IFAD’s knowledge management efforts in East and Southern Africa bear fruits and add value to rural development activities

The third IFADAfrica knowledge management learning workshop kicked off on 20 June 2011 in a sunny and relatively chilly Lusaka.

The event brings together 60 participants from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

I had had the privilege and honour of attending the startup workshop of IFADAfrica two years ago and I must say, I was delighted to see the progress made by my East and Southern Africa colleagues in mainstreaming knowledge management (KM) in their activities.

What struck me most, was the fact that some countries had managed to work with ministries, to build KM capacity at ministerial level. s a result, today government representatives were in a better position to understand and appreciate the value of knowledge management. This has resulted in reducing redundancies, improving the flow of information and increasing efficiencies.

As a KM practitioner, I get excited when I see how KM activities have led to influencing policy. This morning, listening to my Zambian colleagues how thanks to their KM efforts, they had managed to influence the development of the national rural finance, put a smile on my lips. They had done a knowledge audit and used the results to inform government which then developed the national rural finance strategy.

During the last two days, participants shared how they had mainstreamed KM in their activities. There was general consensus that when knowledge management is embedded within the project, that is when it has the biggest impact.

It was refreshing to hear that there was a general understanding on the importance of KM being a common thread throughout the entire project cycle: starting with project design, through out project implementation to instill a culture of knowledge sharing and learning, to continuously and systematically capture and share the learning and lessons.

This is why, East and Southern Africa colleagues are now increasingly including knowledge management in the design of new projects and programmes. I guess we can call these projects rural development 2.0 projects!

East and Southern Africa knowledge management evolving framework

One of the objectives of the KM activities in East and Southern Africa is to make sure that government and project staff, stakeholders and partners understand and appreciate what is a knowledge management and learning system. This has lead to an interesting evolving KM framework, which at its heart focuses on learning and adapting to continuously improve and increase the impact of IFAD-funded projects and programmes.
What this framework does, is to link and create cross linkages between learning adaptation, information management, communication and innovation.

This is why they’re putting in place sound information management mechanisms to capture, document and store information. They’re adopting learning oriented monitoring and evaluation and as a result they should be able to continuously analyze information, assess progress and adapt.

Another key component of the framework is communication, which ranges from systematic sharing of information, communication within and among teams, instilling a culture of giving and receiving feedback, to communicating with stakeholders, packaging content in a compelling manner for advocacy purposes and increasing IFAD visibility.

One of the objectives of KM is to innovate, scale-up and bring about change and transformation. Thus, the need to instill a culture of appreciation for new ideas, culture of sourcing new ideas and creating the right environment to experiment with new ideas.

The ESA KM framework has adopted simple principles such as building capacity of project staff, instilling a learning and sharing culture, continuously improving processes, promoting south-south/exchange visits. To the maximum extent possible they are trying to use existing structure and avoid reinventing the wheel. And in the words of Dick Siame, IFAD country presence officer, “making sure government warms up and buys in to the KM agenda”.

As I am writing this blogpost colleagues are discussing the importance of collaboration, breaking the silos, and linkages between knowledge management and monitoring and evaluation.

We’re reporting live from the workshop on Twitter. Follow #esakm. Have look at the pictures from the event on Facebook and please share your comments and views on this blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. For IFAD colleagues at HQ, post your comments and feedback on Yammer.

Looking forward to hearing from you.