Talk:Pathways to involvement and leadership in KM4Dev

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John David Smith, Tue 1/21/2014 8:45 AM

What fascinates me about Charles’ story is how all the toolkits and best practices that we love talking about (often we’d rather talk about them than about our pathways, it seems) show up in use, in place. For example:

“Having been used to formal events, the session seemed way too informal and for some minutes I wondered what grown up people thought they were doing – sitting down in a circle, engaging in what I later gathered was a fishbowl, etc.”

Are there other snippets that seem important or provocative in his account?


Peter J. Bury, Thu 1/23/2014 6:00 PM

Hi John (and Charles if you happen to read this ;-)

Well what I find both important and provocative are the last few lines of Charles story:

KTA currently has 21 employees whose skills include computer science, banking & finance, agriculture economics, accountancy, statistics and social science. My intention is to grow KTA into a legendary knowledge sharing company. On 26 November 2013, I made a presentation to the President’s Office mentioning how Zimbabwe can only be able to use its natural resources in achieving inclusive growth if it takes KM and evidence-based decision making seriously. If I hadn’t joined KM4Dev, it would not have been possible for me to build Knowledge Transfer Africa (Pvt) Ltd from mud. I have not even mentioned other international doors that have been opened such as working with the International Development Research Centre (IIDRC) of Canada, among others. I have become aware that it’s possible to have one foot on the ground while the other foot is dancing around the world!

[the emphasis is mine]

It would be interesting to find out how many in both core group and the wider KM4Dev community have benefited (hugely some) from being in KM4Dev! I mention this as also provocative as just a few days ago we where in a session with Bev, who told us (core group members) to led ourselves drive by our selfishness when doing voluntary core group work, as indeed she implicitly confirmed Charles story: KM4Dev makes your career jumping and yourself dancing around the world ;-)

Peter moving on to independent multipurpose consultant work.... oops is that another one joining the dance?

Peter J. Bury 
aka @profbury
in Italy and on Google+ 
about me

Riff Fullan, Mon 1/27/2014 12:31 AM

Hi all,

Charles, your story does a great job of illustrating where energy has flowed in the KM4Dev context over a number of years… John pointed out, it not only gives a taste of some of the methods used in real contexts, but it confirms (for me, at least) that the face-to-face interaction happening around KM4Dev-related events is a real spur to learning and future action. I’ve had the privilege to be involved in one way or another at various KM4Dev f2f events over the years, and I have always come out feeling like I picked up something valuable. Sometimes it’s a method or tool, but more often it’s a feeling that I’ve deepened my understanding of knowledge or learning in some way.

All the people you mentioned also show that 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. A lot of this also happens online in this dgroup or on the Ning platform, but for me the recurring opportunities of the f2f events (though admittedly only for a relatively small number of KM4Devers) add sparks to the community that keep the energy up.

My question is this: as KM4Dev grows bigger, and has perhaps moved from being a community to being a more diffused network, 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?



Riff Fullan Team Leader Knowledge and Learning

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Weinbergstrasse 22a, PO Box 3130, 8021 Zurich, Switzerland Tel: +41 44 368 65 35

Charles Dhewa, Mon 1/27/2014 4:10 AM

Hie Riff and Peter,

Thanks for the feedback & feedforward. Face to face is certainly important in enabling participants take the next step to the next level. Reading all the stuff & connecting online alone could not have nudged me to shatter my limits. There is something magical about meeting people & connecting what they have written to their faces, laughter, etc. This just confirms that although we can invest in making things explicit through producing tools and other products, fundamental knowledge remains at the tacit level. That's where face to face becomes key. Seeing Nancy's drawings online is different from seeing her actually do the drawing (there was a huddle on expressing knowledge through drawing in the Brussels Km4Dev face to face meeting, 2009. I really like it but didn't join it for fear of exposing my poor drawing skills).



Pete Cranston, Mon 1/27/2014 10:14 AM


Apart from being a great read, Charles’ story of his time in KM4Dev triggers in me three things:

  1. That indeed f2f meetings have been essential building blocks for many of us individually but also enriching and connection points for the KM4Dev network. And getting funds to support participants from across the globe remains way at the top of the priority list
  2. The extraordinary tenacity and determination necessary to make the journey through the Development landscape, from working on a project in Southern Africa in 2006 to the Rome HQ of a major UN development agency six years later to 'building from mud’ a growing enterprise back in Zim. And that a chaotic (in a good sense) network like KM4Dev can be a route-map, a way-station or 'friendly cave', a source of energy (and chocolate)…. and so on.
  3. I think that Charles’ account of the Local (Endogenous) Content project we worked on together links to me with John Akude’s comments on the resilience of the ‘Development pedestal’. I enjoyed Ian Thorpe’s comments (19th December in the Landscapes conversation) on how he sees development is changing, and the "new roles (that) will rely a lot on organizations (and individuals) developing skills in knowledge exchange, brokering, facilitation, partnership building etc. in a flatter way”. It’s the ‘flatter way’, we need, since those kind of skills are what fuels knowledge exchange at community level, and always have done, as Achebe described so well - but that takes us to power, which is a whole other discussion. Perhaps for late Feb, John, when your own reflection on advocacy & KM4Dev is shared with the network.



Tamara Walker, Mon 1/27/2014 10:31 AM

Inspired by John Akude's pedestal comment. If you are in Johannesburg in March, let's f2f.


Jaap Pels, Mon 1/27/2014 10:32 AM

Hi All,

F2F is why I want the KM4Dev community to go local. Local F2F KM4Dev meetings must be financed by the community; perhaps video reporting to all KM4Dev-ers around the globe. Also smell is important for trust-building and landscape journeying :-) :-) Cheers, Jaap

John David Smith, Mon 1/27/2014 10:32 AM

Building on that, doesn’t “the flatter way” require us to look over each other’s shoulders when we borrow, appropriate or absorb stuff from KM4Dev? I think that happens more or less automatically when a group is pulling together to produce a face-to-face event (or to participate in one). But for the daily exchanges on email, it seems to me that it asks us to talk about how we put stuff to work.

Building an entire organization like Charles did is pretty cool, but everyday application of incremental insights might be even more important.

My example today is a little back-channel coaching from Davide Piga about how to be more thorough in using a Wiki Category on the pages that I’ve gathered for the IFAD synthesis project I’ve been working on: I started slapping a category tag on all the pages, fearing that I would lose track. Davide pointed out the importance of providing additional context so that other people could understand what the category was for and how pages were connected. I haven’t used that in another job as a consultant yet, but I’m certain that I will.

One question I’m mulling is, “how would I put Charles’ story to work?”


John Akude, Tue 1/28/2014 2:39 AM

Dear all,

Thanks Charles (Dhewa) for sharing the story of your encounter with KM4Dev. which is in some ways similar to mine, especially your reflection on the sitting arrangements: I found the arrangements totally novel, therefore refreshing and down-to-earth, while simultaneously promoting creativity. I was also fascinated by the readiness to help which I noticed amongst the members/participants. This is particularly striking to me, coming from the academia where knowledge is rather hoarded and patented than shared. All these gave me the feeling of being assimilated in a family than just attending a conference. Meeting the husbands of Nancy and Lucie as well as Philipp's wife strengthened this feeling.

@ Pete: I am always ready to deepen discussions on issues already raised and would be glad to do so as soon as my contribution is shared on the network. @Tamara: Dunno if I would be in SA early this year, keep u posted; we could equally f2f whenever you happen to be in Central Europe. However,I hope these issues would be discussed in the conference/workshop that I am planning for summer this year, another good opportunity to f2f.

cheers, John

Dr. John Emeka Akude 
Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter / Senior Researcher 
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik 
Management Department / Abteilung Geschäftführung 
Tulpenfeld 6 
D-53113 Bonn 
Tel: +49-228-94927-288 
Fax: +49-228-94927-130

Peter J. Bury, Tue 1/28/2014 3:22 AM


That smell is important is without doubt! Can you clarify though what exactly you mean by "Local F2F KM4Dev meetings must be financed by the community"? Who is the community here? The local KM4Dev group I presume? If you mean the overall KM4Dev community, you would have to specify which costs and from what type of sources/resources the global KM4Dev community would do this and what would be the requirements / pre-conditions to qualify for such funding. Anyway I suppose that you mean co-funding or sponsoring rather than funding in full. Most local KM4Dev communities I know about (Ouagadougou, Rome, The Hague, ...?) have never asked any global KM4Dev support to my knowledge. This raises another question: are you thinking of local KM4Dev communities that organize local activities and events, or are you in fact thinking in terms of local KM4Dev communities organizing more ambitious (and costly) regional (as in wider than local) events?

Peter J. Bury aka @profbury in Italy and on Google+ about me

Peter J. Bury, Tue 1/28/2014 3:25 AM

Pete / John

Not sure I fully get what you refer to as "the flatter way", flattering sounds good and stimulating, but shouldn't impede constructive criticism or comparing different ideas, right? As for John's question about "looking over each other's shoulders" in particular when "we borrow, appropriate or absorb stuff from KM4Dev", I wonder if that fits with what we have been doing so far. As far as I know KM4Dev has always used a fairly open approach. Borrowing is always allowed, no over the shoulder looking required, even though probably very appreciated! Appropriation in the sense of robbing would certainly not fit our creative commons thinking. As for absorbing that seems to me the quintessence of being part of KM4Dev: exchange, learn, adjust, use and absorb, also this would not require but often appreciate over the shoulder looking. KM4Dev has always encouraged documenting and sharing, look at how much has been put on our wiki over the years. So yes we ask, but we cannot and should not enforce. The example by John of benefiting from others within KM4Dev is great and indeed we, the animateurs, should at regular intervals encourage (again and again) those on KM4Dev to do the same. And, by the way, many do!

What we could promote maybe more is the formation of (temporary) working groups around a topic of common interest. For instance what John just learned from Davide on a more effective use of wiki and tagging there, I would love to learn and apply myself :-)

As for "how do I put Charles' story to work", I believe that is up to each one of us individually or in whatever group we are active and depends a lot on in what context we happen work when we read the story or later on remember the story. But... maybe Charles has some good suggestions?


Peter J. Bury 
aka @profbury
in Italy and on Google+ 
about me

Jaap Pels, Tue 1/28/2014 5:13 AM

Hello Peter,

Thank you for asking this question.

The answer is as follow:

  • Yes, I think we need to localize the KM4Dev community seeking the local KM 4 development uniqueness not the common denominator.

PS Let us start with cities for economic reasons (scale / budget).

  • Yes, I think we need the KM4Dev.INC to process money & information to make the local KM F2F meetings possible.
  • Yes, I see local F2F KM4Dev gatherings as hubs for information to flow to - and networks to weave within the global KM4Dev.ORG audience.
  • Yes, I think a KM4Dev.NET (Coregroup / CoregroupS) should 'manage' the KM4Dev network


Grtz, Jaap

Carl Jackson, Tue 1/28/2014 12:07 PM

This is a rich conversation that I've really enjoyed reading into just now. The early steps in my pathway of involvement in KM4Dev share many of those characteristics of curiosity and uncertainty transforming into trust and confidence among peers and with tools and processes that I would have never have found had I not consciously stepped into the space held open so generously by the KM4Dev community. Over a decade ago now that transformation helped to shape the outline of a professional identity that I've been filling out, amending and reflecting on with and through the learning journeys that play out across this email list, the events, the journal and the web of relationships they create and are created by.

Reflecting again today it strikes me that there are now at least two other aspects to my involvement that are increasingly important to me. First is the strong feeling that I want the community to be around in another ten year's time. With the still increasing scale of mainstream activities, roles, goals, projects and indicators that relate to knowledge management (learning and change) in international development its important for the quality and impact of aid that a reflective community of practitioners engaged in this work but independent from any one organisation exists. That's why I'm still involved in the Core Group of KM4Dev and things like the Journal rather more than the email list itself. The second is that I'd be happier to see more and more self-organised face to face city groups that can scale out the kind of socialisation that others have experienced at KM4Dev global and regional events. I'm not sure that everyone feels they have the right to just go ahead and invite members to meet up in their city location (whether permanent or temporary) to talk KM4Dev. I assumed I did and did it a few times. It was fun and I think I'll do it again next time I'm jaunting through your town :)

Johannes Schunter, Thu 1/30/2014 3:54 PM

Hi Riff,

just to reply to your question whether the KM4Dev f2f events still matter. I strongly feel they do, at least to me. I try to be at a f2f event at least every other year, and I always experience them as a means to deepen (or at least sustain) the existing relationships, and make new ones. Every person I had a handshake with in real life will add four times the value for me in an online conversation. Not saying online is not important, but the f2f event provide the springboard which determines how high the online exchanges can jump. :)


Tina Hetzels, Thu 1/30/2014 10:14 PM

Hey all, its always great getting to know people who share same interests. for me the question is different. I am not sure what is my question.

I try it:

in many regions its not that easy to find people (worse a group) working in the approach. Many are following an "information approach", or even "web -2.0".

To get further (in my broader environment) it would be very important to help students and universities to widen "comunication studies" or other disciplines with "KM4Dev", to have in some years more people working with the concept (or at least trying to work with it). More people working on it, it could be possible to promote f2f. so the question would be: how to achieve that there are more people? and I am not speaking about people working in international development cooperation. I am thinking about communication people in ministries etc.

Many KM4Dev initiatives I know generate "KM4Dev" for international institutions to position them. That the big ones become bigger.

There is few (I know) to help that the approach enters in local academic systems.