Pathways to involvement and leadership in KM4Dev

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Original Message

From: John David Smith, posted on 2014/01/17

The work that many of us have been doing to understand and support KM4Dev keeps coming back to personal initiative and personal stories. And maybe some luck, too … If you think about it we are very fortunate to be able to have this conversation! We need to leverage our good fortune and our experience (even the challenging experiences) in order to think clearly and accurately about the future of KM4Dev.

Some of the IFAD-funded studies that have focused attention on KM4Dev as a community and a network have involved gathering personal stories such as Charles Dhewa’s below and looking at them in the context of our own stories and of stories that we’ve heard others tell about their experience of connecting with others through KM4Dev.

In this focused conversation, I’d like to ask you to share your story, possibly using Charles’ extensive account below as a springboard or reference point. I’ve just re-read it and the first thing that comes to mind is that the little “involvement map” that I threw out as a provocation a few months ago could go A LOT further in terms of richness and as a way to help new members imagine greater involvement. I will try to augment that document with your stories as a result of this focused conversation.

What is your experience of becoming involved in KM4Dev? Here’s the way Charles describes his:

My journey with KM4Dev

by Charles Dhewa

This is a true story about how I have travelled with km4dev including, people, events, ideas and opportunities that have changed my life. The article's main intention is to surface some of the hidden narratives of how km4dev has impacted participants. Such stories cannot be revealed through peer reviewed journals where there is an evidence hierarchy with some experiences edited out to fit certain publishing conventions. The author will use this story to trigger similar stories from other km4devers who will not be the same if they hadn't come across km4dev. Instead of measuring km4dev by the number of people it touches and geographical spread, the depth of stories will provide an alternative perspective.

From 2002 to 2006 I was working as Regional Communications Officer-Southern Africa for the DFID-funded Crop Post Harvest Programme. Knowledge Management was slowly being popularized in some of the documents circulated in the development sector. Personally, I was looking for new ways and words to inspire fresh forms of expression and engagement beyond the traditional mass communication which I was finding too one-sided for its own good. Knowledge Management sort of crystallized my new trajectory.

When I left DFID Crop Post Harvest Programme in 2006, I was invited to a Knowledge Management seminar in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event was convened by GDNet (based in Cairo, Egypt), World Bank Institute, Africa Development Bank and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). All these organisations had a very active interest on Knowledge Management. The seminar had a number of power point presentations which, on reflection now, focused so much on the theory of Knowledge Management.

The Institute of Development Studies, part of Sussex University (UK) was represented by two people mainly from the library section and they brought a lot of publications describing their work. Among these publications were a small blue compendium of organisations that were dealing with Knowledge Management. It was in this small publication that, upon returning back to Zimbabwe and searching for information, I got a website link to KM4Dev.

It was a marvel to stumble on KM4Dev and details of people who were behind it. In between browsing around, I downloaded as much information about KM4Dev as I could get. I also read about people who were the public face of KM4Dev, for example, Lucie Lamourex , Riff Fullan and a bunch of others who had been part of Bellanet. Although my interest on KM had been ignited during my stint with DFID Crop Post-Harvest Programme, I started digging around KM more purposefully on coming across the KM4Dev website and associated publications. This digging phase preoccupied me for much of 2007.

Continued here:

This is the first of a series of focused conversations around the documents gathered on the wiki. (There are a few more that are getting finished up and will be posted shortly.) The plan is for each of these contributions to be at the center of a focused conversation that lasts up to 2 weeks, so that these conversations are extensive and leisurely but don’t take up all the space on the Dgroup list.

So once again: What is your experience of becoming involved in KM4Dev?

John ____________________

* John David Smith ~ Voice: 503.963.8229 ~ Skype & Twitter: smithjd
* Portland, Oregon, USA
* “Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. 
* Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way."
* -- Martin Luther King Jr.


All replies in full are available in the discussion page. Contributions received with thanks from:

Carl Jackson
Charles Dhewa
Jaap Pels
Johannes Schunter
John Akude
John David Smith
Pete Cranston
Peter J. Bury
Riff Fullan
Tamara Walker
Tina Hetzels.

Related Discussions


This is the first of a series of focused conversations exploring KM4Dev futures. This one discussed KM4Dev Futures: Charles Dhewa Journey with KM4Dev. The highlight was that KM4Dev face-to-face events have played was summarized by Charles Dhewa himself: " something magical about meeting people & connecting what they have written to their faces, laughter, etc."

Detailed Description

Opened with the question: "What is your experience of becoming involved in KM4Dev?"

The discussion brought out "the strong feeling that I want the community to be around in another ten year's time."

Because f2f events were central to Charles' story, the question was asked: do the f2f events shrink in importance? Should they be organised differently (up to now they’ve mostly been due to the initiative of a small group of volunteers)? Do they matter? There was a strong consensus that KM4Dev f2f events still matter -- a lot. Face-to-face has been key for KM4Dev's energy flows over the years. The added value of the events is the interactions, the relationships, the people who take a step (or two, or three) into new territory, who explore and reflect together. KM4Dev face-to-face events have unique sitting arrangements ("totally novel, therefore refreshing and down-to-earth, while simultaneously promoting creativity"). The readiness to help amongst the members/participants is most visible in the face-to-face events so that it feels like a new participant is being assimilated in a family than just attending a conference.

The idea of having local KM4Dev conferences led to questions about how they could be organized or financed and what kind of organizational support they might need.

One example of positive local outcomes is Charles' firm, which currently has 21 employees and which he says would not have existed without KM4Dev. (It was pointed out that Charles also brough extraordinary tenacity and determination to his quest.)

The discussion ended with a call to focus outside of KM4Dev (are we too self-involved?). Shouldn't KM4Dev be serving help students and universities to widen "communication studies" or other disciplines with "KM4Dev"? How to achieve that there are more people? How get beyond merely serving people working in international development cooperation, but also reach people in governments and beyond.