Developing capacity for the use of knowledge sharing approaches and techniques?

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Developing capacity for the use of knowledge sharing approaches and techniques?


Many organisations have developed KM strategies[1] and an integral part of many of these strategies is to develop the knowledge sharing (KS) skills of their employees. Development of skills can constitute an incentive offered by the organisation, and therefore intrinsically contains an important component of motivation for staff members. KS skills can be developed through more formal training, or through informal techniques, by means of exchange and support by other members of the organisation or networks. Using KS approaches and techniques often implies a change in people's behaviors; when asking people to share their knowledge, we need to take into account that they may not necessarily have the competencies to do so, but as well look at reinforcing or supporting the skills that are already there.

This FAQ examines both the formal and informal ways of developing capacity for the use of various knowledge sharing techniques, based on the experiences of KM4Dev members and their organisations. There is, of course, no magic solution that applies to all but many of the ways described below have been effective in specific organisational cases. Both formal and informal KS capacity development approaches are highlighted by examples from specific international development applications.


Capacity Development, Knowledge sharing approaches, Capacity building, Training

Detailed Description

Formal KS capacity development

Various methods are used for more formal capacity development. Options include, hiring trainers or facilitators to provide in-house capacity development, sending staff out to training courses or workshops, and providing access to e-learning courses or self-directed learning modules. All of these options are worthwhile, although a mix and match approach can be considered, depending on available time and budget.

Some organisations have provided basic introductory sessions to staff on KM by bringing in well-known KM “experts”, such as Larry Prusak and Tom Davenport. Others have focused more on KS skills development workshops in using specific techniques, such as facilitation (face-to-face and online), peer assists, after-action reviews and storytelling.

The latter are most effective when it is clear to staff that developing these practical skills will support and benefit their daily work, and that improved knowledge or experience sharing will be valuable to both individual and organisation. CGIAR and CIDA are two examples of organisations that developed in-house workshops - with the assistance of external facilitators - in order to develop their staff’s capacity in facilitation techniques and using peer assists and after action reviews. A KM4Dev learning event held at the World Bank in 2004 also sought to develop specific skills in KS competencies (see Examples in Application).

Self-directed knowledge sharing skills development can also complement other formal methods. Several knowledge sharing toolkits have been developed by development organizations, or are in the process of being developed. FAO and its partners are currently creating a fully integrated learning module on building Electronic Communities and Networks. This module will look at the approaches, methods and tools which will help build groups and communities, enhance communication and stimulate active participation (see Links & Web Based Articles).

Informal KS capacity development

Another aspect of capacity development is through “learning by doing”. In order to do that, it is important to recognise the ways that knowledge is being shared already, for example through meetings, seminars, or even informal chats at the coffee machine.

Informal capacity development involves supporting KS skills but not in a didactic way. For example, knowledge fairs or knowledge weeks reinforce knowledge sharing, giving the space for staff to talk about their work and activities and share their experiences and challenges with one another, and in some cases, with external people. SDC, the World Bank and the ILO have all experimented with some type of knowledge fair. At the grassroots level, Latin American groups have done the same (see Examples in Application).

KS capacity can also be developed in meetings or workshops by providing participants with practical experience in using KS techniques (e.g. conducting peer assists and telling stories in a workshop setting). Learning by doing is a very effective ways to gain a better understanding of what KS is all about (see KM4Dev Discussions). People can take what they have learned in workshops and apply it in their own contexts. Four CGIAR centers have used different KS techniques within their annual general meetings, with the explicit goal of building their staff’s KS capacities by "doing" (see Examples in Application).

Similarly, staff capacity can be built though participation in communities of practice or thematic networks. By sharing their experiences in these informal settings, participants learn from each other and can develop common solutions. Mentoring and/or coaching is another way of providing a way of developing knowledge sharing skills and encouraging learning. Mentoring brings together more experienced individuals with younger or less experienced staff.

KM4Dev Discussions

There has been three KM4Dev discussions on this specific topic. KS capacity development was also a top vote-getter in the FAQ survey that was done in December 2005.

The most recent thread has been on KM online courses, specifically related to development. The resources suggested in the thread can be found in the Links & Web Based Articles section of this FAQ. The long and short of it is that there currently isn't such a course available. One participant suggested that the KM4Dev community should think of developing an online action learning course on KM. This idea has sparked interest in a few members and Simone Staiger of CIAT (and the CGIAR KS project) will be leading a discussion on the topic at the July 2006 KM4Dev workshop in Brighton [2]. A wiki was created for the group's purposes (KM in Development Course). One member was concerned that we should be wary of "reinventing the wheel", since there is a lot of material already out there. He also suggested to develop a "blended learning course", i.e. both online and face-to-face, instead of only the former. Lucie created a section on the KM4Dev website where people can post their useful PowerPoint slides [3]. Another contributor noted that in order to have a quality product, you need content experts process experts and format experts (including educational experts).

This lead to a discussion around other learning-oriented consolidated efforts, such as the FAQ, the KM4Dev Journal, and the new Knowledge Expeditions project [4]. The latter seeks to move away from tool-centered learning and more into self-organizing "learning alliances". A member strongly supports such initiatives and would like to see "the proposed KM-course - in a view to building KM competencies - would best valorise these parts of the KM4Dev Journal that present consolidated insights, summaries, compilations, syntheses. This would keep these contributions alive!" He also suggested that "Learning in KM" could as well be conceived in an analogy to a "collegial coaching", driven by the needs of someone. For e.g., instead of collecting (and compiling) asynchronous contributions, we could hold a teleconference or a chat and members of the community could subscribe and attend.

But one person feels that "KM training does pose some potential problems, or at least confusions" because we are discussing both training development practitioners, as well as the training of ourselves "the KM specialist". He thinks that "the key to mainstreaming KM practices and approaches will be to integrate KM into the work, process and mindset of development professionals. This in fact may NOT lead to many specific KM courses - except for folk like the members of this list". He feels that KM tools and practices (such as COPs, AARs and peer to peer exchanges) should be gently integrated into the way work gets done, without calling attention to the "KM lingo". He also argues that providing training may be necessary but is hardly sufficient. He believes that other actions (e.g. policy, regulatory, human resources) are often needed to provide an "enabling environment" to make these approaches acceptable to the larger community.

One member of the community enquired about KM training or certification programs back in 2004 and one academic institution had been suggested, but the member found the $8000 price tag a bit high. Another participant argued that in order to make KM capacity building sustainable - especially in developing countries - there should be subsidies available and that organizations should be the ones footing the bills, not indididuals, as is often the case.

In 2002, a KM4Dev member was asking for ideas in developing an internal workshop, which aimed at building KM and communications skills of participants through the sharing of their own knowledge, skills and experience. Suggestions included using KS techniques such as storytelling/narrative ("which is how most important communication actually happens in organisations and elsewhere") and peer assists within the workshop structure helps participants to understand the value of KM while doing it.

Examples in Application

  • CIDA's Knowledge Management Secretariat developed a learning package on collaboration and knowledge sharing for all CIDA staff. Part of this package was a manual containing their ten favourite techniques for better knowledge sharing (aka, the CIDA Toolkit), workshops on using peer assist and after action review (co-organised with Nancy Dixon and Bellanet) and a story telling workshop with Steve Denning.
  • CGIAR’s KS project (in collaboration with Bellanet) developed an approach that involved incorporating KS principles and techniques into important center events. The idea is that by creating opportunities for center management and staff to experiment with these KS techniques, the project can demonstrate their value as means of facilitating organisational change and research collaboration. The project worked through four pilot initiatives, carried out at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The project also carried out complementary activities, including a training course in facilitation skills (in collaboration with CGIAR’s Institutional Learning and Change Initiative) and the development of an online KS tool kit.
  • SDC organized a "Dare to Share Fair" on its premises in Berne on March 30 and 31, 2004. Around 200 SDC staff and partners from more than 30 countries came together to share the ways they learn from experience. The SDC building was transformed into a colorful market place. Market stalls, workshops and short presentations provided ideal opportunities for lively discussions and getting to know each other. The event’s theme was managing knowledge and skills for development and underlined the fact that learning from experience is a must – and should be a daily routine.
  • One member, Sebastiao Ferreira, has been training facilitators for "social learning experiences" and to help groups and organizations make their knowledge explicit. In 2004, as part of a Knowledge Fair for Latin American groups, he organized brief training sessions with development professionals, sent them off "to practice", and then offered them support in tackling their practical problems. The Seminar part of the Fair looks at the challenges of supporting social learning initiatives: methodological and cognitive, networking, experience management, advocacy, recognition, funding, etc. "Over the course of 3 days, 46 people were trained. Now they are identifying group and learning experiences, and I'll deliver a second workshop to them, more focused on expressing knowledge and in searching for partners in constructing learning networks", saya Sebastiao. A second Knowledge Fair is being organized for a group in El Salvador in October 2006.
  • The Center for Reflective Community Practice of MIT in Boston has been training facilitators using a reflective methodology for helping groups to retrieve their knowledge (see article in KM4D Journal, Vol.1, No.3) They are currently evaluating their experience and will have elements of a model by the end of 2006.

Related FAQs

Developing a KM strategy

Creating a KS culture

KM in Development Course

Further Information

Some key contacts on developing KS capacity:

  • Steph Colton
  • Steve Denning
  • Urs Egger
  • Sebastiao Ferreira
  • Manuel Flury
  • Allison Hewlitt
  • Erik Johnson
  • Lucie Lamoureux
  • Geoff Parcell
  • Tony Prior
  • John D. Smith
  • Simone Staiger
  • Marc Steinlin
  • Nancy White

Links & Web Based Articles:


Comparison of 5-day KM courses (from Erik Johnson) [5]

e-Knowledge Center online KM courses [6]

ICASIT "KM Degree Programs" resources [7]

KM4Dev KS workshops [8]

TNU (The Network University) online KM course [9]


CGIAR knowledge sharing toolbox [10]

CIDA knowledge sharing toolkit [11]

itrain online "Building Online Communities" resources [12]

IMARK Building Electronic Communities and Networks module [13]

ODI toolkit [14]

Sebastiao Ferreira's KM bibliography (only in Spanish)[15]

Knowledge Network Resources


KM4D Journal article on the ILO Knowledge Fair [16]

Knowledge Sharing Solutions for a CGIAR Without Boundaries (KS project report) [17]

SDC's "Dare to Share Fair" [18]

Original Author and Subsequent Contributors of this FAQ

Lucie Lamoureux

Dates of First Creation and Further Revisions

  • February 15, 2006
  • May 24, 2006
  • May 30, 2006
  • June 27, 2006

FAQ KM4Dev Source Materials

Raw text of email discussions on which the FAQ is based [19]