What inspires people in KM(4Dev): PEOPLE (and a few other topics) - reflections from Camillo Villa after the KM4Dev Seattle event

Camilo Villa recently posted this very inspirational message about a little survey he did following the Seattle KM4Dev 2013 annual gathering (with full event documentation at: http://wiki.km4dev.org/KM4Dev_2013_workshop).

I couldn't resist but to share this on Ning so all of you also find out what the value of KM and KM4Dev is for many of us, and crucially what the value is of annual KM4Dev events and the fact that they bring us together... 

Camilo, I hope you don't mind. 


In this opportunity, the annual gathering brought many new faces. In particular a large representation from the USA, both citizens from this country and expatriates located there. Europeans where the second large group. From Africa and Latin America there were only few participants. As usual, participants work in different domains: health, education, local government, science, etc. and all types of organisations ranging from private to public, from non-government multilateral and also several independent consultants and practitioners.

At the end of the event I did a quick survey among participants asking them: “What did inspire them”. The most common answer was: people. In fact, to meet people with the same interests and struggles, to realise that “we are not alone” was considered one of the most valuable contributions brought by the event.

Indeed, the community creates a rich and valuable space to have inspiring conversations and to find support to face different kinds of  problems and situations. The different electronic platforms offer a variety of channels to interact but the face-to-face interactions offer a richer space to exchange experiences and knowledge. The possibility of sharing challenges and failures within a safe space creates deeper connections among community members.

Somehow, this encounters play a key role providing a richer basement to the community. The fact that emotions, ideas and, experiences are shared in a lively way creates a kind of glue that fuels the dynamics of the whole community. Interactions are not only among “emails” but mainly among individuals with whom there is a richer connection.

Probably, the fact that development matters are at the core of the community contributes to this need to include the human side of the interactions. The spin off of this practice is that relationships growth beyond the scope of the Internet means and the discussed topics. Rich forms of friendship started in one of these annual gatherings that were the fertile soil in which new alliances and partnerships took shape.

From a different perspective, this human side was also present in different ways. For instance the fact that a mother that “had” to bring her kid to the workshop and the warm welcome that the boy received, or the conversation labelled as “Work-life balance: finding calm in the chaos” that took place during the last block of the Open Space are just but two examples of the need to reflect and re-shape the borders between work and private life. Not to bring work into private life but to refresh work pace and culture with a more humanistic approach.

The richness Internet is a very powerful mean but once more it was possible to witness that nothing will replace the charme of looking into each other eyes.

Camilo continues with another reflection from the Seattle meeting, about the topics tackled...


The Open Space was a kind of thermometer to identify those topics that currently trigger participants. They can be organised under four different groups: learning, strategy, tools and means and diverse.

Learning. That learning was in the agenda is not a surprise. It doesn’t matter from which perspective we approach knowledge issues, learning remains as the core aspect of it. The success and impact of developing strategies, programmes or tools to promote sharing or enhance access to data and information will always depend on learning. The conversations on learning varied around concerns on how to measure learning, how to capitalize it and how to capture it. And, of course, it was also an approach from a monitoring and evaluation perspective.

Knowledge strategy. There were several conversations about knowledge strategies in different types of organisations, mainly in large ones. The focus of these conversations varied around the scope, the process and the results from experiences. Several participants expressed how difficult it is to promote knowledge strategies within organisations in which most actors do not understand the benefits of it. To develop knowledge sharing and collaboration practices requires changes in the organisational culture and this is a major challenge.

Tools and means. Compared with previous years, the interest for tools seems to be decreasing. In Seattle, the conversations developed around open source and communities of practice and one inquiring about experiences with different tools. The growing offer of tools and techniques has somehow contributed to dilute the emphasis on tool. But most probable, this shift in the agenda is the result of the acquired experience that have shown the relevance of culture and practices.

Diverse. There was a set of conversations that covered a wide range of topics, some more oriented to practical issues, such as a poster making session and others to more theoretical issues such as complexity or concerns about big data. The interest for networks and relationships continues in the agenda but also with lower intensity. There were also a couple of exploratory conversations, inquiring for the direction that would follow KM or how to connect with education institutions to challenge the current learning and (non)sharing paradigm promoted by them. Interestingly there was a conversation about work-life balance: finding calm in the chaos.

As usual, the yearly gathering is an interesting scenario to feel the current agendas among people and organisations. From my perspective, learning and culture are becoming more central while tools or networks have reduced their presence. And, monitoring and evaluation continues to be a key challenge as organisations and managers want to see the results and impact of knowledge interventions.

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