A New Virtual Forum for GFAR

Bill Gates once said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”.  If the Global Forum is to fulfill its role in this village of tomorrow, its virtual forum needs to reflect that openness and accessibility. Enter GFAR.net: a new, more dynamic “town square” where the agri-food research and innovation community can get together to share information and ideas more easily and intuitively.

“GFAR’s Mission is to catalyse and advocate for collective actions that strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems”, explains GFAR Executive Secretary Mark Holderness. “Dialogue and partnership are key to our mission. Our old website – ‘egfar.org’ – served us well in the past years, but our users now want a ‘hub’ where partners can find information relevant to their needs and interests, and exchange their knowledge and experience. They also want to more easily connect with others working in the same areas, and show what they are each doing to deliver GFAR collective actions and create change in the institutions concerned. GFAR.net is our response based on those evolving users’ needs.”

Better Search Capabilities

The first step of the re-design involved undertaking extensive research of user needs and requirements. Topping the list was a request for better search capabilities for research outcomes, activities, events and publications.  Accordingly, the new site features an improved search engine, while mega menus at the top of the pages make for more intuitive navigation.  News stories, events, job opportunities, recent publications can all be accessed from the homepage. There are separate areas for GCARD (Global Conference on Agricultural Research and Development) and for the Gender in Agriculture Partnership.

Significant improvements have been made to the Information Gateway.  Content has been structured into four different categories: documents, datasets, experts and organizations. The material – which includes some 1,500 documents, 1,700 agri-profiles and listings for some 3,500 organizations – is all fully searchable.

Cleaner Design

Users also wanted a clearer view of GFAR’s role, stakeholders, activities and goals, with less text and more photos.  On the new-look site, the clean design and improved navigation make this information much easier to find. The content has been simplified so it is easier to read.  GFAR activities are grouped under six Work Streams (based on the GFAR Medium Term Plan), and information is never more than three “clicks” away.

Many of those interviewed wanted to more easily share material on the site through social media.  Every page now has buttons for Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter and for RSS feeds.

More Dynamic Content

We all know communication is a two-way street, and one of the best new features of the website is the GFAR blog. The GFAR blog will meet users’ needs for more dynamic content, with 2-3 blogs posted every week. Users can comment on blog posts and are invited to contribute their own blogs on issues and actions relevant to the agri-food research and innovation community.

“Effective  communication  is the cornerstone of the Global Forum and in the Secretariat we  are always looking for ways to enhance and improve that,” says Dr Holderness.  “Through the website we want to create more opportunities for partners to engage in the Global Forum, to participate in decision-making, to share their ideas and  experiences and to articulate their views,  as we work together to improve the lives of farmers and rural communities in developing countries.”

Check out our new website here:   www.gfar.net 

For more information contact Programme Delivery Manager Fiona Chandler: fiona.chandler@fao.org

By Tanya St George, GFAR Correspondent.

Photo credits: top right – Giulio Napolitano/FAO; bottom left – Yasuyoshi Chiba/FAO

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