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The WikiTropica workshop experience

Account of a fruitful gathering by alumnus Ermias Diro from Ethiopia

"Another wonderful week at ITM! I always experience something new and interesting at ITM since my first encounter as a SCREMEE (participant in the SCREM short course) in 2008. This time I was invited to a workshop about “WikiTropica”. When I received the invitation, I said to myself: “Wow, this must be something like Wikipedia with a focus on tropical medicine”. I imagined spending three days working on lecture notes on leishmaniasis, tuberculosis, malaria, helminths, and so on. At the same time, I was also wondering how much of the tropical diseases can be addressed in a-three-day workshop. How many experts will be involved? However, the workshop turned out to be quite different from my expectations!

WikiTropica is a new initiative from ITM, which aims at achieving a freely available collaborative knowledge management platform in the field of tropical medicine and international health with contribution of international experts.

The first day started with introduction of the participants, but this was not done the ‘usual way’ by telling our names or what we do. Instead, we moved to a bigger room and we all had to stand. The facilitator stood at the centre and told us that he was standing at the place where he was born, the floor being the world. Taking him as a reference, we all stood where we were born and formed the little world map in that room. The twenty participants were actually from twenty different places from all around the globe!

The workshop continued in a very informal way: everybody moved around and posted ideas, arranged and re-arranged, raised and discarded. There was no-one shying out; the interaction was great from the beginning.

The first day we identified problems. Talking only about problems got us really confused! On the second day we were working on the possible solutions. During the final day we zoomed in on how to make it all happen. In the process, which was facilitated in an excellent way, we played different roles, as contributors, as users, as advocates. We tried to see this new platform from different angles, as a clinician, a researcher, a student, a programme director, a community health worker and a communicator. The whole possible scope was included. What did I learn? To think critically, to be open to different opinions, to plan thoroughly before taking action. I will finish with an Ethiopian saying: “Fifty lemons are a heavy load for one person, but when shared among fifty people, they are like an ornament.” The workshop has brought together experts from all around the world. It has enabled us to see things from different angles, identify possible challenges, suggest solutions and plan the way forward. I believe that we now know what to do.

Additionally, I am looking for opportunities to try such type of workshop facilitation for another agenda!"

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