There is an increasing engagement and commitment to Knowledge Management (KM) and Knowledge Sharing (KS) in the International Development Community. A strong feature of a successful approach, and one which we advocate on our workshops and consultancies is that to look at KM through a people lens rather than purely through ICT. This reading of KM brings attention to the real day-today relating and practices in organisations, and a focus here can truly embed and institutionalise knowledge sharing. KM needs to be understood not as an isolated discipline but as an integral part of organisational culture, when knowledge is effectively shared, it can dissolve silos. In a world of divided disciplines, we believe that KM can open the door to more holistic and multidisciplinary perspectives.
IMA experienced a great example of this with BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee). Within a context of altered funding, major change management processes and spurred by a new leadership, BRAC Bangladesh is promoting better knowledge management (KM) and knowledge sharing (KS) both internally, and externally with stakeholders and partners to ultimately have greater influence and advocacy. Working with diverse BRAC members allowed a joint understanding of how KM can further BRAC’s work; assess what KS practises were already working well and suggest how to improve them; and identify KM gaps and explore ways to address these. Crucial are spaces to hear different perspectives and to raise awareness and learning on KM concepts and key practices for KM officers, KM champions and middle managers, for senior members, and field officers to encourage a knowledge-sharing rapport between field and head office.
Listening to different perspectives, gleaning what was already happening and what people wanted, allowed a co-creation of a KM roadmap and strategy with, and for, BRAC which embeds the idea of learning from practice. After this initial work, BRAC appointed a KM Unit who are now coordinating the BRAC KM Network. The three pillars of ‘KM processes’, ‘KM structures’ and ‘Skills & capacity for knowledge sharing’ between them include all organisational aspects of KM. What we see within BRAC is a trend we are experiencing more globally; a thirst for better using KM to improve organisational practices for innovation, improvement and impact. By focusing on the people involved, KM can help tap into the wealth of people’s tacit knowledge and experience; create ways to share this and institutionalise KS practices by breaking down silos.
During our May five day Knowledge Management (KM) programme in Brussels, we were happy to meet up again with Miriam Pikaar of Caritas Europa. We held our meeting outdoors in the creative courtyard environment of our hosts, MSF Belgium. Backing out from a buzzing café area and well-designed training centre, the space allowed us to use more experimental exercises with our KM course participants. And it gave us chance to meet Miriam in a conducive environment to agree next steps for our support in the KM developments which Caritas Europa have been positively advancing.
The KM intention of Caritas in Europe is to create, share, use, structure and manage its knowledge and information in view of achieving organisational objectives. Caritas Europa is active in the fields of advocacy, humanitarian aid and institutional development. And recognizes the need for mutual learning and innovation in all they do. To this end, IMA has contracted with them twice, first in Prague and then in Brussels to explore KM concepts and develop KM practice. Our latest workshop in February focused on enhancing knowledge sharing across and between international Action Groups and particularly building existing Communities of Practice.
We look forward to support more, potentially in Vienna in September, working with Caritas Europa on their expressed aim to learn and exchange knowledge, experience and expertise to be more effective and sustainable.
In general: it is important for the CE Secretariat staff to have a better understanding of what colleagues are “doing”, and how the activities of the CE Action groups (AGs) contributes to the CE Secretariat work – in view of achieving the objectives of the CE Strategic Framework (SF). Given the structure, and despite good intentions, there is still a silos issue. In view of the Consultative Forum – which is essentially a place for knowledge sharing and a great knowledge management (KM) opportunity - the CE Secretariat staff has to know, internally, what all the AGs are actually doing. This will help foreseeing what the synergies can be and what themes to pick for the AGs to discuss together in cross AG settings.
Without the CE Secretariat realising it, the CE AGs are actually communities of practice. It is important that those staff in charge of AGs understand what a community of practice is and how AGs can be made to function as such. The CF would be a great opportunity to kick this way of working off, in at least in 1 or 2 AGs. However, that requires that we here in the Secretariat first of all understand what that means / how that would work
The workshop design and the methodologies of the activities will bring out the information staff members need to know about each other’s work and the work of each other’s AGs. They will understand what communities of practice are and how we can support our AGs to function as such.