Q1: the value of KM4dev
Summary and some thoughts by Jasmin Suministrado
To prepare us for the Annual Meeting in IFAD on September 29, some pre-cooking discussions are currently being launched in the community. This page attempts to consolidate the discussion exchanges that transpired during the first pre-cooking exercise (started in August 26 until September 6). The trigger question(s) for this discussion was(were):
What is the role of KM4Dev in your life? In other words, what value do you see in being a member of this network? Or yet in other words, what activities or aspects of KM4Dev do you find rewarding/enriching/useful/exciting professionally or personally?
There were about 30 email exchanges generated by the question. While initially we had mainly old-timers, we heard from a fair number of relatively new members (about a year or less in the community) towards the last few days of the discussion. Thanks to those who contributed (let me know if I missed anyone):
The value of KM4Dev
There were a wide range of responses, though some obvious threads and clusters emerge. For purposes of this summary, allow me to call upon some basic KM way of categorization, in particular, clustering by knowledge assets. Because it seems that if we are to sum up the value of KM4Dev in one sentence, it can well be that: The KM4Dev community provides the opportunity to enhance the different knowledge assets (plus other assets) of individual members.
- Human capital comprising of improved knowledge of new trends and developments, the future of KM and learning, evolutions in technology, the challenge of development, etc. And all these are brought about as well by a strong human capital both in terms of leadership and membership, coming from all walks of life, from around the globe, from the theoretical to the more practical, with different technical and professional experiences and expertise (who together provide the meat of discussions which are both diverse and rich);
- Social capital in terms of creating and maintaining relationships and friendships particularly to those who have been in the community for a long time, building networks and knowing who is involved in what, gaining both emotional and know-how support for planned KM activities; and all of these social elements do not just contribute to having fun but also to learning;
- Structural capital as members learn new tools, systems, processes, technologies in KM that we also try to implement ourselves;
- Financial capital (now moving into the more tangible economic asset) in the form of consulting projects and other work;
- And one other type of an asset which is quite of a different nature and possibly even moving beyond the knowledge asset realm, and which, for the lack of a better name, I will simply refer to as "energy". This comprises the positive feelings, sense of volunteerism, inspiration, passion, creativity, vibrancy, enthusiasm that the community brings to its members through its various activities, starting from the simple email exchanges on different topics all the way to face to face encounters.
But even with the addition of the "energy" cluster, there still seems to be some magic in KM4Dev that is difficult to box into one of these five categoris. These inlude responses that refer to the community as a safe place to ask questions at any time and get rich responses, a non-intimidating platform that lets anyone have a voice, a favourite among all other online communities, a place to volunteer and be energized, a place where responses are assured, a virtual professional home, the force driving KM for development, the anchor of most of an individual´s KM work, a movement with emotion and heart that makes it sympathetic and dear.
Reflecting on such responses made me remember a concept that I have not used for more than 5 years now. Many of you might be familiar with it too. It is the concept of "Ba", originally conceived of by a Japanese philosopher Nishida, but which has become popular in the area of KM through the work of Nonaka. Nonaka used "Ba" to refer to the shared space that serves as the foundation of knowledge creation. I can´t help but see such space as being present in the KM4Dev. And in this case, I would refine the definition to mean a shared space, context, or environment, that when found or created, allows people in that space to interact in a matter that produces something really magnificent (like magic!), and makes people stay, stick and be in love with the group.
Enriching and Exciting Activities
Much satisfaction and excitement is being generated by our simple email exchanges and online discussions, when questions are asked and a variety of answers and perspectives are shared. But other than this, organizing and attending face to face activities (such as the annual meeting, Share Fair) are in themselves fulfilling activities, providing people the opportunity not just to associate faces to names (that have become familiar through the email exchanges), but also allowing people to create deeper collegial relationships and friendships. Participation in the production of the KM4Dev journal was also identified as a rewarding experience.
Areas of improvement
Some areas of improvement identified were the multiplicity of platforms that may be confusing and overlapping for some members, how to make the wealth of previous discussions and materials easily available to those who are looking for it, and how to make it less overwhelming for new comers to find their way in and around the community. Some useful signposts for newbies have been shared but it would be good to continue exploring how the process and system of orienting new members can be improved.
Some starting points and basic info currently identified include (thank you Lucie):
- "Because KM4dev is 11 years old, in the long history we've made technology choices according to different needs, and we've ended up with three different tools: an email-based discussion list (this Dgroup), a website (Ning) and a wiki (Mediawiki). This means that if you want to contribute to those platforms, 3 sets of username/passwords are needed. If you just want to read, you do not need to be logged in. For now, you can contact me directly for any password-related questions but we'll soon have a working KM4dev Google mail address
- About KM4dev on the website: http://www.km4dev.org/notes
- A must read for all, the mailing list environment guidelines: http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Mailing_List_Environment
- We have tried to encourage those who ask questions on the discussion forum to summarize and post these summaries on the wiki. This section is called the Community Knowledge base (http://wiki.km4dev.org/wiki/index.php/Community_Knowledge) and it's a really good place to start, instead of combing through the list archives."