Journal update 1: KM4D and innovation systems

The May issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal was on the subject of Beyond the conventional boundaries of knowledge management: navigating the emergent pathways of learning and innovation for international development with Guest Editors, Laurens Klerkx, Laxmi Prasad Pant and Cees Leeuwis. It comprises 6 articles and one community note:

Content
Knowledge management for pro-poor innovation: the Papa Andina case
Douglas Horton, Graham Thiele, Rolando Oros, Jorge Andrade-Piedra, Claudio Velasco, André Devaux
Development knowledge ecology: metaphors and meanings
Sarah Cummings, Mike Powell, Jaap Pels

Background
One of the objectives of the journal when it was started in 2005 was ‘facilitating cross-fertilization between knowledge management and related fields’ by acting as a ‘broad church’ (Ferguson and Cummings 2005, unpublished). Indeed, one of the objectives was to bring the approaches of innovation management/systems for development (IM4Dev) and knowledge management for development (KM4D) closer together so that they could better inform each other although, in the language that we had available to us in 2005, we called this agricultural knowledge systems rather than IM4Dev or innovation systems. To quote from one of the unpublished background documents on reasons for starting the journal:

It will aim to facilitate cross-fertilization between knowledge management and related fields: for example information management, but also with other development-related approaches: agricultural knowledge systems, soft systems research, and other relevant ‘traditions’.

The rationale for bringing these two approaches closer together was that we thought at the time, intuitively, that KM4D could benefit from the insights of an approach which was grounded in development and which we had also identified as home-grown knowledge management. It is also fascinating to read in the Editorial how the different phases in IM4Dev correspond with the different generations of KM4D and that the Guest Editors consider that the approaches are complementary:

As becomes clear from the several articles, the perspectives of KM4D and IM4Dev do not seem that far apart, and have arrived for example at a similar understanding of the importance and influence of the institutional context for learning and innovation. They are complementary, and could benefit from further integration. Given their explicit focus on knowledge management, KM4D perspectives can help better understand the knowledge sharing and learning process that is crucial to innovation, and which underlies many of the other functions crucial to innovation such as lobbying, and the creation of an enabling environment. IM4Dev perspectives, with their attention to other resources than knowledge needed to feed the innovation process and create an enabling environment, broaden the view on the settings in which knowledge management aims to make a contribution.

One of the advantages of the IM4Dev approach is that it is focused outside organisations while one of the limitations of KM4D has been that, because it comes originally from the private sector, it was originally focused on knowledge inside organisations. Indeed, one of the original criticisms of knowledge-based aid from Kenneth King (2000, cited in Knowledge management: development strategy or business strategy? in 2001, p. 163) was:

The agencies have not started with the dramatic knowledge deficits of the South, nor with the key question of how knowledge management could assist knowledge development in the South. A continuation along their current trajectory will arguably be counter-productive; it will make agencies more certain of what they themselves have learnt, and more enthusiastic that others should share their insights, once they have been systematised.

IM4Dev, and the approaches it encompasses will help us to counteract this tendency which is still visible 11 years later.

PS Please note that I’m consciously using KM4D for the field, to differentiate it from the all important, and very much related KM4Dev community.

Questioning the IKM-Emergent pointers en français : Mais de quoi parle-t-on ?

A belated post but a lot happened in the last six or sevent weeks.

At the dawn of that period was an interesting moment of organising an entire day for the Francophones, generously sponsored by IKM-Emergent as a testimony of its will to walk its talk on the multiple knowledge’s – or shall I say les connaissances multiples? Continue reading

Meta-analyses of organisational strategies for KM

RKMDThe first issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal to be published by Routledge (Volume 5, Issue 1, 2009) has now appeared, focusing on the subject of KM in organisations. Guest editors of this issue comprised Ewen Le Borgne, Catherine Vaillancourt-Laflamme and Ivan Kulis. The issue has been produced in the context of the Information and Knowledge Management Emergent Research Programme (IKM Emergent) Continue reading

Linking research with action

Thanks to the recommendation by a colleague, I have just been reading a paper on Linking agricultural research knowledge with action for sustainable proverty alleviation: what works? written by a group of 19 people from Harvard University and the International Livestock Research Institute. The size of the group of authors in itself seems to indicate an alternative and inclusive perspective…

The paper asks ‘What kinds of approaches and institutions, under what sorts of conditions, are most effective for harnessing scientific knowledge in support of strategies for environmentally sustainable development and poverty alleviation?’ It applies an innovative conceptual framework to a diverse set of sustainable poverty-focused projects undertaken in a variety of African and Asian countries, identifying the following strategies as key to closing gaps between knowledge and action: the importance of combining different kinds of knowledge, learning and bridging approaches; the need for strong and diverse partnerships which level the playing field; and the need to building capacity to innovate and communicate. Continue reading

Share Fair 2: Implications for Development

Today, IKM Emergent organised a Roundtable in the Open Space at lunch time. Although we didn’t get many participants, they made up for lack of  numbers with their quality and they included some of the cream of the KM4Dev community. We discussed and’brainstormed about the implications of all the knowledge initiatives presented at the Share Fair for the broader development sector. In fact, we discussed the implications for how we do development. Although there was general agreement that there were indeed implications for this – which is what Peter Ballantyne predicted! – our discussion was broad ranging:

  • Whether to mainstream knowledge management within organisations or to put it into the hands of knowledge management specialist staff?Our general conclusions was that mainstreaming and drivers were needed and that one strategy without the other might not work.
  • As we had heard much at the Share Fair, power issues hinder knowledge sharing and the work of knowledge networks. Effective knowledge-based approaches in the future might lead to flatter, less hierarchical organisations.
  • The difference in status between researchers (higher) and knowledge managers (low) was not conducive to knowledge sharing. In some cases, support staff in the role of communications or knowledge sharing were seen as a ‘scourge’. Only when they become part of the core business were the accepted by more senior staff.
  • Institutional structures and the emphasis of researchers needing to publish in peer-reviewed journals did not necessarily support the development role of knowledge.
  • Development research in all institutions should have a development focus although that might require changing of the institutional structure funding development research.
  • Management, researchers, support staff and field offices within an organisation will have different ideas about and understanding of knowledge management. An effective organisational strategy will need to recognise the different layers within an organisation.
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