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KM4Dev: after-hours online forum

Sarah Cummings

What is KM4Dev, and how does it work? Sarah Cummings explains how it came to life and what makes the KM4Dev community tick.

KM4Dev is an established community of practice (CoP) for development practitioners, policymakers and researdiers engaged in knowledge management (KM) and knowledge sharing (KS). The community has one main mailing list on the KM4Dev-l Dgroup but also has 55 sub-groups. Taking these together, it has more than 4,000 members. The sub-groups focus on specific themes, e.g. social media, community radio and on specific cities or countries such as a KM4Dev for Nigeria, Addis Ababa/Ethiopia and Nairobi.

The origins: a brief history

The community traces its origins back to two face-to-face workshops dated in 2000. Workshop participants wanted to continue discussions among themselves after the workshop, and asked the Bellanet Alliance (an international network of organisations working to foster global and regional collaboration through a more effective use of ICTs) and the International Development Research Centre to create an electronic forum where this could take place.

The KM4Dev mailing list and website came into life in the summer of 2000. A volunteer core group was created in May 2004 to further support the community and help respond to its needs. Currently, the core group consists of 15 community members. Along the years, the KM4Dev community has been sustained and steered on a volunteer basis, receiving ad-hoc financial support from several development organisations such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and IFAD.

The evolution of a community

As a community, KM4Dev has evolved following these supporting principles:

  • open and interactive;
  • supporting and encouraging a mix of individuals coming from all over the world and from different organisations; and
  • international development as a basis to further explore KM/KS issues and approaches.

Current working groups and projects include:

FAQ renewal working group:

This project seeks to renew die existing website FAQ. The project is working to review historical forum debates and contributions from the last five years, and synthesise this information into richer knowledge to inform practitioners, project staff, researchers and policymakers of die value of die KM4Dev approach.

Toolkit project: The toolkit project aims to design, implement, evaluate and facditate a collaborative initiative to create a space widiin the KM4Dev community diat allows and encourages development practitioners to share experiences with die use of KS tools and methods, learn about new tools, and use resources and materials for training purposes. The project’s objective is to combine efforts of interested development organisations in order to deepen die knowledge on die use of KS tools and approaches

Stories4dev proposal: To extend the reach of the existing ‘Practitioner’s Story Guide’, the KM4Dev core group are inviting members of the community to join as partners in this multi-actor endeavour. The final goal is the creation of a web-based interactive online resource or ‘platform’ for development practitioners, containing downloadable tools, discussion areas, stories and other learning resources.

Among other activities, the KM4Dev community has been organising regular (at least one per year) face-to-face workshops since 2000. These have served to bring together development practitioners to discuss and share their ideas and experiences related to KM.

Linked to the community is die Knowledge Management for Development Journal, which was started in 2005 and is now in its 11th year of publication. Published three times per year, it focuses on practice-based cases, analysis and research concerning the role of knowledge in development processes.

It provides a forum for debate and exchange of ideas among practitioners, policymakers, academics and activists worldwide, and is a peer-reviewed, open access e-joumal.

So how does it work?

Three different types of enquiry are ordinarily posted to the community.

A particular paper or issue may have been raised for discussion. An interesting example was the recent World Bank paper on how infrequently PDF reports on their website are read. This led to a heated debate as to the value of conventional reports as a good knowledge-sharing format.

The resulting discussion was then summarised on the wiki by one of the participants. Another type would be an announcement of an event, a job opportunity or seeking a consultant. The third would be a request for background information on a particular KM tool or approach – a recent example of which is how do you measure how effective an organisation is at establishing links and contacts with others? Or what is good web seminar (webinar) software? The latter resulted in an excellent write-up on the wiki.

So the community practices what it preaches and capitalises on the discussions which lead to wiki write-ups and a reference base but can also result in ideas for articles in the KM4Dev journal or occasionally face2face meetings.

To join the discussion, send a blank email to: join.km4dev-l@dgroups.org. ◀

Testimonials

What members of the Knowledge Management for Development Community (KM4Dev) have to say:

‘I feel so moved by all the positive reactions I received every day since I posted my request. Just as if I have numerous secret hidden friends ready to give a hand! It’s a feeling not easy to express; the kind of strength you sense when you’re not alone and that makes you dare and never afraid of taking new challenges … merci beaucoup.’ Yennenga Kompaoré, Performances, Burkina Faso

‘I’m proud of being part of this collaborative community. Thank you all.’

Marcelo Yamada, Promon Engenharia, Brazil

 

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CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.