Knowledge and Information Management for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

9 June 2005


Ben Ramalingam, ODI


A one-day training workshop for BOND member organisations, aimed at providing tools and techniques to use knowledge management tools in ongoing work programmes. The session was geared around the information management end of the KM spectrum. The session was a mixture of practical tools and presentations by the workshop facilitator, Ben Ramalingam of the RAPID team.

  • After an introduction from Gabriella Oakley and a 'meeting others' session, Ben Ramalingam introduced the topic of the day:
    • Knowledge and learning was described as systematic approach to learning before, learning during and learning after; enabling better creation, sharing and storing of the different forms of knowledge.
    • ODI / RAPID has completed several projects, including a literature review, the collection of case studies on KM in development organisations, and advisory work, to develop different aspects of knowledge and learning work within development agencies.
    • Several key lessons have emerged: the importance of understanding what knowledge means in specific organisations; the importance of addressing relationships and organisational contexts; and the value of communication and timing when considering how to bring about organisational change.
  • Ben then summarised the background work for the workshop and presented the outputs for different workshop participants. The self-assessment was seen as providing a framework for sharing experiences in KM. This led to the first participatory session of the day, which utilised story telling techniques to share experiences in managing knowledge, and resulted in three groups working to glean key lessons. Participants were given sticky green dots to select their favourite lessons.
  • Following the storytelling session, the presentation continued on the theme of managing knowledge and building 'knowledge assets'. A number of principles were identified, and personal information management was highlighted as key. Participants were then invited to work through the personal information management template as a starting point for developing personal information strategies.
  • After lunch, the session continued with group sessions looking at how to develop specific knowledge assets. This was geared round three hypothetical situations and a number of key questions, as detailed below. These questions were presented as the cornerstone for a systematic approach to developing knowledge assets:
    • What do we think this knowledge asset is really about?
    • What users and communities might there be there for this knowledge asset?
    • What types of information will be available on the asset? In what formats and structures?
    • How could useful existing material be incorporated?
    • How to include people in the asset to build the social life of the asset?
    • How should the asset be made available to users?
    • How to build two-way relationships, incentivise feedback from users and instil ownership in users?
    • How to measure impact?
  • After groups presented back to the whole workshop and a well deserved coffee break, there was a presentation session on research undertaken by ODI on knowledge strategies in development organisations. This was followed by a session developed in response to user needs statements on monitoring and evaluation - which focused on the difficulties of M&E of knowledge and learning work, and suggested some useful methods, including Outcome Mapping. An outcome mapping 'lite' session gave participants time to think about their key 'boundary partners' whose behaviours they were were seeking to change as a result of their work. The final planned component - the personal action plan - could not be undertaken in this session due to lack of time.

  • An after action review was facilitated on the day of the workshop by Yvonne Thomas of the ODI team, with some very useful lessons emerging which will be built into the next BOND-ODI workshop. Following this, Ben wrapped up the day and thanked the participants for their input and efforts.