FAO Knowledge Café
The FAO Knowledge Café offers a set of features and functions providing the best the virtual world can offer to optimize face-to-face and online interaction. The purpose of the Knowledge Café is to provide a platform through which people at FAO can connect and share with each other their interests and ideas, in the spirit of knowledge sharing. Users can learn about colleagues who have a picture and profile, blog or comment on a posting within the Sharing in Action blog, ask a question, give an answer, and propose an event. The site also provides directory of knowledge sharing tools and methods.
In terms of promotion, the site has been announced on the FAO log-on page, the intranet as well as through divisional registries. A newsletter is sent out every week with all changes to the site (latest events, posts, members, etc.). The current statistics (eliminating the visits from those who manage the site) show that the site is visited approximately 1500 times a month.
The Café was launched in May 2009. Since then it has seen steady growth in participants (now up at 150). The Sharing in Action blog has been the most active component of the site. The question and answer section, which had as its aim to facilitate dialogue and discussion around issues and hurdles related to knowledge sharing has been slow in uptake.
We think the rate of adoption (in terms of profiles created, questions asked and answered, blog postings made/commented on, and connections with others who can provide relevant expertise) of the Café should be faster than at present. We want to see what we could do in order to increase the rate of update; bearing in mind the time we can devote to working on this is limited.
So, the key issue was framed as:
What will it take for a corporate tool such as the FAO Knowledge Sharing Portal (Knowledge Café) to encourage and cultivate knowledge sharing in an organization?
The method used for this session was a combination of the brainstorming method and card-sorting; it consisted of the following steps:
- The issue was introduced by giving demonstration of the intranet site.
- Everyone was asked to form groups of three or four and discuss ideas for addressing the above issue.
- Each group was asked to write out each idea on a piece of paper.
- Once the groups had three to four ideas each, we formed a circle and each group was asked to give its two best ideas to the faciliator.
- The facilitator then read out each idea and placed it on the floor in a row. If similar ideas emerged, they were placed in a column. http://www.flickr.com/photos/44144559@N05/4058425594/in/pool-km4dev-rome)
- This was repeated until everyone had given their ideas.
- The last step included finding action items to that described all the ideas that came out of the brainstorming. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/44144559@N05/4058425784/in/pool-km4dev-rome)
For the Knowledge Cafe to encourage and cultivate knowledge sharing in the organisation, the following ideas emerged, amonsgt others:
- ensure unique positioning by putting some production tool on the Knowledge Cafe that is unique, if not exclusive (i.e., a telephone directory)?
- - make the Cafe unique by putting information there that one can not find anywhere else; a poll would also be useful
- - allow members to invite others
- clarify the purpose of the Knowledge Cafe and clearly market this internally in the organisation; in order to do this, better understand the needs of those who are potential (target) users; also:
- - do a 2nd launch emphasizing the positive effects the Knowledge Cafe has had on the work of those who have used it, so far, as a way of evaluating and reframing the Cafe; expose the successes and the rewards
- - explain how workload/productivity will decrease/increase and what's in it for them
- - enable a daily feature such as 'did you know that your colleague is doing this and this?'
- - include story-telling videos
- - use raffle prizes to stimulate activity
- - reward behaviours you would like to see evolve and develop
- - explain what prompted the existence of the Knowledge Cafe on the first page
- to promote the Knowledge Cafe:
- - ask those who use it whether they know their neighbours and what they do
- - have a 'staff member of the month' content feature
- - organise a field work photo contest on the Knowledge Cafe
- - implement ranking of questions and answers
- - organise hands-on introductory sessions
- organise more 'prototype exhibition' sessions to show how the Knowledge Cafe works and explain why people would find it useful if they use it
- ensure best possible usability of the Knowledge Cafe as this would help with getting sufficient buy-in to use it
- 'mainstream' the use of the Knowledge Cafe by ensuring at least one person from each department in FAO is a member, include membership of Knowledge Cafe and its active use in performance appraisals, etc.
- ensure open access from anywhere in FAO (field, HQ) and in particular build in an RSS feature
- leverage google analytics in order to see what parts of the Knowledge Cafe are most visited, and when; this will help to better understand its usage and better target potential users
After Action Review on using the method
What worked well:
- In general, the method was perceived as both fun and interactive, especially in its mix of small-group and larger-group work. Participants enjoyed both the small group work and the larger group work.
- The method process was interesting in that it allowed for collective thoughts and suggestions for action to emerge from the participants'group.
- The method is great for digging out/flushing out ideas from the group.
- The facilitator did a very good job in organising and sorting the ideas, always ensuring the agreement and participation of the group. She also did a very good job in keeping the interest of all participants high and their attention poised on the task being tackled.
- The room set-up worked very well.
What did not work so well:
- Time was not enough to clearly formulate suggestions for action to each idea.
- In itself, the method process is intense in that it requires a lot of 'group thinking'. At times, the group attention faded and the burden fell a little too much on the facilitator.
What to improve for next sessions:
- Allow for more time to do the method with a short break in the middle.
- Work with pre-defined categories?
- Ask people to write their names next to each idea in order to help with the sorting process? (people can be asked to elaborate when ideas are not so clear)