Talk:You and KM4Dev: Reflections on the past, present and future

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Jasmin Suministrado, 2014/02/03

Hello KM4Dev,

As John mentioned, we are now moving to our next topic of the focused conversation related to shaping the KM4Dev future. From the story of Charles, and the insights shared by those who joined the first conversation (thanks very much!), we move more into some concrete experiences of KM4Dev members. 'Melissa Bator interviewed some members of the community (some veterans and some new, and some more involved than others) and asked them a few questions' as follows:

  • Can you break down for me how much attention you pay to KM4Dev in a typical month? For example, how often do you check the Ning Site, read Dgroups posts, etc?
  • What are one or two of the main benefits you gain from participating in this way?
  • What is KM4Dev to you?
  • Thinking ahead (1-2 years), how do you see yourself participating in the future? Similarly/Differently? More/Less?
  • If you were to imagine what a budget for KM4Dev looks like, what (if any) are the expenses incurred? What do you think requires funding? Do you have any suggestions for funding?
  • What are your thoughts on the administration or leadership structure of KM4Dev? Do you think the Core Group model works well? Are there other alternatives that you would like to see tried?

You can check out answers of the interviewees in the wiki:

But now I turn to Melissa and then to all you readers of this email. 'Let's focus first on the meaning of the community to its members' (2nd and 3rd bullets above).

Melissa, what to you were the most striking insights about what KM4Dev is to your interviewees and what benefits they derive from their engagement? To community members, what about in your individual case? 'What is KM4Dev to you?' Let us know how similar or different your experience is to what Melissa discovered from her interviews.



Melissa Bator, 2/4/2014 1:10 pm

It was interesting to hear from those I interviewed about the specific practices they do or do not have around their participation in KM4Dev. Members who have been around the network seem to have developed best practices around how to manage their interaction with KM4Dev, including things like reading messages from Dgroups and keeping their profile up to date on Ning. Newer members did not have such developed routines, and they were working on developing one.

Each member I interviewed was able to tell me the main benefits they received through their participation. Some of the benefits mentioned include, knowing who's who among professionals working in KM for Development, continuously learning from peers, developing a professional identity, ability to participate in rich conversations about KM4Dev, and expansion of professional network.

Taken together, I found it most interesting to hear that no one person experienced KM4Dev in the same way. Each member came to the network through different means and with different needs, and each member managed his/her participation experience to different degrees.

So, I turn it over to the general membership and repeat Jasmin's question:

"To community members, what about in your individual case? What is KM4Dev to you? Let us know how similar or different your experience is to what [I] discovered from [my] interviews."

Best, Melissa

Riff Fullan, 2/4/2014 4:40 pm

Hi Melissa, Jasmin, all,

Yes, even the relatively small number of reflections from the KM4Devers interviewed show a great diversity of approach, meaning, engagement. For me, the diversity within KM4Dev is a major feature of the past five years or so: explosive growth, some fragmentation, different spaces and combinations of people bringing new and interesting threads, etc.

Having been on the periphery of KM4Dev in its early years and then gotten more involved since around 2006, and then moving back towards the periphery, I can say that I’m less confident to talk or think about KM4Dev in a singular way, but rather think of KM4Dev as more of a ‘they’ (the main dgroup, SA-GE, Ning, local KM4Devs, etc. etc). I am very far from understanding what this actually means, but the chewing over of interesting topics is still a constant thing in the life of KM4Dev, which is good.

I believe the reduced frequency of the face-to-face events recently (until Seattle), and my reduced ability to participate in the online dialogues has distanced me a bit too much. I think I need a f2f to get myself ‘back in the groove’, and to reconnect with a new set of people (and hopefully many of the old) who somehow help to create a sense of what KM4Dev is about.

To be more clear: I still find myself learning and reading about interesting things in areas of strong interest for me, but I need an injection of that special energy that I have always found in the f2f events.

Looking forward to the next opportunity!

Cheers, riff

John Smith, 2/5/2014 8:43 pm

Yesterday I deleted this message from my in-box, thinking, “I don’t have anything to say at the moment.” But then later on I thought about it. KM4Dev means a lot of different things to me. This may be way too small, too low-level illustration, but it does reflect how I participate in KM4Dev. It’s pretty geeky:

I use Microsoft Outlook for email. I set up a rule that makes a copy of every KM4Dev message and copies it to a separate folder. I don’t delete messages from that folder. In the course of the day, as I sort and read email, I delete the original message in my in-box if I’m not interested or don’t think I’ll have time to dig in. Sometimes I’ll flag a message as “important, be sure to read carefully, when you get a chance.” Of course sometimes I’ve responded right away.

My point: because participating in KM4Dev has to fit around other work, I need a safety net so that I can delete on the spur of the moment but go back to the copy folder and read or respond more carefully if I change my mind or suddenly have an extra minute. For me the copy folder is that safety net that supports the spectrum of my attention, which ranges from “Oh, more on that topic – [delete] ” to “That’s totally fascinating!” to “Gee, that’s has turned out to be really interesting after all!”


Jaap Pels, 2/6/2014 1:28 am

Hi All,

I remember Lucie and me being in a sort of competition somewhere in 2002 / 3. On the KM4Dev site there was a counter about the number of contributed documents on KM.

That's I guess how I navigated myself into the KM4Dev space (Ohhh! Nice word 'KM4Dev space').

Cheers, Jaap

PS Feel free to edit:

Jasmin Suministrado, 2/6/2014 3:56 pm

It seems that there are really many facets of KM4Dev, and different people get attracted to a particular facet based on what they need, and what they can offer. Riff pointed out the learning aspect given the interesting topics and discussions, and the importance of re-energizing via face to face meetings (which came out also in the previous focused conversation, and with which I agree completely). John hints at having different meanings / benefits of KM4Dev discussions, and thanks Jaap for sharing this unique kind of participation — sharing resources on KM which I suppose gives Jaap great pleasure.

Are there other meanings of KM4Dev? Melissa found the following:

- knowing who's who among professionals working in KM for Development - continuously learning from peers - developing a professional identity - ability to participate in rich conversations about KM4Dev - expansion of professional network.

Which one of these resonate very much with you? Which do you think is the most important? Or is there something we're missing here (a bit like Jaap's resource sharing)?

I can share about a community that I set up some years back mainly for the purpose of cross-organization sharing of good practices and defining of next practices. When we did an evaluation of the community, an interesting feedback we got was that the community provided them with the moral/peer support to push for some new practices to be adopted within their organizations (note that community members are from other orgs). It was a pleasant surprise; a good benefit that we didn't really expect when we set up the community. What's your experience with KM4Dev? How have you benefited from it?


Charles Dhewa, 2/6/2014 5:43 pm

One of the most fantastic things KM4Dev has done for me is demystifying big organisations like the World Bank and the UNDP. Staff working for the World Bank & UNDP at local levels (Zimbabwe) used to have an air of self-importance. Now when I mention names of their colleagues who work at their Head Offices and are part of KM4Dev with me, they look at me with an ...aahaa.a look.

What an interesting way of surmounting institutional barriers!



Martina Hetzel, 2/6/2014 5:54 pm

Hey all,

I began to step in KM4Dev "acompañado por" 2 thoughts:

First its a very, very difficult topic, The current practice I knew in dev. projects (looking at all levels, different actors, different institutions nationals, internationals) isnt made to learn througout system. Very difficult institutional cultures, leadership understanding, negative global development... So I thought: or I look for another topic to work on or I look for people fascinated as well for the topic to get energy and ideas and to share thoughts (KM4Dev is THE key to more impact, who doesnt see it, didnt understand the topic).

Second, I decided to ignore the language gap. In some way the maillist is an english training for me :-)

I have never been to f2f. I use the maillist. I learn a lot (putting questions is also already a learning step: what is my question? Even if I am reading responses and feel "no, thats not my point", its good to get clearer what is my point). I use the knowledge in multiple ways in concrete work with people in Latinamerica (actually I would like to suggest a dev program to use social reporting next year, inspired by DEZA-Cosude, I use a lot of Jaaps & other comments about web2). Future: depends if there are still KM4Dev jobs. In general: help local movements, local people using KM4D to reach their objectives.

I miss that I dont know how to link easily this rich community to the spanish speaking interested people. Solution in this topic is not that easy.


Melissa Bator, 2/13/2014 1:19 am

Hi Everyone-

I just wanted to jump in and give some of my impressions from the posts that people have contributed following Jasmin's prompting. If you don't want to read my thoughts below and you just want to skip to the questions I ask, I have pasted my questions from below here: 1. Are there any other brave souls out there who can share how they use this list even though English is not their first language? 2."Are there other ways of participating that I miss through the three general categories of affiliation, resource, and coordination contribution? Do you find that your level of intensity when participating varies? Why?"

Tina brings up two important issues, finding the "right" community of professionals online to learn from and with when your own organization does not provide the learning context you crave and language barriers. As a researcher language barriers constrain what research I read to assist me in my own work. I do not incorporate research published in a language other than English because I cannot read it. Even if that research is good and it could really help me, I likely do not know about it. However, it appears that Tina has enough knowledge of the English language that she recognized that this group of professionals could help her in her own professional development. How do professionals become a part of rich conversations that could benefit their own professional development that are not in their language? Tina's approach is to jump in and consider the entire experience a learning experience. This takes a lot of guts on Tina's part and an inclusive, sensitive community. From this, we all benefit from the addition of a different perspective to our online conversations. Still, Tina wonders how she could create a link between this fruitful, English-speaking, group and interested Spanish speakers. Are there any other brave souls out there who can share how they use this list even though English is not their first language?

Charles mentions the power of knowing who's who in the professional world, especially when dealing with large institutions, such as the World Bank. His own use of KM4Dev has enabled him to create professional connections with people in the network, which has opened doors in his professional work by making him part of an "inner circle" of people whose similar affiliations across organizations can signal a sense of trust when there is no physical relationship in place.

In my own work, I have found that there are three general ways members may participate in professional virtual communities, such as KM4Dev. A person can simply become affiliated with the group by registering as a member. This enables a person to create a profile and gives them the tools to respond to others. When a person chooses to use those tools and actually interact with other members of the group by asking questions, answering others' queries, posting a job opportunity, etc., they are providing a resource contribution to the group. Finally, members may choose to assist in the actual coordination and administration of the group. These are the members who take on mini projects, assist in the development of group goals (e.g., terms of reference), help to keep the technical infrastructure in tact, moderate the listserv, etc. Members may participate in these ways in different combinations (e.g., resource contribution and coordination contribution during the same month) with different levels of intensity and they may change how they participate over time.

What do you think? Are there other ways of participating that I miss through the three general categories of affiliation, resource, and coordination contribution? Do you find that your level of intensity when participating varies? Why?

Thank you to everyone who has offered their thoughts.


Carl Jackson, 2/13/2014 1:53 pm

On your question of general ways that members may participate in professional virtual communities I would also suggest that identifying and recruiting new members to the community is an important way of participating. This can be useful to the person doing the identification and recruitment in a few ways. If the new members come from the organisation they belong too it can have a direct benefit in terms of influencing the behaviour and capacity of that organisation towards a better understanding and use of knowledge management for development. More widely, wherever the new members come from it can have an indirect benefit in terms of helping to sustain and extend the vitality of the professional virtual community.

Jaap Pels, 2/13/2014 4:08 pm

Hi Carl,

Indeed connecting to (potential) new network members is important; who ever can 'sell KM4Dev' understands it! Connecting new member is a sort of IT-mediated-cerebral-insourcing and the lean-and-mean approach fails here fortunately. The more the merrier.

Best, Jaap

Pete Cranston, 2/13/2014 6:45 pm


I think there’s something else between resource and coordination, which is something to do with 'learning through discussion'. Contributing, I find, makes me gather my thoughts (KM4Dev is quite a bracing network, sometimes), and I almost never write the first words that come into my head. I think about the issue, even for a minute or two, then I draft a reply, then I (normally) proof and edit. And the questions and contributions take my thinking in new directions, enable me to make new connections,,,and so on. So it’s more selfish than resource - it’s for me. It’s using KM4Dev to help me learn

Cheers Pete

Jasmin Suministrado, 2/14/2014 2:30 pm

Thanks Charles, Tina, Carl, Pete and Melissa. Interesting sharing. I like the "overcoming institutional barriers" point you made Charles. And Tina, you mentioned about linking the community to the spanish speaking world. One of the upcoming focused conversations (scheduled for March 28) will touch on that, and will talk about SEWA, supposedly the spanish-speaking group of KM4Dev. I'm sure you will find that discussion interesting.

Indeed members and their participation (and what they derive from such participation) "make" the community. But the other aspect that impacts on the community's success is the "way" it is run and how such community leadership is structured. This is the last aspect that Melissa inquired about during her interviews.

KM4Dev's administration/leadership is mainly done by and via a "Core Group". You may not be aware of it, but you all have interacted with the Core Group at least once in your KM4Dev life (in the simplest function, they approved your membership to the community, and they also approve the messages you post!). Some of you might have more interaction than others like in organizing face to face events and carrying out other KM4Dev activities.

Based on what you know of this leadership structure, do you think it works well, or do you have alternative suggestions of how the structure should be (maybe from what you've seen in other communities/networks)? Are there aspects that the leadership should focus more (or less) of in stirring the community?

We'd like to get your opinion as this is a critical piece of what KM4Dev's future will be like. So let us know your thoughts! Regardless if you think it's "big" or "small"!


John Emeka Akude, 2/17/2014 2:19 pm

Dear Jasmin, dear all,

Unfortunately, I don't think I know enough of the leadership structure of KM4Dev to make suggestions for improvement. The leadership appears kind of hidden and sequestered from group activities. New members are left to grop in the dark about the leadership structure and philosophy, talkless of persons involved. I may be wrong but this is how it appears. However, unmasking the leadership by saying who is responsible for what and for how long as well as making their contact details available to members could go a long way in bridging the gap between the leadership and the membership.

cheers, John

Dr. John Emeka Akude