Presentation about KM at ILRI

(By Ewen Le Borgne)

The presentation is available online here.

Comments on the presentation

  • Research for development e.g. NBDC – Innovation platforms trying to bring different stakeholders together to have a common ground to exchange their knowledge in different participatory strategies e.g. Wat-A-Game where participants draw resource maps to get a consensus on some challenges and opportunities in NRM. We develop written outputs such as guidelines, briefs etc. but also creative formats such as participatory videos, photo-films, digital stories…
  • Q: Where is the KM function / Comms function and why?
  • A: It’s mixed. It's 
  • Q: What is the connection between internal comms and outreach? Do you invest any effort to retain knowledge produced e.g. lessons learned etc.
  • A: Mahider is our main tool to harvest information and make it available for all publicly. Internal communication boosts all functions (or tries to do so) including outreach. We don't have formalised or well-established procedures to retain knowledge such as exit interviews but after most events we organise and at other junctions we do try to capture lessons learned, but we don't put them into a 'lessons learned database'.
  • Q: Tools are very diverse? How do you guys make sure that staff and stakeholders are using these? How do you manage?
  • A: This is a real concern for some staff who are complaining about the multiplicity of platforms. However from our practice we recognise that there is not one platform that does all the things that we want to offer as comms/KM team. The closest to this is SharePoint and that is still not working optimally (according to our friends in ICT/KM). So we prefer using more tools - though in practice only a minority are effectively meant for staff to be used. We have corporate ILRI accounts for many of these tools/platforms etc. and these accounts are managed by one person. As part of platform management we have guidelines on a wiki for how to use these.
  • Q: No KM strategy? How can you tell how you’re going in the future?
  • A: We don’t have a strategy but we have guides for these tools. And the principles we have are updated along the way as we see fit. The KM strategy (if we had one) should follow our overall strategy and the latter is being redeveloped.
  • Q: Do you use email in addition to Yammer? How do you force people to use Yammer and what is the benefit for not doing so. Do people have to be logged on on both all the time.
  • A: We use both and it depends on the people we communicate with and the kind of information we share. If we want people to ACT upon information we share, we tend to use emails as we recognise that most of our colleagues are email focused. However in e.g. the ILRI comms team we may use Yammer direct messages for 'action-oriented' information. Sometimes we duplicate information on email and Yammer. A lot of people are using Yammer by email anyway so they interact on Yammer via email. When our email network is down we also see Yammer activity decrease.
  • Q: Collaboration? What are staff using for task tracking / project management?
  • A: As far as we know there isn't A project management tool that our staff are using. One Corporate System (a CGIAR-wide system dealing with HR, financial etc. information) is as close as it gets but it's not yet rolled out.
  • Q: Data management - how do you deal with it?
  • A: It's one of the weakest areas of ILRI's information management, together with CRM. But there have been efforts to develop this, from the researchers' side. 

Presentation of the Productive Safety Net Program's KM strategy

(By Yodit Teklemichael) - See the presentation: 8.%20Knowledge%20Management%20in%20PSNP_KM4Dev.pptx

IM and KM is generally weak. One region presents data in a different way.

Yodith drafted a KM strategy that is yet to be finalised and endorsed by the Government and supported by Development partners. 

Program reports are limited to outputs level.

4 main KM processes: discovery, capture, sharing, application.

How to enhance KM?

Joint review in support missions (up to 80 people, for a week in most regions and ends with federal level mission) and mid-term reviews. 

Re: discovery, we need to: strengthen documentation of best practices and lessons learned; reinforce learning among regions; fill knowledge gaps in certain areas; find ways of transforming massive information into Knowledge. 

Re: capture: hard and soft copy docs, we want to establish documentation centres, mini-libraries etc. Only one in four persons shares their documents. 

Re: sharing: electronic and hard copy, telephone, fax, meeting, seminars and workshops, kebele posting. How to have an intranet, a shared drive etc. 

KM challenges: limited knowledge-based reporting, focused largely on data and information; no dedicated website and database; reliance on individuals rather than systems and tools; little practice of sharing after training, seminars, workshops or when employees leave.

Recommendations: awareness-creation forums for leaders at federal/region and zonal levels - finalise and implement the draft PSNP KM strategy - establish a physical and virtual document repository - assign a KM coordinator at federal level and include KM responsibilities in staff JDs - establish a system of sharing after participation in CB events and handing over etc.

What is KM all about?

  • How to persuade decision-makers to extend the scope of MIS work to KM? Moving from programs to systems.
  • How to create interest in the strategy and its implementation?

Clarification questions?

  • Question: There's no website for the PSNP - Why is there no website? 
  • Answer: It's not clear why not. A comms strategy was commissioned and it recommended this but one of the key stakeholders said they had no appetite for it. They asked themselves when was the last time they checked on their own website There is no access to internet and they don't see the priority. It appears to be a joint donor-government perspective.
  • Q: You are keen to convince decision-makers on KM information systems which is not widely understood in the country. People understand it better if you contextualise.
  • A. Good point
  • Q: Why 'KM'? Why not start with e.g. document management? You are keen on a KM strategy - what is the need that you see for this? What advantages do you see for PNSP?
  • A: There's high staff turnover and the program documents are sent to woreda level etc. but people take these docs when they leave so there's a problem of institutional memory + in most cases, people don't understand bulky documents and don't always know how to use implementation manuals. We see value in having a small centralised document management system at woreda level, linked with regional (and possibly federal level). We see value in systematising this in a phased approach etc. We don't favour a website now, but an Intranet at federal level. The KM strategy will give some boost for the KM.
  • Q: Who are the decision-makers you're talking about? And how are they involved in the program?
  • A: We're trying to convince government (Ministries) but also development partners as it's a joint program (10 e.g. WFP, IrishAid, NL, SIDA, CIDA). They are involved in day-to-day decisions etc.
  • Q: How many people work in PNSP? 
  • A: Implemented primarily by the MoA in 319 districts, with MoFED managing the finances. 25 000 staff all over the country... 
  • Q: Who are the likely clients of any knowledge you generate? 
  • A: The program's designed with predictable transfers enabling clients to plan around to prevent asset depletion at household level. There is not always accurate or timely information about when food/cash comes and how it trickles to beneficiaries. If woreda staff have EVDOs at woreda level, some information exchange can be facilitated. Weekly data collection but telephone costs are very high. Customers could be local decision makers, donors etc. depending on whether it's well shared.
  • Q: Are there any specific donor requirements that push for KM?
  • A: CIDA didn't tell us to work on KM but it started from noticing some of the gaps such as staff lacking documents to do their jobs. There's sharing, discovery, learning etc. but we're not just suggesting new high tech systems.
  • Q: Comms strategy: can you elaborate a bit on the contents and is it focused on beneficiaries or potential information managers? How do you support that comms strategy? 
  • A: Comms strategy has different elements e.g. need to have a website. Other countries are learning from PNSP (it's a high profile program) so a website would help. A newsletter 3x / year etc. is another element to increase awareness. Low literacy leaflets, brochures etc. press conference... these may not be a priority. The comms strategy was never implemented. The program is designed to benefit 8 Mio people who need to know what the program is all about... what it's doing here or elsewhere... the comms strategy could have facilitated all these
  • Q: Overview of data / information / knowledge / wisdom - have you mapped what your desired outcomes are at those levels?
  • A: Not fully yet. But skills are lacking to look beyond outputs. 
  • Q: No internet in woredas - how do you communicate at those levels?
  • A: The gov't communicates through letters, telephone and fax... 
  • Q: Who could benefit from an intranet if it was set up?
  • A: People at federal and regional levels, below that people don't have the skills to use this intranet so it would be difficult. Data collection... Weekly reports and technical staff may be able to google and learn from the Internet or communicate with someone from another region.
  • Q: Have you considered databases (given poor connectivity)? At UNICEF we use a DB that is web-based and offline and can be customised using a CD-Rom. 
  • A: The program doesn't have a database - there's an information centre Excel-based database but every region has modified it. It was considered important and some basic tools. Unified database not seen as a priority. PSNP has a tool that looks at facilitating payments and attendance. They developed a software called PASS (running at every woreda).. The system could expand to include what is being done... 
  • Q: Why does your management get scared about this? 
  • A: (rhetorical question) 


  • A lot of focus on the problems and that it should improve - it'd be good to focus on solutions e.g. how can you improve SMS systems and how that will benefit the project beneficiaries.
  • Find your ally, who's on your side and buys your idea and localise KM to who will benefit best.
  • If government people are not familiar with KM, unpack it in simpler ways.
  • Focus on the information and data / communication rather than KM.
  • Very in-depth study on KM but I wish the KM strategy would have a different fate - work on implementing the Comms and the KM strategies.
  • Have you considered putting up a business case? Evidence speaks for itself. Present your evidence in an informal way - communicate it convincingly as in a KM business case substantiating (with references) your claims e.g. how many documents have been lost.
  • There's a need to clarify needs and at this phase they don't seem to even believe in external comms but key issues are doc management and staff turnover: facilitate the access to documents among woredas in a non Internet-intensive way / staff turnover needs to be managed to hand over documents. Focus on that instead of recommending a KM strategy...
  • Business case for KM and take your beautiful vision and operationalise it in clear deliverables and focus on low hanging fruits, in alignment with the overall strategy. Focus on face-to-face.
  • Investment case: What would help you would be to start building your case with your vision and find someone who can buy in, allies who can take that forward. Think about your ultimate vision.
  • You're at the end of the current phase so reflect on what could have been done in a different way. Use this opportunity to revamp your comms/KM strategy... Look at sthg that reflects the situation at woreda level and look at actual information/data etc. And take that up by making the voice of woredas/kebeles.
  • Look into the database - manage the knowledge.Present KM as a multi-stage iterative process and this one is about understanding and focusing on low-hanging fruits e.g. understanding existing practices, perceived priorities at different levels etc.

Take-home messages for Yodit (what she will try out):

  • Focus on positives: Showing what KM can do
  • Finding allies
  • Starting small rather than big bang
  • Make an investment case / business case for this

Ewen will circulate an email to gather more recommendations for this peer assist.

Reflections and next steps

Next time we start at 2pm for the networking and at 2.30 with the 'content' program as we usually run these gatherings quite late.

An idea was thrown to try a Saturday afternoon get-together but a majority of the participants didn't seem to warm about it. Still we will try this out after January to see if it works. Hermella will take the lead on this.

The next gathering will take place on 10 January 2014 otherwise and will contain the following: 

  • A presentation about 'communication for development' (Mekiya/UNICEF)
  • Presentation from some KM experiences from the private sector (Elshadai)
  • A (possible) peer assist case about taking up the communication/KM lead of the Nile Basin Development Challenge program (Aberra Adie) 
  • Follow up / feedback from the peer assist try-out (Yodit)

Future gatherings may look into:

  • How to work on comms/KM without internet, as is the case (Frehiwot)
  • How to move away from tacit knowledge (PNSP peer assist by Segenet)

Views: 369

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Ewen

Good job. Thanks a lot Ewen. And thank you all!

Great notes! Thank you Ewen!


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