Framing CLA: Knowledge Management in Tanzania
This blog post is part of USAID Learning Lab's Framing CLA blog series. Organized according to the subcomponents of the CLA Framework, the blog series features question and answer with development practitioners who submitted cases in the 2016 CLA Case Competition. This blog focuses on: Knowledge Management.
USAID Learning Lab: What is your full name, title, and organization?
Cassaniti: Jarret Cassaniti, Program Officer II, Knowledge for Health (K4Health)
USAID Learning Lab: What was the development challenge you addressed in your CLA Case Competition submission?
Cassaniti: In East, Central and Southern Africa, many development challenges are complex. They require regional action and coordination between countries. Open communication and collaboration is crucial. Our project addressed a well-known challenge: the silos that limit the spread of good ideas and practices, creating duplications within the development community. Too often the rigid ways that organizations communicate and operate in block possibilities for external collaboration.
From March 2014 to December 2016, K4Health worked closely with three organizations -- the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Committee (ECSA-HC), the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) and the East African Community (EAC) – to improve regional leadership and learning through knowledge management (KM). As part of that partnership, we designed and led a Regional KM Share Fair, which brought over 100 people from 14 countries together to share best practices and highlight both global and local priorities.
USAID Learning Lab: Your case is a great example of one of the enabling conditions of CLA: Knowledge Management. Can you tell us about how this aspect of CLA helped you address this development challenge?
Cassaniti: Our partners (ECSA-HC, LVBC, and EAC) are member-based organizations. We knew that there was some low awareness among members about the broad scope of work being implemented by the organizations in the region. As a result, work was sometimes duplicated and important information wasn’t shared. The Regional KM Share Fair created a stronger link between the organizations and their members. We saw a lot of eagerness to break out of silos and explore alternate ways of operating to foster collaboration and collective action. This culture of openness and the value placed on continuously improving made discussion of network patterns a success.
USAID Learning Lab: What advice would you give to another team looking to be more intentional, systematic, and resourced in Knowledge Management?
Cassaniti: Develop opportunities for people of different backgrounds (professionally, culturally, and geographically) who have similar visions to get together. Help them identify the systems they work in and raise awareness of the other ways of operating. Facilitate a discussion around the pros and cons of each. Make sure it’s fun.
USAID Learning Lab: Why did you choose to use a CLA approach?
Cassaniti: K4Health has over 40 years of global and regional experience in knowledge management. We know that knowledge lives in people’s heads (and hearts), and that most knowledge is created, generated, captured and shared through human interaction – what we call social knowledge management. It’s important to give people time to pause and reflect on process in a social yet structured environment. When you do, participants recognize that they can probably find a better way of working.
USAID Learning Lab: How did your holistic CLA approach influence your organization’s culture?
Cassaniti: We’re the flagship knowledge management project for USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health, so we have embraced the CLA approach in much of our work. Many CLA Framework elements – openness, continuous learning, institutional memory, knowledge cycle and sources – are deeply relevant to successful knowledge management.
USAID Learning Lab: How did your holistic CLA approach influence your project’s development outcomes?
Cassaniti: Share Fair attendee Melissa Wanda Kirowo says it best in a blog post about her experience:
“I’m now emboldened to use more one-on-one communication with colleagues to help build trust among my group and to create a safe space for people to accept that knowledge is fluid and constantly evolving. This kind of positive and generous attitude enables people to relax and open their minds and hearts to using new ways of learning and sharing, supported by systematic (and fun) KM practices.”