IFAD synthesis project: Phase One Report

From KM4Dev Wiki
Revision as of 20:54, 19 November 2013 by John David Smith (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

The report is available in two forms

This is the report summary

This study provides a framework for future discussions and for exploration of steps to set the future Network’s direction, both in terms of structure and possible funding strategies. It summarizes three different projects that were funded with a grant from IFAD. To put those projects in context it gathers information from community members and the community's own data sources. Email interactions with community members (both one-to-one and on the email list) combined with insights from other platforms ranging from the experimental (http://allourideas.org) to the mainstream (http://km4dev.org and http://wiki.km4dev.org) helped fill the gaps in methodology and coverage between the studies. Documentary information about the community, ranging from member lists to discussion indexes played an important role in developing a more complete picture of the community.

The three projects summarized in this report are listed on the KM4Dev Wiki http://wiki.km4dev.org/IFAD_Funded_Synthesis_Project. They are:

  • A social network analysis looking at participation and replies on the main KM4Dev email list
  • An effort to explore and spread the idea of technology stewardship
  • A member survey

The report provides an overview of the community, its activities, and membership. KM4Dev is remarkable in that it is member-driven and has been growing steadily since it first began in 2000. Growth in membership is obviously positive in the sense that it brings more people into the conversation but it also creates challenges that have not occurred before. Because it is member-driven, the conversations and participation in general have a natural ebb and flow: too much discussion can be overwhelming one week followed by a period of worrying silence. KM4Dev membership is diverse in terms of geography, demographic characteristics such as age, organizational affiliation, job title, job level, and degree of involvement. Although the membership's increasing diversity is largely positive, it also raises new challenges for welcoming new members or for assuring that their interests or perspectives are included any any leadership decisions. The community is also diverse in terms of access to and experience with technology.

Several key practices characterize the KM4Dev community's interactions:

  • ongoing discussion mainly on its Dgroup email list
  • small groups and side projects on various email lists, Skype, and other platforms
  • collecting and organizing community knowledge on its wiki
  • face-to-face interactions either at informally organized meetings or as member travel allows

The focus of this synthesis study was not academic, but was to highlight concerns, opportunities, and interventions (in the future or during the study period) that would clarify the opportunities and challenges that KM4Dev as it looks toward the future.

The first of these is coping with growth, differentiation and possible fragmentation. This is a consequence of a greater number of members. It means that welcoming and orienting new members is more challenging than before and that it may not be clear to existing members that they need to help (or that helping may be quite rewarding).

The report argues that leadership and governance in an independent community like KM4Dev has two distinct aspects. KM4Dev is a community that's permeable where the ideas and contributions of newcomers are mixed and juxtaposed with those of practitioners who have been involved in the field and in KM4Dev for more than a decade. From the other side, KM4Dev is a volunteer organization that owns servers and considerable intellectual property ranging from discussion summaries to the KM4Dev brand itself. The community and the organization have both evolved over the years and the development of one interacts with the other. As a community, KM4Dev needs to consider the risks and benefits of a more substantial organizational side. As an organization, KM4Dev needs to consider how it can meet community challenges such as leadership development, greater diversity (of interests and of needs), and a periphery that doesn't see the importance of discussions about community direction or growth. The organizations that employ KM4Dev members have an indirect interest in the KM4Dev community's survival but probably don't see themselves as particularly responsible for the KM4Dev organization. Ambiguous interests and sense of responsibility become more diffuse as KM4Dev continues to grow.

For historical reasons, KM4Dev uses three completely independent platforms for its interactions: a discussion list, a "social network and community" site, and a Wiki. Each of these plays its own role in the community's life. For example each one contributed data and context to the preparation of this report. Bridging between the three platforms is certainly an issue for some members and not for many others. The challenge that such independence presents is that each platform can feel like a world unto itself so that people see it as the KM4Dev platform. KM4Dev relies on a number of auxiliary platforms, which makes the community more complex as well as better informed about the uses of technology for knowledge sharing and management. The complexity of the KM4Dev technology infrastructure means that the community may have to have a high tolerance for usability problems that could be discouraging to people who would benefit from participation in the community.