Talk:The value and impact of Knowledge Sharing and collaboration

From KM4Dev Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Romana Benisch, 2009/10/11

Hello everybody,

I have been pursuing for quite some time now an initiative that advocates for the importance of knowledge sharing, collaboration and cultural change. However, I admittedly often find myself confronted with ignorance and the same frustrating questions: "Why is this necessary?" "What is the value for us?" "What impact does this have on the daily work?"

People certainly would not ask these questions if they were interested in being part of the process which also links me to what George mentioned in his email about "putting students to work on the knowledge management which takes place around them, in the system they are part of". As we all know, unfortunately the concept of KM and KS is still seen as an abstract something that raises a lot of scepticism especially among those people who are not and who do not want to be actively involved in the knowledge sharing process.

To be better prepared for my "educational work" I would need your advice and experience:

I would like to ask you if you could share with me examples, stories, case studies which clearly show the sustainable value and impact of collaboration and knowledge sharing activities in your organizations. Your contributions would certainly help overcome one of the limitations which I am facing if it comes to convincing people of the necessity for sharing knowledge and collaboration.

Thank you very much.

Greetings from Vienna!


Barbara Fillip, 2009/10/11


I don't think it's a question of ignorance. I think it has to do with motivation and the basic "what's in it for me?" question. What if most people operate in "what's in it for me?" mode rather than "What's the value to US?"

Most of the people on this list are into "sharing." That includes even those who are mostly lurkers (myself included). We don't quite get why some people don't see it our way. If I engage in knowledge sharing, I am doing it because I perceive benefits to myself, whether I am personally benefiting from an exchange or contributing in a broader effort to build a professional reputation, engage a valuable professional network, or simply because it makes me feel good. Perhaps that sounds a little selfish and we're not always comfortable with advocating selfishness, but if we all end up sharing knowledge because we individually see it as beneficial to ourselves, then what's wrong with being a little selfish?

I'm convinced that if we started with Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and addressed the "what's in it for me?" questions, we'd be having more success in getting people to engage in knowledge sharing. I posted some thoughts about KM and PKM a couple of days ago.

Nadejda Loumbeva, 2009/10/12

Romana, and Barbara,

Just quickly to point out that, in my opinion, there is a difference between selfish for the sake of the group and selfish for the sake of the self. In other words, whats in it for me? would need to, somehow, compellingly and convincingly, pass through whats in it for us? for KS/Km to truly stick in. In case it does not do that, I am afraid the result will not be deeply and positively transforming knowledge sharing and/or knowledge management but rather superficial re-arrangement of existing practicies. I.e., not doing new things but rather doing old things in new ways.

Lawrence Wasserman, 2009/10/12


Have you read books by CoP guru Etienne Wenger as I attended his CoP workshop about 6 years ago!

I suggest you look at W Bank and Asian Dev Bank on KS as I live near W Bank and met original KM people. KM has been demoted to Bank, WB Insitute my perceptions. Its NOW KS no lomger KM!

I am working with an associate in Indonesia who wants to use KM in disaster management! and is seeking KM software that would be used in total system.

Regards, Lawrence

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/12

Hi All,

Hmmm, I do something for you (that's what's in it for you) and you do something for somebody else! That is the way to get out of the loop; Barbara's 'us' can be a single person. WB & _institute on KS seems very wise and realistic. KM is paramount WITHIN organisations; there are more leavers within an organisation to 'manage' whatever. Whenever the WB wants to communicate outside its walls KS is key, apart from some good IM, for example a good newsletter or website but also sound promo materials for advocacy of its mission / vision / strategy / approach etc.

Viktor Markowski, 2009/10/14


You can bring a horse to the pond, but you can’t make it drink.

You are asking for suggestions to convince the horse to drink… I guess you understand that convincing is not going to work. Unless you are a horse whisperer obviously the difference between the horse and your audience is that you can more easily communicate with the latter, but maybe that assumption is also your trap (suppose you couldn’t talk to them, what would you do to achieve what it is you want to achieve…).

As Barbara, Nadejda and others mentioned, intrinsic motivation and a compelling answer to the question ‘what’s in it for me?’ are key factors. The game therefore shifts to the question how to influence these? If that would be a desirable thing to do … but I guess that’s another moral debate ;). I remember for instance that we demanded from consultants in the organization I worked for that they shared the outcomes/lessons learned of a project in a certain way (quality control principles) before they could administratively close the project. Open projects with no more revenue (read opportunities for billing the client) were automatically taxed and hence influenced the overall performance of the consultant. So they had an very good incentive to close the project…. ;)

I personally have the best experiences with role modeling (think Nike: just do it), seduction techniques (making life easy for them to share) and looking at measurement (as it often is measurement that drives people’s behavior – both positively and negatively- , although measurement can be tricky as it may evoke other behavior you hadn’t thought about). Every situation will need it’s own combination, also depending on cultural settings etc. Just be practical. Don’t look for fancy solutions. Simplicity works.

Think big, start small and be practical, Viktor

Frank Ryan, 2009/10/14

A slight improvement on the phrase

You can take a boss to data, but you cannot make him think!

Storytelling is the only way under the sceptical boss' radar.

Frank Ryan, Head of Library & Information Services Manager, Business Information Centre (BIC), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Nadejda Loumbeva, 2009/10/14

I agree with Victor, it is important to lead the way and believe what you are doing (i.e., sharing and learning, introducing those in the organisation) is the right thing to do. Learning by doing and involving others in that process might (sometimes, sometimes more so) be better than sharing case studies.

Romana Benisch, 2009/10/14

Hello Viktor,

Thank you very much for your reply and your advice to think big, start small and be practical. That is actually what I have been practicing for quite some time and this is not the problem I am facing. The point is how to make people understand that teamwork and collaboration bring a value added to an organization and to make them leave their silos and selfish attitudes.

I would be very glad to learn more about your experience with role modeling and seduction techniques. I am not so much convinced about measurement though.

Kind regards, Romana

Viktor Markowski, 2009/10/14


A beautiful quote from Gary Craig ..: We can escape the prison of our own beliefs and enter the Palace of Possibilities when we allow ourselves to be astonished by everything

I can empathize with your hesitation towards measurement. The health warning I added was not totally without reason. However, measurement can both be a carrot and a stick. It is the stick part I am most interested in most of the time. The stick part that prevents people from demonstrating the behavior you are looking for. Often that measurement has little or nothing to do with KM/KS or such. A simple and well know example is the bonus logic of sales people. When this bonus is for individual performance, the sales rep would be very stupid to share his/her tricks and best practices for selling because that would educate his/her peers and his/her personal performance would relatively decrease. The bonus logic was introduced to boost sales – valid as such -, but it acts as a barrier when looking from a perspective of raising the collective intelligence/wisdom of the group… I often face people who perceive time as their most precious resource. They don’t think money, they think time… because they often don’t see the money (or any other currency that you perceive as the true basis for value) and they feel the pain of limited time. KM/KS are seen as a burden, because they see time, or rather time consumption. Now, THAT is their measurement !! You and I have to deal with that… That is also why I said measurement plays a part. Eliminate barriers for them to share.

A beautiful quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery ..: If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Role modeling is as Nadejda also said – just lead the way and demonstrate desired behavior. Par example, there are always people in an organization who are tech savvy and like the gadgets. If you have any affinity with gadgets, share it with them, create a community. Experiment. Seduce them ;). Let them be the innovators, let them create the trail for others to follow. Think plants and flowers in your garden. How do you make them grow? How do you make them do what you want? Blossom abundantly? It is not a matter of telling them… you nurture them, make sure that their needs and desires are met. They will thank you with flowers and a beautiful garden. Have a mental image of the garden in your head and see to the individual wishes of the plants. Some you will have to trim for others to grow. Orchestrate.

Re-reading your first alinea … “how to make ppl understand that teamwork and collaboration bring a value added to an organization and to make them leave their silos and selfish attitudes”. Wow. Rest assured, I feel with you and I regularly catch myself having similar thoughts… I then try to realize myself that by having this mental image of unwilling and even selfish people is not going to help me do a great job … They are not selfish or anything else for that matter, they just seem to have a different perspective that is less conducive for your intentions and purposes. Be kind and gentle to them. Don’t loose yourself in ego-games. Not saying you do, merely sharing my own observations and reflections. If I see them as selfish and ignorant, I am going to treat them that way. And then I become the parent or the teacher and they will become the stubborn child who will refuse to do what I suggest or ask them to do …

A beautiful quote from Euan Semple commenting on his job for the BBC ...: (I view my job as ..) Increasing the frequency and quality of the conversations that get your job done

Best, Viktor

P.S. I recently worked with some clients using the work of Timothy Leary. I know the website in Dutch, the model is called the “Roos van Leary”. I did a quick search on the internet and found this site: I guess you can find more if you look for it yourself. It combines nicely with the Influence model of Tomas and Killman ( Just replace conflict with influence …

Mark Hammersley, 2009/10/14

Hi Romana,

You already have some great responses. I would add that most of the time I am involved in projects that encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration but I try wherever possible not to talk about knowledge sharing or collaboration. It can be difficult if your job title or the project you are working on explicitly mentions knowledge sharing and collaboration but that is one of the challenges for us to overcome when most of the people we deal with see those things as a distraction. Instead I try to understand the other person's perspective. Everyone has a list of challenges they are trying to overcome or a list of goals that they are trying to achieve. When they see that you are focusing your attention on their priorities, they might be more willing to hear what you have to say.

In particular I often hear that "I haven't got time for knowledge sharing." On the other hand when a person takes the risk to articulate a specific question that they are working on, it can be very easy to orchestrate a quick peer assist from which the person will walk away with some helpful suggestions (the key can be to rephrase the question in a way that quickly attracts other people's attention). Few people attribute their success to knowledge sharing or collaboration so it is difficult to prove the return on investment in a conventional way, but if you persevere you will eventually see good things happening that you did not directly initiate.

Natalie Campbell, 2009/10/14

Hi Romana,

I would second what Mark said about trying not to talk about KM or KS. I have been in your situation before and found that if the organization has a biased against it already, trying to avoid using the exact terms helps a great deal. Instead of trying to ‘convince them of the value of KS’ let them experience KS by bringing it up in the context of concrete issues, challenges, problems, solutions in the organization, and engage them in a few methods from the KS toolkit Once the energy and excitement start to show, and they experience the value of a particular session… you might reveal… “okay, what you just experienced….that is knowledge sharing”. Sometimes people need to experience it in order to believe in it.


Natalie Campbell Knowledge Manager, Community Management Sciences for Health

Simone Staiger-Rivas, 2009/10/14

Hi Natalie,

I am actually not sure if it is about avoiding exact terms or finding the right ones which resonate with your target groups. In the CG we have been talking KS for a while with mixed results. More recently we focused on “social media” as an alternative entry point. That seemed far more attractive for many.


Simone Staiger-Rivas ICT-KM Program CGIAR Knowledge Sharing Specialist CIAT, Colombia

Speranza Ndege, 2009/10/14


I must confess that my participation in the just ended KM4DEV Conference in Brussels has opened my eyes to this new KS concept. Why new? Because in East Africa sharing knowledge is understood differently.

It means disseminating Knowledge in organized forums such as conferences, workshops, meetings, educational short courses, schools, colleges & universities, taking place in formal classroom/hall set ups. It also means knowledge Sharing informally as we interact with one another during field research and various social activities.

Many people will find it unusual to talk of KS in isolation.

On Monday 12th October, I held a meeting with some of my colleagues and discussed possibilities of establishing a KS Forum in Kenya and later in the East African Region. Purpose - to get people to open up and share knowledge.

I am determined to demystify KS in Kenya so that people get free to share information freely in schools, organizations, companies etc.

In my University, I shall work towards demystifying the Concept so that KS gets institutionalized.


Dr. Speranza Ndege Director, Institute of Open, Distance & e-Learning (ODeL) Kenyatta University

Kim Tucker, 2009/10/15

Dr. Speranza Ndege (et al)

I wish you success!

Impact occurs on many levels. From an educational perspective, the following essay touches on global impacts with a bias towards the so-called "developing" world:

Some of the references are also relevant, most notably the writings of Yochai Benkler (on commons-based peer production and "The Wealth of Networks") and Atkins et al on OER.

Additional links:

MIT's Open CourseWare (OCW) stories: - more stories.

On OER see the following which may help with your motivation:

Wini Dagli, 2009/10/15

Hi Speranza,

Nice to hear from you again. I also contacted some of the KM4Dev members who are based here in Manila to sound-out what we have accomplished in Brussels last week and to also raise the idea of meeting regularly and informally to also exchange ideas and experiences from our respective KM work.

It would be good if you can also share with us what happened in your meeting last Monday.

Steve Katz, 2009/10/15

A very interesting discussion, for which I have little wisdom but some personal experience to contribute.

The value and impact of Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration has been a bee in my bonnet here at FAO for the past several years, and an area where I believe nobody has the silver bullet. I think the idea of developing universally applicable quantitative indicators is virtually impossible, but some things can and should be done. On the qualitative side, I believe most people believe that case studies, showing KS at work and delivering results, is a very good way to demonstrate impact. But this requires significant investment and interest for the reader, and may not work for every Doubting Thomas. More ideas and work is certainly necessary, and I strongly support further discussion here in KM4Dev on this.

One way we have actively contributed along qualitative lines is through the Knowledge Share Fair (, held at FAO headquarters in Rome in January 2008, and co-hosted by the Rome-based U.N. and international agencies. The goal of this major event was to showcase knowledge sharing approaches at work in real projects and programmes, and for the staff of the Rome-based agencies to learn from each other. The event was attended by some 1000 people, and is still being used today here in FAO as a model for a new interactive and modern way to run meetings where knowledge sharing is a main goal.

To some degree, we can develop all of the quantitative and qualitative indicators of impact we like, but there will still be many people who doubt their credibility and who will continue to believe that "knowledge sharing sounds nice, but I don't have time for it because I'm too busy with my real work". For the time being, we are leaving these people alone at FAO, and working primarily with those who are already applying KS techniques, or have expressed a strong interest to do so. There are plenty of "believers" to keep us busy in the medium-term future in our facilitation/catalytic role in introducing KS methods and tools in FAO. In addition, the management structure in support of Knowledge Sharing has never been better: Next month, the FAO Governing Bodies will be called to approve a new stricture which proposes a Deputy Director-General responsible for "Knowledge", with an Office of Knowledge Exchange (where I will be located) reporting directly to him/her. FAO's Governing Bodies have also requested FAO to develop a Knowledge Management Strategy to facilitate that the "right knowledge and information is accessible by the right people at the right time" in our Member countries.

With strong management support from the top-down and a large number of believers from the bottom-up, all the ducks appear to be lined-up to introduce knowledge sharing approaches on a large scale to support the work of FAO. However, in a climate of limited financial resources and a new framework for results-based planning we also recognize the need to develop credible indicators to measure real impact. Without this evaluation tool, there are still a large number of people who believe knowledge sharing is a waste of time and effort, and the current positive momentum and surge of interest could easily be undermined at any point in the future in the absence of objective proof that KS does indeed have value and impact. As always, the devil is in the details.

Steve Katz Chief, Knowledge Exchange Facilitation FAO - Rome

Roxanna Samii, 2009/10/15

Greetings from a sunny and cold Rome!

Steve is talking about one of my pet topics challenges à indicators for KM/KS…. My friends and colleagues know my love-hate relationships with indicators J . I recently wrote a blogpost and got some good advice, which you may find useful and I look forward to more insights on the indicator challenge!

What we've seen at IFAD over the last couple of years is how important it is to have a champion at senior management level to push the KM agenda forward. At the same time, the Knowledge Share Fair, co-organized by the Rome-based agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP, Bioversity and ICT-KM) mentioned by Steve was the turning point for us, helping the sceptics to understand the value of knowledge sharing, collaboration and doing things differently.

I think we all agree that KM/KS is about changing people's behaviours and making them understand that they are all knowledge workers and that they are engaged in KM/KS activities day-in day out.

Barbara Fillip, 2009/10/15

Hello everyone,

Being at home and sick has at least one advantage; the ability to keep up with some interesting discussions on the list.

There may be a need to differentiate between approaches for winning over front-line workers (one at a time if necessary) and approaches for winning over the top leadership of an organization, and yet another set of approaches for documenting "results."

When I stated earlier in this discussion thread that it might be useful to pay a little more attention to "what's in it for me?" in order to make progress, I was more specifically referring to those within the organization appear to be unreachable and haven't responded positively to other approaches. I think we would approach the leadership ranks of an organization with a different set of arguments. When we're approaching someone in a leadership position and we ask them "how can KM help you do your work?" or we try to help them to articulate the answer, that answer is going to be quite different from the answer of the front-line worker.

Another dimension to pay attention to is probably the phase of development that a KM initiatives is in. In the early phases of a KM initiative, the emphasis may be on recruiting people to participate in KM activities. In later phases, there may be much more pressure to document results.

Stacy Land's Managing Knowledge-Based Initiatives: Strategies for Successful Deployment, is very good at describing strategies for building support for KM initiatives by developing value propositions.

Josef Hofer-Alfeis, 2009/10/16

Thanks Barbara,

where can I find Stacy Land's Managing Knowledge-Based Initiatives: Strategies for Successful Deployment?

Barbara Fillip, 2009/10/16

I've received multiple requests for additional information. Here is is. Stacy Land's book is published by Elsevier:

google books preview:

See also

It isn't addressing the specific context of development-oriented institutions but it still has valuable insights.

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/16

Small observation: none of the contributors signs off with 'knowledge sharer'. I came across one 'sharing specialist' :-) I guess all those 'sharers' are lurking. On a different note 'value and impact' smell too much like measurements towards monetizing. I am afraid (Dutch expression for ' I am pretty sure') learning is a continuous activity beyond the quarterly reporting regime of a rolling forecast.

A different paradigm is to see all human activity as communication (read Habermas); also what we do in organisations and also in development. It is not possible to not communicate (or you are dead). Being engaged in dialogue is the only way (yes human are limited animals; merely monkeys that cook; the latter is the reason we can share knowledge best over coffee or dinner :-)) to collaborate and to share knowledge. So if you have to measure, just ask participants in or after the dialogue what resulted in 'Aha Erlebnis', what 'take homes' are identified and what confidence has been gained and if you want 'what knowledge did you pass on / apply?'.

Tony Pryor, 2009/10/16

Very thoughtful points, as always!! And you're right; you get into measurements in order to prove something, and often of a monetary value. Which of course does not integrate well with the notion that learning is continuous, etc. BUT we need to think up something to address the follow two real life occurrences:

When I first presented my idea to IRG senior staff that I wanted to get involved with KM since I thought that IRG's primary client (USAID) could be made to see its value, I was told "what a silly subject; we all learn, we all share; just look at the mail I get every day. What a waste". Thankfully that attitude changed (well, actually that individual still thinks this, but everyone else's attitude changed so he is ignored on the subject). Saying that we all learn might be right but it's pretty unhelpful if the learning is in fact counterproductive, non-sustaining and in some respects reinforcing of what is one of my favorite newly learned phrases: "silos of excellence".

Second, Stacey didn't have to defend her budget at first; the accolades and requests for support were enough. But it's a new day, with new political appointees (one hopes...) arriving any time now. What used to be a small appendage to the Office is now its driver, not just intellectually but also budgetarily. So the question is bound to come: great job in getting people to learn better, but 1) how is this truly affecting our impact on our ultimate beneficiary/client/partner, compared with any other investment, and 2) why you in terms of budget, why not just give the money out as sharing grants to all of our intermediaries? Or just hand the money over to the field programs, and tell them "be sure you learn alot".

Just saying "learning is important, don't you know?", or "we all do it anyway" really risks cutting the support out from under KM programs that are indeed just getting integrated into agencies and other actors.

Tony Pryor IRG

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/16

Hi Tony,

Ouuch. Yes the road down globalisation cause collateral damage; also in our sector. The end is near to aid as we know it. Protectionist construction like tied aid are needed to keep the aid spending in the donor country :-( And competition by local NGO's will increase because of all that learning that we invoked ourselves.

Sic? I do not think so. In the Netherlands there is a debate to channel aid budgets to 'onze jongens' (our boys) in Afghanistan certainly now budget shrink nominal because of the financial crisis. I foresee good times for nme doing workshops with the guys on hygiene behaviour and gender!

But on a more serious note. It is not about money; it is about teaching (!) donors that they have to ask for good plans, preferably programmes and fund the best of bread. In my book the blame for development disasters lye with donors; he who spends is responsible...

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/16


Great name for a development ltd! Mountbatten. It reminds me of the Lord, the navy officer. Do tell the story on the name one day. Sure there is 'lights', lots of 'light' between what people say and do / did / plan to do. If you say 'measure', I think physics: to measure is to interfere. But OK there is always a trade off in development; a road leads to trafficking, cheap labor leads to migration (and back when work is downsized) etc; by the way that is something we learned by reflection and not by building roads and organize work or measuring KPI's. I hope you mean key performance indicators :-)

But on your KPI's; no problem, I am with Paul Feyerabend 'Anything goes', stick in that thermometer. But generating numbers... Fresh on this list was the quote 'you can bring a manager to information and data, but you cannot make them think' and one from me: it is not about the thermometer, but about the cure. What you have to be aware about is your theory, your model and how you extrapolate, integrate, abstract, combine, suppose etc etc. You know: there is lies, real lies and statistics (based on numbers).

And then there is the Prigogin (, Kurtz ( and Snowden thinking. Is it useful to categorize (simple environment) or analyze (complicated)? Understand me well, I like numbers and measuring and modeling, but some times acting - fail safe to start (pilot is the euphemistic noun here) - is paramount; but bold when possible! A reasonable men adepts himself to the world. It takes an un-reasonable to change it.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the worldthe unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himselfTherefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man?

Last, I guess this is called 'wisdom', there is hunches. Did it ever occur to you 'this is not gonnne workk'?

On evaluating of result you might want to look at participatory rural appraisal (PAR) or stuff like that. For me an indicator has got to have meaning, make sense (or help) to the one who is measured and if that is a KPI, so be it.

Peter J. Bury, 2009/10/16

In the end, nothing new, real listening and empathy are core! Peter (up to now pretty stressed by wave(s) overflow) a compassionate sharer trying to listen and distinguish communications from noise, pffffff

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/16

I love it what you say Peter! Likewise swamped with info.. and waves. The latter is fun though.

Viktor Markowski, 2009/10/17

Point taken and recognised.

I think learning is an intermediary step.

Every organization applies some logic of decomposing a vision/mission through a strategic process into operational activities. These activities constitute the primary process(es) of the organization and if all is well, they should be geared towards realizing the goals the organization has set itself. These primary processes are also the closest ties to money, because they drive revenue and costs. Any form of knowledge facilitation will always be a support process, just like the finance function, marketing, HR etc. I realize this is a bold statement and you are welcome to shoot me if you think otherwise.

Now, you may say, "hold on, marketing, for instance, may do its own thing, but the K-function is directly working on the primary resource, needed for the primary process, i.c. knowledge". And you are right. So, we have two main anchors for some monetary translation.

  1. The first is the primary process: what investment by the actors of the primary process seem sensible to make to share and use knowledge to enhance, improve, speed up or 'any other desired change' their primary process? It is by the primary process for the primary process. It is about the trade-off to (for instance) make time to share in order to achieve improvement of the process itself (or its actors of course). Well know example from the consultancy sector is speeding up and quality enhancing proposals.
  2. The second is the support process: what investment by the organization focusing on any form of K-improvement by and in the primary process seems sensible?

This might be like a shared service center type of activity or a specialized function that the primary process logic doesn't support.

I realize this sounds somewhat vague, but I am sure our collective brainstorm will provide more substance to this thought.

Jaap and I once drew a diagram which linked outcomes, results and impact. Outcomes are the direct products of some intervention (like building toilets in the South, providing hygiene education at primary schools etc), results were the mid-term effects of several interventions (like improved hygiene) and impact was the long term factor (like a healthier society).

I know this is not new.

It could be a way to map the various interventions to mid-term and long-term (strategy/vision/mission) goals and make them an integral part of the long term aspiration and solution instead of an add-on.

Interventions then become part of a game around opportunity costs: do we invest in this or that? One rationale here may be around the concept of leveraging. What activity/intervention provides the most leverage? You could take a look at TCE: Transaction Cost Economics. I used the TCE model in my dissertation on semantic networks in B2B partnerships.

Challenge will be - I realize - to provide a sufficient (monetary) measurement to make things comparable. TCE might provide some substitute bases for value.

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/17

Hi Viktor,

Good to see you chipping in. We should organize an 'around The Hague KM lunch or drink'. Herebye, a call to KM-ers on the list around The Hague: can we organize a flash-mop at IRC? Let us open a group on the

On the topic. In a lot of sector organizational boundaries are vague. Big UN orgs struggle with this because they are Mastodons with intrinsic power houses and personal accountability balancing systems (apart from all good intention by individuals). Within organizational boundaries people seek control; move the operating environment from complex to complicated; building toolkits, frameworks, logframes you name it. The next step towards simple is even more difficult.

My point is, development does not happen within organizations but in the public space and private space. We should discern between KM4Dev and KM4Biz. KM 4 biz is much easier and KM4Dev tends towards KS4Dev.

Viktor Markowski, 2009/10/17

Drinks are always welcome!

I partly agree with your distinction. Biz is probably easier than Dev. Having acknowledged that, Tony described a situation where he/his team or some other group had to account for their expenditures. In that case I don’t see a lot of difference with a “Biz-scope” when it comes to making a Biz case. Big UN orgs, or any other large organizations, aren’t that different from large biz-orgs. Both are a big group of people, with the unavoidable ego’s (nice discussion on Ego’s going on at ActKM), trying to do their best. The main difference as I see it, is that the biz-orgs have a market to satisfy, otherwise they go out of business (unless you are a really big bank, apparently then you may do as you like and the government will still save you). Over the past decades hundreds of NGO’s have mushroomed and I haven’t seen many go out of business… Maybe it IS time to change our perspective on this…

Nadejda Loumbeva, 2009/10/17

I completely agree with Viktor on that it is important to approach people with positive and encouraging thoughts in mind when it comes down to KM, KS and positive change ... That would implicitly influence them to be exactly like you approach them ...

Pete Cranston, 2009/10/17

Fascinating and rich exchange, thanks everyone. One tiny idea While I am closer to Jaap's universal-learning-warm-bath model than anything anyone could make money from in a business I have a lot of sympathy for those in large organisations who are stretched regularly on the business case rack (and it's close cousin in Development, the logframe). I spent hours of my life trying to quantify in financial terms the benefits of Information Systems during a particularly rigorous phase of Business Caseitis in Oxfam GB. While it may be a negative model I found that in many cases it was easier to arrive at a series of numbers by looking at hours lost in inefficient processes. It was easier to get people to estimate how much time they had wasted from doing things inefficiently: the English are accused of always planning perfectly retrospectively but people generally are able to be accurate about time spent on past projects or processes. The KM/KS analogue might be the time wasted in not using evidence or stories or learning from other people/projects in managing projects. Maybe in After Action Reviews or their equivalent, when people discover that things which didn't work well, or failed in terms of project objectives that could have been avoided if X or Y instance had been reviewed, people could try and estimate how much time (=money) and other resources would have been saved. Such examples certainly often crop up in evaluations. Bit like estimating impact by looking at the crater but it can be measured more accurately than trying to guess the probable size of the crater from the speed of the object - cue the exploding whale video, yet again. (thanks Lucie)

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/17

You know Pete; first work then administration, and if the L-frame works, so be it. Wasting time is a good thing especially together with someone else. Look at those lions after dinner hanging out in trees (the Nat Geographic); we should do that. Time and money are our own planning-prisons. We have to deal with it, but let us spend as less effort as possible. By the way, when was development supposed to be finished?

Hi Viktor; mushrooming NGO's...? Hmmm. Efficiency / effectiveness in development might go beyond the 'benefit of scale' and 'labor differentiation'. When they all go busted we have to pay for them work-less also because they will be on the doll.

The best strategy for a lot of companies is to order staff not to be productive on Friday. That will give them time to study (internalize etc see, discuss and learn. Or perhaps they go and have lunch with each other and / or family and return happy on Monday. To my taste measuring the value and impact of Friday knowledge sharing and collaboration is best not done.

Viktor Markowski, 2009/10/17

Cheers Pete, I agree with you that for instance during AAR its sensible to try and quantify lost resources as a result of a suboptimal approach/process. These may provide clearly visible – and potentially unique and therefore discernable – examples that one can use to convince the next time. If the situation can be made sufficiently generic, you could even extrapolate from it.

The challenge as I see it is that by such an approach, you tend to focus on situations that didn’t go that well (to use a kind formulation), so it may have the danger of evoking negative sentiment. Obviously it should be used in combination. How easy is it for people to look back at their project when they perceive it as a success? I once did an AAR for an external review body of a project that took 4 years, during which 3 years nothing happened. Only the fourth year suddenly success was achieved, primarily by accident through external events. When I submitted my critical report, with a lot of learning opportunities in it, I was killed by the project team for not celebrating their success. They had struggled so much that they were so happy to have something they could label as success, that they didn’t want to accept the first three years, nor didn’t want to acknowledge that external events mostly lead to the achievement, not their own involvement…

Another approach may be to find repetitive tasks that seem small but are executed frequently. Then the big numbers start to work. Well known example for instance is of course discovering relevant information: if everybody in the organization would spend 15 min/day less on finding info (either explicit or talking to the right person) it doesn’t sound that impressive. But 15 min a day during 5 days a week during 45 weeks a year equals 56,25 hours. So, with a working year of on average 1600 hours, if you have around 28 ppl in your organization, you lose 1 FTE just finding info. And personally, I think 15 min is way too low an estimate… Think about the big orgs Jaap also mentioned…

Your suggestion to look at cost reduction (best analogy I could think off) makes me wonder how to quantify revenue enhancement, i.e. innovation. Can you quantify innovation?

Barbara Fillip, 2009/10/17

I find it much easier to think of metrics when discussing specific activities. Let's take the example of a knowledge sharing workshop. What do I mean by a "knowledge sharing workshop"? What is it meant to accomplish? How is the design of the workshop related to the workshop's objectives? If I'm developing the design for this workshop, what are the outcomes I am reaching for?

Let's say that the workshop takes place. Everything went reasonably well in the sense that there were no major technical issues with the presentations, the speakers were there on time, etc... Twenty-five people came. What does that tell you? Nothing much if you don't have additional information. If you reached out to 30 people and 25 came, perhaps it's a great success. If you reached out to 5000, reserved a room that can hold 200 and 25 people came, it's not that good. In short, when you're designing your workshop, you have an idea about who your target audience is going to be, you target that audience and you estimate participation in order to reserve a room of the appropriate size. Whether you're fully aware of it or not, you design the workshop with some metrics in mind. If you've done similar workshops in the past, you may have a better idea of what to expect in terms of audience and even tell yourself that you'll be happy if a similar number of people show up. You don't want to have to explain a smaller number -- unless there is a good reason for a smaller number of participants.

Imagine a very targeted knowledge sharing workshop where you want two teams to share their approach to XYZ. You've decided to invite other relevant parties but if only a couple of people from the two teams come, it will be a failure. In this case, it's not just how many people come to the workshop but who comes that matters.

This is all relatively easy to deal with.

Measuring impacts is a different story. Are we interested in the impacts of the workshop on the participants? What about the impacts on the speakers? What if the time they spent preparing their presentations had a significant impact on 1) their interactions with others who worked on the same project; 2) their own thinking about the topic? What if the speakers' interactions with participants during the workshop had an impact on their own thinking? Would they present the same topic differently if they had to do it again? What if the speakers' experience was so positive that they'll be more likely to volunteer to share their knowledge if asked again? What if the session is such a positive experience that one of the speakers decides to start his own workshop series in another division/department? What are all the ripple effects, positive or negative?

Getting to the impacts on participants: Did we expect them to DO something special during the workshop, after the workshop? Did we intend to alter their behavior, to change their mind about something? Did we hope the workshop would trigger new thought patterns, new connections? Unless we have a good idea of what impacts we intended to have, it's difficult to imagine measuring these types of impacts.

Let's imagine a workshop on time management. You have a very specific goal in mind. You've targeted 30 participants who have poor time management habits. You get them through a four-hour workshop and you anticipate that their time management habits will change. The only way to know if you've had the anticipated impact is to have a good measurement of where they started at before the workshop and where they're at after the workshop. Then comes the issue of how long the newly trained folks maintained their new time management skills.

How often are we dealing with a goal sufficiently precise that we could measure improvement in behavior or attitude? Does that mean we shouldn't do knowledge sharing workshops unless they have a very precise and measurable objective? I hope not.

Just rambling I'm afraid....

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/17

Barbara, just reading the list of questions makes me tired :-) But serious; 'In die Beschrenkung zeigt sich die Meister'. Do your knowledge sharing workshops, make people move and talk (opposite to what we do with children at school: sit still and shut up and listen), start with asking expectations of participants and close checking back on them. Have a look at social reporting for quick and decent measurement of success / impact ...

George de Gooijer, 2009/10/18

I think the poet said : In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister

As for schools: look at 'schools that learn', by Senge, but maybe also at the talk of Ken Robinson at TED : (if you hadn't seen it already) TED also has a podcast that will replace any time you may spend at your tv or writing on this list

Barbara, you seem to work on behavioural change when you're talking about the Time Management activity.

That's an interesting example

If this Time Management activity would focus on tips an tricks for managing your time, my speculation is that some people will benefit from this, until the moment they get into a stressful situation. At that point their old mechanisms take over again. If their daily working environment creates such stress the moment they return, that's the moment they'll forget what you suggested.

It's called single-loop learning, consisting of suggestions at action-level. Well-meant advice that doesn't address the root causes of the problem.

You can replace 'time management' by quite a few other skills that are being 'trained' or 'workshopped'. It gives people a day off. It's an alternative for the free Friday of Jaap. It pays some people's bills.

But you shouldn't bother trying to measure the result.

To go to a deeper level of learning you need to address these root causes. You have to understand what mental models a person has, and than actively try to train that person to replace them with more productive models (if that's the conclusion). It's called 'double loop learning' or 'mental models training' by some, 'cognitive behavioural therapy' by others. It's quite time consuming and can be difficult, but it was actually the only form of psychotherapy that had a significant result (if it is 'packed' as a management training we do not call it therapy of course).

I think you would be able to measure something there.

It's referred to as double-loop learning. Chris Argyris and Donald Schön did good work on the subject, Peter Senge promoted it in his Fifth Discipline work (that includes the book on schools mentioned earlier).

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/18

Danke George :-)

Ben Ramalingam, 2009/10/18

Dear All,

This is a very interesting and enjoyable thread I wanted to share the lessons from ongoing ALNAP work on innovations in international humanitarian response. We have been looking specifically at how new ways of doing things have been developed and implemented in the context of humanitarian aid - and we make explicit use of single and double-loop learning models mentioned by George.

The case studies we explore include community-based feeding therapy, the use of mobile technologies in emergencies, transitional shelter approaches and the use of cash as opposed to food distributions. In all of these examples of double-loop learning, knowledge sharing / systematic learning / collaboration were absolutely necessary in enabling new and improved ways of working. But they were not sufficient in themselves.

For example, cash distributions had been used for over a hundred years in relief distributions, but it was only relatively recently that it has been considered a mainstream humanitarian programming option. Knowledge, learning and collaboration (research by the Red Cross, ODI and others, vibrant communities of practice set up around the tsunami, cross-organisational partnerships etc) all played a vital role in the change, but they were not the only things that mattered. Capacities mattered, in terms of the space for creative thinking, technical skills, operational knowledge. Resources mattered - part of the reason cash moved forward around the tsunami was because there was so much cash around at that time. Contextual factors - the incentives for change, the attitudes towards risk, existing codes and standards - also mattered.

I think that the message for senior managers should be broadly that in an increasingly uncertain world, marked by new challenges and opportunities, aid agencies must become more adaptive and innovative. To enable this, knowledge, learning and collaboration all need to move from being supporting functions to being core competencies. This calls for us to move beyond 'knowledge management for development', and towards 'knowledge leadership for development'. It's not a request - it's a challenge :)

You can download the study here: <>

We are holding a major meeting on the topic in London in November - now over-subscribed, but if you are particularly interested, you can find more inforrmation here: <> We are also finalising a series of case studies, using Harvard Business School case studies as our inspiration, to capture information about different innovations in accessible, clear ways.

For those wanting a shorter overview, the report was covered by an article back in August: 1.htm < 81.htm>.

Sebastiao Ferreira, 2009/10/18

The Results and Impacts of Knowledge Sharing

Last week I could observe an enthusiastic and very interesting discussion about knowledge sharing and the measurement of its impact. In the title they were mixed but in the discussion we could see two interconnected topics. I will try to do some very brief comments on these subjects.

  1. The impact of knowledge sharing. In my opinion knowledge can manifest itself in three forms: (1) ways of perception and thinking, (2) practical skills and (3) information (e.g. Rosetta Stone). Under the two first forms knowledge is alive, and mostly tacit, in the third form it is latent; it needs to be absorbed by humans for becoming alive.
  2. What knowledge can transform? Knowledge can transform other knowledge and human actions. The implication of these features is that the results of knowledge sharing can be observed in these two areas: knowledge and actions.
  3. Changes in knowledge can be observed in the use of the new knowledge: (1) when thinking, or doing new cognitive operations, such as improvements in solving a problem, or better explanations of phenomena; (2) changes in perception, or the capacity of detecting new facets of reality. (This second type of change may be very subtle and difficult to detect, nevertheless it importance may be crucial.)
  4. Knowledge may have direct and indirect results in actions. Direct results can be observed in (1) higher frequency of innovations, (2) improvements in processes: effectiveness and efficiency. For management purposes, the framework of the Balanced Scorecard, with its four levels, is helpful for understanding where to measure results of new knowledge: improvements in the level of internal processes, the second level. Impact is the fourth level, mediated by market results, the third level.
  5. Changes in society, the main concept of impact in development work, are indirect results of new knowledge. Changes in society are very complex phenomena and are the result of actions and also of changes in the context. To trace back the causal contribution of new knowledge to a social change may be very difficult; most of the times it is hard to get consensus about the real contribution of new knowledge, and some times it is just impossible.
  6. About knowledge sharing. I do not have a solution for most of the concerns expressed in the thread of email, but I have some opinions that may be useful. In my understanding the main challenge in knowledge sharing is mostly in the side of the demand. There are three aspects: (1) the identification of the knowledge needed, (2) the absorptive capacity of new knowledge, and (3) the evaluation of the use of our time.
  7. We all suffer of information overload (see Herbert Simon), so we prioritize the objects of attention and we always do a tradeoff analysis of the cost of opportunity of our time. If we feel that the new knowledge, absorbed, do no deserve the time we are investing in capturing it, we move out attention to other subjects.
  8. For these reasons I think that knowledge sharing is much more effective if organized around processes of innovation, or of processes of problem solving, not as an end in itself. When we are engaged in a process of innovation or of problem solving we can identify the knowledge we need, we can apply directly the knowledge acquired, and we can see its benefits.

Espíritu y Oportunidad Sebastiao Mendonça Ferreira

Tony Pryor, 2009/10/19

This is an extremely thoughtful summarization of some of the key ideas inhabiting this thread.

Let me say the one thing that absorbs most of my time when it comes to this thing we call knowledge is the question of what person in the equation most matters - the supplier or the demander (especially when the latter doesn't really know that there is anything to "demand"). I have always assumed that it is the user of knowledge (essentially by transforming/using received knowledge, and then generating her/his own) who is the most important actor, while much of the KM field seems to focus much of its attention, almost unintentionally, on the initial supplier. My problem though is that trying to understand the demand side of the knowledge "equation" is almost impossible, at least for me.

I am attracted to the idea that knowledge not used or assimilated, or that doesn't lead to behavioral change on the part of the receiver, is simply "latent" knowledge (or that the answer to the last question is just information, while its USE to answer the next question then generates knowledge - as The Social Life of Information would put it). This though implies that what really matters is the receptivity/skills/interest on the part of the potential user, which of course is precisely where we often DON'T focus our attention. Instead we focus on what we control - did people see the site? Can they access information easily? Did they get the material we sent, or hear the story we told?

Your point #3 is right on target - what matters most strategically, be it a donor, or a political party, or a mother, or... is that perceptions and behaviors change, so that a range of actions occur because the person who receives your information reaches conclusions that fit him/her, and evolve their approach to the NEXT problem accordingly. But as you say, how then do you track such change?

And I don't think this is just a donor problem; I think people in all walks of life, in all cultures, have difficulty in sensing change in another person, and tend more often than not to assume that the other person, once they "see the facts" will come to the same conclusion. We/they/everyone tend to become perplexed/confused/annoyed when this isn't so.

George de Gooijer, 2009/10/19

Hej Tony,

your question on supplier and demander and 'convincing the other' is nicely depicted in a book by David Hutchens, Shadows of the Neanderthal.

The good people of Google have put this online ;-) , for all of us to enjoy.

It's quite funny too.

try this:

Viktor Markowski, 2009/10/19

I think you hit an interesting question Tony: how to stimulate the demand side of the equation? It's pull versus push.

I may be wrong, but my feeling says, this has to do with habit. Can't get my head around it totally, but maybe there is an analogy in understanding the e-mail/voicemail habit (although I acknowledge this is mainly push). I remember we had a mantra at the firm I worked for, which stated: e-mail, voice-mail, knowledgespace (the corporate intranet). We saw people come into the office, and first thing they did was check their e-mail. Then they did their voicemail. And we extended that to the knowledgespace. When trying to implement this, I got the CEO to communicate for some time only through the knowledgespace. At first, people didn't seem to bother that much, but slowly they realized they were missing crucial information. In personal meetings the CEO would also ask people for their opinion on the things he had shared and at those moments people felt that they didn't know, because they hadn't read it. That is when the knowledgespace started to fly.

Again, this is a different starting position, but maybe there is a lesson in there that could be applied.

Just a thought.

George de Gooijer, 2009/10/19

Tony, sorry for that post, the link at google is only for the first 16 pages. With google there's always a catch.

The 'receptivity/skills/interest' you mention, could that also translate into 'dialogueing capacity'? The ability to ask questions and keep on listening at the moment you are surprised by the answer of the person you're talking to because it doesn't fit at all in what you were trying to say?

For me it works very well to use this approach to deal with your point of 'seeing the facts'. If you're able to change this 'reciptivity' in yourself and in your organisation, the quality of the communication increases dramatically. Instead of fitting new information in your own fixed boxes, you try to find out what the other person means, and what made him come to that conclusion.

The way to measure this is observation, I would say: In a meeting you see what happens if a hot topic is put on the table. Is the group trying to understand before concluding, or are unclear conclusions thrown at each other, without presenting a logic? And if a person comes with such an abstract conclusion, are others helping him to retract his logic, or are they climbing their own hilltop to shout their solution?

Maybe the 'outcome mapping' approach that has been promoted for a while would allow for such a way of working, as it uses observed behaviour as indicator.

But that does not answer your very first question: how to understand the demand side? Isn't it so that if there is a demand, that is already the case: they demand, so you simply look at what they're asking? Or is that not really the case, and are you faced with a group that has been identified as your 'demand side' but they are not coming through? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

One of my clients is a global religious NGO, that used to support missionaries, and has been switching to a partnership of national and local groups. They have to turn around their thinking throughout the organisation: from a one-way / top down flow, it is slowly becoming a multidirectional learning structure, with distributed knowledge, distributed information and distributed power. And mind you, this is a network that includes thousands of parishes around the world, connecting people in the corners of Rwanda, Benin, the Philippines, Brazil, Sweden and many other countries.

Extremely interesting, also because of the possibility to connect them with all these wonderful internet-tools. But how will that play out? I think that the major challenge will be to facilitate this global learning process, where the learning is particularly on the new roles that all are to be playing. How to change the inferences in all these actors? That is what I would see as knowledge management: developing people and developing communication.

Thanks for the stimulating thoughts.

Sebastiao Ferreira, 2009/10/19


Your question is absolutely relevant. My opinion is that the cognitive divide is much harder to address than the digital, political and economic divides - despite of all them are deeply interrelated. As usually, I don't have answers, but just a few reflections.

Caveat: We are in the frontier of our understanding. When we walk in these areas, we use to think through analogies, we are exploratory analogical machines. We think about something that we don't understand well as if it were other thing we already know. It is tricky because it can give us the feeling that we are understanding a subject when we are not. However, it can enable the continuity of our thoughts, paving the path to discovery.

Let's use the analogy of microfinance. Microfinance is expanding in less developing countries, in many countries it is growing faster than the use of cell phones. Demand and supply are co-evolving in very interesting ways. The clients are learning the value (potential usefulness) of the financial services, and the providers are having the opportunity of experimenting without losing money. It is a co-learning process what generates more value than it is lost. However, many people are not aware that a key condition for the microfinance viability is the existence of micro-businesses. Micro-businesses make of a loan (money) a source of value superior to its costs. Microfinance can be very effective for reducing poverty, but without micro-businesses, microfinance is not viable. Microfinance works through micro-businesses. In developed countries, where micro-businesses have strong barriers for growing, so has microfinance.

I think of knowledge sharing in a similar way. Search and absorb knowledge are brain-intensive activities; they are high cost activities in the economy of our brains. If I am not a scientist, I need an activity that realize the potential value of the knowledge I am working so hard to reach. In most cases curiosity is not the driver, usefulness is the driver. What you said is true, I (as a user) don't know the knowledge I need; I live inside my own cognitive silo, but I can recognize the knowledge I need at the moment that I find it. I recognize the value of knowledge at the moment I can visualize its usefulness for a practical purpose, like solving a problem I am struggling with.

The demand of knowledge, in most cases, emerges inside an activity that is becoming stuck, or inside a perceived gap in understanding. In a minority of cases, I am able to frame a question. If I am inside my own mess, with no question or seed of question in my mind I don't demand any knowledge. Most of the knowledge we acquire we find it in an unplanned way, almost by accident. This is why, in my opinion, the demand of knowledge should be explored in the neighborhood of challenging activities and of innovation processes. Perhaps it is possible to find commonalities of the demand of knowledge among the myriad of activities people do, but my guess is that in those cases we will arrive to a tool for getting knowledge, like a cell phone, instead of a clearly stated demand of knowledge (a requirement for designing a knowledge supply chain). (I am not against the supermarkets of knowledge, as some Webpages resemble me. But my feeling is that you want to go beyond that)

The cognitive subjects of knowledge identification and absorption are very important, and I cannot address them here, but the challenges of knowledge sharing, in my opinion require to start beyond those cognitive subjects. They are in emergence of the need of knowledge, in the moment that I feel I need to look for knowledge outside my own cognitive silo. Once this has happened I am able to search, to decipher what I am seeing, and I will face the challenges of absorbing that cognitive disturbance (new knowledge) inside my fragile mindset.

All this long text, forgive me for that, is for saying that knowledge sharing should be thought in relation to the use of knowledge, not as something disconnected of the context of its use (problem solving, process improvement or innovation). However, all these words are just an exploratory line of thought. I may be missing many other important facets of the question.

Thank you for your interest.

Jaap Pels, 2009/10/19

Hi Steven,

FAO's Governing Bodies have also requested FAO to develop a Knowledge Management Strategy to facilitate that the "right knowledge and information is accessible by the right people at the right time" in our Member countries.

Woow! What a topic! I would like to hear some KM4Dev-ers view on that: 'right k&i is accessible by the right people at the right time'. My take: how about giving all (the right people) a mobile phone (the right time because always on-line and at hand) and facilitate that social network.

Brian Foster, 2009/10/20

Jaap's interest in a drink and Ben's ALNAP post brought to mind work we did with ALNAP a couple of years ago when we were looking at the most efficient ways for newly arrived workers to share K in a humanitarian crisis.

What kept coming up in our interviews was the word "bars" (the drinking kind). We wondered what that was all about and it soon became clear that by far the best info and K is shared over a drink, not round a meeting table where everyone's "on position" and holding things back.

I imagine a formal KM system or workshop can be a bit like that too.

Bars of course are not attractive to many people, but one of our findings was that it was probably a good idea to set up a (non-alcoholic) watering hole as early as possible where everyone would feel welcome, international and national, rather than a KM system, and let socializing do the work.

Peter J. Bury, 2009/10/20

Jaap this approach to km and ks has been pushed - among others by me - since the inception of our resource centre development program!

at the right time for the user not of the provider!

It is so obvious.

That doesn't mean to say that there is still a huge challenge in capacity development and empowerment to do at the user level and educating the providers in providing: OVERVIEW, ACCESS and EASY TO USE.

Indeed I believe mobile / SMS / smart phones may be a tool that could facilitate the (remote) user's life.

Tony Pryor, 2009/10/20


The other problem is that it's a "demand" for something which might not be actually IN demand.

But you clearly got it right as to how to promote something; give people an option not to use something new and many/most won't. BUT you also need to make sure that it essentially does everything they are used to using, such as emails, word processing, etc etc.

Mark Hammersley, 2009/10/20

There are some great points coming out in this thread - and, as others have observed, clearly different approaches are needed whether we are advocating for KS/collaboration among those who are likely to be participating and/or senior management who are making resources available.

I wholly support the approach of making it demand driven - and there is plenty of evidence from the commercial as well as social sectors about how marketing tools and techniques can effectively stimulate demand for worthwhile products.

I would like to come back to the question of how to justify investments in KS/collaboration at senior management level. Tony's approach of orchestrating positive evidence and testimonials is certainly a good one. I also believe that the ultimate question is whether KS/collaboration contributes towards achievement of the organisation's mission and its major strategic goals.

Pete reminded us that most organisations already have internal mechanisms for investment appraisal and even if we don't agree with that approach, it is sometimes the game we have to play. Each organisation has different "buttons" to press when making a business case and it can be instructive to learn from previous examples of successful and unsuccessful bids. IT projects are a particularly rich area for study - How was that new accounting system justified? Why did the board reject the request for a new HR system?

It is important to pitch your project at the right level. I have seen initiatives fail because they are insufficiently ambitious - if the problem/opportunity you are addressing is too small to be on senior management's radar then don't expect them to make time to listen to your proposal, and don't expect people to be impressed by your evidence of early successes. It can also be challenging to gain approval for a project which is too generic - if it appears to be trying to solve everything. Focus at divisional level - for example to increase fundraising revenue or expand the adoption of programmatic best practices, and then align yourself with others who hold the same business goals.

As for the currency of ROI - personally I prefer monetisation. Yes, of course the value of a life saved or any other development goal cannot be fully measured in Dollars, Pounds, Euros or Yen but we have to make some effort to compare costs and benefits. It is more straightforward to measure the social return in the same currency as the expenditure rather than invent some new currency (e.g. "smiles") and attempt to convert both costs and benefits into that. The New Economics Foundation (nef) have a guide to measuring Social Return on Investment (SROI) which I have found particularly helpful:

Thanks to everyone else who has shared stimulating ideas and experience on this topic.