09 November 2007

Spellings, names and other essentials

This document is in English, but is it British or American English?

It really does matter.

Glossaries are especially important during translation. Word lists, databases and guides also help us to agree on the meaning of specific words and phrases. Adopting a standardised reference tool can not only help to avoid misunderstandings but also ensure consistency and thus coherence and good branding across your organisation.

Below are some useful references for glossaries and other terminology and other guides relating to the UN system and further afield.

UNBIS Thesaurus
The multilingual UNBIS Thesaurus contains the terminology used in subject analysis of documents and other materials relevant to UN programmes and activities.

UNTERM: UN Multilingual Terminology Database
UNTERM is a multilingual terminology database which provides United Nations nomenclature and special terms in all six official UN languages.

UN Glossary of Standard Terms (classification, nomenclature)
Approved by the Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications as a working document.

UNDP Glossary
Intranet access only
Glossary to business practices, as defined within UNDP.

UN Correspondence Manual
A guide to the drafting, processing and dispatch of official United Nations communications. (PDF)

UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)
Requires institutional subscription
EOLSS is an integrated compendium of sixteen encyclopedias and is developed under the auspices of the UNESCO, Eolss Publishers, UK.

AGROVOC Thesaurus by FAO
A multilingual, structured and controlled vocabulary designed to cover the terminology of all subject fields in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and related domains (e.g. environment).

ILO Thesaurus
A compilation of more than 4000 terms relating to the world of work. Every term is presented in English, French, and Spanish. Many of the terms are followed by definitions or explanatory notes.

3-letter country codes (e.g. USA, DEU)
Countries or areas, codes and abbreviations

OECD Macrothesaurus
The Macrothesaurus for Information Processing in the field of Economic and Social Development represents a continuation of the combined efforts of many organisations over a period of almost 30 years to create a common vocabulary to facilitate the indexing, retrieval and exchange of development-related information.
Online: (Engl., Sp. Fr.)
Book: http://oberon.sourceoecd.org/vl=2204601/cl=31/nw=1/rpsv/%7E6669/v1998n12/s1/p1l

Oxford English Dictionary Online
For drafting and editing UN documents and publications, the authority for spelling and hyphenation in the United Nations is the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary published in 2004. Refer to Editorial Directive dated 16 March 2005 [http://www.unu.edu/hq/library/resource/Editorial-directive_ST2005.pdf]. The OED provides authoritative definitions of over 500,000 words. It traces the usage of words from their first recorded occurence to the modern period through 2.5 million quotations from a wide rang of international language sources. It also offers the best in etymological analysis and detailed listings of variant spellings.

Europa World Plus
Requires paid subscription
Europa World Plus brings the renowned The Europa World Year Book and the nine Europa Regional Surveys of the World to the Web as a dynamic online database. It provides detailed country surveys containing the latest analytical, statistical and directory data available for over 250 countries and territories. It also contains a comprehensive listing of some 1,900 international organizations.

15 October 2007

Blogging campaigns

Blog Action Day was a good example of a 'word of mouth' campaign that called thousands of people together through a collective interest (in this case, blogging).

The premise is relatively simple: if every blog on the same day has the same focus, more people (readers of blogs) will become aware, informed and interested in the issue.

It's a bit like running the same advert on every TV channel, at the same time (a concept you might better appreciate if you don't have cable or satellite TV!).

Does it work? Well, thousands of bloggers turned their blogs to the issue, or at least linked to the main website (Blog Action Day), or another relevant site of interest.

I would argue that the largest impact would be seen at websites where the focus is traditionally on other issues: by turning their attention to the environment, they create a new focus and have more chance of grabbing their readers' attention. Blogs that regularly report on environmental issues would be less likely to spur sudden interest in the underlying issues, though they might benefit from greater traffic as a result of all the publicity.

A global campaign like this is hard to organise, and the idea would quickly pale if used too often. However limited campaigns can be quite effective.

You could try a mini campaign - aim for a very selected audience (e.g. bloggers who already write about the environment) and ask them to write about a very specific issue on the same day (e.g. forestry). Make sure you have plenty of supporting material for them to draw on (statistics, images, quotes, etc.) and invite them to link to your site or another that is pertinent and authoritative.

Another idea is to adopt a rolling campaign, with no specific date, but which encourages bloggers to post a link, icon (with link), image or brief message when they can. Web circles and their ilk take a similar approach by networking like-minded websites.

For my own contribution, I am providing links to the UN's leading environmental organisations, for your further information.

UN Environment Programme www.unep.org
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change www.unfccc.int
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change www.ipcc.ch
UN Convention to Combat Desertification www.unccd.int

27 August 2007

Using video to communicate

Video can be a great tool to communicate some ideas, but please make sure it is well done!

Even a mobile telephone camera can take reasonable video (if it is equipped).
It is important to learn some basics: firstly, you must tell an interesting story (focus and scripting are needed); Know your subject and your audience, get the audio right (re-record it later if needed), and pay attention to things such as lighting (don't make it too dark) and a balance between long shots and close-ups, stills vs panning and zooming.

The following are two videos about the same concept (a cafe in India with a new outlook on 'business': visitors pay for the next person's meal, and receive their own for free, served by volunteers). The first is a far more appealing effort, while the second suffers from poor lighting and sound (though YouTube's very poor quality does neither any justice).

Video 1 (Seva Cafe, India):

Video 2 (Seva Cafe, India):

Lastly, I have added a different video here, about a project designed to enhance diaster preparedness among children living in tsunami-affected areas in Sri Lanka.
The style is very different - a series of still images and slides (words on screen), supported not with narration but with music. It is an interesting approach, though I would suggest (if the 'editor' has the tools) to put key words over top of the images and to pan and scan some images to give a sense of movement. Some video creation tools enable this, especially iMovie on the Apple Mac.

Video 3 (Disaster Preparedness, Sri Lanka):

See also:
How to advocate with video
How to film a revolution

19 August 2007

Congoo News Circles

Congoo is building audience share in a number of ways. It encourages you to register and create a news circle: a customised list of automated news items about specific topics. This is similar to the automated list of items on the far-right column of this blog. However Congoo focuses on publishers with subscription-based content and its biggest attraction is giving people free access to selected items. Judge for yourself. I have put a link below to a news circle about journalism, online content, and the media in general. Much of it is not applicable to development issues, but you might find something of interest.
Also of interest is the networking element. It is a bit me-too, because it simply adds elements already found in dedicated sites such as Xing or LinkedIn, by encouraging professionals to register their profiles. Such sites have proven to be a useful way to find expertise (or to advertise your CV).
We will have to see if Congoo can find some synergies between the social networking and news items, and any other elements it bolts on.

05 July 2007

Put yourself on the map

Frappr provided a map that allowed you to see information in real time, e.g. the location of current visitors to this blog, or to list yourself and add comments and details.
Mash-up maps such as Frappr promised an innovative way to connect with people who share interests and the potential was there to use them to invite colleagues and partners to interface in a new way. It might have been a great way to draw remote contacts closer.
However, this blog post, written in 2007, outlasted Frappr. By 2010 the service appeared to have closed (this post was updated as a result, in October 2011). The original URL was http://www.frappr.com

Another option worth a look is Revolver Maps http://www.revolvermaps.com/

07 June 2007

Handling a friendly radio interview

Q. we put out a media release and a radio station wants to do an interview. What should I say, and how should I prepare? They have sent a list of likely questions, and some of them are tricky.

A. Great! This is what you wanted: a chance to tell your story in person.

1. Start with your corporate material. On the media release how did you summarise the organisation or the programme? What does your website say? Do you have standardised (boilerplate) descriptions?

Be able to explain very briefly (more briefly than in the boilerplate) what your organisation does and how it works with key partners e.g. other organisations or the local community.

2. Determine the three main points you want to convey, and frame all of your answers in terms of one or more of these points. When you come away from the interview you should be comfortable, knowing that you successfully delivered your messages (as a last resort, work them into an opening or final statement).

3. Research your audience. What is the radio station usually talking about? What would the listeners want to know, or what do you want them to do (e.g. become volunteers or activists? Is there a way for them to get involved?).

4. Make it tangible and talk about the positive benefits. Think through the local issues and how they relate to your organisational goals and mission, e.g. how would the local populace (listeners to the radio station) benefit from getting involved with your organisation? What would be the benefits of them becoming activists or volunteers (how would that improve their lives and that of the community?).

5. Beware of getting drawn too far from your purpose or comfort zone, e.g. being invited to critique everything that ails the country or the community, or discussing news items removed from your organisation or programme. Avoid directly challenging government policy. Much of that discussion will simply be negative. Naturally you should acknowledge the challenges (which your organisation is there to address), but also note that there are great opportunities to improve people's lives and build communities and facilities. We are part of the solution!

Lastly, let your colleagues know if you need specific help. This is an important opportunity and should be supported throughout your organisation.

22 May 2007

IVD 2006 in Ethiopia

IVD 2006 in Ethiopia
Originally uploaded by IVD Coordinator.

Example of a good photograph: a clear action (injection/immunisation) and a clear interaction between the volunteer and the participant (doctor/patient). It is obvious what is happening, and that there are skills involved and benefits being delivered. Okay, the photographer's thumb got in the way, but still the photo is useful: the framing and subject was so good it still works.
However it is not always easy to find an original angle, especially if a subject has not already been well illustrated (that's why you see so many shots like this!). How do we effectively demonstrate town planning? How can we visualise gender programming?

16 May 2007

Alphabet Soup - what do those acronyms mean?

CAP - Consolidated Appeal Process;
Contracts, Assets and Procurement
APEC - Asia, Pacific, Europe and CIS
ARLAC - Arab States, Latin American and the Caribbean
CCA - Common Country Assessment
CD - Country Director
CIS - Common Information Space
COT - Country Office Team
Civil Society Organization
CSU - Common Services Unit
DBS - Direct Budget Support
EMS - Evaluation and Measurement Services
ExCom - Executive Committee Agency (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP)
HACT - Harmonized Approach to Cash Transfers
HRBA - Human Rights Based Approach
ISS - Information Support Services
JAS - Joint Assistance Strategy
JSM - Joint Strategy Meeting
M&E - Monitoring & Evaluation
MD - Millennium Declaration
MDGR - Millennium Development Goals Report
MDGs - Millennium Development Goals
MSU - Management Support Unit
NDP - National Development Plan
NGOs - Non-Governmental Organisations
OEC - Office of the Executive Coordinator
PCRG - Partnerships, Communications and Resources Mobilization Group
PDOG - Programme Development and Operations Group
PDRU - Partnerships, Donors and Resources Unit
PFM - Public Financial Management System
PRS/PRSP - Poverty Reduction Strategy/ Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
PM - Programme Manager
PO -
Programme Officer
- Programme Officer Empowerment Mechanism
PS -
Programme Specialist
Peer Support Group
QSA - Quality Support and Assurance
RBM - Results Based Management
RC - Resident Coordinator
RR - Resident Representative
SMART - Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound
SWAP - Sector Wide Approach
SWOT - Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats
TRAC Funds - Target for resources assignment from the core
UNCT - United Nations Country Team
UNDAF - United Nations Development Assistance Framework
UNDG - United Nations Development Group
VPPRs - Volunteer Programme Periodic Reports
VRU - Volunteer Resources Unit

See also:
United Nations 3-letter country codes (e.g. USA):

UN Glossary of Standard Terms (classification, nomenclature)

UNDP Glossary

09 May 2007

Communicating the MDGs, part 1

Q: What are the Millennium Development Goals?

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a blueprint for development. The eight goals are to be reached by 2015. They are based on the Millennium Declaration which was agreed by all countries of the world and all of the world’s leading development institutions. The MDGs have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s neediest people.

The goals are:

MDG 1: halve the number of people who suffer from hunger and whose income is less than US$1 a day.

MDG 2: halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other major diseases.

MDG 3: eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education.

MDG 4: reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

MDG 5: reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters.

MDG 6: halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other major diseases.

MDG 7: halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

MDG 8: develop an open, non-discriminatory trading and financial system, which deals comprehensively with the debt of developing nations.

For more, see:

08 May 2007

Opening up - profiling your team

Q: I want to introduce the people in our team and publish their profiles in a question and answer format. They are interesting people, from all around the world. But boring questions produce boring answers. What do you suggest?

A: the best result will still require you to add a little value through editing. By all means ask your colleagues to describe their mission and role, and then edit it down; or tell them to do it in 100 words.

Their name and title are the best way to start, plus their country of origin (or nationality).
I suggest you also list their age - it is sometimes a cause of hysteria, but it can add some flavour!
The next questions are where you want them to open up a little and be more colorful. There are all sorts of ways to approach it. I have listed some suggestions.

Some people will answer all of your questions, but if you are worried about a lack of response, you could suggest that they pick and choose those they are more comfortable with. Or you can send them a selection of questions from a larger list.

You can also choose to publish only the answers that you find most interesting.
Newspaper columns use this approach. Readers think the questions change each week, but really the editors are just choosing the most interesting answers from a long list of standard questions.
Asking personal questions will be more revealing. Sometimes the trick to get people to open up is to ask the question in a more humorous way or encourage them to make a clever remark (those who have seen funny responses in the past will tend to follow the pattern, so start by profiling the joker in your pack).

Here are some ideas for questions, in no particular order.
In brackets are explanations of the questions; these are not for the recipients, but you could provide some comments, if needed.
  • What was your scariest moment so far? (i.e. give us a story from your experiences here)
  • How do you relax? (i.e. tell us about your personality)
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning? (some may quip: 'the alarm', or 'breakfast' etc.)
  • What don't you understand? (maybe they won't understand the question!)
  • Why did you sign up? (motivations)
  • Did you think it would be like this? (possible negative reflections)
  • What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong (i.e. tell us something that would inspire others).
  • What or who has been the most helpful to your work? (i.e. colleagues, tools, institutions)
  • What's your favourite book / movie / website? (i.e. sources of inspiration)
  • Who was the greatest role model in your life? (e.g. 'my mother')
  • Who do you think would inspire others? (who is a great role model? e.g. 'Mother Teresa')
  • What do you think of the local food? - or - What food do you miss from home? (explores cultural differences)
  • How do you keep in shape? (or 'keep healthy')
  • Who have you left at home? (who is in your family/significant others, etc.)
  • What will you do when you are finished here? (plans for the future/ambitions)