This blog post is a part of a presentation I gave at the 76th World Library and Information Congress. In the presentation, I explained why we should embrace KM initiatives, how we should do this, and how a global KM initiative has successfully been implemented.
After mentioning in the previous weblog post that there are two incentives in global development aid why they should embrace global KM initiatives and in the other weblog post about how institutes, NGOs and many more of these clubs should roll-out a global KM initiative, I will now show you an example of global knowledge sharing initiative in the field of global development cooperation.
The Focuss.Info Initiative
The Focuss.Info Initiative is a cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural community in the field of global development cooperation who are collaborating on sharing knowledge.
Cross-disciplinary because everybody who is a part of this platform are somehow involved in global development cooperation, but each of them have specialised him or herself in a different topic in this domain. Focuss includes - for example - researchers in food security, individual practitioners in women empowerment or students in climate change issues.
Cross-cultural because the people who are targeted by and involved in the Focuss Initiative are from the whole world. From Europe to Africa, to Asia, to North America. From Bolivia, to Nepal, to Zimbabwe, to the United Kingdom. From Nyanza in Kenya, to Götaland in Sweden, to Sabah in Malaysia.
So, the Focuss Initiative is trying to impact a global discipline through local engagement.Focuss aims at enhancing the exchange of information and knowledge between the Global North and Global South, and improve the access to this information and knowledge.
Let me illustrate this by showing a screenshot of one of the pages on Focuss. On first sight it looks like a regular search engine. But appearance deceives. It is more than only a Google type of search engine because this search engine is only indexing the qualityselected websites on the Internet. As a result, the search results consists of hand-picked resources from not only librarians, but also students, researchers and individual practitioners from the Global North and South.
This generates added value to global development cooperation, because local resources are becoming more visible. Google - for example - let’s us search through all the resources it can index on the Internet. And this is quite something, because in 2008 Google announced on their weblog that - at that time - it had indexed 1 trillion unique URLs (1.000.000.000.000). You can imagine what kind of noise it generates when searching for domain specific topics.
But how does Focuss indexes the quality-selected websites of all these peers? This all has to do with the first ability that people should possess in network-based work environments: structural knowledge.
Social bookmarking as structural knowledge
Focuss encourages peers to start using social bookmarking. The main reason why peers should start with social bookmarking is not that they should do it for the benefits of Focuss. Focuss encourages peers to start with social bookmarking as a way to work more efficient for themselves, because if peers are social bookmarking, they can then always access their favorite websites, as long as they have a computer connected to the Internet.
Focuss also encourages social bookmarking because this information sharing and collaboration tool makes it possible to work more effectively in the domain of global development cooperation because personal knowledge can be fed into collective knowledge base. And Focuss is becoming such a collective knowledge base, because by indexing the social bookmark accounts of peers, it is making the hand-picked resources accessible, and therefore enhance the exchange of information and knowledge. This is the reason why the Focuss Initiative passes on structural knowledge regarding social bookmarking to its peers.
Local empowerment as cultural knowledge
As the Focuss.Info Initiative is promoting the usage of social bookmarking on a global level, it cannot induce every individual - from Sweden to Nepal to Botswana to Bolivia - exactly the same way. Cultures and the conditions under which peers share knowledge are very different from each other. But, as mentioned earlier, in order to become successful in a global KM initiative, we should promote a real and transparent culture in which peers from all over the world are willing to share their domain specific knowledge.
Saving your favourite websites, your knowledge of valuable resources, on the Internet, can give an uncomfortable feeling, because knowledge was seen as power and as your competitive advantage. This way of thinking and working does not fit when using social bookmarking, and therefore individuals should change its culture. In most cases learning how to use the new collaborative technologies cannot be done without changing the culture. And this change cannot be realized by giving the same workshops or presentations from the shelf. In every culture people induce each other in an other way.
Additionally, Focuss is coordinated on limited resources. In order to coordinate this Initiative, we only use 15 hours per week. This limitation shows that it is not possible to facilitate workshops all over the world. Therefore, Focuss supports the work of workshop facilitators from Africa, Asia and South America both financially and intellectually.
Workshop facilitators are getting the opportunity to organise a workshop in their own local area. Librarians, researchers, students or others who are interested in the latest information sharing and collaboration tools - and who are from Africa, Asia or South-America - can apply for a workshop grant. Because the workshops are facilitated in different continents, countries and regions, we give the workshop facilitators the freedom how they organize this workshop. However, they should describe this in a workshop proposal.
Even though I say they will have the freedom, the workshop facilitators from Africa, Asia or South-America should still have to comply with two minor requirements. They need to focus on social bookmarking as a way to share and create knowledge, and they need to document everything on their own weblog.
The requirement to include social bookmarking within the workshops is because - as I told you before - the search engine incorporated in the Focuss website is only harvesting and indexing the websites that have been selected and stored in social bookmarking accounts (such as Delicious.com) from peers in global development cooperation.
The requirement to maintain a workshop dairy on a weblog is that through this the workshop facilitator can get more information and knowledge from the readers and connect with workshop participants before and after the workshop, but it also gives the workshop facilitators a platform to show how they persuade a local community to use social bookmarking and change their culture in order to work and learn in network-based environments.
So, if we want to start a knowledge sharing initiative, we should think of 3 crucial elements in order to make a success out of it.
First of all we should embrace network-thinking, because the world is increasingly being shaped by organisations and network of organisations, and therefore individual system thinkers are, ultimately, of little significance. Staff members will increasingly be working at many levels, within and beyond organisations, in teams and networks that span industry and communities. In the Focuss example network-thinking is important, because the move from educated and well-resources in developing countries to developed countries is a fact, and cannot be stopped so easily. Therefore it is crucial to create cross-border networks to maintain the access to information and knowledge.
Secondly, organisations should focus on knowledge flows rather than knowledge stocks. This means that organisations should change themselves from controlling what is happening in the organisation to distributing. Focuss is therefore not an initiative that is controlling the quality-selected content on the Internet. It is facilitating a way to distribute it to others.
Thirdly, and finally, organisations should induce peers with structural knowledge - how to use the social technology to ease the connection - and cultural knowledge - how to create a human culture to enhance the willingness to connect. Focuss is doing this by encouraging peers to adapt to social bookmarking - which is the structural knowledge - and by creating a culture where people still have the ownership over what they are doing on the Internet - which is the cultural knowledge.