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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Communication, strategy and revolution

Communication strategy, connecting the dots and conversations

Communication strategy, connecting the dots and conversations

When in Ethiopia recently I facilitated a workshop for an NGO forum around the topic of strategic communications in the WASH sector and particularly how you can develop a communication strategy – and does it make sense in the first place?

The workshop went very well and included a couple of very interesting sessions like a talk show about our experiences with developing communication strategies (funny how people are riveted to what is said in a talk show for being so close to a panel discussion format – but then a lot more informal), a fishbowl session on the pros and cons of using various communication channels, an open space session on any pending (parking lot) or new point and of course a number of presentations about the basics of strategic communication, just to clarify some initial doubts from participants and to have enough to chew on (a few years back I facilitated a workshop that I designed way too much as a participatory exercise to the extent that I didn’t provide enough matter for participants to share experience on – well it was in a specific context but I promised myself never to end up in that situation again). It is a fine balance to give enough information and enough space for participants to discuss and digest it (from their perspective and experience too).

But two of the more interesting aspects of that workshop were on the one hand a checklist of questions that we used to develop five draft communication strategies (based on the cases of five organisations represented by participants) throughout the workshop and then a special strategic communication 2.0 session.

The checklist of questions was actually developed with a number of IRC colleagues in 2008 and 2009 and I just updated and enriched it in view of this workshop (ah, the beauty of external assignments and deadlines to make things happen!). It turned out to be a rather useful checklist, judging from the results that participants came up with and their comments. I’m definitely planning to use it more and to keep refining it.

Hereby find this presentation:

And please share your suggestions on it!

The other bit was the presentation about the web 2.0 and how it could have some interesting applications for strategic communication work. This was meant to be a 20-min presentation at best but I got completely carried away and went on for 45 minutes through the presentation (of course in an interactive manner otherwise I would have performed in a room full of snoring folks).

It turned out to be a much more political exercise than I had anticipated as well and made me realise how much the web 2.0 and the opportunities it offers – creatively combined with everyone’s special attributes and crazy ideas – are a crucially working on a silent revolution agenda. Gil Scott Heron used to say ‘The revolution will not be televised, the revolution… will be live’. No man, the revolution will be (also) on-line…

The presentation is here and includes a number of excellent references I found through Twitter recently.

I need to dig further into this type of messaging because somehowit responds to my profound desire to work towards more empowerment and this seems to be the most promising approach in that direction so far, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to end up in a political struggle.

Starting with Powerpoint, to end with an Empower curve? The question remains open for now…

KM4D journal issue on learning, KM and collaboration in the water sector

The call for papers for this issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal is closed since 11 May. Thank you for your understanding and feel free to contact the editors’ team to explore other avenues to publish your paper.

The December issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal is dedicated to effective (and potential) contribution of approaches to learning, collaboration and knowledge management (KM) to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, and the integrated water resource management (IWRM) sector.

This issue will be edited by three IRC staff members (Jaap Pels, Russell Kerkhoven and myself) and Nadia Manning from IWMI but we will ensure a balanced and non-biased selection of articles.

The Dec 09 issue of the KM4D journal is about learning in the water sector

The Dec 09 issue of the KM4D journal is about learning in the water sector

Although we recognise the limitations of thinking in terms of sectors when we are trying to address problems of fragmentation across actors and sectors, it is the first time that the KM4D journal focuses on issues within one sector and this in itself is interesting to not only focus on learning approaches and tools but especially on how they are applied and addressed in one particular context (the water sector here) and also to focus on the wider issue of  how the sector operates as a whole and how can learning, knowledge management and cooperation help it work more effectively.

If I relate this issue to the disappointing results of the World Water Forum (disappointing in terms of the little effort in bridging the various initiatives that are going on), I think this issue will be a very interesting opportunity to take stock of what is working in the water sector, the wider challenges of the sector, the interesting initiatives that some actors have launched etc.

This journal issue will relate very well also to the upcoming annual KM4DEV event which is likely to focus on cooperation within development sub-sectors, and again between them. Some ideas for that annual event are available on the KM4DEV wiki: http://www.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/KM4Dev_2009_Gathering.

The bottom line is: if you are working in the water sector, are interested in learning, KM and collaboration, or know people that may be in that position, please spread the word! Feel free to ask me (leborgne[at]irc.nl) for more information on the call for papers which was published on the KM4DEV mailing list.

Check out the full call for papers.

Communicating inside to learn outside?

In justifying a proposal we submitted to a donor supporting learning at IRC, I came to revisit my ideas of internal communication and its link with the learning activities that we carry out or promote as an organisation.

In the proposal we submitted, we focus on three levels: internal communication capacities and channels, experiences and insights in supporting local governance for WASH services and supporting sector learning initiatives as in the resource centre network and learning allliance processes we are promoting through our regional and externally funded programmes.

The three learning areas of work of IRC in this proposal

The three learning areas of work of IRC in this proposal

The figures above and below show our logic of intervention: focusing on IRC (learning within, which IRC controls entirely), focusing on the sector (learning with our partners, which we can influence a bit – as they can), and focusing on our partners’ interactions with the sector in sector learning initiatives (learning for the sector, where we are interested in playing a role but are acting through our partners and therefore have no influence on).

IRC's learning priorities in the proposal: internally, on the sector, on sector learning initiatives

IRC's learning priorities in the proposal: internally, on the sector, on sector learning initiatives

The interesting thing is that so far our learning and sharing has been reallyfocused on our external work, not as much on our internal processes. This is perhaps not extraordinary in itself in the sense that many organisations in the development sector seem to be better at preaching around than brooming and grooming their own ground, and sometimes with good reason too: the ultimate beneficiaries are not in our own organisations, they are in the countries where we carry out ‘external’ work.

Then again, it is really remarkable that we are not paying enough attention to our internal communication and knowledge sharing processes. In a ‘walk the talk’ perspective we should also be able to fluidify our communication to allow useful experiences and insights to inspire our products and services and to interest, influence and involve partner organisations and the wider WASH sector in the longer run.

Internally, we have a number of processes to improve, even though I maintain we have a learning organisation approach and we have indeed achieved a certain degree of coherence.

So what can we do about those internal processes, which are essentially focused on improving communication? First off, I guess the overall purpose is to achieve a greater degree of coherence. Coherence means a certain degree of integration between activities to ensure that we work as one unit, not as a chaotic collection of individuals with disconnected visions, capacities and activities.

What matters, I think, is to promote the following:

  • Greater coherence in the vision we have: articulating our vision, mission, objectives and priorities, principles and strategies on the basis of a shared analysis and understanding. On this level we have finally seriously considered developing an IRC-wide communication and knowledge-sharing strategy, we have also identified specific communication challenges in a two-tier communication summit highlighting priority areas. The consolidation work we are carrying out around learning alliances, process documentation etc. comes to feed this effort very nicely. And for having shared a number of papers to define concepts in the context of the WASHCost project, I can personally confirm another time how essential it is to ensure that we understand each other and are working in the same direction. Too often it is assumed that we all agree and work together.
  • Greater coherence in the capacities and skills we have to achieve the broad vision mentioned above. This for us will mean more emphasis on the induction programme of new IRC staff, to adapt it a lot more to their own needs and to ensure a coaching process that allows deeper learning and faster preparation. But we are also finally working on an ongoing training cycle for our staff on the concepts, tools and approaches that various individual staff members have mastered but have not systematically shared with the rest of the organisation. How to move from individual skills to organisational capacities in other words.
  • Greater coherence in the communication environment to allow us to communicate effectively internally. This means for us a better adapted info-structure (information infrastructure) by means of rediscovering and adapting the communication channels we have against our working needs, and identifying new promising channels (Twitter, Facebook, wikis, but also virtual conferencing facilities) that would ease up our work. This would particularly help us to a) share knowledge, ideas, insights quickly with staff – taking advantage of the lively matter at IRC and b) document and share information products and services with external audiences.

Further down the line, this also contributes to our work on supporting local governance processes and sector learning initiatives, and there are other activities planned to support these two other objectives in the proposal. Still, internal communication primarily increases our collective capacity to develop and promote innovations, disseminate it and support our in-country partners with coherent and relevant ideas, approaches, products and services. It prepares learning with partners and other sector stakeholders.

As we are amidst a change process – arguably we never cease to be anyway – I hope that this surging focus on internal processes will indeed push us to accept with humility our areas for improvement and to embrace joint initiatives ever more generously, as learning never works as well as with others, and internal communication is only the fuel that feeds the fire. How to combine fire and water? That is another question…

[Just to make sure that this is not understood wrongly – this reflects my own personal view on our work. In no way does it represent the official perspective of IRC].

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A frame to work with learning alliances?

In the week of 20-24 April, IRC will be organising an internal workshop (including a few external participants) on the learning alliance approach. The aim of the workshop is to develop a framework to set up and facilitate a learning alliance process, looking at practical tools and taking into account all the lessons that IRC and partners have learnt in the various projects where we have been using a learning alliance approach.

This is the first significant step to document, across projects, our general understanding and experience with learning alliances. What are learning alliances? Check this presentation for some ideas:

…and feel free to ask for more on this blog.

Anyways, following the recent session on learning alliances which we organised for the fifth World Water Forum – for which I’m still synthesising the results and waiting for some fishbowl and marketplace results – this is indeed an ideal moment to try and synthesise how we approach learning alliances.

So far we have a mixture of ideas, key areas, steps and tools available:

  • Assessment of the situation;
  • Analysis of stakeholders, their needs, demands and expectations;
  • Visioning to rally stakeholders behind a common issue;
  • Communication activities to raise interest, inform and share with, influence;
  • Monitoring activities including a mix of qualitative/quantitative methods;
  • Process and event facilitation;
  • Process documentation;
  • (action) Research activities as the core focus;
  • Implementation of basic services;
  • Social inclusion to invite the marginalised voices around the table;
Fill that learning alliance framework please!

Fill that learning alliance framework please!

But this doesn’t make for a very useful framework to apply in a new setting/project, particularly if you haven’t been involved in a learning alliance process before.

So how could we conceive of it in a better way? The external people attending the workshop will be presenting their own ideas, but in the meantime let me share mine, based on the observation of the learning alliance (LA) process in the SWITCH, RiPPLE and WASHCost projects:

  1. Principles – the learning alliance starts with a few principles: demand-driven and locally owned research/implementation; social inclusion, better results (innovation, scaling up) through concerted action and reflection; action research as a way to instil reflective research; structured learning and two-way communication to ensure a dynamic flow of insights etc. This is the basis to create a fertile soil for a learning alliance process.
  2. Preparation towards a going-in issue: in spite of advocating for demand-driven research, learning alliances are still often initiated as part of a project and come up with a given agenda. To be fair, people starting LA approaches usually have been observing the situation beforehand and come up with an issue that has some degree of local relevance. This is where the situation analysis, stakeholder analysis and the likes comes in. A good trick is to have flexible enough a project design to be able to integrate demands as early on as possible in the process and to re-focus the going in position to where the demand is. And in a true sense, learning alliances should start from a locally owned situation analysis – perhaps facilitated.
  3. Participation: The next step is to bring stakeholders around the table. This means inviting influential stakeholders (the ones that can make or break your learning alliance if they’re in or out of it) but also guaranteeing that other relevant and usually marginalised groups take part to the discussions. This part requires intensive communication efforts to raise interest, inform stakeholders, invite them to join the dialogue and express themselves; further down the line, this is where advocacy (including policy engagement / support) comes in to influence certain stakeholders about the value of the work coming out of the process.
  4. Production: The core activities (research, implementation) that are supposed to address the issue at hand. And with an action-research approach, there is a guarantee that ideas are tested out, reflected upon and refined in the next round (see next point).
  5. Proving and improving: Where monitoring (and evaluation), process documentation and the reflective activities of action research lead to showing that the approach is delivering on intended outcomes, and to refine the approach for the next cycle.
  6. Pulling it all together: this is the management part of the project, everything that has to do with the internal project team (planning, implementing, monitoring etc.).
  7. People and capacities: Throughout the project, information and communication activities raise the awareness (knowledge if you prefer) of the parties involved. But their know-how, skills, capacities to play their role best is essential. Learning alliances are approaches geared towards social change; social change means behaviour change and behaviour change comes among others from capacity development activities, in the broader sense (from creating a learning space to training, to coaching, organising learning and sharing activities with peers or different parties).

This is only a half-baked model and perhaps more than anything else an input for the forthcoming discussion. Hopefully the rest will follow in the workshop… more very soon, and hopefully more documentation very soon too!

Managing “le savoir”

The date is set: 5 October 2009, in back to back with the annual KM4DEV event, the first cobbles on the road to a francophone community of practice on learning for development will be paved, in Brussels the modern Babel tower!

The objectives are two-fold:
– to introduce the IKM Emergent discourse in the francophone arena;
– to explore the possibilities of developing a community of practice on learning for development.

There are a few very interesting aspects around this double bill:
– a francophone community of practice could potentially emerge out of the discussion, even though the ever shardy question of funding remains unclear so far;
– it will be an excellent opportunity to explore the discourse around learning and KM among francophones and finding out how the francophone and anglophone communities could complement each other – discussing different topics in different ways – and establish bridges between them;
– the meetings will take place around the km4dev event which will likely explore the issues of learning and collaboration in various sectors (water, health, agriculture etc.) when a recent water sector learning discussion group was set up recently, including various francophones, and after a fifth World Water Forum where IRC had many contacts with particularly French water sector organisations concerned with learning and knowledge management, particularly OIEau and ONEMA.

The question for me a) what is really driving the francophone learning agenda (if there is such a thing in the first place) and b) whether francophones and anglophones can indeed have meaningful group discussions. I obviously think it’s important and necessary but our work in West Africa shows that it is a real challenge to stimulate learning and sharing across languages – perhaps for other reasons in that region though. As for the first question, it comes from a lot of doubts I have had regarding the way quite a few francophones seem to frame the concepts of learning and knowledge management. A discussion that took place in 2007 about this on the KM4DEV mailing list is briefly referred to in Julie Ferguson et. al.’s meta review and scoping study of knowledge management for development (See pp. 28 and beyond).

Multiple knowledges, multiple languages: cacophony or symphony?

Multiple knowledges, multiple languages: cacophony or symphony?

At any rate, I cannot wait to start this and hope that the results will exceed my expectations. With a Spanish-speaking community of practice in shaping in the KM4DEV community too, the ‘multiple knowledges’ that form the red thread of the IKM emergent programme are all coming to the fore: symphony or cacophony?

If you want to join the reflection about setting up a francophone community of practice or wish to join the discussions in October, simply let me know or register and leave your details on: http://www.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Francophone_KM4DEV

Sector learning – scouting in the dark

After several discussions internally at IRC, the decision was taken to set up a new discussion group to build upon the recently held ‘sector learning’ workshop (Delft, November 2008 ) where a lot of our partners came to present their resource centre initiative, national information systems or learning alliance approaches.

As usual with (nice) workshops, participants were quite happy to be there and to share. To share what? To share why? In a way this is one othe most interesting paradoxes of knowledge sharing: everyone is keen on doing it but not everyone is clear on what to share. In this case, it was all the less clear as the overarching topic of the workshop – sector learning – was also not very clear.

After two days, quite a few presentations, many discussions, a mini open space, still no consensus came up as to the term ‘sector learning’. An external editor is in charge of turning those discussions into a briefing note that sets the scene for ‘sector learning’. But this work will not see the light before April. And in the meantime, we would be well advised to take advantage of the momentum.

Scouting in the dark

Scouting in the dark

In the momentum meantime, indeed, a lot of the parties that took part to the sector learning workshop – spanning an interesting mix of Southern and international NGOs – confessed they would like to stick with this group and exchange more about their initiatives.

One of the direct outcomes is this decision to go ahead with a discussion group. Before we used that Google group for the resource centre development partners. Now this platform should replace the former and invite more organisations and individuals to share their practical experiences, issues, challenges and solutions around sector learning.

We are aware that there is no consensus on the ‘domain’ of sector learning. Not a very good start before launching what we would like to see evolve as a CoP, but our experience with partners and with the RCD discussion group is that a lot of active lurkers find something useful in such discussion platforms, to share information face-to-face with colleagues, if not on the virtual discussion group.

So we are there with this upcoming discussion group and the need to define what ‘sector learning’ is – or run the risk of seeing that momentum end in a momentomb.

My take on sector learning?

This will all be clarified by the briefing note mentioned above, and perhaps by initial discussions on this new discussion group, but rather than spelling out the components of ‘sector learning’, I would rather stress some factors that may have helped create that momentum:

  • Since the World Bank’s call to reorient itself towards a knowledge bank in 1996, many development organisations are understanding the value of knowledge and, though grappling with their learning initiatives (an upcoming paper from the IKM-Emergent programme will cover this), there is a lot of momentum for knowledge-intensive processes and for learning in general;
  • Governments, donors, NGOs are all realising that there is a huge overlap between their activities, and sometimes some dreadful gaps, simply because they are not cooperating more. Hence donor harmonisation, basket funding and sector-wide approaches;
  • This trend upwards – in the global arena – calls for visible and wide-ranging networks, constellations that can act as counterparts for donor agencies (having funding but no mandate) and for governmental agencies (having a mandate but usually well under-resourced);
  • All actors are realising that the WASH sector is very complex, because it involves many different kinds of stakeholders (central and local government with different functions – legislators, regulators, monitors etc. – civil society organisations of various kinds (NGOs, CBOs), large private companies and small private businesses and donor agencies). They are realising that a complex sector requires a complex approach, based on uniting forces and resources – hence the sector learning facilitators such as resource centre networks;
  • The project approach is increasingly acknowledged as a non sustainable solution, and therefore the idea of sector learning comes as a promising factor for sustainable learning;
  • Perhaps with a (primarily Northern) development discourse that has reoriented itself from setting up services, and  ‘transferring knowledge’ to enabling Southern organisations to realise themselves and decide how they would like to take their destiny in hands, a lot of international or Northern organisations are increasingly focusing on learning, advocacy, communication as their new niche. Sector learning is a next step on that road;
  • And last but not least, in spite of the obvious need to go beyond sectoral borders (after all, at the scale of a poor person in Africa, development is a mixed bag of education, health, water, energy and many other factors contributing to a sustainable livelihood), working on cross-organisational learning within more contained borders (the ‘sector’) is not as much of a daunting task;

The first few weeks of this new discussion group to be will tell whether this ‘sector learning’ buzzword can lead to actual improvements and whether it finds a niche attractive enough to make it grow.

Learning for sale in the WASH sector

It’s common: innovation and change never comes alone, it comes in clouds, or bubbles. But before bubbles appear, one’s been blowing in the water like crazy and nothing happens – or perhaps only shy ripples on the surface.

This is what happened with the resource centre development work that our partners and us have been undertaking in the past seven years. From 2002 to 2006, IRC (my organisation) was involved in a resource centre development programme. Some lessons learnt and ideas about that programme are presented on the IRC website.

Very little seemed to come out of those initiatives. A series of lessons learnt showed disappointingly small outputs of five years of organisational learning and an attempt at organising what we now refer to as ‘sector learning’ (a very blurry term, I agree, and a debatable one too, but that’s for another blog post I guess). In 2006, the end of the programme meant the end of resource centres in quite a few cases, not unlike many other development initiatives.

And yet… the seed was growing very slowly. In the framework of our regional programmes (and with very limited funding), a number of resource centre (RC) initiatives started off again: RC network in Ghana, RAS-Hon in Honduras, RC network Nepal etc. In Francophone West Africa, where I am working quite a lot (chiefly in Burkina Faso and Benin), there is a similar trend of reviving moribund RC networks (RCNs) with renewed interest and energy. I attended (and co-facilitated) the launch of a widely supported network in Benin in July last year. Last week, I helped the RCN Burkina define their priorities in terms of focus areas. Governmental, non-governmental, private organisations were all there and testified of their interest in the network.

What has happened between 2006 and 2008? For some reason, the ‘knowledge economy’ seems to have dawned upon WASH sectors of many countries. IRC is now supported by other international organisations wishing to improve sector learning: WaterAid is developing a series of regional learning centres on various topics (sanitation, decentralisation etc.), the Stockholm Environment Institute is promoting the development of knowledge nodes on environmental saniation in various countries, supported by WASTE.

All of a sudden, knowledge and learning is indeed the real buzz in town, and the water sector’s bubbly as ever. In these weeks of shopping sales, learning is another item discounted on the market: everyone wants to buy it, quite a few are selling some of it.

Learning for sale

Learning for sale

I personally don’t know whether these renewed initiatives will be more successful than in the past, but one thing I’m sure of: that’s a very good direction. Finally we turn bubbles into streams.

Like I recently read on an RSS feed from the Knowledge share fair, ‘knowledge is not power, sharing is power’. I hope the mass of organisations supporting resource centres and knowledge nodes and all the rest of it will keep true to their call. While learning is for sale, it is gaining value, not losing it. Another knowledge paradox that makes it so much more worth than working with material values…

And while I’m at it, since I managed not to skip this week’s blogging on my learning musings, I’ll celebrate with bubbles: the narguile bars in downtown Ouaga are inviting me to rejoice for learning!

The future of Resource Centres

In its Resource Centre Development (RCD) programme, IRC has been working in about 20 countries between 2002 and 2006 to set up resource centres (‘RC’s – independent organisations or networks) so as to manage information and knowledge on water, sanitation and hygiene at national level.

The results of the programme – partly available on: http://www.irc.nl/page/30737 and on other pages in http://www.irc.nl/page/393 – have been mixed. Some RC’s have managed to impose a mandate of knowledge management for organisations in the WASH sector, others have provided concrete products (a yellow pages-type directory of organisations, joint training course, manuals on spare parts etc.) but most of them (and IRC very much) have failed to create a structured process of sector knowledge management by a coordinated group of organisations. The respective governments and donor community have not engaged enough with the RCD idea to fund it in the long run.

In 2008, RCD is still going on, outside of the RCD programme, in the form of resource centre networks that keep the ambition to do something about sector learning: in Ghana, in Burkina, Benin, Uganda, Tanzania, in Honduras and in Nepal to name a few, some initiatives are going on.

As IRC is still reflecting on the RCD process and trying to provide a well documented overview of the lessons learnt from the RCD programme, one could wonder if the RCD idea is actually not being replaced by a new era focusing on collective management of knowledge through powerful social software and applications. The possibilities to interconnect provided by the Web 2.0 are providing another model of knowledge flow management than the RC network with its more structured approach, budget etc.

Right now, the argument still goes in favour of resource centres, because countries where RC developments are taking place are not so well connected. But in 10 years, and perhaps even 5 or 3, will the potential of social applications not replace structured knowledge management? If each person becomes a knowledge manager for their personal network connected to a web of networks,  does one need to have a central (group of) facilitator(s) to provide information and to share knowledge on the spot? Perhaps the answer is not one versus the other but rather a different approach for RC networks, to rely on personal networks and the power of social applications to help them in their quest to serve a given sector better.

The quest continues. And IRC and partners will keep on experimenting…