Thursday, January 22, 2004

IDPM - DI Working Paper No.16 - Knowledge and Learning in Online Networks in Development: A Social Capital Perspective

Sharing Knowledge to Achieve Development Goals

This is the 6-page version of a much larger (100+ page) document prepared by the evaluation department of the World Bank (OED). Interestingly, the title of the larger report is slightly different: "Sharing Knowledge: Innovations and Remaining Challenges," but perhaps nothing should be read into that difference.

The incentives structure within the World Bank (and many other development organizations, I assume) is such that taking a critical look at one's work is practically suicidal. It may be possible to be critical of one's work internally but to one's colleagues and supervisors, it is always a good idea to focus on the positive and avoid speaking of failures (whether one's own or that of colleagues).

Thankfully, there is OED. While OED (the Operations Evaluation Department) is part of the Bank, it is independent and from what I have seen, quite capable of taking a critical look at the bank's work. This particular report and the shorter "precis" focused on the World Bank's knowledge initiative that was started in 1996. For some, the World Bank has been an innovator and pioneer in terms of integrating knowledge management strategies throughout the organization and a model for other development organizations. For others, the World Bank's knowledge initiative was just another way of controlling development knowledge.

The report points to both successes and failures of the Bank's knowledge initiative. In short, while the strategy was sound and relevant, there remain some challenges, in particular in terms of the linkages between the knowledge sharing activities of the Bank and its actual operations. The Bank is doing a lot of important knowledge sharing but most of it is not sufficiently supporting the Bank's operations (lending and non-lending activities). Another failure relates to the lack of monitoring and evaluation of the knowledge activities, though this report is clearly a major first step in addressing that problem.

Suggestion: Read the short document first and if there are specific issues you'd like to explore in more depth, tackle the larger report titled "Sharing Knowledge: Innovations and Remaining Challenges" (October 2003).