IBP Knowledge Gateway—How To Guide: Organize and Manage a Virtual Online Discussion Forum
Virtual online discussion forums are specific time-bound events that allow professionals from different parts of the world to come together virtually to raise questions, discuss timely and important issues, share experiences, and work together to develop new knowledge, ideas and approaches. It reaches beyond a real time meeting. It gives a voice to the individual so that they can share their knowledge, experience and opinions and possibly contribute to the dialogue on technical, policy and practice issues.
Organizing an online forum is a challenging and rewarding experience. Once you have identified your audience (their needs, interests and constraints) and thought through the objectives of your forum, good and careful planning will ensure that the interaction is lively, engaging, purpose-driven, and attracts a diverse range of people and perspectives.
This paper will provide guidance on how to set up a knowledge network to support a global discussion forum and discuss how to grow, maintain and sustain this virtual community after the initial discussion forum. It has been developed based on lessons learnt by the Department of Reproductive Health and Research (WHO/RHR) and Knowledge for Health (K4H) Project (and its predecessor project, INFO) of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center of Communication Program (JHU/CCP). The example used is based on the preparation undertaken by WHO/RHR and the Department of Human Resources for Health (WHO/HRH) to launch the Health Professional Global Network (www.HPGN.org).