "The process was certainly welcomed. Our challenge now is the various resources needed – human, financial, time – to successfully implement the strategy."