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How to Stop Content Death in Facebook Groups and Save Critical Program Knowledge

By Guest Writer on August 2, 2018

mosaic facebook group data scraping

In the past couple of years, Cambodia has truly embraced the digital age with open arms and poised thumbs. In 2017, the nation of only 16 million was home to an impressive 4.8 million Facebook users, 4.5 million of whom are mobile Facebook users and 60% of whom access Facebook daily.

This presents NGOs like WaterAid with an important opportunity for dissemination and exchange of information online.

The Challenge: Turn a Fleeting Innovation into Lasting Transformation

Traditionally, NGOs have used Facebook for self-promotion and fundraising. More recently, NGOs have innovatively utilized Facebook groups to engage with communities they serve and share learning among their stakeholders.

Real-time learning is no doubt innovative, but the contribution it makes to program management and long-term organizational knowledge is negligible given the lifespan of a Facebook post – a mere 5 hours. Real-time learning, then, can suffer a real untimely death unless we are able to capture, organize, and synthesize it.

Let’s be practical, nobody has time to scroll through all of the pictures, videos, and posts to extract and analyze lessons learned, let alone to search systematically for what’s been shared regarding a specific topic.

So we should just let all of that rich data fall into the black hole of cyber space? No!

Facebook may not lend itself to use as a knowledge management database – users can’t easily filter information or identify trends – but there are other platforms for that. For example, mWater has the capacity to store, organize, analyze, and visualize data. The only problem is that mWater, while an extremely useful tool, does not have anywhere near the number of users that Facebook flaunts.

The question then becomes, how can we bridge the gap between Facebook and knowledge management data? That’s where Mosaic comes in.

The Solution: Introducing ‘Mosaic’

Mosaic refers to the methodology of extracting and analyzing social media data to produce knowledge. In the case of the Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program (CRSHIP), Mosaic utilizes a script to transfer data from the CRSHIP Facebook group – a real-time learning platform for 11 local NGOs implementing the program across the country – to mWater to be coded.

The script was built using the Jitterbit API platform and allows the user to capture content shared on the learning platform (e.g. posts, comments) without associating it with personal identifiers (e.g. usernames, locations).

As the name implies, Mosaic takes discrete pieces of data and organizes them in a way that paints a meaningful picture. Coding and categorizing content from the Facebook group has allowed CRSHIP to extract and synthesize lessons learned in the form of good practices, challenges, and influencing events.

This information then becomes documented organizational knowledge and can be used to make adjustments and evidence-based decisions, refine tools and trainings, and improve transparency by allowing donors to see data as it comes in.

Mosaic has helped us respond to identified challenges and impacts far earlier than would be possible with traditional reporting, monitoring and evaluation methods; analyses that were performed only quarterly can now be completed and the findings responded to in a matter of weeks.

Sharing this knowledge with local partners then allows implementing NGOs to combine program learning with on-the-ground knowledge in order to construct a deeper understanding of why some strategies work and others don’t. In this way, Mosaic facilitates the processes that are necessary for WaterAid to truly transform Facebook data into information, knowledge and ultimately, wisdom.

Mosaic has facilitated tangible changes in CRSHIP. For example, WaterAid identified a drastic uptick in posts concerning gender and disability that mapped precisely onto the timeline of program-wide Equity and Inclusion trainings. This let us know that trainings were, in fact, having an influence on how local partners were framing success, and to what extent they were taking issues of equity and inclusion into consideration.

With Great Solutions Comes Great Responsibility

WaterAid makes strong efforts to protect the privacy of its social media participants. WaterAid’s groups are closed – only members can view content, only administrators can extract content, and only authorized persons can access mWater. Group members verbally consent to the process and personally identifiable information is not extracted or stored.

The use of social media offers immeasurable potential in terms of programmatic and sectoral monitoring and learning. Ultimately, WaterAid is using social media for social good and feels that the challenges that come with that territory are worth negotiating in light of the positive impact we can make as a result. These challenges are never black and white. What we’re after is a much more colorful Mosaic.

By James Dumpert, WaterAid Cambodia, Maria Perez, WaterAid UK, and Allison Salinger, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Consultant

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7 Comments to “How to Stop Content Death in Facebook Groups and Save Critical Program Knowledge”

  1. Mathias Steven soboliem says:

    I need help funds for repair community houses please.

  2. Timo Luege says:

    This sounds really interesting, but I find the article falls a bit short on delivering. I’d like to know more about how you are using Mosaic. Can you share links to case studies, practical examples etc? At the moment, I walking away from the articles with little more than “So these guys, use something called Mosaic to collect and manage information”. Thanks!

  3. Zev Lowe says:

    Super interesting approach. How can other organizations adopt Mosaic? Are the scripts open source, so that we can deploy them alongside your methodology? Is there documentation about Mosaic, and if so, where? Thanks!

  4. Dinesh Trimbakkar says:

    Please help me understand how you were able to scrape the Facebook data. I thought scraping was a black hat activity. Facebook doesn’t allow content scraping of platform data in its terms of service.

  5. James Dumpert says:

    Apologies if the article is confusing but Mosaic uses graphAPI provided by Facebook to retrieve the data from WaterAid managed closed groups (where WaterAid staff are the administrators). Its important to note that Facebook now limits the information that can be retrieved about group members, but Mosaic does not use any member information anyways. It is the content that group members share on the group page that is important to us.