#TOCS2014: How the orphans built an orphanage

#TOCS2014: How the orphans built an orphanage


Orphaned between “communications” and “ICT” departments, web managers built their own home.

It seems web developers and web managers work in the shadows. Often falling between the communications department – the content editors-, and the ICT department – the technicians-, web specialists are an odd bunch.

This was no different for the webgurus from CGIAR, a nonprofit global agricultural research Partnership I often work with.

Nicknamed “the orphans of communications”, they are responsible for combining content, data, graphics, IT and complex user requirements into visibly appealing and technically sound products: web sites, online databases, mobile applications, e-newsletters and social media. We called them the “TOCs”: the Technical Online Communicators.

The TOCs’ products are never finished: the web world is continuously – and ever so fast – evolving both in taste, tools and demands. The day a new website is launched is often the day we are already thinking of a revamp.

Increasingly, we realized none of us can be an expert in everything – from graphics, to database applications, from content management systems to web security, from Search Engine Optimization to the latest social media management tools. And increasingly, we felt as if we were reinventing the wheel over and over again: With this many CGIAR centers, projects and partners, we all faced similar challenges, but were fighting our battles individually. Surely there must be a way for one Center to benefit from the web efforts, done in another project?!

So, last year, the web community from CGIAR and partners built a new home, a virtual home: “The CGIAR Web Café”, a combination of an online repository and an eDiscussion group. And to everyone’s delight, they saw they were not alone: over 100 TOCs joined the group.

The orphans had built an orphanage.

Read the full story on how the CGIAR TOCS collectively and collaboratively built an annual workshop to share their common challenges and find common solutions.

Are you a web developer in a nonprofit organisation working on food security, agricultural research or eco-systems? You can join the CGIAR webcommunity too. Drop me an email via peter(at)blogtips(dot)org or leave a comment, and we will subscribe you to our e-discussion group!

Picture courtesy Dominique Perera (IWMI)

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