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)

This special issue focuses on organisational knowledge management strategies and their role in facilitating learning among and between Northern and Southern development organisations. Many development organisations have knowledge management and/or learning strategies, but these are often not known outside the organisation itself. Where these strategies have been shared outside the organisation, they have often been publicised informally but not widely distributed to a broader public. Learning about how other organisations are undertaking knowledge management is a way to hold up a mirror to our own practice and understanding.

The papers
Three papers in this issue attempt meta-analyses of development organisations’ approaches to knowledge and learning. The first paper in this issue ‘Head Office attitudes toward inter-organisational learning in Irish non-governmental organisations’. In this paper, Caroline Forsyth and Malcolm MacLachlan examine the dynamics of organisational learning between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with health-related projects in Africa. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with organisational learning were explored through key informant interviews with representatives from 10 NGOs, undertaken in 2006.

The second paper ‘Organisational energy and other meta-learning: case studies of knowledge management implementation in nine Asian countries’ by Serafin D. Talisayon provides comparisons of two sets of cases. The first set comprises learning and knowledge sharing processes across 22 case studies of knowledge management practice from the corporate and public sectors in 9 Asian countries. The second set is based on the initiation, implementation and initial outcomes of 21 case studies of knowledge management in the development sector in the Philippines. A salient observation that emerges across all cases is the importance of managing motivational factors for such initiatives to succeed.

In the third paper ‘The tip of the iceberg: tentative first steps in cross-organisational comparison of knowledge management in development organisations’, Ewen Le Borgne and I investigate the variety of knowledge management and learning policies and strategies that have been developed by various development organisations in the past decade. It draws upon over 30 case studies yet offers but a glimpse of the current reality because organisations are always documenting or publicising their learning-focused activities. This article is based on an ongoing inventory of organisational KM strategies, available as a Google document.

Case studies
The first case study ‘Swiss roots with multi-cultural and multi-linguistic branches: the challenges of sharing and building on knowledge at Intercooperation (Jane Carter, Pascale Aubert, Arjumand Nizami, Alain Cuvelier, Julia Randimbisoa and Lorena Mancero) focuses on the experiences of a Swiss international development organisation in promoting knowledge management. It notes that participatory learning is strongly embedded in organisational practice, and has led in the past decade to more pro-active knowledge management. This is examined through the lens of the ‘multiple knowledge variables’ of gender, seniority, specific belief systems, field-head office interactions, working function, language and organisational culture. A variety of impacts of knowledge management are discussed, taking specific examples from Latin America, Madagascar, Pakistan and India.

In the second case study ‘Knowledge integration for development: the Hivos approach’ (Josine Stremmelaar) describes the development of the Knowledge Programme of the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos), based in the Netherlands. In 2007, Hivos developed a ‘knowledge integration’ programme on issues imperative to the work of civil society organisations and the development sector at large. By integrating various forms of (new) knowledge, such as academic knowledge, practitioner knowledge, educational and cultural expressions of knowledge, new insights can be created and strategies formulated.

The third case study ‘Revisiting the Eastern Indonesia Knowledge Exchange (BaKTI)’ by Petrarca Karetji describes the current functions of BaKTI, an organization which aims to facilitate discourse, interaction, knowledge sharing and collaboration . This case study provides an update on BaKTI’s current journey, and reflects on the process BaKTI has undergone since 2005.

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