Tuesday 30 June 2015

An inspiring case study of Knowledge Harvesting

How can we provide the right people with the right knowledge at the right time? How can we support co-workers in transferring and implementing knowledge? And how can we cope with the challenges involved? It is these and similar questions that the international non-profit organisation SOS Children's Villages has been intensively exploring over the past decade.

At a time when many are questioning the health of Knowledge management, it is refreshing to find it alive and thriving over many years within an organisation.  This organisation is "SOS Children's Villages", and one of their long term approaches to KM is the annual Knowledge Harvesting event.

SOS Children's villages is a global organisation providing care, protection, education & health services to 2.2 million at-risk children & adults in 133 territories. They provide stable, loving families for orphaned and abandoned children, employing "SOS mothers" who give individual attention and guidance to each child until they become an independent adult. They also work In partnership with communities in developing programmes that aim to strengthen families and prevent the abandonment of children.

Knowledge Harvesting started in 2002 to answer the question, for the experienced field workers and SOS mothers, "Which aspects of my vast experience and the knowledge I have gained so far are of particular importance to my fellow colleagues"?  Every year a selection of the field workers meet to tell their stories and share their knowledge.

The process they use is summarised in the video above, and in the excellent book "When Knowledge Sparks a Flame". It is a combination of open-space meetings, world cafe, appreciative enquiry, and storytelling circles - all well-known KM approaches with a long history, applied in a respectful, open and structured way, for sharing and transferring knowledge, experiences and good practices of what is working, what is energizing and enlivening.

They take the discussions through the four appreciative-enquiry stages of Discovery, Dreaming, Design and Destiny, to ensure that the knowledge "discovered" from reflecting on the past is taken forward into future possibilities and future actions, thus ensuring that this is not just a talking shop, but a true KM event that takes knowledge through to action.

This process has been operating now at SOS Children's villages for over a decade, and is still going strong.  Seeing this in action, or viewing the video above, is to see Knowledge Management alive and well, and helping to care and protect the children of the world.

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