After almost a year without gatherings we resumed our KM4Dev Ethiopia community gatherings on Friday 3 April. 12 people participated including three new members. 

The first hour (2-3pm) was used for informal networking and was merged with the biweekly gathering of the ILRI communication & knowledge management team. Meanwhile the community presentation was displayed in auto-repeat mode.

From 3pm we started off by introducing the upcoming 'AgKnowledge Innovation Process share fair' which could be extremely interesting for this community. Register for the Share Fair.

After that we had a small exercise to find out: a) what KM challenges we are facing in the global development sector in Ethiopia that this community can do something about and b) how can we organise ourselves in this community to make sure we address these challenges in a sustainable manner. 

We ended up with this global picture (12.%20km4dev.pdf): 

Before we decided to use the remaining time, we agreed that this network would never be sustainable if it relied on me (Ewen) so we agreed that I would work with two volunteers (Zerihun Sewunet and Dawit Dagnew) to train them on hosting these gatherings. Other participants (particularly Tigist Endashaw) also mentioned they were ready to help here and there.

By the next gathering, Dawit, Zerihun and I will come back to the whole group to mention how people can help us prepare it.

Then we looked at the above picture again and decided to zoom in on 'how to show the value of KM for public agencies'. The conversation started on this topic but focused overall more on the value of KM generally.

KM in public agencies (and what is the value of KM)

Marc Lepage (ML): All the topics are linked and boil down to the question: What is the value of KM?

We need to promote KM to get traction. 

We could go around talking about how we talk about KM and find out we have very different understanding and definitions of KM. But for instance I could present my definition, you could 'trash' me to tell me what works or not. I can tell you what I think is the value etc. We all have a different angle about this. If we were all going to do this we could end up making our KM argument stronger.

Once you pass the hurdle of management etc. you can get on to the impact assessment etc.

Gashaw Kebede (GK): It’s about understanding the priorities given to professionals.

Why do we think that that is the situation (i.e. that public agencies don't understand the value of KM)? It could be related to the way we are presenting this/KM? But it could also be due to other things. E.g. libraries have taken years to be accepted.

Fikr: Interesting to hear success stories…

Peter Ballantyne: KM is everywhere but people don’t call it that. Our scientists manage knowledge all the time – they create/share/do things with knowledge. I never talk about KM, I talk about what they’re doing. We should be careful that we shouldn’t just focus on the label ‘KM’ or having a position.

GK: KM may not be recognized.

(from this point on I didn't note down the names of people speaking any longer)

Public agencies may be doing KM but may not call it KM. It’s probably there but very poor.

Capturing is there but the sharing is the element we’re missing from these agencies. There is a fear of sharing knowledge…

The director of EIAR mentioned that in Ethiopia “We can’t find knowledge”. Whatever you call it, we can’t find the knowledge. These agencies are still publishing a lot though. What are they doing about it? There is no initiative taken to move this forward. There is no prioritization of it.

Some people see it as an HR problem, not as a KM problem.

What is the value to do KM? How do you assess the impact?

(Btw sorry this only picture is about me, I don't have any at hand right now. This is a picture from Zerihun Sewunet [UNICEF] and if I get more I will add them here too).

In GIZ it’s part of the policies, job descriptions etc. and people effectively do it as a result.

At UNDP it’s also in everyone’s ToR / job descriptions but it’s not followed. People always say they do ‘KM’. 

We need multiple systems to capture their information.

It’s all about the WIIFM (what's in it for me) factor – what’s done in KM should lead to more effectiveness…

Unless something is requested by the donor nothing is documented. Only the donor sees it… The government works in the same way.

This may have to do with institutional politics etc.

Value for money is important. Once people see it (the success) they do it (KM).

It seems we haven’t made a proper case for KM to management (and other potential champions) to convince them to make a difference. Among professionals, KM is everywhere - it's not a unified field - so there’s no understanding to make this more visible as a profession. It is not very well defined.

And the past experience e.g. from UN agencies shows that even though they have used the term perhaps they didn’t do it in a way that was good enough, perhaps also because these professionals were developing their job and practice and as a result they didn't do it well. Sometimes, the job description is also not specific enough.

Knowledge sharing goes against human nature. There is a problem of prestige, position etc. It’s not easy. It works against having recognition in our positions etc.

I thought that KM was cropping up much more in jobs etc.

No proper process documentation

The projectization is another issue.

Everyone discovers KM at some point. E.g. in GIZ now we have a process to hand the knowledge over.

There is one KM course in universities. 

In UNDP KM is still everywhere but not done by and large. There is no definition of what we should be doing. In UNDP all KM specialists came from very different walks of life/have different profiles. The variety in those profiles made this interesting.

The way we position KM in different organisations is very different. One of the big elements of reluctance towards KM is exposure to the fact that not everyone’s an expert.

If we call things ‘KM’ people push back – but if we present something in a nice and easy way it’s much more effective.

There is a fundamental issue with learning the skill of process facilitation. But this could take years…

When we ask management for budget, what do we want to reach etc. we need to have some answers. How best can we make a sound case for KM? Starting with sthg tangible is one way of doing it. We can also show something achievable.

And there’s also a debate about having a KM specialist that is either a specialist of a given field or a tool/process specialist…

We should study the factors to resistance about KM.

We can focus together on KM as KM specialists or we can decide to advocate/transform global development through KM.

Who in Ethiopia is waiting for this? UN heads? REDD-FS? Prime Minister etc.? Where is the leverage point? Universities training the next generations…

As a result of this discussion, we decided to focus on the following questions for the next gathering:

  1. How do you make KM attractive (a.o.) to managers and others?
  2. How do you measure it?
  3. What success stories can we show?
  4. How do people do it?

And each of us coming to the next gathering should prepare for this by wondering:

  • Who do we want to convince about the value of KM? To do what?
  • What could be practical steps we can take to stimulate that change of mindset?

Next gathering

The next gathering will take place on Friday 26 June from 2 to 5pm on the ILRI campus.

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