How to navigate complexity in M&E and where KM can help


What’s happening in the world of monitoring and evaluation?

How is complexity – the thinking and the reality – affecting it, highlighting gaps and creating opportunities?

What can KM help to do about this?

Here are some of the questions that this Prezi addresses.

I’ll be presenting this in the course of next week at a retreat on M&E.

This is a draft, so please let me know what you think so I can improve this last minute, still before it is uploaded on official channels ;)

Related blog posts:

Use PACMAN to beat information overload and fix filter failures!


Dealing with information overload (Credits - Joy of Tech)

Dealing with information overload (Credits – Joy of Tech)

So much information out there! How to keep up with it?

Such filter failures (Clay Shirky would -allegedly- say) in the way we process information bubbles! How can we fix these?

So little time to do so much! Where lies our salvation from the digital flood?

People around me are constantly grappling with this: my researcher colleagues say they wouldn’t use new platforms and channels (they’re struggling with existing ones as is), my family wonders how I manage to engage on social media (beyond the obvious Friend&Family-focused Facebook), my friends mostly don’t really know about my info-flow-survival tricks…  All of this led me recently to wonder if only dedicated knowledge workers are able to strike a balance with information flow, between fast pace and slow space.

My mantra to keep the head above the info water is: PACMAN. Or rather PACMan: Plan-Act-Capture-Manage. PACMan helps you eat information nuggets all along the way and keep going happily, while fixing filter failures letting phantoms through. It has a lot to do with personal knowledge management (PKM) so perhaps it should be called PaKMan ;)

What does PACMan entail?

Plan

One of the main reasons why we don’t manage to find the time to read all the relevant information there is, is that we don’t plan for it properly. Typically our (lack of) planning is lousy because:

Plan openly, adapt relentlessly (credits: BlogWestinteractive / FlickR)

Plan openly, adapt relentlessly (credits: BlogWestinteractive / FlickR)

  • We usually don’t plan! We don’t set goals, which would give us direction and, very importantly, give us energy when we complete them;
  • As a result we don’t manage to channel energy and time to activities that fall off our crisis-mode (like Alice’s eternally late rabbit), such as reading interesting stuff;
  • When we DO plan, we over-plan. We put too much on our fork. And by the same token we ignore what we unconsciously sense (and know from experience): reality -usually- does NOT follow the plan. We need to keep our plans flexible. I’d say keep 20-25% of your plans open to allow spontaneity and serendipity (remember pinballs and bulldozers);
  • We’re usually lousy at saying ‘no‘ to more work; perhaps because it’s interesting but it still means we’re constantly pushing our multitasking limits (when some say multitasking doesn’t actually work), reinforcing this crisis dynamics… We just have to say no to too much work! It’s the only way to maintain focus, quality, energy and inspiration…
  • Oh, and we typically forget to plan holidays. Fatal mistake, as no one else will do that for you ;)

Turn these planning mistakes on their head, forget about perpetual fire-fighting and enjoy the luxury of quality time, for reading and otherwise.

What I do (among others): I plan on a weekly basis, keep one day entirely free, maintain manageable daily objectives and accommodate the unknown by pushing things back to when I have free time available. My reading time is early and late in the day, at the edges of a working day, when I have a break and if I need to read a specific document, I include that in my plan. Ticking off my to-do’s gives me joy and a sense of achievement, while I can still open any unknown along the way – ideal! Ha – and saying no and planning holidays were the two surviving skills I learnt with my previous employer IRC – just try it!

Act

…on the spot! I already covered dealing with email overflow - a lot of that advice applies to other information sources. Act is about avoiding future problems. It’s about finding heuristics that work for you (e.g. do, delegate or dump), but doing it in the moment, as it happens. Act according to your plans, act on capturing (see next point) when the opportunity presents itself, act on what you observe and feel, act rather than just think. Seize the moment to read, use your ‘dead time’ and combine opportunities to do reading (to serve another purpose) if that makes your life easier.

Try and stick to the plans when it makes sense, don’t dilute your focus. Keep zen habits… Though when a good opportunity presents itself to absorb that information in a slow, qualitative kind of way, just seize it, it might be your best chance in a while. It’s about being in the moment and honing the wisdom of insecurity.

What I do: I execute my plans, I regularly read stuff and when I see something valuable I share and/or save it on the spot. And a whole lot more which I guess I should unpack in a future post… 

Capture

Managing information flow is also about deferring / staging the time to absorb that information – and indeed fixing filter failures.

Staging the consumption of information means that you not only plan time to that kind of quality reading, but you can also save information for later consumption (and easy sharing). Like recording a program you don’t have the time to watch at the moment. Social bookmarking helps you do just that (see this video about social bookmarking).

RSS feeds are also a great way to differ your information consumption. What are RSS feeds? See the video below. What’s great about it is that they capture information for you – ready to be read any time – in one convenient place, like your personal, customised newspaper.

Fixing filter failures is itself about leveraging the combined filtering power of your personal learning network (PLN). Invest in your PLN, on all social media/networks you’re using; prune those networks, remove the people that you don’t really engage with or benefit from, act as the constant knowledge gardener. If well maintained, your PLN will help you find the cream of the content crop, by retweeting/saving/blogging about/referring to/sharing these great resources – something that Twitter does particularly well but other platforms too.

What I do: I’ve been using Del.icio.us for a while to bookmark resources that I have found interesting – or that look interesting. Sometimes I don’t come back to those. Most of the time I do, at some point, use these resources. Favourites in specific collections such as FlickRSlideshare etc. also provide similar features. I use those two, Pinterest for graphs and funny pictures (that are not mine), Instagram to store touched up pix taken with my phone, TumblR to keep track of fragments of conversations and blogging ideas etc. – I collect stuff on the spot. And I check RSS feeds (via Feed.ly) on my phone or over the weekend + a very quick check some mornings, possibly reading whatever incredible stuff appeared in my stream.

Manage

At some point it really helps to manage and curate your content: organise your tags/keywords to make sure you collect your resources around consistent references, bundle important references on specific channels, analyse your resources and blog about it. Robin Good recently shared this excellent resource on good (and new) curation tools and practices which will give you a lot of great ideas to curate relevant content.

What is content curation? (Credits - Webbythoughts)

What is content curation? (Credits – Webbythoughts)

Managing also covers learning – analysing the content and reflecting on your planning, acting, collection and curation practices. It can be part of planning, it can be done on a daily or weekly basis but it needs to be done regularly to adjust. The bad news: it will take you a while to get on top of your content collections and information flows. But once you do and you have properly managed and are regularly curating them, your practice becomes an unconscious competence: you just do it without noticing, so it doesn’t (feel like it may) take time.

What I do: I recently reviewed all my Del.icio.us, tags removed all duplicates etc. it took me half a day but it is now so easy to save a new resource (without wondering which tag I should be using) and to retrieve any of them later… I regularly save pictures aside and put them on Pinterest and FlickR to keep them in sets/collections. I also analyse my own (and other) content I ‘take stock‘ of important topics on this blog. I use my blog for many different purposes, including reflecting on my information management practices, it’s a powerful way to surface deeper issues and structure solutions for me. When I have more time I review how I use my collections such as Pinterest, RSS feeds. However I don’t reflect enough – every day – about what I could improve or why things didn’t go as intended.

So what now?

With PACMan you should now be able to stay on top of your information flows and progressively handle more and more of it – if you so wish – or balance the time you absorb information with other personal priorities of yours. Oh sure it will take some time but you no longer will be part of the people who feel constantly overwhelmed with information…

And that’s agile PKM for you ;)

Related blog posts:

Leaders, innovate please!


Leadership vs management (Credits - ocd007 / FlickR)

Leadership vs management (Credits – ocd007 / FlickR)

Enough!

Enough ‘do what I say, not what I do’!

Enough ‘we aspire to be a centre of excellence’ bla bla bla but we don’t put our heart and money to it!

Enough old potions in new bottles!

Enough 20th century management in 21st century networked leaders’ age!

LEADERS, IT’S TIME TO INNOVATE!

I realise starting this year with a rant may not be the most appropriate debut in a new year full of exciting opportunities.

But somehow I’ve just had enough of…

Leaders, if you want to innovate, do it properly! Start with your staff’s ideas; consider their connections and their networks; see them as the DNA of the company – one that keeps reforming and offering opportunities; allow people to try things out / reflect / report / reframe and reinforce their initiatives; open your circle, heart, mind and soul; and: lead the way, pave the way for all the leaders-to-be that you say your company holds but that your actions implicitly deny…

There are various examples out there. This is just one more way to open up:

The ball is in your court, and the clock is ticking. Dinosaurs go extinct, so in front of that swimming pool of change, risk, unfamiliarity and innovation, your precious company has to just dive or die. The choice is yours, and a lot of people are ready to help!

Related blog posts:

Communication for development, KM and blurred boundaries: an interview with Michael Victor


In December 2013, a couple of very interesting workshops took place on the ILRI Ethiopia campus around the topic of knowledge management and communication. On that occasion, I interviewed Michael Victor, communication ‘Comms’ and KM coordinator for the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) and for the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. 

Michael Victor, Communication and Knowledge Management coordinator for the Challenge Program for Water and Food (Credits: Ewen Le Borgne/ILRI)

Michael Victor, Communication and Knowledge Management coordinator for the Challenge Program for Water and Food (Credits: Ewen Le Borgne/ILRI)

Having been involved in the Nile Basin’s share of the CPWF experience with research for development, I had heard of the concept of ‘blurred boundaries’ that seem to be at the heart of comms and KM in that program, and Michael is one of the proponents of this approach. Here he explains what is meant with it, what his interest in KM is all about and how he sees the field evolve…

  • Blurred boundaries between KM, communication etc. what is it all about?

It’s that

It’s with these system-based learning approaches (knowledge sharing, information management, communication, monitoring and evaluation etc.) that you see learning blurring all connections. You have specific disciplines but you no longer have a database manager, a librarian and a writer. Now the IM/Comms field is a lot more blurred. It’s about getting knowledge at the right time to the right people to make the right decisions. I don’t even understand the difference between comms and uptake.

However there’s real resistance to see these fields get interlinked and to see them support programmatic or external change. And you still need specialists but they should all be working together.

  • What trends are you observing in comms/KM in the development world (or any closer arena)?

Moving from service orientation (corporate) to much more outcome-oriented focus. Also moving from a support.administrative function to a strategic one.

With all the social media we’ve been spewing, I think we’ll see more targeted approaches. We’ve lost the whole connection with national systems and with national comms/KM conduits. We forget that our next users will be the national level users which are not using all these online channels all that much.

  • What is your personal interest in the field of KM – now?

My personal interest is communication for development (comms4dev) and policy communication  i.e. finding ways that we use comms/KM approaches, tools, products, processes, networks (informal or formal) to get research into use and people to get engaged in the research process, using the knowledge from the research in a certain way and get research to be more relevant, better informed etc.

The trick is to trap people to get interested in research but there’s another loop to use people to influence the way research is done.

I’m also kinda interested in this innovation systems and learning to make it practical. It’s still very airy fairy but it sounds very powerful – the question is: “how to get it into use”?

  • What are your sources of inspiration in KM/C?

By talking with people, learning. I don’t think I’m an active learner (e.g. on social networks) but I’m engaging with people. The inspiration for me, overall, was my community forestry experience, learning about Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), understanding that what we’re dealing with is not a technological change but a social movement, getting people more involved and to take over, not just “be developed”. There’s a couple of people that really inspired me: Cor Veer, John Raintree..

My KM year’s insights, top posts… and a Merry Christmas!!!


What reflections and patterns come up in the KM world anno 2013 (Credits - Ekkaia / FlickR)

What reflections and patterns come up in the KM world anno 2013 (Credits – Ekkaia / FlickR)

That time of the year, when we are packing up for holiday and family celebrations. A good reflective time though the festivities can make it harder than summer holidays to find time to reflect.

As I’m just about to also take a few days off, here is what I’ve observed in my KM (for development [research]) world this year.

  • KM is not dead, it is more than alive! And more and more people are joining KM forums, discussion lists, communities of practice (3500 people on KM4Dev!!!). See some of these forums and networks here. It’s booming business.
  • Big data has been all over the place of course and is going to keep going strong as software applications are able to process increasingly fathomless data sets. However the question of who decides how to analyse that data remains most of the time unclear. A slightly similar development as the explosion of ICT applications in ag business which needs to be channelled and solicited by some demand… which is why, for the big data revolution to really offer its fruits…
  • Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is gaining ground (credits - Harold Jarche)

    Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is gaining ground (credits – Harold Jarche)

    …the recognition of knowledge workers is also gaining ground. We need capacity to analyse data, to make sense of it. So we need to be individually stronger at analysing our world. This means that on the one hand PKM (see this presentation by Stephen Dale on personal knowledge management) is gaining ground – with the idea that everyone in the organisation can contribute their energy, capacity, network to solve problems and that…

  • …On the other hand, more efforts in the KM world are coming up to federate, rally, convene minds and hearts to solve complex interrelated issues. These ‘change conversation’ spaces have to be facilitated - no longer managed. So KM is being stretched on its individual (PKM) and on its holistic frontier, when it used to focus mostly on organisational learning (see the presentation below)
  • Generally networked KM dynamics is taking central stage as everyone is wondering how those dynamics can stimulate innovation, ideation and (inter-) institutional change, including in rural development areas.
  • Assessing KM through e.g. social media metrics is slowly but surely coming of age as testified by this recent article and those reflections from the recent ICT4Ag conference. We are now talking beyond reach into engagement, use, learning, action… Still lots of progress to be made but we are going forward!
  • Closer to development work, the idea of ‘blurred boundaries’ between e.g. KM, communication, monitoring and learning etc. is making headway. Communication is no longer just a support cabinet that can be called upon to polish ‘messages’, it is part and parcel of operations and rebranded under a general ‘engagement’ approach. Because engagement leads communication, learning and action. See some excellent collective reflections about recent workshops I was involved in, on this.

This recent presentation by Nancy Dixon also gives us some additional views over KM in late 2013:

What this suggests is that KM is becoming the art and science of stimulating collective sense-making conversations and integrated actions, while relying on solid individual practices and skills. I expect more will happen at the junction of individual (networks, capacities, passions) and collective (ambitions, agendas and wicked problems) dynamics in 2014 and beyond. Perhaps I’ll even try some predictions early next year…

But back to 2013: Here were the most popular posts (including the ‘top 10 published in 2013′ in bold) on this blog this year:

  1. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  2. Tinkering with tools: What’s up with Yammer?
  3. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  4. Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information…
  5. The art of blogging: Taking stock
  6. What is common knowledge about knowledge? A visual tour…
  7. Learning cycle basics and more: Taking stock
  8. What the heck is knowledge anyway: from commodity to capacity and insights
  9. The feast of fools of feedback
  10. Why on earth would you want to be on Twitter?
  11. The lessons I learned about lessons learned
  12. What to put in a KM training, off the random top of my head
  13. We need more / better communication! But not from me…
  14. Assessing, measuring, monitoring knowledge (and KM): Taking stock
  15. Modern musings on a KM evergreen: institutional memory
  16. Engagement and deeper connection in social networks, a dialogue with Jaume Fortuny
  17. What’s really new about social learning?

Now I wish you all Merry Christmas and hope catch up soon, perhaps even before the new year! Thank you very much for all the good work around KM, learning, engagement, empowerment, for following this blog, for sharing thoughts and quality time with me and many.

Keep up the good work in 2014!

Merry Christmas (credits - Ceanandjen:FlickR)

Merry Christmas! (Credits – Ceanandjen:FlickR)

Learning-blind development (aid) and the missed opportunities for a real difference


Failure's freeway, the road followed by most development initiatives, occasionally dimmed by learning though (Credits: StormKatt / FlickR)

Failure’s freeway, the road followed by most development initiatives, occasionally dimmed by learning though (Credits: StormKatt / FlickR)

The global development sector is a learning universe, a space of experimentation and failures. One can read this positively – as in “a lot of learning is happening in it” – or negatively – as in “a lot has to be learned still and so much effort goes to waste”. Are we blind to learning in development (aid)?

Thing is: this situation is totally systemic. And since we only realise now how all aspects of development are connected (e.g. roads and other infrastructures allow better access to market; access to water allows improvement on agriculture and further down the line education etc.) there has been indeed a lot of wasted resource reinventing the wheel in development (aid) which could have been used differently.

At a moment when the public scrutiny towards spending on development aid is ever more alert and leads to budget cuts (which is a good thing since it forces everyone to cooperate for scarcer resources), the imperative for learning has never been more important than now – something which is fortunately happening, somehow, even between regions (as e.g. between Africa and the Pacific).

But a lot remains to be done still. It is not always obvious how learning can really improve development (aid), and the costs of learning (i.e. the investment in it – and I’ll come back to this in a later post) can seem much steeper than the benefits. But the cost of not learning is quite obvious.

So now, let’s look at a typically bad – and alas too frequent – development (research) project and its missed opportunities for learning; and let’s compare this with an ideal project which pays much attention to learning throughout:

What happens too often with typical / bad development projects

What ideal (learning-focused) development initiatives would look like

Preparation

It usually has overloaded ambitions in an unreasonably short project period (it’s not realistic and not designed in the light of previous experiences) Upfront, there have been extensive consultations with key parties – current and future partners – to determine the agenda and the ideal duration of the initiative. Literature research and scoping past experiences is also instrumental in building upon the legacy for this new initiative

Initial phases

The new project or program is meant to start delivering almost as it starts – no consideration has been paid for the time it takes to build meaning, trust and abilities The new initiative spends considerable time (a flexible inception period) collecting insights to refine and work further on ownership, capacities relationships and better plans
The project only addresses the ‘what has to be done’ and assumes that the people involved can just get on with it

Initial briefing is only about what the project aims to achieve, its organogram and reporting lines etc. all bureaucratic information

Much consideration goes into ‘Why are we doing this’ as well as ‘how are we going to handle it’ and ‘do we have the right capacities or should we invest in our capacities or in extra capacity?’

Initial briefing has therefore taken stock of the capacity gaps among staff and partners and addresses simple things like working with Word/Excel, social media etc. a s well as concepts that matter for the initiative – so the why and how

Who’s driving the project

External parties are driving the whole agenda and exploring new (thematic and geographic) areas Endogenous parties (and perspectives) are in the driving seat and have been selected for their mandate and capacity, network and other assets to sustain the initiative in the context(s) of the initiative- all of this is known because there has been proper reflection and consultation with them at the onset
A small team organises all activities for everybody. Occasionally some ad hoc team meetings are held which help the central team pass on information to everyone else A small team facilitates the implementation by other teams. It puts emphasis on holding regular team meetings where real two-way conversations are held, with proper documentation of key discussion points and jointly agreed decisions

Running activities and events

Activities are implemented by a small team working in isolation from other teams – they’re too busy ‘fire fighting’ to share anything with anyone else Every opportunity is seized to see if there is sense in following a social learning approach, putting the emphasis on ‘genuine’ participation. And the teams take time to find alternative solutions if they see that they end up ‘fire fighting’ all the time.
Activities are following the plans because the plans dictate what has to be done according to donors, when they granted the money. Activities are following the outcome logic and theory of change but they are regularly revised along the way, in line with changes – and that has been agreed with donors as the latter rather focus on a more effective yet deviated initiative than a useless original plan
Events organised during the project are scarce and when they happen they consist in death-by-Powerpoint executions, are ill-documented and quickly forgotten about – everyone sticks back to ‘business as usual’

There is particularly a ‘big bang’ kick-off event with lots of money and the presence of national media, followed sometimes only by a major closing event. Nothing much in between

The initiative is all about learning and engagement therefore it offers many opportunities and contextual events for the people involved to come together, reflect, ask questions, take decisions, follow up with actions, revise activities and plans

Engagement means that there is constant interaction with key influencers and movers, not just at the onset and sunset. All events that take place are properly facilitated to ensure learning is maximised – and well documented in accessible and compelling formats for future reference and action monitoring

Involvement and engagement

Working with partners at this stage means that partners do some activities either on their own but with very close ‘big brother-like’ supervision or totally separated from the rest of the project. The interaction relates to executing a plan and reporting about it – all that matters are the results. Partnership for the project staff means ‘more reports, more work, fewer results’ Working with partners builds upon the trust from the pre-project and early stages. Everyone shares insights, regularly engages in a joint analysis and it means a lot of opportunities to do things differently, to do different things, to learn differently (three learning loops) and to develop everyone’s capacity – a good set of assets for future initiatives too! Partnerships here means more ideas, more capacity, more energy, better quality learning, better results, better relationships: SYNERGY!
When conducting ‘field activities’, local community members are invited to respond to a (sometimes excruciatingly long) predefined questionnaire. They may never see the results of this. But it’s ok, since they’re project beneficiaries, they will benefit in a way or another, won’t they (it’s just not very clear how ;) ) Field activities are guided by a certain ethics of engagement, are participatory in design and in practice, are developed jointly with the locals involved and results are therefore automatically shared, visions for the future elaborated collectively and plans adjusted together, starting from different world views
High level engagement consists in developing a few outputs at the end of the project and sending them to a mixed group of important decision-makers, hoping they will read and apply these High level engagement – which also contributes to leading to development outcomes – means that cherry-picked decision-makers have been involved in the process from the start, own the process and results (perhaps they have been involved in action-research themselves) and become the best advocates of the initiative’s work themselves
People involved in the project feel isolated and detached from the project and from each other. They don’t look critically at options to improve the situation for themselves and the whole group People in the project feel energised, involved, concerned, motivated. They all apply ‘personal knowledge management’ (PKM) to some extent so they personally improve and they connect their personal sphere and network with the initiative to question and improve it and to sharpen critical thinking. They are encouraged to reflect on their own as well as collectively

Capacity development

After the initial briefing, if there is any capacity development activity it is training, conducted by external trainers, to address general skills, not specific contextual issues that the project people are effectively facing. And that is, again, if there is anything planned to address capacity gaps. Everyone’s capacity is positively monitored (followed) and leads to several activities along the initiative, moving training from the theoretical terrain to the workplace experience and moving from just training to a whole set of capacity development activities (coaching, exchange visits, involving people in communities of practice etc.) focusing generally on improving the institutional capacity for change

Communication and outputs

The website and other communication channels are mostly unidirectional (‘here’s what we have to say to you’) and not well connectedStaff and partners deplore that so little communication is taking place - but they’re not doing much to change this The different communication channels are interrelated, engaging (they feature dialogues, consultations etc.) and although they look slightly messier perhaps, they are echoing and amplifying what the initiative is trying to accomplish, through multiple engagement routes

Everyone contributes to communication efforts

The outputs developed by the project are released at the end of the project and without much passion – more like ‘according to plan’ – and are not really informing other activities. Occasionally they are being promoted on e.g. the website, as standalone ‘results’ A variety of outputs are released throughout the project (away from dotty dotted communication), mirroring the different reflections, conversations and actions that have taken place by different people at different times and locations, about the thematic content focus of the initiative as well as about the process leading to its development. They are connected, refer to each other, and crucially are used (both content and output development process) for further engagement, reflection and action by the parties that are supposed to use them as opportunities and levers of change

Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation boils down to the bare minimum reporting. It is centralised but requires partners and outputs to provide a lot (random?) facts without background information as to why that matters. No one knows what happens to those M&E reports anyway. Probably they’re never read M&E organically addresses accountability, in an ongoing dialogue with the donor, but it also addresses learning needs to identify and address systemic gaps around the initiative’s objectives (and inform future initiatives). Everyone contributes to M&E although in practice M&E and project requirements are often the same because they have been integrated at the onset. Reports are just the (process) documentation of the conversations that happen in the initiative

What happens at the end of the project

The final project report is a sort of ‘annual report’ with some results but little passion and curiosity. It is only shared with the donor (Annual reports are an excellent measure of learning in organisations by the way)

Too bad, the website will never be updated – some people might think the project is still going on (luckily that horrible project is finally over though!)

The final project output is an interactive set of multimedia resources addressing different audiences, providing practical tools and guidance on approaches, in a variety of formats, distributed to all parties involved in the initiative, backed by an interactive event that looks forward and builds on previous conversations about this. All communication channels are also geared for that ‘post-initiative’ stage.
At the end of the project, it remains unclear what will happen with the people involved (staff, partners, beneficiaries), with the outputs (where will they be made accessible) and with the lessons that were gathered from the project – but at that stage, is there anything that should be saved from that horrible project, if not lessons about doing things differently next time? At the end of the initiative, a lot of options are on the table because there has been a thorough conversation throughout about sustainability, exit strategies etc. so everyone knows what they can do and have activated their networks to make it happen.

The initiative’s outputs are all openly accessible in a sustainable database and the many many lessons from this initiative have informed activities by many parties involved for future work – institutional memory across projects is taken care of.

Learning and sharing - the essence of smart development work

Learning and sharing – the essence of smart development work

It’s always dangerous to use such caricatures as it lends to think that it might refer to reality. It does not, of course, and a lot of development initiatives are somewhere on a continuum between situation A (the horrible project) and situation B (the ideal learning initiative), but clearly there are many opportunities for learning in development, so let’s focus on what’s being learned and use it to learn even more, rather than despair at all that is there to learn yet while ignoring the legacy from the past… 

Echoing, here, the man of the month (year, decade, century?):

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again (Nelson Mandela).

Does this assessment ring a bell? Does it resonate with your experience of what is happening with development aid or not? What other options do you see?

Related blog posts:

Why on earth would you want to be on Twitter?


Given the cutting-edge experience of my personal learning network (yes, you, who follow this blog and whom I’m following on various social media generally) this question seems strange, but there are many Twitter skeptics out there. It’s great! Long live the skeptics! Long live their ability to raise important questions… that is, so long as it leads to open-ended conversations… Because as much can be said in favour of Twitter as can be said against it.

So, for my skeptical friends, here’s what I have to say about Twitter:

Why you might be skeptical:

  • You haven’t tried Twitter for yourself yet – perhaps you’ve created a Twitter account but never really used it – so it doesn’t bring anything interesting in return (obviously)!
  • None of your friend or family is on it – so none of the people you trust seem to perceive any value from it, quite logically.
Twitter - sometimes unfiltered for the worst of all (credits: CarrotCreative / FlickR)

Twitter – sometimes unfiltered for the worst of all (credits: CarrotCreative / FlickR)

  • The only people you know who might be on it are the IT crew, communication specialists and a few other ‘looneys’ – people you don’t necessarily identify with.
  • You hear a lot of caution in the (traditional) media about Twitter and social media in general – this is common in France but I suspect in many other places too.
  • Most examples of Twitter use you hear about are from silly people tweeting about enjoying their tomato-mozzarella sandwich, half-brained adolescents sharing all details of their private life without any measure of decency, or celebrities glossing over their latest celeb-do’s…

Well… I can’t blame you for being skeptical. If that’s the picture you have, I share your despair for the human race.

Except that…

I personally know about the power of Twitter. I see it around me everyday (in my Twitter stream of news), I experience it every week, I’ve experienced it in various Twitter chats too. So let’s also have a look at this side of things, but first…

The basics: what you need to understand about Twitter

  • A lot of people don’t understand that social media can be used for your private life and/or your professional life. They are not one and the same, even though some half-brainers might mix the two – The Social Media Guide for Africa tried to inform readers about this.
  • Actually, I would argue that a medium like Twitter is much more adapted to professional uses (or at least to topics that might interest more than a small in-crowd), because it has a great ability to rally people around topics (as opposed to already formed social relationships).
  • The whole secret about Twitter is about following the RIGHT people. The right people to YOU. No strings attached with Twitter, no need to feel any sense of obligation towards anyone. It’s not your family email list, it’s not your University mates’ network. It’s your personal learning network. At least part of it, since other parts of your community might be in other social networks. And that personal learning network needs care, for engagement to genuinely happen.
Twitter vs. Facebook (credits: cambodia4kidsorg / FlickR)

Twitter vs. Facebook (credits: cambodia4kidsorg / FlickR)

  • So Twitter can be used to make contact with people that are interested in the similar topics as you are. It is actually described as the social network where you meet people online that you’d love to encounter face-to-face, while Facebook is the social network that allows you to get in touch face-to-face connections you’d rather have forgotten ;)
  • Like any social media, it takes time to get a handle on Twitter – and it takes practice, dedication, purpose. It’s not going to take a week, not a month but probably closer to a year of (some kind of) practice before you see REAL return on investment with more interaction, a highly relevant network, a good handle of all options, using some related Twitter tools. And in the meantime it will be a good ride still, because you’ll get a lot of relevant information.
  • You can be passive or you can be active. The latter is even better and will bring you even more benefits, but simply reading tweets can be immensely rewarding. As you can see below, a minority of Twitter users are active anyhow. It doesn’t mean they’re passive, they’re just choosing to listen.

The advantages: How can Twitter *really* help you

  • The main advantage of Twitter is that it’s a great overall filter – to sift through tons of information – because if your network is good, it brings up good, relevant stuff up to the top.

“It’s not about information overload, it’s about filter failure” (Clay Shirky)

  • Twitter is a great live reporting channel. News often breaks out more quickly there than it does on mainstream media – because it relies on mobile inputs from web-enabled knowledge workers using their phone, tablet, PC etc. to share what is happening.
  • It takes no time to go through your feed. Since every tweet is only 140 characters, every message is quickly digested. Even a flow of 100 tweets missed in the space of a few hours can be quickly scanned and ignored at will. And then it may also reveal some gems.
  • Because it’s all based on the network and it is a social network, you can really engage with the people you are following or who are following you; you can mention them, message them, have private conversations with them. You can strike partnerships, friendships or simply trusted relationships with people you have never met in real life.
  • As it has a very viral nature, it can be an excellent relay for information you come across, that you produce, that you curate etc. – so that more people can benefit from this information and experience too.
  • Against the problem of dealing with intense email flows, Twitter also allows diverting some of the traffic away from your inbox. A Twitter contact of mine shared this example of using Twitter to replace collective email lists.
  • It’s a personal record of interesting thoughts, links, information etc. which can be tracked again later (through Twitter tools like TwimeMachine and many others)… As a thought repository, it is also useful to help reflection and analysis.
  • And from my colleagues, here are a few other personal benefits:
    • “I can do a much better job of assembling high-quality people to listen to/stay in contact with (via social media such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, blogs, etc.) than can traditional media, who mediate that process for me”
    • “I continue to read article published in traditional media (e.g. Guardian, Atlantic, New Yorker, New York Times), but I increasingly find these great article NOT on those websites but rather by referral (aka curation) by those I follow on social media.”
    • “Serendipitous discovery in high-quality social media (where the quality is determined by the reader and who that reader follows) is infinitely higher in quality that similar discoveries available in traditional media. Where some editor is trying to put together materials for the masses. Just saying.”

And yet more from Twitter contacts:

Oh, and it must be serendipitous zeitgeist because Harold Jarche just beat me to this topic by blogging about ‘the value of Twitter‘.

The challenges: what are some of the possible limitations of Twitter

  • As any other social media, it can be overwhelming to work with Twitter at first – and it is a challenge to ‘trim’ your social network. But it’s essential because your Twitter news stream will be as good (or as bad) as your Twitter network’s relevance.
  • Finding the balance between what’s ‘tweetable’ and what’s not remains a bit of a learning exercise for all of us – and so is learning how to tweet, how to make use of the technical options of Twitter (to tweet, send direct messages etc.) – this is why it takes quite a few months to really benefit greatly from it.
  • And perhaps a question mark – I wonder if Twitter doesn’t work better for information and knowledge professionals simply because we are more likely to try it out and reach the critical mass that allows you to have good conversations. So it may be more difficult for some to use the potential of the no.2 social network.

Now what then?

Despite this post, I certainly don’t want to encourage you to use Twitter cost what cost. Really!

But on the other hand: can you afford to ignore Twitter just out of principle, without having tried it for yourself? Can you afford to ignore what could possibly be a much smarter way of working, of navigating this world of information we live in? Are you going to be the last skeptic on Earth about Twitter? Go on then, play around, reflect, inform your decision and contribute to the twittering choir about Twitter. Then, and only then are you allowed to remain skeptical – and to sharpen my mind with your challenging questions :)

PS. Twitter is only one of the social media channels that you might want to consider. See this presentation to give you an idea about the options with the social learning landscape anno 2013/2014…

Related blog posts:

The ‘personal’ factor, beyond the human factor in KM


Get the people right!

Trust the people, not just the experts btw! (Credits: phauly / FlickR)

Get the  right people in – not just the ‘experts’ btw! (Credits: phauly / FlickR)

That’s what KM is all about, that’s what most social jobs are all about. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Yet we still stick our heads in the sands and pretend that our plans and logical frameworks are more important than simple human-to-human relationships…

Think about it:

  • How many times did personal connections play a role – in a way or another – in hiring people (or getting hired) e.g. knowing someone who knew someone… Oh, just this article that was tweeted about coming up today to back this statement
  • How many times did an organisation encourage certain processes (e.g. strong cooperation across departments, more facilitated meetings, a strong learning culture etc.) because one or two people were driving that agenda?
  • Why are most KM strategies (and me too) recommending to enroll individual champions and management?
  • How often do you see one person walking the talk, standing up for all others who don’t stick their neck out – and in the best of cases actually influencing those others to follow their example?

Humans drive change, not organisations, not strategies, not statements. They all contribute, but at the end of the day behind all the great apparatus of change, there’s a (wo)man of flesh and blood, usually rallied by other enthusiasts. We are beings of passionate social movements, not of logical strategies.

What does that tell us?

Perhaps the most useful (and seemingly counter-intuitive) measure to get KM right is not to develop a strategy or an information system – or even better: a portal!!! oh no, please not another one - but first and foremost to hire the right person for the job. Someone who really ‘gets it’ and can influence the rest of the organisation, little by little. Ditto for the other champions that get a KM strategy to fly (even under the radar).

If those people are inside your area of influence or control, it might be easier to approach them and build a rapport – and looking at what causes people to change might help. But it seems to me that in order to adapt to the (inter)personal nature of our work, our agile KM knowledge, skills and attitude should certainly entail:

  • A wide range of expertise topics allowing to build initial rapport with a variety of people;
  • A sense of vision and a passion for that vision, to communicate it with others and commune around it;
  • Strong empathetic skills to be able to listen, relate and trust – based on genuine feelings not just a vernix of diplomatic formulas;
  • A good dose of creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and spontaneity to gauge individuals in ways that go beyond marketplace and job-chasing conventions;
  • Authenticity, once again, because that might be the best proof of your intentions;
  • And fun, flings, fluff, emotions and all the things that seem to unnecessary to a strategy but that are oh so necessary to get two people to trust each other.

And the rest is just about developing joint work to let initial impressions convert to a real, strong relationship.

If the champions are outside the organisation, it might be a great idea to use CoPs (communities of practice), PLNs (personal learning networks) and any face-to-face opportunity (whether short-lived like events or longer such as projects) to build that rapport with them. Because these great people who make change happen, these positive deviants and mavericks simply won’t come if they don’t smell a whiff of social compatibility in their new working environment. 

So get the people right, and worry about strategies, systems and processes later. Your ideas will fly if the people that are supposed to bear and apply them are flying freely themselves.

Related blog posts:

La gestion des connaissances au Burkina Faso, interview avec une pionnière : Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaoré


(English version at the bottom)

Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaore, KM pioneer (Credits: Performances)

Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaore, KM pioneer (Credits: Performances)

De passage à Ouagadougou en septembre dernier j’ai visité mon amie et consœur de KM4Dev et SA-GE, Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaoré, directrice fondatrice de l’atelier Performances. Pionnière de la gestion des connaissances dans le « pays des hommes intègres » (Burkina Faso), Yennenga a accepté cette interview dans laquelle elle revient sur son choix de ce domaine, les tendances qu’elle observe et ce qu’elle conseillerait à d’autres entrepreneurs emboitant ses pas.

Ewen Le Borgne (ELB) : Yennenga, comment définirais-tu la gestion des connaissances ?

Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaoré (JYK) : Gérer les connaissances c’est avoir un certain nombre de réflexes, c’est aussi mettre en place une certaine organisation en interne afin de ne pas éparpiller, gaspiller, perdre les connaissances que l’on acquiert soit par l’expérience, soit par des échanges avec d’autres personne ou tout autre mode d’acquisition du savoir. La gestion des connaissances, c’est un ensemble de décision et d’actions que l’on peut prendre et entreprendre une fois que l’on a répondu à ces deux questions : (1) de quelles connaissances ai-je besoin dans le cadre de mon travail ? (2) Qu’est-ce que j’ai appris par mon expérience que je peux transmettre, partager avec d’autres personnes ?

(ELB) : Pourquoi as-tu choisi le domaine de la gestion des connaissances et comment as-tu démarré dans ce domaine ?

(JYK) : Le terme ‘gestion des connaissances’ m’est venu après la rencontre KM4Dev de Bruxelles en 2009. Je menais déjà des activités de prestation dans ce domaine et j’inventais puis testais des méthodologies et différents process sans pouvoir mettre un nom à mes prestations. En fait, c’était assez embarrassant, car je me sentais à part. Dans mon environnement, on avait tendance à m’associer aux agences de communication, ce que Performances n’est pas. C’est donc pendant la rencontre KM4DEV que j’ai découvert l’expression gestion des connaissances et je me suis presque exclamée : voilà ! C’est ce que je fais !

Mes premiers pas dans la gestion des connaissances remontent à 2000.  J’ai été recrutée dans une ONG dans l’est du pays, où j’ai travaillé pendant trois ans pour capitaliser les expériences d’organisations paysannes ; je travaillais avec les leaders de ces organisations pour retranscrire ces expériences et voir comment on pouvait l’écrire de manière optimale. Mon travail consistait en grande partie à faire des interviews, à les retranscrire, à analyser ces retranscriptions pour en extraire ce que je pouvais et les ré écrire de façon attrayante afin de les partager avec le maximum d’organisations paysannes. On part avec un mot, un thème, et on atterrit avec un livre, une vidéo, une émission radio. C’est un processus concret de fabrication de produits transmissibles.

Mon premier thème de travail c’était la gestion dans les organisations paysannes. Très surprenant pour quelqu’un (moi) qui ne s’y connaissais pas spécialement en gestion. Mais à la fin du processus, mon évolution dans la connaissance de ce thème était spectaculaire. Au-delà des produits, les méthodologies sont très importantes.

(ELB) : Observes-tu des tendances dans la gestion des connaissances au Burkina Faso ?

(JYK) : Aujourd’hui l’expression gestion des connaissances commencent à faire son entrée dans le vocabulaire des organisations. Même si on ne voit que certains aspects, comme la capitalisation d’expérience, concept beaucoup plus courant par ici et qui a quelque peu détrôné celui de « suivi-évaluation ». Mais c’est déjà une grande évolution qui montre que l’on commence à accorder de l’importance au savoir local. L’impact étant que de plus en plus d’organisation prévoient une rubrique « capitalisation » dans leur budget. Je pense avoir contribué à cet état de fait, juste par le fait de l’existence de l’atelier Performances et la sensibilisation que j’ai faite auprès des organisations paysannes et de leurs leaders. Je leur dis : « vous pouvez introduire la capitalisations de vos expériences dans vos programmes. Là au moins, vous pouvez démarrer sans partenaires financiers ! Commencer par dresser une carte de vos savoirs et prioriser les thèmes sur lesquels vous estimer que vous avez quelque chose à partager. Je peux vous y aider ».

Une autre tendance – et c’est peut-être dommage – c’est que la capitalisation a tendance à avoir lieu à la fin des projets. Je conseille de ne pas attendre la fin et de s’y mettre dès le démarrage pour pouvoir conserver le maximum du cheminement.

(ELB) : Qu’est-ce-que tu aimerais vraiment faire si ça ne tenait qu’à toi ?

(JYK) : Je voudrais développer l’édition, la diffusion. Quand on arrive au document, souvent les finances ne suivent plus. Je voudrais mettre en place un système de diffusion et de production. Par ailleurs, la transmission est essentielle pour moi car je suis consciente, que toute seule ma capacité de production restera faible quel que soit mon expertise. Je ne serai satisfaite que quand j’aurais réussis à former une « masse » importante de ressources humaines locales dans la sous-région. La mise en place d’un système efficace de formation est un de mes grands chantiers du moment.

 

(ELB) : Que conseillerais-tu à d’autres entrepreneurs qui veulent se lancer dans la gestion des connaissances au Burkina Faso ou dans la sous-région ?

(JYK) : Ne pas être trop ambitieux et perfectionniste ! Avoir le courage de commencer car l’apprentissage se fait sur la route et s’inspirer un peu de l’expérience de ceux qui ont de l’expérience en la matière. Je suis toujours très disposée à partager mon expérience avec ceux qui la respectent, qui lui accordent de la valeur et donc un prix. J’ai aussi développé un concept que j’appelle “STRATE-JYK”. Dans ce cadre j’ai rédigé des “fiches stratejyk” où je raconte mon expérience en création et gestion d’une petite entreprise.

(ELB) : Quelles sont tes sources d’inspiration dans ton travail et dans ta vie ?

(JYK) :  KM4Dev est une source d’inspiration très riche.

Je suis moins mystifiée par la connaissance des autres qu’avant. Je travaille à valoriser ma propre connaissance. Ça décomplexe, ça libère. On n’est plus éternel demandeur, on peut aussi proposer son offre.

J’essaie d’avoir des moments de bureau et des moments de terrain. Je réfléchis beaucoup aux méthodologies. Je peux passer plusieurs années à réfléchir et à tester pour pouvoir en fin de compte, standardiser. Je travaille comme un artisan mais j’ai des ambitions d’industriels. J’ai besoin d’expérimenter avant de mettre « sur le marché ». J’aime travailler de façon professionnelle. Je me paye le luxe de prendre le temps pour faire les choses ; quand c’est possible !

Certaines personnes me reprochent de ne pas être assez visible. J’assume cette politique de discrétion, qui du reste n’est que le reflet de ma personnalité. Et puis, le fait est que mon action, bien qu’étant encore à petite échelle est quand même connue et reconnue. Comme quoi, la meilleure communication n’est pas toujours celle que l’on fait soi-même ! Je ne suis pas un « réseaux sociaux  addict ». Les effets de mode en matière de NTIC, sont certes une grande opportunité, mais je suis très sélective et je ne prends que ce dont j’ai besoin au moment où je me sens prête. Je recherche un impact consistant et durable sur le long terme. Le challenge c’est de pouvoir vivre correctement au jour le jour, et là, on est bien sur du très court terme ! Sourire.

Bref, faire comme les autres, de façon systématique, non. Etre moi-même et ne pas perdre de vue mon objectif, c’est ce qui inspire mes décisions et mes actes, au risque parfois de ne pas être comprise.

Pour moi, la connaissance c’est ce qui nous rend autonomes. Tout ce qui me permet d’être autonome dans la vie c’est de la connaissance. Le reste, c’est du blabla.

(English version – translation by myself so not quite as the original version in French)

JYK, moving for development (Credits: Performances)

JYK, moving for development (Credits: Performances)

While in Ouagadougou last September I visited my friend and KM4Dev/SA-GE peer Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaoré, founder and director of consultancy firm Performances and an Ashoka fellow. A knowledge management pioneer in Burkina Faso, Yennenga accepted to give this interview where she explains how she ended up choosing this field of activity, the trends she has witnessed and what she would advise other KM entrepreneurs wishing to follow her footsteps. 

Ewen Le Borgne (ELB) : Yennenga, how would you define ‘knowledge management’?

Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaoré (JYK) : Knowledge management is about a set of reflexes, about organising things internally to avoid scattering, wasting and losing knowledge that we acquire through experience or exchange with other people. It is about the decisions and actions that one can take and undertake after addressing the questions: (1) What knowledge do I need for my work? (2) What have I learned from experience that I can share with other people?

(ELB) : Why have you chosen to work on knowledge management and how did you get started in that field?

(JYK) : The term ‘knowledge management became familiar to me after the KM4Dev annual meeting of 2009 in Brussels. I was already providing services in that domain before, and I was inventing and testing different methodologies and processes but I didn’t know what to call my domain of work. Actually it was embarrassing because I felt I didn’t fit anywhere. In my environment, people tended to associate me with communication agencies, which Performances is not. During the KM4Dev gathering I discovered knowledge management and it dawned on me that ‘This is what I do!’

My first steps in knowledge management go back to 2000. I was then recruited by an NGO based in Eastern Burkina Faso where I worked for three years to capitalise on the experiences of farmer organisations. I was working with the leaders of those organisations leaders to document these experiences and see how we could write about them most effectively. My work consisted in conducting interviews, transcribing them, analysing those transcriptions and extracting what I could to rewrite them in a compelling way so as to share these experiences with as many farmer organisations as possible. This kind of work starts with a word, a theme and eventually you land a book, a video, a radio broadcast. It’s a very concrete process of creating products that can be shared.

The first theme I worked on was the management of farmer organisations, which was quite surprising, considering I was not really a specialist in management. At the end of the process though, my understanding of it had changed spectacularly. Beyond products, methodologies are very important indeed.

(ELB) : Do you witness certain trends in knowledge management in Burkina Faso?

(JYK) : Today knowledge management (‘Gestion des connaissances’) is slowly becoming part of organisations’ discourse, even though we only see certain aspects of it, such as ‘capitalisation des expériences’ – a concept which is familiar to many more people here and has overtaken ‘monitoring and evaluation’. This is a major shift which shows that people increasingly recognise of the importance of local knowledge. The impact of this is that more and more organisations are considering ‘capitalisation’ activities in their budget. I think I have contributed to this with Performances and the sensitisation work I’ve carried out among farmer organisations and their leaders. I tell them: “You can introduce the capitalisation of your experiences in your programs. There, at least you don’t need financial partners! Start by mapping out your knowledge and prioritising the themes around which you think you have something valuable to share. I can help you with that”.

Another trend, and it’s perhaps a pity, is that capitalisation tends to happen at the end of projects. I always advise not to wait until the end of a project and rather get it going from the onset to be able to capitalise experiences optimally along the way.

 

(ELB) : What would you like to be doing, ideally?

(JYK) : I would like to focus on publishing and diffusion/dissemination. When it comes to developing outputs, funding is often scarce. I would like to set up a production and dissemination system. Sharing is essential for me as I am fully aware that my production capacity remains weak whatever my expertise is. I will be happy when I reach a critical mass of human resources in the region (West Africa). Setting up an effective capacity development system is one of the main endeavours I see ahead of me.

 

(ELB) : What would you advise other entrepreneurs wishing to start working on knowledge management in Burkina Faso and the region?

(JYK) : Not to be too ambitious or perfectionist! Just dare beginning because learning happens along the way and follow inspiration from those who are a little more experienced. I am always keen on sharing my experience with those who respect and value it. I have developed a concept I call ‘STRATE-JYK’, around which I have written ‘stratejyk lists’ (‘fiches stratejyk’) telling my experience in creating and managing a small company.

(ELB) : What/who are your sources of inspiration in your work and your life?

(JYK) :  KM4Dev is a very rich source of inspiration.

I am somewhat less mystified by other peoples’ knowledge than I used to be. I am working on my own knowledge and it is liberating: I am no longer just asking for support, I can also offer some.

I try to mix office and field. I reflect a lot about methodologies. I can spend many years thinking and testing so as to, eventually, move on to standardisation. I work as a craftsman though I have industrial ambitions. I need to experiment, test and try out before bringing something to the market. I like to work in a professional manner. I enjoy the luxury of taking some time to try things out – whenever I can!

Some people tell me I am not visible enough but I have no problem with that level of discretion, which actually reflects my personality. Anyway my work is – however small scale – known and recognised. The best kind of promotion doesn’t always come from oneself after all! I am no ‘social network addict’. ICT fads certainly offer great opportunities but I am very selective and only borrow what I need at a given moment and when I feel ready for it. I seek sustainable impact. The challenge lies in living well day in day out and here we’re obviously in the short term! :)

So… I’m not one to follow what others are doing, systematically. Being myself and not losing my objective is what inspires my decisions and actions, sometimes bearing the risk of being misunderstood.

Knowledge is what makes us autonomous. Everything and anything that allows us to be autonomous in life is knowledge. The rest is hot air.

Related blog posts:

Devons-nous rester SA-GE ?


(For once a post in French as I ponder about a francophone community of practice, SA-GE - I have offered a short translation in English at the bottom of this post).

SA-GE (Savoirs-Gestion), la petite sœur de KM4Dev qui a vu le jour en amont de la rencontre annuelle de KM4Dev de Bruxelles en octobre 2009, a-t-elle atteint maturité ? A un moment où je me pose de sérieuses questions sur l’avenir des communautés de pratique au vu de la difficulté à en maintenir l’énergie, la raison d’être et la pertinence – j’y reviendrai bientôt, dans un post ultérieur et alors qu’une discussion récente et très active (en anglais) compare KM4Dev et KBF (Knowledge brokers’ forum) – la question qui me taraude est donc : y a-t-il un avenir pour SA-GE?

The language communities of Twitter even show no sign of French in Africa, what does this say of SA-GE? (credits - Eric Fischer / FlickR)
The language communities of Twitter even show no sign of French in Africa, what does this say of SA-GE? (credits – Eric Fischer / FlickR)

Ce qui est sûr c’est que SA-GE :

  • Demeure une communauté de pratique unique en français sur la gestion des connaissances pour le développement et devrait donc vraiment remplir les besoins de cette ‘niche’;
  • Est reconnue, au moins au sein de KM4Dev comme un réseau et une communauté à part entière, ayant son utilité;
  • Compte un noyau dur (révélé par l’analyse des réseaux sociaux -en anglais-  entreprise dans l’ensemble de la constellation KM4Dev et recoupant également SA-GE) qui joue peut-être un rôle trop présent;
  • Compte des sous-communautés ou groupes associés assez actifs (au Sénégal et au Burkina Faso notamment);
  • Comprend régulièrement des envois et posts ‘informatifs’ mais ne semble pas décoller bien haut ou atterrir bien loin quand il s’agit de converser;
  • Semble bénéficier tant soit peu d’un certain élan grâce aux initiatives qui gravitent autour de temps à autre :
  • En dépit d’un excellent travail (soutenu par le fonds d’innovation 2012 de KM4Dev) pour remettre en état et organiser la partie documentaire de son wiki par l’intermédiaire de Gilles Mersadier, l’initiative n’a généralement pas suffisamment mobilisé les membres.

Mais quel diagnostic en faire ? Et quels remèdes adopter, s’il y a lieu d’en adopter ?

Mon diagnostic est le suivant :

Un nombre trop faible de membres ne permet pas d’échanger suffisamment, parmi des membres qui seraient sans doute plus heureux de le faire face-à-face plutôt que par écrit. Un nombre encore plus faible de membres (dont je fais partie, quoique de manière de moins en moins visible), anime trop souvent les échanges et ne laisse peut-être pas assez d’espace aux autres membres pour prendre leur élan.

L’absence de réunion ‘physique’ entre les membres ne permet pas d’entretenir suffisamment le lien entre tous et conséquemment ne permet pas de maintenir des échanges nourris.

Un certain nombre de membres de SA-GE sont également membres de KM4Dev et bénéficient davantage de la masse critique et de l’expérience de cette communauté pour vraiment tirer parti de SA-GE. Par ailleurs, un certain nombre d’entre nous évoluons dans des organismes (ou dans un système, secteur ou domaine) majoritairement anglophones, ce qui ne nous expose pas souvent à des conversations et documents en français – et la traduction est un obstacle supplémentaire à la spontanéité des échanges.

Aucun modérateur attitré ne s’occupe de la communauté en raison de l’absence de ressources à cet effet et des limitations du modèle, alternatif, de volontariat distribué (qui que ce soit peut animer la communauté comme il/elle l’entend). En lien avec ce problème, SA-GE reste trop périphérique à KM4Dev et tout investissement dans cette dernière n’atteint que trop rarement SA-GE – le fonds d’innovation 2012 et l’analyse partielle du réseau social de SA-GE demeurent des exceptions dans le cadre du programme d’appui du FIDA (Fonds International de Développement Agricole) pour l’Afrique) à KM4Dev.

Enfin, la production de documents en français (sur le sujet de la gestion des connaissances) et la tenue de conversations sur la gestion des connaissances sont peut-être trop anecdotiques dans le monde francophone pour susciter un réel engouement, se réverbérant sur une communauté comme SA-GE – voir la carte des langues sur Twitter pour nous en donner une appréciation relative.

En bref : trop peu de gens, pour trop peu d’intérêt et d’opportunités, avec trop peu de ressources et trop peu de confiance (i.e. connaissance) mutuelle entre les membres étouffent les opportunités de faire de SA-GE une communauté vibrante. Peut-être la question n’est-elle pas de ‘rester’ SA-GE mais d’avoir formé cette communauté trop tôt ?

Mes recommandations sont les prochaines :

Malgré les défis mentionnés ci-dessus je crois vraiment que SA-GE doit perdurer et que ses membres peuvent bénéficier bien davantage de cette communauté, sous certaines conditions :

  • Ses membres doivent s’en faire ambassadeurs, autant que possible, au sein de leurs organismes respectifs, au sein de KM4Dev, et dans d’autres réseaux spécifiques mais liés au domaine de SA-GE ;
  • Ses membres qui font également partie de KM4Dev se prononcent régulièrement pour faire bénéficier SA-GE d’activités et opportunités proposées pour KM4Dev – l’idée actuelle d’un montage de lettre d’actualités KM4Dev (en anglais) pourrait être une idée à poursuivre sur SA-GE à ce titre ;
  • Des organisations francophones mettent en œuvre des ateliers permettant aux membres de SA-GE de se retrouver et de discuter, à l’instar de la FAO (et de l’excellent travail de Sophie Treinen, entre autres, en ce sens) ;
  • Les sous-réseaux locaux continuent d’animer des rencontres et n’hésitent pas à partager les résultats des rencontres (pas la logistique de la tenue de ces rencontres) pour stimuler des échanges au-delà de leur propre échelle géographique ;
  • Un système de pairs / correspondants pourrait se mettre en place pour organiser des échanges entre deux membres de SA-GE géographiquement éloignés l’un de l’autre (reprenant entre autres l’idée des ‘buddies’ de la semaine de la communauté africaine) ;
  • Des opportunités de financement pourraient être poursuivies pour doter la communauté d’un(e) facilitateur(rice) pour renforcer les échanges et leur documentation. Ces opportunités sont peut-être à poursuivre auprès de la communauté de la francophonie. Un groupe d’intérêt pour le financement de KM4Dev existe d’ailleurs depuis peu (en anglais);
  • D’autres activités telles que l’actualisation du wiki permettent à tout un chacun de découvrir la richesse de SA-GE ;
  • Les membres pourraient tout simplement commenter leur travail et leurs idées de manière plus systématique…
  • Un sondage pourrait être initié auprès des membres de SA-GE pour identifier ce qu’ils en retirent, ce qu’ils apprécient, ce qui leur semble manquer et ce qu’ils seraient prêts à contribuer le cas échéant. Avec une question subsidiaire : ‘Quelle serait votre réaction si SA-GE cessait d’exister ?’

Parfois, nos (mes) hypothèses de perfusion d’une communauté qui n’est pas en pleine forme ne veulent pas suffisamment confronter la vérité : peut-être vaut-il mieux se débarrasser de SA-GE après tout… ?

Qu’en pensez-vous ? Y a-t-il un avenir pour cette communauté ? Devons-nous rester en tant que SA-GE ?

Billets en relation :

(English – short – translation)

SA-GE is the sister community of KM4Dev since its inception in 2009 and has so far benefitted from a number of activities related to KM4Dev (see the list in French above). Yet it remains a not-so-vibrant community of practice (CoP), perhaps not unlike many other CoPs but still…

Looking at this, I reckon that despite the obvious niche SA-GE is occupying, the main issues are: not enough face-to-face events leading to trust-building, not enough people in the community (no critical mass) with a mandate to share information in French and relate SA-GE to their own domain’s conversations in French, not enough time and money to properly facilitate and attend to SA-GE and the francophone KM CoP remains too far at the edges of KM4Dev.

So what can be done? Heaps! Here are some ideas: Be an ambassador for SA-GE within our own organisations, and within KM4Dev; organising more face-to-face events or piggybacking on these to allow SA-GE members to meet each other; seizing every opportunity within KM4Dev (such as the newsletter work that is upcoming) to tag SA-GE along; more continuous exchanges within regional hubs such as SA-GE Burkina Faso or KM4Dev Dakar; a peer/buddy system among pairs of SA-GE members to have more exchange and meeting each other; identifying funding opportunities to find more sustainable resources for proper facilitation; entertaining more activities like the recent SA-GE wiki update; commenting one’s own KM activities in French on SA-GE; starting a survey among SA-GE members to find out what they benefit from it, what they miss, what they would like to do for it and perhaps why they might bother (or not) if SA-GE ceases to exist.

It’s always been my conviction that there was a point for SA-GE but perhaps I just don’t want to confront the reality and indeed SA-GE has no raison d’être after all?

What do you think? What would you do?