Go organic, go civic! #KMalreadyHappensAnyways


It’s the last week of my work at IRC and it’s a crucial moment to reflect on various aspects of the almost 10 years of experience I’ve had at IRC. More than a week ago I had a wonderful farewell party with my amazing future ex-colleagues; it gave me an opportunity to reflect already and I gave a speech. In that speech I mentioned many things but here I want to zoom in on one aspect of it: the importance of local perspectives – NO, the fact that it is ESSENTIAL, if not vital, to start any development initiative with local perspectives; in other words, to go for civic-driven KM in development work; and to preferably do so in an organic way that reflects their pace of change.

An Indian advocate/weaver once showed us the way... it's time for civic-driven change! (Photo credits: Aditi Pany / FlickR)

An Indian advocate/weaver once showed us the way... it's time for civic-driven change! (Photo credits: Aditi Pany / FlickR)

 

KM is about change. Behaviour change. That is granted (isn’t it?). And behaviour change, we know, doesn’t happen if the change is imposed on the people that have to adapt their behaviour. Recently again, in a WASHTech consortium meeting, a famous thinker in the WASH sector, Richard Carter, referred to the immense efforts made to improve hygiene behaviour through informing people about the risks of unhygienic behaviours… Only to conclude that it didn’t work and that years of efforts and millions of dollars went down the drain. The trick to flip the behaviour though was deceptively simple: to focus on the perceived benefits of smelling good and being socially acceptable.

Well, with KM the issue is the same: rather than pushing information systems down peoples’ throats and forcing them to adopt certain behaviours (systematically saving documents on the intranet, sharing information from events with their colleagues, taking the time to reflect about what is going well or not), isn’t it more effective to simply observe how they get their job done? Their deep motivations and capacities? Here’s a hint to the personal effectiveness survey I blogged about earlier.

Isn’t it better to praise what they’re doing well and question their perspective about what’s blocking them? Isn’t it better to perhaps give them some inspiration – by showing the way (‘Be the change you want to see’ said an infamous Indian cotton weaver) – and letting them know how it transformed our life? Isn’t it better to let them decide how they will make sense of it and to let them find their own pace to adapt their behaviour?

It’s certainly worth a try, don’t you think? In the broader development work paradigm, this means it’s time to go civic – as in civic-driven change initiatives – because a change is only as valuable as much as it can be followed and embraced by people (as much as an idea is only worth the extent it can be shared as rightly suggested in the small infographic video of that post). And nothing beats movements founded from the motivation of people’s own choice. This change of perspective also means that change should follow an organic development, going through small iterations of trial and error and critical questioning to learn to improve. Because a forced pace will fail just as much as a forced change, and it might even put people off in the process (read: even less likely to change in the future).

The consequence for all of us (development) knowledge workers is that we should not keep on setting initiatives that start and end with our ideas. It’s time for us to LISTEN, to lend an ear and a hand to those that have the willingness to change and are already trying things out. And perhaps to buddy up with nay-sayers and finding out what’s hitching them and preventing them from changing their attitude…

Although I can’t talk of 100% observance of that rule of thumb, I can safely say that IRC has been lending that ear and that hand in its work – which is what inspired me in my work and in my speech – and I certainly hope to contribute to stimulating civic-driven change at ILRI. If KM is a light, let it be a candle that everyone can find and let them make magic happen with that simple spark!

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Knowledge management, social media and ecology – the complexity of three sessions (218, 206 & 173)


During the Share Fair, I was happy to participate to three very interesting and complementary sessions on a) the IFAD experience of putting KM and learning into practice (#218) b) using social media for development (#206) and c) IKM-Emergent’s idea of a knowledge ecology  (#173).

The first session explored the experiences of IFAD with knowledge management in their programme. It was a great sharing moment recognising the failures and issues that IFAD (like many other organisations) had/has been facing. What worked in their case: iterative coaching and workshops, development of systemic competences, focusing on improvement rather than on ‘KM’ as such, facilitation of communication processes, focus on various levels (individual, team, organisation), challenging the institutional set up, developing pilots to learn quickly from them, promoting and marketing the value of learning (for self improvement), working on the attitude and willingness to learn and improve, and time is needed for all these ingredients to form a savoury meal. And by the way some cooking instructions help too – so here’s the IFAD learning framework, which proved very helpful to turn concepts into practical activities for those involved in this experience.

The IFAD learning framework

The IFAD learning framework

Although there is palpable progress already, much remains to be done. Oh yes, and languages are still very much an issue: no translation budget, interpretation problems… We just can’t keep saying this though. It’s time to act on the language divide!

The second session (1) was around using social media for development – a big buzz word at the moment, confirmed by the over-attendance of this session and the social media reporting overkill. After a short presentation by Musa Masilela, the many participants discussed: the rapidity at which social media are evolving and the need to find a balance between exploring and mastering these tools; the difficulty of justifying and using social medias in institutions when so many corporate procedures hamper their quick uptake; yet at the same time a social media policy proves helpful to frame the approach and visualise the value expected from using social media; and no, not only communication people are in charge of social media, it’s everybody’s business! My take home here was that social media are there, used by many at work and outside and that they have the power to expand conversations and to connect individuals, teams and organisations.

The uber-well attended 'social media for development' session

The uber-well attended 'social media for development' session

The third session was organised by Sarah Cummings from IKM-Emergent around the indeed emergent topic of ‘knowledge ecology’. Sarah blogged about this topic on the Giraffe, the blog of IKM’s working group 3 (which focuses on organisational practices of knowledge management). In brief, the knowledge ecology perspective is about recognising the values and contributions of multiple knowledge cultures in development work and about finding ways to ensure they all connect with one another to embrace a richer (and complexity-friendly) understanding of development processes. At the heart of the idea is also the recognition that local values and expectations should be the starting point, rather than the knowledge industry that is all too often imposed in friendly or non-friendly ways by Northern development actors. In our group work in this session we made a critique of that ‘development bus’ which we are trying to stop so that all inside and outside the bus start discussing their journey and perhaps transform the bus in the magic bean that will bring them to another dimension, or even a space ship that brings us all where we need to be.

One visual take on the knowledge ecology

One visual take on the knowledge ecology

The sum of these sessions is the recognition for a number of key aspects:

  • Context drives initiatives and its design. Current (Northern-driven) development initiatives all too often do not take that into account;
  • Development issues are complex – we are dealing with systemic issues that cannot be solved by a single perspective and type of intervention. Therefore the contribution of multiple perspectives (or knowledge cultures) is essential;
  • It takes a certain willingness and recognition to start working together in the right direction. And we need to stimulate individual and social learning initiatives to create such a fertile ground for improved development;
  • Development is an iterative process that benefits from regular interactions and reviews, as well as from taking time to assess where we are at in the process;
  • Try-out pilots are thus a good idea – and they help move away from fail-safe approaches (wary of any problem) to safe-fail approaches (where quick failing is seen as the best way to improve over time).
  • There are many tools (and social media are crucial in this) that help this network dynamics. They shift the emphasis from organisations to individuals and networks, although ultimately they rebound back up to organisations too;
  • All of these developments are about behaviour change and it just takes time to see behaviours change – but uniting in a perspective of improved collective development is worthwhile even if it takes money, time and dedication. Positive results have started to trickle down, and we just need to carry on and stick to ‘doing it’.

The ShareFair itself, with its parallel sessions, diversity of participants and outbursts of holistic action was in itself a great demonstration of the importance of multiple knowledge perspectives in the process of designing and implementing development initiatives – whether civic-driven or externally-steered.

Note:

All tweets from this session are archived here: http://www.tweetdoc.org/View/24012/The-Role-of-Social-Media-in-Development

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SA-GE – un moment charnière dans la vie du réseau ?


Lors de l’événement annuel de KM4Dev, les francophones présents ont pu échanger sur la petite communauté-sœur qui les concerne : SA-GE(Savoirs-Gestions). Presque exactement deux ans après sa création, le groupe francophone prend de l’ampleur et arrive peut-être à un moment charnière de son existence. Un moment opportun pour en prendre le pouls.

Le groupe des francophones durant la séance SA-GE (et Carl le facilitateur Open Space)

Le groupe des francophones durant la séance SA-GE (et Carl le facilitateur Open Space)

Lors d’une séance du ShareFair, un participant avait suggéré que la masse critique de participants dans une communauté de pratique était 200 à 300. SA-GE compte environ 100 membres vient de croitre de 10% durant la semaine. Mais on reste dans un espace limité pour des conversations riches, en dépit des récents échanges en ligne sur la communauté (qui avait donné lieu à diverses impressions et suggestions résumées sur cette page).

Mais avant de gloser sur la communauté, qu’en attendent ses membres actuels et potentiels ? En parallèle à la consultation en ligne évoquée ci-dessus, les 12 participants à cette séance Open Space ont apporté leurs points de vue :

  • Trouver des outils et approches intéressants pour un meilleur partage des connaissances, et notamment des outils et approches utilisés et testés en milieu francophone ;
  • Echanger sur les initiatives des uns et des autres en milieu francophone et partager ses conclusions et questions – en particulier et crucialement échanger sur les expériences locales menées par des gens du terrain e.g. sur le suivi-évaluation de la gestion des connaissances mené pratiquement sur le terrain ;
  • Ne pas copier la réflexion de KM4Dev, qui reflète une communauté expérimentée et peut ainsi aller sur des aspects de détaillés et/ou conceptuels. SA-GE a peut-être besoin d’insister sur des approches concrètes, sur les bases du partage des connaissances et de l’apprentissage ;
  • Impliquer d’autres collègues francophones et francophiles à ces échanges ;
  • Partager histoires de succès mais aussi d’échec pour mieux identifier les facteurs importants dans les initiatives de partage des connaissances et d’apprentissage collectif ;
  • Proposer un cadre informel d’expression des expériences, en se sentant en confiance, sur des aspects tels que les relations de pouvoir (riches-pauvres, hommes-­femmes etc.) ;
  • Offrir un espace de réflexion sur le développement de manière générale tel que le fait le groupe de discussion du ‘Pelican Initiative’ en anglais ;
  • Trouver un vocabulaire qui permette de s’y retrouver par rapport aux termes utilisés en anglais ;
  • Etablir un pont avec KM4Dev et d’autres communautés et réseaux en relation pour savoir ce qui se dit en milieu anglophone et partager ses perspectives là-dessus, des anglophones aux francophones et vice-versa.

Voilà une communauté qui a des idées, des passions, des souhaits et des moyens de les mobiliser. Quels engagements ont été pris alors, pour permettre à SA-GE de prendre son envol ? Trois niveaux de prise de participation ont été retenus :

1)      S’inscrire sur SA-GE : http://dgroups.org/Community.aspx?c=532af1c1-1d65-419c-a52c-7af6c8b7451a pour ceux qui n’y sont pas encore, et en parler à ses collègues et contacts ;

2)      Proposer un petit résumé des expériences qui nous ont marqué(e)s récemment en matière de gestion/partage des connaissances en milieu francophone – les participants s’y sont engagés et tout le monde est bienvenu pour y contribuer ;

3)      Contribuer à la facilitation de SA-GE avec l’appui des facilitateurs actuels (Ewen et Sophie). Sarah Bel (ILO) s’est généreusement proposée d’y contribuer d’ici la fin d’année, Grégory Herman et Fanny Simphal ont proposé d’apporter leur soutien en 2012. Les volontaires sont les bienvenus et les facilitateurs actuels vont mettre à disposition un aperçu des tâches que sous-entend cette prise de responsabilités. Il s’agit d’un exercice riche d’apprentissage et fort utile pour animer toute autre communauté.

Les engagements sont pris, les intentions sont dévoilées. Pour les SA-GEs, il reste à passer au plus important : l’action !!! Avec l’intention d’organiser le prochain événement KM4Dev en Afrique entièrement bilingue (français – anglais), il y a là une opportunité en or à saisir… Le partage des connaissances c’est également le partage des responsabilités et des opportunités.

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