Streaming from the Field: Leveraging Research to Engage Government Partners

Sep 28, 2017 by Julie Polumbo Comments (0)
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USAID/DRC Webcast

Photo: ECCN Webcast live event in Kinshasa at the USAID/DRC Mission. Credit: Alain Mukeba / USAID 

Julie Polumbo is USAID/DRC's Education Program Advisor.

On June 1, USAID/DRC and the Education in Crisis and Conflict Network (ECCN) teamed up to conduct a webcast on Alternative Education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The webcast presented findings on youth and non-formal education from the ECCN’s Alternative Education in the DRC Research Report and Policy Brief, which was released in December 2016.

The Report represents a significant contribution to the literature and research on alternative education programs, which are a critical component of education strategies in areas affected by crisis and conflict. In the DRC, Alternative Learning Programs (ALPs) provide youth with an opportunity to complete their primary education in an expedited three-year program, opposed to the traditional six years in an effort to reintegrate students into the formal education system. The research confirmed that there is a strong desire for education among youth in Eastern Congo and highlighted the importance of supporting these programs.

This might seem like business as usual--announcing research findings via webcast--but adding a live event with multiple presenters from the DRC was not a simple endeavor.    

USAID/DRC wanted to share voices from the field to enrich the webcast and promote local efforts on alternative education. The webcast presented a unique opportunity to highlight alternative education activities within USAID/DRC’s Basic Education Project and feature the DRC Ministry of Social Affairs. Considering DRC’s low bandwidth and intermittent internet outages, this was a complicated and risky addition to the webcast. Fortunately, USAID/Washington and ECCN were thrilled to collaborate and incorporate the Mission’s ideas and objectives.

Photo of teacher and students in DRC

Photo: Accelerated Learning Program Level 1 (grade 1 and 2) in Sake, North Kivu. Credit: Julie Polumbo / USAID 

The ECCN and USAID teams spent over 100 hours of preparation and planning, in addition to seven coordination meetings, including a tech dry-run, presenter coordination call, and a full online rehearsal. Every time the team used the Webex platform they learned something new and made adjustments that influenced the final outcome.

For example, during practice sessions using the webex platform, we learned that logging in very early, in fact an hour early, is important in a low-bandwidth environment; how to have multiple presenters advance the slides in different countries; and how to use two laptops simultaneously without audio feedback. Another lesson learned after the webcast was the need to designate a separate person to select online questions from the chatbox and display them for the moderator to read. However, deciding when to rotate between live event and online questions was best for the live-event moderator.

In the end, the webcast was a resounding success with over 80 participants - 40 online and 40 at the live event in Kinshasa. The internet signal held relatively strong, and there was a robust discussion from both online and live event participants. USAID/DRC was also able to strengthen and build new relationships with government partners. During the after action meeting, it was clear that the webcast was successful due to stellar collaboration between ECCN, USAID/DRC, and USAID/Washington.

Adolescent boy writing the letter "C" in Kiswahili in an Accelerated Learning Program Level 1 (grade 1 and 2) in Goma, North Kivu. Credit: Julie Polumbo / USAID

Photo: Adolescent boy writing the letter "C" in Kiswahili in an Accelerated Learning Program Level 1 (grade 1 and 2) in Goma, North Kivu. Credit: Julie Polumbo / USAID

Here are some highlights from the joint After Action Review:

+ WHAT WORKED WELL?

  • Collaboration and Openness: Teams from ECCN and USAID/DRC were open to trying new ideas and were highly collaborative by checking in every couple of weeks.  
  • Partner Engagement: Including partners from the Government of the DRC and engaging them early in the planning process contributed to audience participation and led to a more well rounded group of presenters and perspectives.
  • Advanced Entry: At the live event, presenters arrived one hour prior to the start of the webcast and audience members arrived 30 minutes prior to provide time for security and to ensure audience members were seated before the actual webcast began.

- WHAT DID NOT WORK WELL? / CHALLENGES

  • Language: While broadcasting the webcast in French was critically important to the USAID/DRC Mission, it added a layer of complexity for the ECCN team to overcome.  
  • Date Change: The original webcast date was delayed by a week, which was helpful for additional planning time, but it caused logistics and scheduling challenges for a few of the presenters.

Δ WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE NEXT TIME?

  • Online Chatbox Questions: A better method should be used to both select the chatbox questions and to display them at the live event to make it easier for the moderator to translate and read.
  • Hardline Phone Connection: The room used for the webcast should also have a hardline phone connection as a backup in case the internet connection fails.

Integrating a live event from the field during the webcast was a risk, but in the end it paid off in more ways than one. If you would like to co-host an event with ECCN, contact them at usaideccn@edc.org or speak to your USAID/E3/ED point of contact. You can also watch a recording of the webcast and learn more about the ECCN research report on alternative education in the DRC here.

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