Back on monitoring learning, from social media to impact

Second attempt to review some of the work done recently in the communication and knowledge management workshop (for CGIAR research programmes).

Another building block session was about the monitoring and evaluation of KM and communication. The group of participants was very interesting: a mix of researchers who are interested in monitoring participatory work, monitoring & evaluation (M&E) folks who know that impact assessment is the part that leads M&E and interests donors and organisations most, and finally comms/KM folks who usually monitor web stats and social media measures of influence, if anything at all.

Monitoring learning is about connecting knowledge dots, from social media 'signals' to evidence of impact (Credits - Dkuropatwa)
Monitoring learning is about connecting knowledge dots, from social media ‘signals’ to evidence of impact (Credits – Dkuropatwa)

Usually these three categories of people do not mingle (so) much with one another – each evolving in their comfortable silo. As a result, M&E is usually not integrated and serves only the interests of either of these communities. So this session was another interesting attempt at bringing together the learning/monitoring brothers.

Here are a few reflections that came up in our conversations:

  • Monitoring communication and knowledge work is essential in complex initiatives where both documentation and engagement are necessary. How we can best do this? By ensuring that comms and knowledge are at the heart of impact/outcome assessment and M&E, looking at where information management (availability of scientific information, high standards of data and information), knowledge sharing (engagement, dissemination) and learning (personal KM and social learning etc.) can contribute to better impact.
  • There are a series of interesting monitoring areas that comms and knowledge work partly cover, which can be of help for wider impact assessment:
    • Reach (how information reaches intended or unintended beneficiaries)
    • Appreciation of the information sent (or appreciation for the fact of being kept updated)
    • Influence of that information on thinking, discourse, actions
    • Results of these influences: changes in policy, practice etc.
  • All these aspects both work internally and externally: We try to reach, influence etc. both inside our programs and organisations and outside.
  • While impact assessment on the one hand and social media monitoring on the other hand are approaching evaluation questions in a very different way, a simple bridge between comms and impact crowds is a major step forward: after conducting social media monitoring, getting back to the audience with a couple of deeper questions could reap useful deeper reflections. Similarly, when developing impact assessment baselines etc., paying attention to the contribution of simple communication activities, tools and approaches can also help reveal more of these crucial connections.
  • The approach of bringing multiple stakeholders together to negotiate intended outcomes (as we suggested in one of the IKM-Emergent research program papers on this topic) might be one step too far at this stage but I feel it will come back on the menu sooner than we think…

The CGIAR Aquatic agricultural systems research program is trying to move towards the recognition of the importance of a knowledge sharing and learning culture – as a separate research strand, which is innovative in the CGIAR system – as a whole approach that federates KM, communication and monitoring and evaluation.

I will be working with some people from that program, from the recent workshop and from colleagues at my former organisation IRC as they are also looking into monitoring knowledge work. After the conceptual time of IKM-Emergent looking at these issues, I feel this might follow a rather pragmatic approach.

Yeeha! And here I come back on one of my favourite pet KM topics…

Related blog posts:


Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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