Talk:KS Award: Recognizing good KS behaviour

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See the original thread of this E-Discussion on D-Groups

Riff Fullan, 2009/03/04

Dear all,

I'm currently looking at possibilities to institute a Knowledge Sharing award within Helvetas, and I would like to know if anyone has advice based on similar experience or could point to some interesting sources (I thought there was a discussion around this earlier on the km4dev list, but I couldn't find it). In a nutshell, we're thinking about this award as one of a number of ways to promote a stronger KS culture. We are hoping that recognizing outstanding examples of contributing to such a culture would not only encourage individual champions, but it would also give others a strong message that the organisation truly values this kind of thing.

On the award itself, the current thinking is to make an organisation-wide announcement of the recipient as well as to provide s/he with a small amount of funding that could hopefully allow them to spend a few weeks in a different Helvetas country office to learn from and with colleagues in a different national context.

Coming up with criteria is the biggest immediate challenge. They would presumably depend partly on whether it would be an individual (most likely) or a team (also possible) that could be a recipient, but some possibilities include (with an assumption that these are recognized by others in a team, department, programme, etc. Also, that the criteria would apply both to purely internal work and working with partners):

  • demonstration of outstanding collaborative work (e.g., pro-active information sharing, provision of assistance to others, sharing stories, etc.)
  • creating new KS/learning opportunities or tools
  • introducing new and more effective ways of working together
  • playing a mentor role
  • championing and/or facilitating greater KS in the project/programme/office environment
  • helping to reduce workload through more effective KS
  • creating tools/techniques which increase adaptability to new circumstances
  • participating actively in ongoing interactions

Any ideas that could help us move toward an appropriate and limited list of criteria? I would like to end up with a handful of criteria that would be accompanied by examples and could be both readily understood by all staff and used by the award committee to come up with the single recipient.

Coordinator, HELVETAS.

Andrea Pape-Christiansen, 2009/03/04

Hi Riff -

Great initiative!

We did something similar at the World Bank (for project supervision excellence, not KS), and one issue were the reviewers/judges - in your case, perhaps think about should these all be insiders, all from your KM team, or also include the beneficiaries/stakeholders, management?

We did not select the awardees, but sent out a call to teams to compete for the award and present their case based on certain criteria (like the bullets you listed) - but this did create an extra hurdle and required an effort which led to low participation during the first year, and it may not be necessary in this case.

We linked the award ceremony to another high visibility event to elevate its importance.

Curious to hear how you will proceed and what the effect of it is!

Knowledge Management Specialist, ICARDA,


Sam Lanfranco, 2009/03/04


You might get some ideas and direction by reviewing how the IFIP-WG9.2 NAMUR AWARD is administered.

It is awarded every two years and for 1996 I nominated Carlos Afonso and Alternex in Brazil - and they were selected:

January 1996 Namur Award: Dr. Carlos-Alberto AFONSO (IBASE, Brazil), as the representative of the community of people and the group of persons forming AlterNex.

3rd Namur Award Lecture: AlterNex 1994-1995

Distributed Knowledge, York University.

Lawrence Wasserman, 2009/03/04


Last year I conducted study of KS activitiers at USAID and other institutions WB ADB etc.

If I can be of assistance, please let me know.

Riff Fullan, 2009/03/05

Thanks Andrea,

On the review team yes, the plan is to have a selection of people with different roles within the organisation. I'll update the group later in the year to let you know how it's going.

Coordinator, HELVETAS.

Riff Fullan, 2009/03/05

Thanks Sam,

I had a quick look and it is concise and to the point. I've also poked around a couple of other award initiatives and so far it seems many either do not list criteria at all, or the criteria they do list are quite vague (e.g., quality improvement or customer satisfaction). I know it is hard to be very concrete about such things and at the same time avoid disqualifying what would otherwise be quite positive examples, but I think the more tangible (and even measurable, if possible) you can be, the easier it is for both nominees and reviewers to understand and apply the criteria.

Sam Lanfranco , 2009/03/05


One of the most difficult areas in establishing criteria to evaluate for awards is to distinguish between effort (inputs) and effect (outcomes). We frequently make the mistake of measuring all the things someone, or an initiative, does without stepping back and asking what was the effect. Many a big effort has little effect, and some small efforts have big, or relative to effort, big effects.

Maybe we should have a Saint Sebastian Martyrdom award for great KS ideas that hit a wall of resistance.

Distributed Knowledge, York University.

Ernst Bolliger, 2009/03/11

Dear Riff

Probably I am living and working to close to your place to be faster with my reply.

Basically I would turn the perspective. I would not ask individuals or teams about their best KM initiatives, but the customers about the best initiatives of others and the effect and impact it had on their performance (or their products or quality of work). Thus, you automatically check the effect of a KM initiative and not the intention.

In my opinion, there is often a wide gap between the intended and the reached effect.

Riff Fullan, 2009/03/12

Dear Ernst,

Thanks for your contribution....I assume you mean our partners as possible people to ask about KM performance of our staff, which is indeed an interesting prospect, though I think we'll be a bit less ambitious the first time around. My first reaction is that it would be a very complicated business if we were going to try to reach most partners and present things in ways that made sense to them and that did not have other implications (e.g, echoes of funding possibilities). The other issue for me is that a lot of the 'customers' in this case are other staff within the organisation, so I think it would be nice for people to be able to nominate their colleagues in cases where they have felt a real contribution was made to their work.

Coordinator, HELVETAS.

Peter J. Bury, 2009/03/11

Ernst, I can't agree more with you, a very very pertinent remark!

IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.