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Ever since I attended the GCARD 2 and have been a part of the Social Reporting team deployed there by YPARD and the CGIAR, I have been wondering how can Social Media be best used to create the premises for global food security.

As a researcher on global food security policies and a social media geek, I realized that if you want to reach a big impact in either fields you have to first educate, then disseminate the knowledge you gained in order to increase its impact.

My blog “Learn|Share|Change” is designed exactly with this aim, that of educating and spreading the knowledge of food security through social media, while also encouraging other to do the same. But now I believe that I can do more.

What I would like to do?

Almost a month ago I learned that, at the university in which I work in Belgium (Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liege), the wind of change is blowing. They are thinking of introducing new courses, new programmes and, perhaps (just perhaps), sometime in the future, a programme (Bachelor or Master level) in English (currently all programmes are in French). If this is true and they want to attract more students (and the support of the private sector) the choice is more than obvious to me. They should do a programme with “Social media” (or related like Digital communications or New media) in the title.

Gembloux, University Faculty of agronomic scie...

Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Belgium

Because my interest is linked to food security, here is how I think a new programme (in English) at the University of Liege should look like.

The programme should be called “Advanced Masters (Master complémentaire) in Digital Agricultural Communications” (with a total of 60 credits).

It would be a one year inter-university programme, run by Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech in collaboration with the HEC Management School and the Institute for Human and Social Sciences. A possible partner could also be UCL Mons.

The courses would take place in 2-3 locations: Gembloux, Liege, Mons.

Among the courses to be taught in this programme there could be included the following:

First semester:

1. Mandatory courses:

1.1. Understanding social media (with 5 credits) – including a basic toolkit of all social media networks and tools that can be used for online campaigning related to agriculture;

1.2. Creative networking (with 5 credits) – including a toolkit for effective online and on-the-ground business networking;

1.3. Content creation (with 5 credits) – types of content in online communications, impact of different types of content, how to design content for different platform;

1.4. Final thesis (with 15 credits) – the work is done by the student as part of a research team on theme based activities. The thesis will be submitted at the end of the programme. The thesis can also be based on collaborative work done by teams of students enrolled in the same programme.

2. Inter-university courses:

2.1. Fieldwork (with 5 credits);

2.2. Introduction to Online Food Security (with 4 credits) – explaining the basic elements of using online communications for food security awareness raising and other tools available;

2.3. Introduction to Online Climate Change (with 3 credits) – explaining the basic elements of using online communications for climate change campaigning and other tools available;

2.4. Introduction to Online Agribusiness (with 3 credits) – explaining the basic elements of using online communications for agribusiness marketing and other tools available.

Second semester:

3. Optional course packages (students must choose one course package for 15 credits):

3.1. Digital Communications for Food Security course package* (with 15 credits):

3.1.1. Food Security 101 – short course on global food security including assessment tools, official figures, tools for mapping food security, ongoing international programmes, public policies and others;

3.1.2. Developing online communications strategies for food security – including content creation, developing writing skills, determining the best tools and networks to use in a specific campaign and others;

3.1.3. Managing online communications strategies for food security – including project management, monitoring and evaluation, tools for live monitoring, increasing audiences and others;

3.2. Digital Communications for Climate Change course package** (with 15 credits):

3.2.1. Climate change 101 – short course on climate change including assessment tools, official figures, the IPCC, COP, CMP, UNFCCC, ongoing international campaigns, public policies and others;

3.2.2. Developing online communications strategies for climate change – including content creation, developing writing skills, determining the best tools and networks to use in a specific campaign and others;

3.2.3. Managing online communications strategies for climate change – including project management, monitoring and evaluation, tools for live monitoring, increasing audiences and others.

3.3. Digital Communications for Agribusiness course package*** (with 15 credits):

3.3.1. Agribusiness 101 – short course on international agribusiness including major stakeholders, official figures, agricultural trade, regulatory affairs issues, biotechnology, ongoing international campaigns conducted by the corporate sector, public policies and others;

3.3.2. Developing online communications strategies for agribusiness – including content creation, developing writing skills, determining the best tools and networks to use in a specific campaign and others;

3.3.3. Managing online communications strategies for agribusiness – including project management, monitoring and evaluation, tools for live monitoring, increasing audiences and others.

*,**,*** – Pre-requisites for some optional course as you marked below.

4. Optional courses (students must choose courses with a total of 15 credits):

4.1. Personal branding in online agricultural communications (with 5 credits) – including impact of employees` online presence on the online influence of an organization, how to improve your personal online influence, how to use your personal influence in business and others.

4.2. Active networking (with 5 credits) – including professional development in agricultural communications.

4.3. Public relations in Agricultural communications (with 5 credits) – including lobbying and advocacy techniques, writing public relations plans for agricultural entities and others.

4.4. Crisis communication* (with 5 credits) – including mapping crises through online tools, developing and managing online communications campaigns and others.

4.5. Environmental communication** (with 5 credits) – including scientific communications through online channels, mass awareness raising, review processes and others.

4.6. Knowledge management in agricultural communications*** (with 5 credits) – including management processes in international agribusiness corporations to establish online campaigns, content IPR and others.

4.7. Internship in digital agricultural communications (with 5 credits) – students can work in areas relevant to the programme to earn their credits under supervision by a professional or faculty member, being obliged to submit an internship report and give a presentation about his/her experience. One internship week is equivalent to 1 credit (5 weeks = 5 credits).

I could add a few more courses/activities to this list. I am sure that students would find such a programme interesting (if not COOL) and would enrol in high numbers.

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