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Return on Investment

Published on: 28/09/2011

How to measure the impacts of knowledge sharing? Are the platforms and processes we use for learning and knowledge sharing leading to change? To better ways of working? How can we demonstrate the Return on Investment of Knowledge Management?

These are some of the questions that have been running through my mind as I attend the 2nd Knowledge Sharefair in Rome. For me, there are lots of things to ponder and digest. Here are some of my first reflections- seeds, I think may grow into answers. As Etienne Wenger pointed out on the first day of the Sharfair, all too often, we focus on the tools of knowledge management , the operational level, when knowledge management needs to be a means to an end: helping individuals and  organizations excel. Rob Burnet, leader of a Kenyan communications company called Well Told Story gave an inspiring KeyNote speech about making research matter to the poor. Well Told Story uses text messaging, social media, video animation, comic books and daily radio programmes on Shujaaz FM to get research results into people's lives.

If we want to put research into use and affect change at scale, the key issue is finding ways to communicate research in ways that appeal and actually reach the people who need it most. Well Told Story started by finding out what their audience, young Africans, want to know and what interests them most. Their approach is changing the way young people think and act. Starting from the demand for knowledge helps us tap into a powerful change momentum. As Rob says: "Ideas can't be pushed at scale. If they are going to catch on they must be pulled. Then they have instant momentum of their own". This idea of tapping into a drive for change resonates with a point made by Etienne Wenger: Communities of Practice (CoP) can become vehicles to develop  strategic capabilities within an organization (or organizations, in the case of cross- organisational CoPs). Starting from the question What do we need to excel in? organizations can then work to create spaces for people to engage and develop the capacities that are needed to achieve that vision.

Knowledge sharing and knowledge management have a central role in helping us to learn, individually and jointly. But, for change to happen will require ownership of the change agenda, personal commitment by those involved, trust and dialogue. 

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