Videos: What is KM/Why KM? Taking stock


Knowledge... and knowledge management saw the light (Credits: Iqbal Osman / FlickR)

Knowledge… and knowledge management saw the light (Credits: Iqbal Osman / FlickR)

It was about time!

After a successful series of posts about ‘facilitation videos‘, a A visual tour of KM and illustrating common challenges and opportunities of Knowledge management in cartoons, I was meant to highlight some videos about ‘what is knowledge management’ and ‘why bother?’.

Tadaa! Now job done. And done after googling for these videos, since I only knew a handful of videos about KM.

So hereby I have selected a few vids that in my -totally subjective- view are more worth your while than others. I’ve also added in a second list the contenders that were easy to find when googling ‘KM video’. Both lists are ordered from shortest to longest video length, so you can decide how much time you have. I’ve provided a quick description, pros and cons and my biased rating about them. I hope you enjoy this selection, and please let me know what videos about ‘what is/why KM’ you personally like that are missing here, so I can review and perhaps add them here 🙂

The toppers’ selection

KM in brief (KMPlus Consulting, April 2015 – 1’39”)

This animated video emphasises particularly the knowledge retention aspect of KM for commercial companies which then face either hiring inexperienced staff or expensive experienced staff.

Pros: Good visuals, good introduction to the knowledge retention issue. Short thus easy-to-absorb video. Provides some examples.

Cons: Too narrow a scope. Very corporate-focused. Not a good introduction to ‘KM’ in general. 

It’s a neat and well done little video but very narrow in terms of the scope of KM. It seems to be part of a series covering other KM challenges/opportunities (e.g. see this video on communities of practice) which is a good thing – but the title here remains misleading.

My rating: 6/10

What is knowledge management (November 2010 – 2’40”)

Chris Collison (co-author of ‘learning to fly’ – one of the bibles of this discipline) is one of the KM pundits among the people who shot such videos. His definition looks at the family of fields related to KM, e.g. learning, network, social media, the culture of an organisation etc.

Pros: Collison touches upon some of the fundamental aspects of KM and has a very learning-centric approach to it which resonates strongly with me. I enjoyed hearing the excitement he feels about KM.

Cons: The audio quality is not great.

The subjective quality of this video and the good contents covered make it a good intro video to KM, despite the fact it’s visually quite ‘bare’.

My rating: 7/10

Knowledge management (Deloitte Belgium, December 2015 – 3’01”)

This Deloitte video about KM introduces the Deloitte approach to KM in 6 elements and zooms in on some specific tools that help deploy it in an organisation.

Pros: Useful look at 6 areas important to any KM initiative (content, processes, strategy etc.); very good audio quality.

Cons: The tour of all the areas starts with the tools and zooms in on those, giving a false importance to what appears to be perhaps the easiest aspect of KM (do I sense tool obsession here?). Very much based on ‘organisations’ not KM in networks or across multi-stakeholder processes.

Overall, the video is ok but the key message’s over-emphasis on tools is risky, especially for people who are discovering KM for the first time and are bound to fall in that trap already.

My rating: 5.5/10

Why should you be interested in Knowledge Management today? (K3Cubed, December 2012 – 3’06”)

David Griffiths is a regular KM blogger with his K3Cubed website. This video emphasises the complexity of the environment and dealing with the signals that come from this complex environment as well as how KM helps respond to these signals and develop a resilient organisation.

Pros: The natural emphasis on resilience and complexity is great, it shows the very dynamic nature of KM and its relation to innovation.

Cons: There is in this video not a great deal of details about what KM looks like in practice. The audio quality is not great. 

The messages of the video are in subtle ways quite distinct from other KM videos of this lot and touch upon the difficult side of KM. I like this approach, even though it may not be the most straightforward introduction to KM here (compared with other videos in the selection).

My rating: 7/10

BKBC animation introducing knowledge management (BKBC, August 2015 – 3’28”)

This whiteboard video (from the UK’s National Health System) tracks back the history, the purpose and nature of KM, what people can do with it and what can one expect out of it – whether with large or scarce resources.

Pros: By far the most visually appealing video in this selection – as is the nature of most whiteboard videos – and it touches upon many of the key features of KM. It also offers questions, effectively ‘walking the talk’ about KM. Importantly it stresses the fact that ‘KM already happens anyway‘.

Cons: The language is still referring to knowledge as a commodity. And of course, there could be other elements brought into this (e.g. apprenticeship, knowledge retention etc.) but that applies to all other videos here.

This is one of the best videos in this selection (in my view) – a great starting point if you want to have a comprehensive overview of KM.

My rating: 9/10

Knowledge management introduction (Nick Milton, August 2011 – 4’01”)

Nick Milton is probably THE most prolific writer about KM. He posts on a daily basis on his Knoco blog. Unlike most selected videos here, this one is not with the author’s voice-over. It’s a dynamic photo-presentation with backgroung music.

Pros: The presentation touches upon all key challenges of KM in a very clear way and it’s debunking a few KM myths (e.g. it’s all about ICT tools and data); It offers some examples of real return on investment. The author focuses on 5 KM benefit areas: innovation, collaboration, learning from experience, knowledge retention, rapid on-boarding.

Cons: The animations are a little annoying, as is the music. And while the video focuses on the human aspect, this video could have had a more human feeling to it.

All in all, though, a great clear video to introduce KM!

My rating: 8/10

Knowledge management – in 5 minutes or less (Knowledge MT, February 2017, 4’46”)

This video is one of a series by KnowledgeMT and it offers a broad understanding of what KM is, in its various aspects.

Pros: The welcome focus on values and intuition, and the emphasis on the fact that expert knowledge cannot be ‘dumped’ into a repository etc., the agreement that failures are ok; the clear difference between KM and information management; the summary at the end and its emphasis on capitalising upon knowledge assets.

Cons: The language used is still about ‘knowledge transfer’; there is no mention about some of the incentives for people (and management); visuals used are not really great. The audio quality could be sharper.

Overall quite a good video, which could have been even stronger on either the narrative or the visual side, but the content is straight and delivered clearly.

My rating: 7.5/10

Silvia Capezzuoli talks about KM (IMA, March 2017 – 5’03”)

This video gives a narrative tour of all the issues that KM tackles directly or indirectly, particularly in development cooperation. It is a more recent video than most in this selection.

ProsA very good tour of the different aspects of KM, narrated in an interesting way, and with particular emphasis on the ‘fluid’ elements of KM ie. learning, innovation etc. without seeming to fall into the SECI model trap that most other videos have gone by; it encourages starting from what is there already; and focusing on the culture of sharing and learning, joining the dots etc.

Cons: It’s a development cooperation-focused approach so may not resonate with corporate KM folks.

Overall, one of the strongest videos from this lot and a very good, thorough understanding of where KM is at in 2017. A great introduction and in my top 3 here along with the whiteboard video and the Milton one.

My rating: 8/10.

Why knowledge management (Antoine Tawa, January 2011 – 5’06”)

A personal (read: not corporate) video, this one focuses, like many of these selected videos, much on tacit/explicit knowledge and the SECI model.

Pros: Introduces the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge, as well as the SECI model very well. The author’s voice is clear.

Cons: Not much liberty away from the SECI model. Very focused on the corporate sector only. The text slides are rather poorly designed. Not much critical thinking about the challenges of KM.

This video is not bad, it says a lot of things that make sense. It is just a bit too narrowly associated with SECI, which arguably is not the be-all-end-all on KM. On the plus side, this video is also available in French.

My rating: 6.5/10

 

Other contenders (ahem what is there to be found)

These videos didn’t quite make it to my selection – and some of them are downright awful – but you’ll find them nonetheless if you Google ‘KM video’, so you might as well be prepared 🙂

Knowledge management in 87 seconds (InToTo, November 2013 – 1’27”)

…is in fact a promotional video for Intoto Knowledge. Very organisation-centric, and like many videos focusing on knowledge retention. Nice little animation video though. My rating: 4/10 because it’s not a real introduction. Visuals deserve a higher scoring, they’re fresh (and yet from 2013!).

Knowledge management (Rajiv Chakravarty – Nov. 2015 – 2’26”)

A short animated video without sound. Introduces KM, tacit/explicit knowledge, the SECI model, why we need KM, knowledge systems. The only benefit I see of this otherwise nice little video is to illustrate the SECI model in a visually more entertaining manner. But I’m not taken by the content. My rating: 5/10.

Knowledge management presentation (October 2012 – 3’50”)

Like Milton’s a dynamic photo presentation touching upon definitions of knowledge and how to manage it. Some good ideas and focus on innovation, adaptation, learning here. On the other head, this is another video with annoying music and visuals. And again too much focus on data, information, knowledge. Also no real red thread or framework on which this seems to be based. And what is this countdown at the beginning? This video seems to me mostly useful for people who already know about KM. But then again, because they know about KM it may not be useful. With some rearranging and some clearer frame – as well as different media choices – it could be a useful video. Right now, it isn’t really.

KM – Managing tacit and explicit knowledge (Cipher Ultra, May 2010 – 4’00”)

Much emphasis on the SECI model. This video actually goes through the whole model. It has the merit of giving some concrete examples of each of the SECI stages; and also introduces some of the biases of that model; adds quite a few references at the end. On the other hand, the use of corny pixelised animations and horrendous commercial music in the background, and the insufficient information on every slide make it a weak video that is also wrongly themed. It should have been about SECI. My rating: 4/10.

Knowledge management (CaReDe productions, September 2011 – 4’28”)

A video with extremely annoying music – to the point that it almost distracted me from its contents. The latter revolve around ‘what is knowledge’ (though 1 minute into the video that is still now known/shown). “Knowledge needs to be managed, processed, shared” Duh! Why? How? Two and a half minutes into the video you realise it’s not meant to tell you anything about KM but rather entertain you in a really odd way with mottos like ‘gain the brain’. 3/10 (and 7/10 for the entertainment value).

Knowledge management through the whole world (Marina Vugalter, November 2013- 4’47”)

This funny video looks at the problem of intercultural communication and preserving endangered languages. The story mixes this background with the case of knowledge retention and using a KM software to help on that front. The combination is clumsy and the final slide reveals the confusion: “KM is useful, is about people and can be used everywhere for anything”. This is such a broad sweep statement that it’s more likely to put people off KM than attract them to try it out. My rating: 3/10. There seems to be a number of these videos developed through the same animation maker program.

Knowledge management (Ryan Christman, November 2010 – 5’00)

The most mythical of all videos from this selection – and one video that glorifies ‘tacit knowledge’ as the force that can help us unite and combine our efforts. Other than the quirky nature of this video, there is hardly any connection with KM. Don’t bother – or see it as infotainment and enjoy! My rating: 2/10  (8/10 for entertainment).

KM basics – learn and gain (Lear[n]Gain, November 2015 – 5’04”)

Stems from the perspective of ‘right knowledge to the right person at the right time’. This is not so much about defining what KM is as defining what the different elements associated with it mean. A bit long for such a video. Not a topper here by any means. On the plus side, it does attempt at providing clarity on terms such as data, information, knowledge. On the minus side, it focuses too much on information and data and places itself over-emphatically in the risky tradition and definitions of DIKW. My rating: 5.5/10.

Knowledge management (William Owen Ponce, September 2011 – 5’09”)

A good strong and clear beginning of an introduction to KM. Also offers an outlook to the future of KM. But after the good introduction, the video continues onwards to a mixture of statements, questions, overviews, in a rather uncoordinated way. The background clashes with the text (makes it difficult to read). The choice of background picture (here above a.o.) clashes with the message about human collaboration. The language again (knowledge transfer) is not great. It could have been so much stronger. My rating: 5/10

Knowledge management (unclear, April 2016 – 5’16”)

This video seems like a student project. It comprises various peoples’ voices and covers some typical elements of early KM (best practices, databases etc.), and moves on to tacit knowledge (the ‘know-how’). Though the animation is lovely, it is at times distracting from the narrator. Considering it’s a student project, it’s not that bad. But I wouldn’t start there unless you work in engineering – the sector in which the authors of the video are working. My rating: 5.5/10.

Introduction to knowledge management tools and concepts (David Wiggins April 2012, 8’59”)

This video is seemingly a(nother) student presentation. In fact it’s a monologue 😦 with an interesting twist about the learning/sharing culture backlash… Certainly not a top priority video to watch though. And the narrator’s voice is not clear. My rating: 4/10.

Some reflections about these videos

Many of these videos are focusing on tacit vs. explicit knowledge – and relate to the SECI model – which seems to indicate there is no other recognised background for KM. I personally prefer to see knowledge as essentially tacit anyhow.

Quite a few reflect on the importance of the enabling environment, including management buy-in etc. The more recent videos pay more emphasis on innovation, learning and all dynamic processes. They seem to have moved away from ‘knowledge capture’ both as a concept and a practice.

In any case, technology features in nearly all videos but is mostly rightly put to where it belongs: as an important – but not THE essential – element of any KM initiative. A few of these videos are talking about the future of KM, particularly around artificial intelligence etc. Not so much about the future of face-to-face learning and related processes.

Hopefully more videos will come up on the topic.

Meanwhile, a final gem for you: David Gurteen undertook a really nice series of short interviews with many people asking them all the same simple one question: ‘What is knowledge management?’. Go have a look on Google, it’s great stuff!

And as mentioned earlier, please share with me other videos about knowledge management that you think should feature here 🙂

Thank you 🙂

Related posts:

 

 

Knowledge management strategy development: Taking stock


Nothing like having your back to the wall to do some useful research.

Here I am, fishing for ideas on good communication and knowledge management strategies. I addressed how to develop a communication strategy a while back. And though I’ve shared some ideas on how I would go about a KM strategy, I haven’t really synthesised all the stuff I’ve found useful to do so through the years; so here’s some stock-taking exercise for resources dealing with designing and rolling out a knowledge management strategy.

How to develop a KM strategy? (Credits: UNU-ViE_SCIENTIA / FlickR)

How to develop a KM strategy? (Credits: UNU-ViE_SCIENTIA / FlickR)

Caveat: This is not a simple exercise, as most companies want to preciously hoard their information about this business-critical area of work. Case studies do exist a bit everywhere but this post doesn’t attempt at highlighting those in particular.

Caveat 2: Because it is not simple, and I didn’t get enough time to search thoroughly for all that might be out there, this will be a ‘living post’: I will enrich it with other resources that I think should feature here. So, feel free to bring up your key readings on this 🙂

…or indeed videos (haven’t yet checked this Kana 5-video tutorial on KM strategies)…

KM4Dev conversations about KM strategies (Stock-taking on stock-taking)

A KM4Dev conversation (Credits: Westhill Knowledge)

A KM4Dev conversation (Credits: Westhill Knowledge)

As ever, the KM4Dev wiki is a gold mine of relevant information and as you might expect, KM4Devers have explored this topic more than once. So we have four waves of KM strategy conversations here, as well as some useful (quite recent) case studies at the end.

The four conversations cover:

  • How a 10-year vision about KM can be developed in an organisation
  • Where to start with a KM strategy
  • Using frameworks and getting started
  • The stealth approach in KM strategies

What’s useful: the attention to principles of action and the fact that this resource is quite easy to absorb and to implement as it has a good, concrete, summary section. An excellent starting point.

APQC’s resources on knowledge management strategy

APQC KM strategy chart

APQC’s interactive KM strategy framework

APQC have a lot of experience with KM and they are really interested in connecting with other people that work on or around KM (they incidentally interviewed me a couple of times about getting KM and comms accepted and valued and about developing a content management strategy that works across generations of workers (the second part of a two-piece series).

Their interactive KM strategy framework allows you to select a different phase of KM strategy development and zoom in on specific challenges and related posts, other writings or resources… So a good complement to the KM4Dev wiki. However here nothing is said about how you should go about it, but that’s because APQC, like quite a few other people mentioned here, makes a business out of advising you on KM too.

Josef Hofer-Alfeis KM master course (and module on KM strategy)

Josef Hofer-Alfeis

Josef Hofer-Alfeis

This series of 12 Powerpoint presentations might, at times, seem a bit dry to read  but it contains a wealth of advices regarding knowledge and knowledge management. The part 5 focuses on developing a knowledge and then a knowledge management strategy, looking also at how to measure KM successfully and how to launch your KM program.

There is perhaps nothing really brand new in this but the merit of this master course is to be quite comprehensive and to be transparent.

Designing a Successful KM Strategy (N. Milton & S. Barnes)

The recent book by Stephanie Barnes and Knoco’s Nick Milton is allegedly one of the best reads on this topic and is most likely selling fast too. I don’t like to promote pay-for resources so much, that’s why I’m keeping this for the end of this selection.

Designing a successful KM strategy

Designing a successful KM strategy

The reason why this features here – and before I have even read the book myself (though I ordered it) is that Nick Milton has been blogging very regularly the past few years, and very regularly about some very good stuff. So do check his blog.

The points that I like about his approach to KM strategy include among others: Pilots, change management (not just KM), attention to facilitation as part of the skill set of a knowledge manager, guerrilla strategy, attention to principles and key knowledge areas, in addition to the standard stuff you can find in other resources mentioned here.

The tip of the iceberg: tentative first steps in cross-organisational comparison of knowledge management in development organisations

What we think about with KM strategies is sometimes just the tip of what needs to be taken care of (Credits: Infertilegirlinafertileworld)

What we think about with KM strategies is sometimes just the tip of what needs to be taken care of (Credits: Infertilegirlinafertileworld)

Sarah Cummings and I wrote this overview of KM strategies a few years back. Although dated (2009) this comparison draws a few conclusions that are relevant regardless of the KM strategy context:

  • Four pointers to make decisions: the complexity of the organisation (or network etc.), strategic orientation (navel-gazing or outward-focused), learning phase in the strategy development and reference framework;
  • Four elements of a KM strategy: scope, approach, tools/practices, monitoring and evaluation…

The link above leads to the pay-for version of the full text article on the Taylor & Francis website but you can also request it to me here as it has become public access and will soon be moved to the Open Access platform of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal.

What about agile KM then?

Now, if I’m true to my own model of KM=CDL, I would end this stock-taking exercise by wondering how a KM strategy addresses a) cultivating conversations, b) documenting these and other experiences and c) stimulating action-focused learning, and this at organisational level but with a strong inclination to connect with individual level and (inter)institutional level. But that is too much at this stage, so more matter for another post.

You can see more resources in my bookmarks on KM strategy and as mentioned above I’ll keep on updating this so watch this space!

Related blog posts:

And of course all other ‘stock-taking’ posts

The art of blogging: Taking stock


The topic of ‘Blogging’ is a phoenix in the blogosphere. Blogging about blogging keeps emerging and emerging and reemerging. No later than this week again, only in my personal learning network I spotted Euan Semple’s piece about ‘How writing a blog can make you a better manager‘, while Ian Thorpe was reflecting about the value of keeping a journal, like a blog [and even more recently shared these 10 tips for bloggers]. Perhaps it’s the welcome mental break of summer holidays that makes bloggers reflect about one of our favourite reflexive activities: BLOGGING.

How blogging matters for different people (Credits - IsaakWok/FlickR)

How blogging matters for different people (Credits – IsaakWok/FlickR)

And so, after over five years of blogging and over 182 published posts, I thought it might be a good time also for myself to look back at the art of blogging. Not so much what I make of it, because despite past experience I have a lot to learn about blogging still and I already blogged about my blogging here and there.

No, this is a post sharing ideas and experiences from thought leaders who have seen the benefits of blogging, have enjoyed and analysed it well enough to share some gems. So hereby comes another stock-taking post which may help wannabe bloggers (Hermella, do you read me?) as well as well as more seasoned bloggers always looking for inspiration…

Why blog?

Five minutes with Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson: “Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now” (Feb. 2012). A welcome wake-up call for academics about the power of blogging and why it has become unavoidable to spread research uptake. This is a short but high octane interview with a few additional tips. This one is a bit of a dedicated resource for my academic colleagues…

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on blogging – A must watch! (April 2009)

Another short video where life2.0 guru Seth Godin and fellow interviewee Tom Peters share their point of view as to why Blogging matters and how it has affected them deeply. Great inspiration to get started, from one of the very few bloggers (Godin) who blogs successfully every day.

Simple tips and tricks

  • Blog post checklist for great authors (Aug. 2013): The latest resource I came across, filled with excellent guerilla tips to outsmart typical blog (and other bloggers’) traps and ensure blogging leads to action (yours and others’). Perhaps the best series of tips and tricks in this selection.
  • 12 blogging mistakes (Aug. 2013): what not to do with your blog to avoid making it useless. Great no nonsense tips that move away from the ego-logy a bit. I particularly like the advice to do away with ‘Blah’ posts and to come up with more ‘wow’ content. I hope I’m applying this lesson better now.
  • 23 essential elements of sharable blog posts (June 2009). Very short list of very good tips to prepare useful and usable blog posts. This one is so short and so relevant that despite its age it was difficult to avoid.
  • The absolutely foolproof blog post checklist (Feb. 2013). A great series of technical tips to make sure that the content on your blog is fool proof. I found this resource via Jurgen Appelo’s resource listed above and its peculiar focus on technical blogging makes it stand out as a great resource.
  • Tips for conference bloggers (Jan. 2008): Live blogging is tricky. Here’s a series of useful tips to make it work. Probably worth a revamp but the core of the tips is still very much valid. This has been compiled with experts in the field of social media such as Beth Kanter and is essentially a short guide available in PDF format.
  • Blogtips (ongoing blog): Peter Casier is an experienced social media enthusiast who’s set up this blog full of advices about blogging and more. He may not update this blog every month but he has been updating it over time and this place remains a good place for blogging tips, particularly for those of you working in global development. Peter leads major social media campaigns for agricultural research consortium CGIAR in major global events.
  • Three things you should know about blogging (July 2013). Steve Wheeler explains three important pillars of blogging to help you make the most of it.

Personal experiences

Many bloggers have related their experience with blogging. Hereby a selection of my favourite posts from these bloggers reflecting upon blogging:

  • Ian Thorpe (KM on a dollar a day) with ‘Personal professional blogging – what I’ve learned‘ (Feb. 2013). Ian Thorpe is a blogger I follow avidly and respect enormously for the clarity and potency of his ideas. In this post he provides a good overview of the type of blogs (and bloggers), various tips, types of posts that can be used and a list of other bloggers to look up to. A great complement to this stock-taking post.
  • Mike Shanahan (Under the Banyan) and ‘Why blog? Ten things I learned about blogging this year‘ – Dec. 2012). Mike is giving really fresh advice, not (just) the typical advice you find about blogging. Like his ideas of repeat visits to past posts and the fact that speed matters – seize opportunities. This proved true for me with a recent summary of a KM4Dev discussion on lessons learnt while the discussion was just about petering out.
  • Irving Wladawsky-Berger ‘Blogging and personal feelings‘ (March 2012). A very blog-like account of how blogging has become a really important part of life of Irving and how it resonates in his work.
  • Harold Jarche (Life in perpetual beta). Another one of my favourite bloggers. In his piece on ‘Net Work skills‘ (March 2012), Harold talks about blogging and other skills but refers to blogging as a central engine for conversations (themselves a central piece in the networked world) and mechanism to speed up serendipity. A great testimony of how blogging can make a difference.
  • Marc F. Bellemare (Agriculture, development and food policy) and his post on ‘What I’ve learned from a year of blogging: advice for would-be bloggers‘ (Jan. 2012) I selected this post because it is particularly useful for new bloggers or wannabe bloggers. Marc reflects back on one year of blogging and offers simple but useful tips to get started.
  • Steve Wheeler (Learning with ‘e’s). Steve Wheeler is a wonderful learning and education blogger and he explains in ‘Life thru a lens’ (Aug. 2013) his experience with vlogging – or video blogging – as a great complement to his ongoing blogging practice.
Blogging is writing's extreme sport (Credits - WillLion/FlickR)

Blogging is writing’s extreme sport (Credits – WillLion/FlickR)

And I decided to add -ex-post- this other post (by Chris Lysy) which summarises blogging challenges and advices of 22 different bloggers (including yours truly): http://freshspectrum.com/blogging-advice/

Who blogs (how)?

Blogs are topic-specific generally, at least the better blogs I’ve come across. So there’s no selection that would satisfy everyone of you, but here is a list of bloggers that I find really interesting to read, from their blogging technique or the way they use their blog:

  • Duncan Green (From poverty to Power). A very prolific blogger, Oxfam’s Duncan Green is a real thought leader in his field, sharply networked and with real passion and objective detachment at the same time. His blog is one of the best examples, in global development) of what can be achieved with a blog once the author behind is smart and well connected. A must-visit for influence blogging.
  • In the KM world, Nick Milton from Knoco Stories has been blogging on a daily basis with unrelentlessly good advice. His way of blogging is interesting because it is a real challenge to keep up with such daily discipline. I like the references he makes to other posts from his long blogging experience.
  • And finally Susan MacMillan, an ILRI colleague who has been blogging prolifically, with rather long posts though very detailed, full of passion and quotes and facts and questions. It is a peculiar style; some people don’t like it, some love it. I find it really an inspiring ‘other’ way of blogging than most blogs I follow. See some posts of hers on e.g. ILRI Clippings and ILRI news.

There could be many many more, as you understand…

A (totally non comprehensive) summary of tips and tricks contained in these resources:

    • (You) Be yourself, be bold, be unique, continually reflect about your blog and your blogging practice, accept it takes time to get good at it and to reap real benefits from it;
Some blogging (moo card) pointers (Credits - MexicanWave/FlickR)

Some blogging (moo card) pointers (Credits – MexicanWave/FlickR)

  • (Your blog) Find your focus and goal, have a go, let it flow, embellish your blog with pictures (or videos, presentations and other creative bits), make it scannable and ‘blog-friendly’, chase typos and errors away, improve your blog and change stuff about it every so often – in line with your learning;
  • (Your audience) Engage with them, work with them, comment on their blogs and respond to their comments quickly, share your posts actively on other social networks, link to other blogs and content (from you and others), use your blog as basis for much wider engagement.

Now – what are your favourite blog posts about blogging, the why, what, how and all the rest of it? What have I missed out here? And what might you do about blogging yourself?

Related blog posts:

Find the resources mentioned in this post and other resources about blogging in my Del.icio.us bookmarks about Blogging.

Assessing, measuring, monitoring knowledge (and KM): Taking stock


Been a while since I last properly ‘took stock’ of a specific topic in my knowledge garden. The last one about storytelling. But I’ve recently been working again on one of my pet topics: assessing knowledge work, so a good stock-taking exercise will be really handy for upcoming work, and hopefully for you too!

Some takes on M&E of KM via IKM-Emergent (Credits: Hearn, Hulsebosch & Talisayon)

Some takes on M&E of KM via IKM-Emergent (Credits: Hearn, Hulsebosch & Talisayon)

Knowledge Management Impact Challenge (KMIC) work and related KM4D journal issue

In 2011, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a KM impact challenge, inviting authors to submit entries explaining how KM could be effectively assessed. 45 different case studies were shared and reflected upon in a final report and a series of articles published in the Knowledge Management for Development Journal. These cases spanned a spectrum of KM interventions from capturing lessons, developing capacities, improving organisational performance, looking into learning events, impact of communities of practice etc. A lot of common challenges to assessing KM and practical recommendations and question to move forward are identified in this (to my knowledge) penultimate attempt at taking stock of assessing KM in development work.

Read the KM Impact Challenge final report or discover the Knowledge Management for Development Journal issue dedicated to the KMIC experiences (limited access, come back to me for specific articles).

Methods for measuring intangible assets

I first came across this resource in a blog post (itself worthwhile reading) from Gerald Meinert about ‘KM asks for value compensation‘. Karl-Erik Sveiby is one of the KM tycoons. He has been writing a lot of really good conceptual and practical pieces on KM as a professor and as founder of Sveiby Knowledge Associates. Although this list of approaches to measure intangible assets is not strictly focusing on assessing KM, it is very useful to consider as KM relates very much to intangibles. Sveiby looks at four different methods to measure intangibles: Direct intellectual capital methods, market capitalisation methods, return on assets methods and scorecard methods. He goes on looking into 42 different methods falling in either category.

The merit of this work is to consider the valuation of knowledge capital in various ways. Perhaps not enough is said about how knowledge leads to other changes but that is covered by other methods and resources listed here.

See Sveiby’s methods for measuring intangible assets

Nick Milton’s series of quantified KM stories

Nick Milton, of Knoco Stories, is a prolific blogger on KM and he totally should have been much higher on the top 100 KM influencers on Twitter. Among the many things that Nick has been blogging about are a series of quantified success stories – 60 to date while blogging here – which look at ways KM helped make or save money, adoption of new practices, increasing implementation speed, increasing effectiveness and benchmarking it against other comparies etc.

Have a look at these Knoco Stories ‘quantified success stories‘.

The use of indicators for the monitoring and evaluation of knowledge management and knowledge brokering in international development

This is the latest I’ve come across. Compiled by Philipp Grunewald and Walter Mansfield on the back of a KM4Dev Innovation Fund grant, this survey report came together with a workshop report which consists in fact mainly of a list of 100 indicators to assess knowledge (management, sharing etc.). See the survey report or discover the top 100 indicators in the workshop report.

KM4Dev curated discussions on monitoring and assessing KM

Over time, various KM4Dev members have been asking about this perpetually reappearing conversation topic (and the reason why I consider M&E of KM one of the phoenixes of the KM field). Of all these discussions, ‘Monitoring and evaluating KM‘ and the more recent ‘Measuring knowledge sharing‘ are perhaps the most pertinent pointers, although other conversations helpfully addressed specific aspects related to e.g. after action reviews, partnerships, portals, conferences etc.

There is another one of these conversations happening on the KM4Dev mailing list as we speak. Feel free to join and perhaps to help document the conversation, I may include it in this stock-taking post.

Check the KM4Dev wiki on M&E-focused discussions

The IKM-Emergent papers on monitoring and evaluation of knowledge management

Finally, I couldn’t ignore these two papers that the Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) Emergent project came up with, which I also co-authored:

The first paper takes stock of the major problems with assessing knowledge management in its various forms and how it is currently being done. The second paper suggests an alternative approach to doing it, inviting a variety of people that have a stake in the evaluation of KM and collectively reflecting with them on what assessing KM could be and how it would add more value.

These papers – while in the making – were presented at one of the KMIC webinars:

I have some more resources which I’d like to share with you from my Delicious bookmarks for your own sake.

There must be many other key resources, reports and inputs and I would love to hear from you: What are your personal gems about assessing knowledge work? What resources and ideas have changed your view of this complex and uber-important aspect of our work in the field of KM?

And here I don’t provide a meta-analysis of all these resources, but this might be the next step in my own perpetually restarting journey in the territory of KM.

Related blog posts:

Storytelling: Taking stock


Stories have been the rage in the knowledge field lately. Hold on… Stories have been the rage in the field of human beings for ever! KM or not, it doesn’t matter, stories are part of our hard-wiring. We were born for stories. Which is what makes this stock-taking post quite a daunting challenge. And yet, recent discussions on the KM4Dev mailing list about process documentation and the use of stories reminded me of the everlasting importance of storytelling in the specific field of KM. And so I figured I could kick my lazy arse and graft for a stock-taking post on another phoenix (1) of the KM field.

Storytelling, a powerful learning and sharing KM technique

Give me a play, give me a picture, give me a story and I will understand your complex nonsense (FlickR photo credits: Normalityrelief)

But first off, here is what this list of resources could look like and you’ll understand why I hesitated about writing this stock-taking post. Tim Sheppard’s website has not been updated since 2003. I’m almost tempted to say “thank goodness for it!” as my mind starts boggling. Instead, I’m focusing here on a short series of (PDF) resources that offer practical guidance on how to use storytelling in knowledge-focused work, primarily in development work, but not only. These resources all include a tiny bit of theory and mostly some practical tips, tools and templates. The list is not exhaustive, it is not pretentious, but I hope it offers some useful links. It was certainly helpful for me to compile this list for future reference.

So here are some nuggets hidden in the river of web knowledge…

SDC’s guide to using story and narrative tools in development co-operation (practitioner’s version) (Source: Swiss Development Cooperation / www.deza.ch)

This 24-page practical guide (from 2006) offers an excellent introduction to storytelling, explaining the difference between stories and reports, introducing exercises and questions to tease out stories, examining the structure of stories, offering checklists for the different parties involved in storytelling, giving a useful overview of different story techniques and finally a troubleshooting guide.

Like most resources from the SDC, this guide is neat and rather practical, leaving fuzzy conversations at the door. It really is meant for development practitioners to use storytelling in their work in various handy ways. The attitude is, as ever, not prescriptive but rather indicative, yet offering useful kick-starts for those needing more guidance. A must in this list.

The leaders’ guide to storytelling (Source: www.stevedenning.com)

One of the storytelling leaders, certainly in the field of development cooperation, Stephen Denning has written a number of important books on the topic (see the who is who below). This practical guide for leaders is a 50-slide presentation of one of his books (this resource’s title) and offers a great glimpse of human psychology and liking for storytelling. It goes further in explaining the process of springboard storytelling which is geared towards action. This is only a sketchy introduction of the process but gives good ideas about the power of stories and some process to set up storytelling. Jumpboard storytelling is mentioned in other resources in this list. This resource is a bit older than the rest (around 2005) but his book is still a reference (find more info about it and buy it here) and I couldn’t do justice to this post without mentioning Steve Denning’s work.

Ultimate guide to Anecdote circles A practical guide to facilitating storytelling and story listening (Source: www.anecdote.com.au)

Anecdote has long been an organisation specialised in storytelling, as you would expect. This 28-page guide, oops e-book, from 2008 sets the scene of corporate storytelling following the infamous but bang-on travelling metaphor. The specific storytelling technique used here is the anecdote circle. The great value of this resource is the simplicity of its language, the practical stories offered throughout to support the theory and the interesting research and other material backing the use of stories at work (for those moments when you try to justify stories against hard metrics). And it is rare enough that a private consultancy firm offers its methods out in the open, so we can only encourage them in this direction. The e-book also contains a handful of useful references, although none is more recent than 2005. Then again, new is not always better.

If you like the Anecdote approach, they released a more recent (2009) 4-page white paper on storytelling in the business world. It is available here. And their website is packed with other creative story stuff!

Storytelling, in the knowledge sharing toolkit (Source: www.kstoolkit.org)

The advantage of working wikily isto keep the content fresh. This entry of the KS toolkit is indeed updated regularly (last in February 2011 with a link to a recent KMers’ Twitter chat on storytelling and KM). This resource informs us how to use storytelling in knowledge sharing/knowledge management work, particularly in workshops. It includes a handy story template, some ideas to introduce storytelling in workshops, some materials required, an indicative method to follow and some examples and further resources. Although this summary page is not the most comprehensive out there, it was set up more recently, and you’ve got to like the wiki attitude on this one.

The KS toolkit is a joint initiative by the ICT-KM programme (of the CGIAR), FAO, UNICEF and KM4DEV. It’s a rather rich resource portal pulling together a number of practical tools and approaches to knowledge sharing and knowledge management in development work.

And (almost) finally: StoryCorps’ story instruction guide for great questions (Source: http://storycorps.org)

Stories are very nicely teased out through interviews and this 4-page guide just seemed to bring a lot of useful considerations for conducting interviews and capturing excellent quality stories. I particularly like the list of ‘great questions’ that appear on page 3 which really could be used anywhere, and I confess I also selected this resource because it was released on the national day of listening (StoryCorps came up with it: in the US it’s thus November 26). That day really is a great occasion to celebrate. Listening is critical in today’s multicultural workplace, as the Harvard Business Review reminds us again in this very recent blog post. As for StoryCorps, it is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

Finally, my fellow Tweeter Peter West graciously shared his del.icio.us resources on storytelling which contain (as of 22 March 2011) over 40 resources, some pay-for but also a great many free ones. I have to delve into quite a few of these resources for an updated version of this post. Enjoy it without guide for now.

Storytelling who is who

And finally, a new addition to my stock-taking series to crown this post: here are some influential KM peeps that you should not miss in the field of… storytelling (links to their Twitter profile).

  • Shawn Callahan – From Anecdote. The work introduced above shows the credit due to M. Anecdote. He writes and tweets about stories on a regular basis. You can also watch him on this video justifying the value of storytelling.
  • Stephen Denning – formerly working for the World Bank where he pioneered some storytelling work in the field of development and wrote seminal books about the ancient art of storytelling – as mentioned on his bio page. He has moved on to focus on innovation and leadership of late.
  • Dave Snowden – from Cognitive Edge. Dave Snowden has been working for a long time with narratives and is currently implementing the Cognitive Edge™ software across various domains to analyse patterns among stories. The intention here is a.o. to help quantify these patterns and generate quantitative information on qualitative data. If you wonder: Snowden is not among the references above because he has not have written practical papers or articles recently about the topic of storytelling in the field of development that I know of – though he certainly could.

Of course this list is far from exhaustive. I keep open for other suggestions and references. As ever, this is KM for me, and you?

Notes

(1) By phoenix I mean one of those discussion topics that keeps coming back because there are always new layers to discover and discuss about them.

Related posts:

Learning cycle basics and more: Taking stock


It seems that, home page aside, the most popular post on this modest blog has been the one I wrote about ‘cycles, circles and ripples of learning’.

Finding light through a different reflection? Deep learning loops (Photo credits: Philippe Leroyer)

Finding light through a different reflection? Deep learning loops (photo credits: Philippe Leroyer)

Search engine queries confirm that a lot of people out there are looking for more on these dizzying learning cycles and loops.

That learning cycles were so popular was a discovery for me. I like the idea of learning cycles but never used the model much in KM training or discussions. The recent poll I organised to elect the topic of this stock-taking post confirmed the general curiosity for learning cycles. Following your wishes, here is a stock-taking post on learning cycles, but to keep it interesting and different I’m foraying into adjacent areas such as…

Kolb learning styles (source: www.businessballs.com)

Might as well begin with the beginning as David Kolb has theorised learning styles and experiential learning (1) which are at the cornerstone of learning loops and cycles. There are other authors upon which Kolb inspired his work but this is only a short visit to academic park.

The theory here distinguishes four distinct learning styles:

  • Concrete experience (related to feeling);
  • Reflective observation (watching);
  • Abstract conceptualisation (thinking);
  • Active experimentation (doing).

These learning styles are connected, in Kolb’s theory, through the following cyclical sequence:

Kolb's experiential learning cycle (graph credits: Businessballs)

Kolb contends that every person uses the four learning styles in different ways depending on their progression on a maturity path that spans acquisition (of basic abilities and cognitive structures), specialisation (towards a specific learning style) and ultimately integration (where other learning styles are also expressed / used in work and personal life). But he also contends that we cannot use two styles simultaneously so we opt for either doing or watching and then either for thinking or feeling.

At the intersection of these two dialectical sets of choices, Kolb places his theory of preferred learning styles, as shown in the table below:

Doing (Active Experimentation – AE) Watching (Reflective Observation – RO)
Feeling (Concrete Experience – CE) Accommodating (CE/AE), i.e. hands-on, intuitive, relying on others’ information, group-work focused… Diverging (CE/RO), i.e. making links between different approaches, interested in brainstorming. Emotional, group work-focused…
Thinking (Abstract Conceptualization – AC) Converging (AC/AE), i.e. with a practical focus, interested in technical problems/solutions, specialist/technological applications… Assimilating (AC/RO), i.e. logical, concise, interested in readings, lectures, analytical models…

This model has been elaborated on by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford. They relabelled the four preferred learning styles to use some labels that are more familiar to us:

  1. ‘Having an Experience’ (stage 1), and Activists (style 1): ‘here and now’, gregarious, seek challenge and immediate experience, open-minded, bored with implementation.
  2. ‘Reviewing the Experience’ (stage 2) and Reflectors (style 2): ‘stand back’, gather data, ponder and analyse, delay reaching conclusions, listen before speaking, thoughtful.
  3. ‘Concluding from the Experience’ (stage 3) and Theorists (style 3): think things through in logical steps, assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories, rationally objective, reject subjectivity and flippancy.
  4. ‘Planning the next steps’ (stage 4) and Pragmatists (style 4): seek and try out new ideas, practical, down-to-earth, enjoy problem solving and decision-making quickly, bored with long discussions.

I think this model has a lot to be argued with – any model that claims too quickly to show the truth is disputable, however useful that claim is to stimulate critical reviews and further researching limitations, gaps, edges of this theory.

More information can be found on the learning and teaching website, about learning styles: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm with some additional adaptations as briefly mentioned above. This resource also contain some links to critiques made on the Kolb model – in stock-taking posts I refrain from giving an opinion.

Chris Argyris / Donald Schön: theories of action, double-loop learning and organisational learning (source: Mark K. Smith – INFED)

The other heavyweights in learning cycles and styles are obviously Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, and in this extensive explanation by Mark K. Smith, we are touching the inner cords of learning loops and cycles. This is hard to summarise here but the starting point is the difference between theory and action and the fact that everyone has two theories of action: theories in use (governing our actual behaviour) and espoused theories (what we say we do). In popular terms this also relates to the saying: “do as I say (not as I do)”. Argyris argues that effectiveness comes from aligning these two theories of action.

Then comes learning (seen here as detection and correction of errors):

  • Single-loop learning comes from the fact that human beings, faced with adversity, just try to set the same governing variables in a different way – as a quest for efficiency.
  • Double loop learning is when we look at the governing variables (norms, policies, objectives) that guide our activities and our responses to events occurring. This is where effectiveness (as opposed to just efficiency) comes in.
  • In another article, another author explains that on the topic of organisational learning, Argyris is also referring to deutero learning as the awareness that (single and double-loop) learning must happen. This means identifying the learning styles and facilitating factors to understand the gap between targeted outcome and actual performance (not a very complexity-friendly theory really though).

Double-loop learning according to Argyris (graph credits: Deborah Kendell)

Argyris and Schön considered how to expand the capacity of organisations to engage in double-loop learning – as they saw this as crucial to adapt to fast-changing environments – but it is also inherently difficult because the reasoning process of individuals “inhibits exchange of relevant information”. In his study, Argyris compares two models of human behaviours and contends that almost everyone follows model 1, a model that promotes superficiality, not losing face, defensive relationships etc. as opposed to a more win-win focused model 2.

Of course a lot of this theory should also be taken with a pinch of salt and some distance with respect to its linearity and dual approach. But the bottom ideas stick around.

The author of this article also points to the fact that Argyris and Schön’s theory has been central to unearthing the role of facilitators (of learning), reflecting on and questioning the difference between the two theories of action, as opposed to individual / private learning.

All in all, this web page is probably one of the best introductions to Argyris’s work without digging out the books.

More on single, double and triple loop learning

On the topic of learning loops, the ‘Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development’ offers a short and to-the-point definition on this one-pager (PDF document):

  • Single-loop learning is understood here as following the rules – like a thermostat that only corrects temperature when it goes too low or too high.
  • Double-loop learning is described as changing the rules – where the focus is not on applying the rules but on using creativity and critical thinking to find out if the rules that you are applying are indeed most appropriate.
  • Triple-loop learning is simply referred to as learning how to learn, implying that not only should we think about applying the rules or changing them but we should think about the rules themselves. The authors also depict triple-loop learning as double-loop learning applied to double loop learning itself.

This reference has the merit of being short but thereby offers little value to apply the analogy to other contexts (if the examples provided do not make enough sense).

In the context of learning alliances (one of my hobby horses as I work with learning alliances and IRC wrote about it (2) and works a lot with this type of multi-stakeholder approach),

Double loop learning in learning alliances (graph credits: CIAT)

CIAT one of the CG centres who has pioneered learning alliances refers in the ILAC sourcebook (part 2 – tools and approaches, chapter 14 on learning alliances) to the importance of a double loop learning cycle to implement strategic actions, as depicted in the image (right here).

Then there is this interesting article ‘Transformational change in organisations’ by Mary R. Bast which focuses mainly on individuals (contrary to the organisational double-loop learning practice described in the figure above) and particularly emphasises triple-loop learning as the condition for transformational change, as opposed to incremental learning through single-loop learning and reframing through double-loop learning. This article borrows from Robert Hargrove’s Masterful coaching and explains that the essential contribution of triple-loop learning is that it paves the way for transformational change (3) – a process that essentially requires that we reassess our point of view about ourselves. Another interesting point made here is that transformational change can be hindered by single and double loop learning. This article covers, with explicit (and built-on) examples, the three types of learning loops and gives perhaps the best illustration about learning loops that I could find, even if it could have been written in a more simple manner.

Learning cycles, according to Wikipedia

Of course I shouldn’t afford not to mention what Wikipedia has to say about learning cycles… in this case not very much (nor to the point) as it goes on about a research-supported method for education looking successively at engaging, exploring, explaining, extending and evaluating… ah, when the wisdom of the crowd becomes the wastedump of the proud…

Learning and KM in the development sector, a KM4DEV discussion

And finally, although this wiki entry could be a bit more structured, it offers a number of very valuable insights into the topic of learning and touches upon the learning loops (particularly by Irene Guijt).

I hope that these references provide a bit more information about this topic of learning cycles. As usual, feel free to point to more relevant resources…

In the meantime, I’ll be working on my next stock-taking post, either about complexity theories or about facilitation tools and approaches. What say you?

Notes:

One of the key references that is not mentioned here but was talked about in the previous post on learning cycles is the article (PDF) that Marleen Maarleveld and Constant Dangbégnon wrote, where they refer extensively to triple-loop learning.

In-text notes:

(1) Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development was published in 1984

(2) The book that IRC authors wrote about learning alliances in the water sector is available here.

(3) Transformational change is described as: “…empowering people to transform who they are and reinvent themselves by helping them to see how their frames of reference, thinking, and behavior produce unintended consequences… to surface and question the way they have framed their points of view about themselves, others, or their circumstances with the idea of creating a fundamental shift”

Related blog posts:

What should be the next topic for a stock-taking post?


[This poll is closed since 15 February 2010 – The elected stock-taking post will be about ‘Learning cycle basics and more’  which I will write before the end of February. Many thanks to you all for your participation!]

I started a series of stock-taking posts to give an introduction to a given topic by providing a short summary to some of the most useful resources on the topic that I know of. So far I have written only two of these posts: on capacity development and on network monitoring.

Taking stock in this way is useful for me for future reference but it would be grand if they could be useful to you too!

So here is your chance to suggest the next topic for a stock-taking post, from a series of 4 propositions.

I’m all ears and ready to follow suit!

Network monitoring & evaluation: Taking stock


Another stock-taking post: not DVDs but network M&E (credits: Hooverdust)

Another stock-taking post on the collection of network M&E resources (Photo credits: Hooverdust)

It was about time to prepare another of those stock-taking blog posts, don’t you think?

This time the topic is monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for networks, among others because there are a number of networks that I am involved in which will need to develop a solid M&E framework for themselves and for their respective donors so this post could help come up with a better approach. And, who knows, perhaps you will also find something useful in there. If this is all rubbish, please put me out of my misery and help me read some quality references on the topic, ok?

When it comes to M&E of networks, documents are a lot more scattered than for the capacity development stock-taking post I wrote earlier. And to spice things up, on Google, there is a hell of a lot of misleading resources pointing to LAN/WAN network monitoring – clearly the web is still the stronghold of a self-serving (IT) community.

Fair enough! But luckily there are also relevant resources among my documents, of which I would like to mention:

Guides, tools and methods for evaluating networks (direct link to a Word document)

(Amy Etherington – 2005)

As the title indicates, this paper focuses on evaluation rather than monitoring of networks – as a means for networks to remain relevant and adapt if need be. Three major considerations are taken into account here:

  • measuring intangible assets (related to characteristics of networks such as social arrangements, adding value, creating forums for social exchange and joint opportunities);
  • issues of attribution (linked to issues of geographic and asynchronous complexity of networks, joint execution of activities, broad and long term goals of networks);
  • looking at internal processes: the very nature of networks renders internal processes – of mobilisation, interlinking, value-adding – very interesting. The further effects of the network on each individual member are also useful to look into.

And then follows a selection of nine evaluation methods (all dating from 1999 to 2005 though), very well documented, including checklists of questions, tables with dimensions of networks, interesting (or sometimes scary) models, innumerable steps referring to various maturity stages of communities. This seems one of the most relevant references to find at least practical methods to tackle network M&E.

Evaluating International Social Change Networks: A Conceptual Framework for a Participatory Approach (PDF)

(Ricardo Wilson-Grau and Martha Nuñez – 2006)

Among the most influential authors on the topic of M&E and networks, Wilson-Grau and Nuñez have been writing a lot of documents referred to in other papers mentioned here. This paper – which also focuses on the evaluation of networks – introduces the 8 or so functions that networks perform and considers four qualities and three operational dimensions. The result is a table of 56 criteria – shaped as questions – which ought to be answered by members of the network – with a careful eye for justification behind each criterion, because each network is different. The authors continue with the four types of achievements one can hope for social change networks: operational outputs, organic outcomes, political outcomes (judged as most useful by the authors themselves) and impact. Again the table is of great help and this document is a useful introduction to the author’s body of work.

A Strategic Evaluation of IDRC-Support to Networks (Word)

(Sarah Earl – 2004)

Epitomising the long term experience of the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) with monitoring and evaluation of networks, Sarah Earl presents, in this seven-page briefing note, a questioning process to evaluate the function of IDRC in supporting networks. In doing so, she stresses a series of questions pertaining to the coordination, sustainability and intended results / development outcomes of networks. She further explains the methodology used (literature review, key informant interviews and electronic survey of network coordinators, lesson learning sessions leading to writing stories from IDRC staff). This paper can be useful for actually setting up a methodology to collect evidence about the functioning of a network.

Network evaluation paper (Word).

(June Holley – 2007)

June Holley has been working for over 20 years on economic networks. This five-page paper  introduces a method that focuses on network maps and metrics, network indicators and outcomes. The paper suggests using scores and looking at awareness (of the network as a whole), influence, connectors, integration, resilience, diversity and core/periphery.

Network mapping and core-periphery (credits: Ross Dawson)

Network mapping and core-periphery (Image credits: Ross Dawson)

In terms of indicators, Ms. Holley recommends a series of questions that point to the self-organising and outcome-producing characteristics of the network, but also at questions of culture (as in shared norms and values) and evidence of skills that allow the network to change.

There are more (*) papers specifically focused on networks and their evaluation but I found them less relevant, often mostly because they are a bit dated.

Of course there are many other references on monitoring and evaluation in publications and resource sites about networks. Here is another, shorter, selection:

While on the topic of network M&E and its link with the specific monitoring of knowledge management, I would like to point to the summary of a discussion that took place in 2008 on the KM4Dev mailing list on the topic of M&E of KM: http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Impact_and_M%26E_of_KM. This topic will probably remain interesting. It has been explored various times on the KM4DEV mailing list, it was recently touched upon in the francophone KM4DEV CoP SA-GE and it is likely to reappear as a topic of choice in 2010 on various platforms, not least because IKM-Emergent is planning to work more on this issue after having released the first of two commissioned papers on M&E of KM (this working paper on monitoring and evaluation of knowledge was written by Serafin Talisayon). I will certainly report about this in the coming weeks / months.

As ever with this series of stock-taking posts, I will try and keep this overview updated with any other interesting resource I get my hands on. So feel free to enlighten me with additional resources that go deeper, provide a lot of synthetic clarity or provide a refreshing perspective on the topic of network monitoring. What has worked for you in your work with networks? What have you found useful ways to measure their effectiveness and other dimensions? What would be your words of caution when assessing networks?

Networks are here to stay for a while so this discussion goes on…

(*)

I came across a number of other papers that all have something to say but are a bit out of date and I decided not to reference them here.

Related posts:

Capacity development: Taking stock


(This is potentially the first of a series of stock-taking posts about inspiring literature on topics I blog about – the series will start if you find this interesting, so plmk).

Recently I met all staff of the Water Integrity Network (WIN) which stands for more integrity and transparency and preventing more corruption in the WASH sector by organising coalitions of institutions and individuals to cooperate and share useful ideas, resources and tools and to join hands in this fight.

The starting point: a capacity development workshop by WIN (26-27 May)

The starting point: a capacity development workshop by WIN (26-27 May)

On 26 and 27 May, WIN will be organising a workshop on capacity building in order to define its priorities for the years to come and to develop a strategy in line with those priorities. As I met the person in charge of organising this workshop and we exchanged some ideas by mails and face-to-face, it gave me a nice opportunity to take stock of some good articles and papers I have read about this concept.

The following list represents an attempt at mentioning and briefly describing the contents of some of the reads I found most inspiring on the topic of capacity development. This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources on the topic so feel free to suggest your inspired reads.

Many of these articles have been written by or inspired after Peter Morgan (private consultant as far as I can see but in a brief search I wasn’t able to find the right Peter Morgan out of 40 Peter Morgan’s (on LinkedIn alone).

Capacity and capacity development – some strategies

(Peter Morgan – 1998)

The oldest reference of all papers, this article is interesting because a) it provides some pointers to define capacity development (the processes and strategies), capacity (organisational and technical abilities, relationships and values) and impact (developmental benefits and results) and b) it considers various ‘capacity development’ strategies that have been employed, namely:

  • supplying additional and physical resources;
  • helping to improve the organisational and technical capabilities of the organisation;
  • helping to settle a clear strategic direction;
  • protecting innovation and providing opportunities for experimentation and learning;
  • helping to strengthen the bigger organisational system;
  • helping to shape an enabling environment;
  • creating more performance incentives and pressures;

The article ends with a series of questions to address the strategic value of capacity development and the operational recommendations to make it work.

What is capacity?

(Peter Morgan, 2006) – this is a direct link to the paper in PDF format.

This paper is firstly valuable for pointing at the lack of a clear and agreed definition on capacity development – that ‘missing link’ in development according to the World Bank – and particularly its common confusion with (individual) training. As a result, capacity development becomes an umbrella concept devoid of any useful meaning. The second contribution of this paper is to single out five central characteristics of capacity development: 1) it’s about empowerment and identity, 2) it has to do with collective ability, 3) it is a systems phenomenon, 4) it is a potential state and 5) it’s about creating public value. A third pointer is the definition of individual competencies, organisational capabilities and institutional / systemic capacity. Then Peter Morgan focuses on the meso level (organisations and their capabilities) to extract five core capabilities:

  1. The capability to act: having a collective ability to define a vision and an agenda and implement it (related to leadership, human resources etc.);

    The 5 capabilities' framework (Credits: ECDPM)

    The 5 capabilities’ framework (Credits: ECDPM)

  2. The capability to generate development results: the thematic and technical capabilities that lead to results (outputs, outcomes), which is usually the central attention of capacity development – though the author argues it is in the combination of the five that capacity development becomes meaningful and effective.
  3. The capability to relate: connecting to other actors relevant in the field where an organisation is evolving; this relates to working on the exhausted (or rather over-used) concept of ‘enabling environment’ but also on power struggles and political intrigue in a sometimes seemingly uncompetitive sector (how wrong!).
  4. The capability to adapt and self-renew: learning, innovating, adapting to changing environments or pre-empting changes;
  5. The capability to achieve coherence: maintaining a focus while using all separate resources to the fullest of their abilities. This is a major challenge with the growing recognition of complex and intricate relations among development actors

Finally, the author opens the debate as to capacity being a means to an end or an end in itself.

A balanced approach to monitoring and evaluating capacity and performance

(Paul Engel, Tony Land, Niels Keijzer – 2006) – this is a direct link to the paper in PDF format.

This paper is very much in line with the previous one but it lists a number of useful questions to assess capacity and performance and provides a five-step approach to develop the assessment framework. These five steps are: 1) Situational reconnaissance and stakeholder analysis 2) Calibration of the assessment framework 3) Implementation 4) Review of the draft results with key stakeholders and 5) Sharing the assessment report with the full range of stakeholders.

Capacity for a change

(Peter Taylor, Peter Clarke – 2008).

The report from a workshop that IDS organised in 2007, this excellent resource is probably the reason why I’ve been thinking a lot more about capacity development (CD) recently. The 26 participants provided outstanding matter for reflection which led the authors to analyse the current situation of capacity development interventions, re-imagine CD processes and suggest ways forward.

The paper is a useful resource for its facts (e.g. figures on public expenditures on CD), its evidence from study: about the importance of knowledge and learning, power relations, having good theories of social change, the relations between intervention agents rather than just results and perhaps above all else the importance of the local context – here we go again! and finally it is useful for the recommendations to address capacity development systemically.

In the forward-looking part, the authors recommend considering five useful pointers for CD interventions:

  • Empowering relationships – having that empowerment perspective at the core;
  • Rallying ideas – favouring a clear language that comes from joint reflection;
  • Dynamic agents – recognising the importance of local champions to take things forward;
  • Framing and shaping context – favouring a flexible design through interaction with the local context;
  • Grounding enabling knowledge / skills – working on abilities to understand and interact with one another;

The report ends with some suggestions for donors, research institutes, service providers and practitioners at large to take their own share and improve CD interventions. Last but not least, the bibliography provides actually enough references for me to write another blog post…

Capacity development: between planned interventions and emergent processes. Implications for development cooperation

(Tony Land, Volker Hauck and Heather Baser – 2009) – this is a direct link to the paper in PDF format.

The most recent resource of the list, this policy management brief by ECDPM poses that complexity theories and particularly aspects of emergence and ‘complex adaptive systems’ provide a welcome contribution to unpacking capacity development. The authors consider capacity as an emergent property that cannot be ‘engineered’ by organisations (even less so by external agencies, often Northern-based I would argue). Their assessment is that the forces around organisations and capacities are sometimes far greater than the former and it is therefore important to map them to understand better what may play a role in the success of an intervention (hence the importance of carrying out a kind of ‘forcefield analysis‘ perhaps I would add). The brief continues with a comparison between ‘conventional’ (engineering, pre-determined, risk-averse) approaches to capacity development and approaches inspired by emergence and complex adaptive systems.

Emergence and iteration: two key factors of capacity?

Emergence and iteration: two key factors of capacity?

One interesting aspect of this brief is also the identification of 12 pointers that may help in organising capacity development interventions. The authors are cautious enough to warn against the chase for a silver bullet (in this case ‘complex adaptive systems’) but advise to consider the pointers to develop incremental approaches that reconcile intervention engineering (the current practice nowadays) with emergence.

As mentioned above, this is no exhaustive list, so what did you find useful references on the topic?

If you think it’s useful to publish such ‘stock-taking’ blog posts in the future, on capacity development or other topics, let me know (and about what topic).

To find all these resources in one place check my online bookmarks on capacity development: http://delicious.com/ewenirc/capacity_development.

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