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Community Contribution

Evaluation of a Pilot Phase of Cultivating Knowledge Sharing Networks and Communities


Describe The Approaches Utilized To Measure / Assess This KM Initiative: 

Five focus group sessions were conducted with sponsors , coordinators and members (a total of 30 people) of existing FAO knowledge networks. One-on-one interviews were also conducted. Both internal and external knowledge networks took part in the exercise. Sponsors, coordinators and members were interviewed for as many of these networks as possible. All focus group participants and interviewees were asked questions under the following categories: network purpose, membership, participation, facilitation, return on investment, resources available, technical support solutions, network promotion, suggestions for improvement. Responses to these questions were noted during the focus groups and interviews. The identity of respondents was kept private. The data gathered via the focus groups and interviews were analyzed to produce a SWOT to consolidate the main messages that came through the review exercise. The purpose of the SWOT analysis was twofold: 1) to put the main messages that had emerged from the exercise in a perspective with regards to knowledge network strengths and knowledge network weaknesses (characteristics that are internal to networks), and knowledge network opportunities and knowledge network threats (characteristics that are external to networks but still internal to FAO with regards to FAO work environment, processes and culture); 2) to derive recommendations for better support of knowledge networks and knowledge networking in and from within FAO for the future. The main messages that emerged from the exercise were summarized, and, based on the SWOT analysis, a set of recommendations was produced.


Agriculture and Food Security

What Do You Think Are The Main Unanswered Questions Or Challenges Related To This Field Of Work?: 

Continuous monitoring and evaluation of networks and communities. It would be interesting to learn more about approaches and methods used to evaluate and monitor networks and communities in other organizations.

What Was The Purpose Or Motivation For Assessing This KM Initiative? : 

The purpose of the exercise was, apart from evaluating the experiences, to identify the lessons learned and future challenges and then be in a position to use those to nurture a learning organization at FAO.

What Would You Do Differently Next Time?: 

Whole process worked well.

What Were The Most Important Lessons Learned About The Assessment Process?: 

we have come up with 9 recommendation on what works and what doesn't! These are now supporting new networks creators.

What Advice Would You Give To Others Based On Your Experience?: 

Measure and evaluate regularly to learn about what works and what doesn't in your own organization's context. Use rigorous approaches and techniques and follow through with all the findings. Yes, we would like to re-evaluate in few years again, time and resources permitting.

Describe The KM Initiative: 

The FAO Knowledge Forum was initiated in 2006 as a platform for enhancing exchange of the Organization’s wealth of knowledge and expertise. One of the pillars of the Forum was the establishment of Thematic Knowledge Networks (TKNs). A wide range of networks were identified as being supported or managed by FAO in an initial survey conducted in 2006, but it became clear that a new generation of networks should be established, taking full advantage of new technologies, to further enhance FAO’s role as a facilitator of knowledge exchange. A pilot phase lasting approximately eighteen months comprised the development of fifteen new TKNs. These networks were planned to foster knowledge sharing, allowing network members to communicate and work more effectively together on common goals or outcomes. The pilot TKNs covered different thematic areas ranging from more normative subject-specific areas to task-oriented groups, and they varied both in complexity and in their membership profiles.



This case was submitted as part of the KM Impact Challenge in 2011. The challenge was sponsored by USAID's Knowledge-Driven Microenterprise Development project, as a key part of the project’s Assessing & Learning component, which sought to improve the understanding of how investing in learning can increase and extend the overall impact of USAID's development efforts.

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